The Fresh Loaf

News & Information for Amateur Bakers and Artisan Bread Enthusiasts

Hydration: wateriness or liquidiness?

Chuck's picture

Hydration: wateriness or liquidiness?

What words should be used to characterize a dough like this?

  • Flour     100%
  • Oil        80%
  • Water   20%

(Obviously this "highly imaginative" example was invented just to illustrate and clarify the question. Hopefully nobody will get sidetracked into imagining mixing or baking anything so ludicrous:-)

Judging by how the gluten doesn't develop very much, it hasn't got much "wateriness". But it's very sloppy or even runny on the work surface; it has lots of "liquidiness". Would it be considered a low hydration dough or a high hydration dough? And is there some other word besides hydration to describe its other aspect?

Lucifer's picture

I'd like to see what sort of bread you get out of this mixture.

Nickisafoodie's picture

Technically speaking it would be a 100% hydration dough as the liquid (oil and water) equals the flour.  but you will not get anything decent using 80% oil, 20% oil, or anything other than perhaps one tablespoon per loaf.  it is really not needed at all or beyond the amount suggested.


longhorn's picture

When calculating hydration oil is deducted from the liquids - as in butter, adding 100 grams of butter adds 12 to 20 grams of water which would be included in calculating hydration with the exact amount depending on the butterfat content of the butter. 

wassisname's picture

With that much oil how about, "viscosity"?

Chuck's picture

Gee, it seems my attempt to make my question as clear as possible instead provided a platform for humor. Oops. Any serious answers to what was originally intended as a serious question???


mrfrost's picture

Since I don't have a mixer, and the abm is broken, I lately have to do it all by hand. Frequently, before attempting a recipe, I try to determine how wet the dough that I will have to handle will be. The total wetness; water, oil/butter, eggs, other liquids, etc. I see I am not the only one pondering this.

With the recent postings about brioches, I have been considering various recipes, and adding up their total wetnesses, to determine which to attempt by hand. I have about settled on Reinhart's BBA Poor Man's formula. It seems to about the least sticky I have come across so far.

So not far fetched at all really as oil is just one of several fats, as is the butter in Brioches, which can run 80% or more. I think I have read here recently about an Oil Brioche.

flournwater's picture

"What words should be used to characterize a dough like this?"

"Greasy" comes to mind ....

Sorry; just couldn't resist.

I'd call it low hydration because "hydation" is a reference to levels of water in a formula, not oil.  But to call it a highly saturated formula would not (IMO) be problematic.

With that much oil, how does it bake up?

Mini Oven's picture
Mini Oven

that would not hold up as a dough.  There is only enough water to make a few clumps of dough if it were mixed before the oil.  If this were the case, there would be lumps or a lump and then a suspension of oil and flour in a runny liquid (oil.)  Heat warm enough and the lumps gel and get deep fried the rest of the flour browns and stays suspended in the oil.

If the water is blended with the oil and made into an emulsion and then mixed with flour, the flour is then suspended in it.  The flour does not bond or make gluten strands.  It is not a dough and therefore dough descriptions do not apply.  Heating this browns the flour and not much oil separates.  Some steam forms a thin crust but it is easily crumbled with motion like bubbling. 

I did take all of the left overs from the experiment (except the lumps) added some salt and milk beating in an egg and fried myself a delicious pancake.

Was this aimed at me?

Hopefully nobody will get sidetracked into imagining mixing or baking anything so ludicrous:-)

Tell me not to see green bread, and I see green bread.  :P

It is a recipe for browning flour with a little too much oil.  :)


Dcn Marty's picture
Dcn Marty

As hydration refers only to water, you could use either liquidity or saturation, either term covering all the oils, fats and liquids in the dough.

gene wild's picture
gene wild

Hydration refers to the % of water added---it doesn't even include the water content of any thing like butter or fruit that is added to the dough. The term viscosity seems to apply better to the overall wettness of the dough but I have never heard it used.

You question is a good one. I think that quit a few people did not read it completely-just skimed it and jumped to conclusions when they saw the "formula".


RonRay's picture

"...compound containing water molecules combined in a definite ratio ..."

I certainly counted the 75% water in bananas when I just baked a loaf with that as the nearly total source of hydration - but I agree on oil not being part of the "hydration" .


longhorn's picture

Few books/authors address calculating hydration in any detail, including Glezer, Reinhart, Hamelman, and Leader. Reinhart comes closest in Bread Baker's Apprentice when he notes that eggs are 3/4 water when he is estimating hydration, suggesting that keeping track or sources of water is important.

Whether one includes the water in butter is a minor detail as the amount of water is small just as liquids such as whey, milk, defatted chicken stock, and orange juice could be counted as water even though they contain things other than water. Cream is more troublesome for the fat content is somewhat higher. Dried fruit and nuts clearly don't need to be included in hydration calculations. Chunks of fruit can probably be reasonably ignored, but ...I would think one would be better off recognizing the water content of "wet" fruits like bananas and things like applesauce.  

flournwater's picture

"Viscosity" won't work.  Viscosity refers to the rate of flow (shear force resistance)   ...

longhorn's picture

Without trying it (and I don't wish to to so) the nature of this could easily approach that of a slurry for the oil will tend to keep the granules of flour apart and while they will swell, they may still be (or approach being) individual as opposed to connected by gluten. With luck you might approach the character of a pie dough/crust, or it might simply fall apart on baking. Please let us know what you get!


pmccool's picture

About the closest thing in my experience would be a panettone, particularly the stages where you have to work in the butter or the eggs.  Talk about a sloppy mess!  I almost said "sloppy mixture", but the mixture part only comes after dealing with the sloppy part for what seems like ages.  mrfrost's brioche example would probably be similar.

I think I'll stick with "sloppy" as my choice of adjective.  As pointed out repeatedly, hydration refers to the water's action.  A dough with a high fat content, particularly in the form of oil, would be a real mess in the early stages of mixing.  Later, as the fat is absorbed by the flour, I would expect that the dough (or batter, depending on fat content and type) would be very silky.  It would probably leave a sheen of fat on everything it touches, too.  Achieving any degree of gluten development would be a real challenge with a low water:fat ratio.


Chuck's picture

The variety of sometimes flatly contradictory responses to my original question suggests that "how will this dough feel to knead?" and "how will the gluten develop?" always have the same answer in the context of "artisan"/lean doughs. The concept of "hydration", which could be made even more accurate by including the water portion of other ingredients, is quite useful in many ways  ...but trying  to figure out simply from the ingredient quantities whether a recipe for something like a brioche dough will be "slack" or not isn't one of them. Right?

Mini Oven's picture
Mini Oven

Hydration: wateriness or liquidiness?

I have to say hydration is wateriness!  Hydro- is water, anything relating to water.

50% to 100% hydration is within reason for dough. 

20% hydration is too low to consider for bread. 

80% Oil - If the oil is liquid at room temp than this makes a mixture thicker than oil.

I include egg whites as direct water and find the whites extend wetness as in viscosity. Cooked they become a solid.  Seeds that hold water on the outside like chia and linseed, the water must also be included if they have been soaked, they may not effect the tactile feel of the dough but they will release water into the dough while baking as steam.  I have used seeds and old bread to hold moisture giving the dough structure the feel of a lower hydration yet the steam released into the loaf is like a high hydration dough.  Steam raises and softens stretching gluten.  Honey must be included and so should water saturated gelatin, butter has been mentioned, margarine contains water, so does meat and so does old bread.  Fillings and fruit, vegetables and roots. 

I think the reason written bread books selling recipes do not mention hydration in great detail is because they want to sell a recipe book and not sell a book that teaches us how to formulate our own recipes.   Books written for baking science or textbooks would include more detail on the subject.

..but trying  to figure out simply from the ingredient quantities whether a recipe for something like a brioche dough will be "slack" or not isn't one of them. Right?

Well a lot can be read from the ingredients by an experienced baker but the order in which they are put together can make a big difference!  Also the temperature of the ingredients and equipment.  Cold butter reacts much differently from melted butter.  So instructions are just as important.  For example, post a bread recipe listing only the ingredients and see what people do with it.  To make it more fun, scramble the order.

lizallen's picture

I know this is an older posts but I was searching for an answer to this as well. While I know that your "recipe" as stated above certainly would not work as a bread - I totally understand what you were asking...

I am trying to develop a muffin recipe (using my starter) with a 2:1 flour to water ratio for perfect rise and bulk. However, I am trying to cut down oil (using applesauce) and am also using blueberries (frozen) and eggs.

Because I'm using starter, there is no added water/milk to this recipe but the dough/batter hydration is not just coming from the starter. 

Further, the dry ingredients are much more than flour (oats, sugar, bran, powdered milk). So are the weight of these dry ingredients also used to find out the true ratio of my mix?

Yeah, I know I'm getting a little anal about this and I can just hear a few members saying "Just bake and follow a recipe," but I have a scientific mind and this is how I enjoy baking. In fact, I consider it more like lab work - and i love it like that. 

Anyways, I'd love to hear thoughts on hydration for doughs using other liquids.

flournwater's picture

Most of the formulas I read seem to consider only water in the percentage of hydration listed in the instructions.  But we know that those percentages can't be absolutely correct because ingredients like applesauce, sugar and other "liquid" ingredients will influence hydration to some degree.  Furthermore, depending on the development of the dough, the baker (you) may elect to add or subtract a small amount of flour or water which takes the original formula out of the realm of strict ratio of ingredients.

Because hydration, using bakers percentages, is a ratio of water by weight to flour by weight the type of flour isn't a factor in the calculation.  The amount of hydration may vary, depending on the flour used, but the ratio in the formula will still apply as  x/flour (weight of water/weight of flour)  But other dry ingredients are considered only on their own merits as a percentage of the amount of flour used.  They are not part of the 100% basis for calculating baker's percentages.

I admire your adventurous spirit lizallen.  It will make you a better baker of bread in the long run.