Soaker Ingredient Hydration Percents -- Some Data
I really like to use soakers but it can be a pain to try to get the final dough hydration right when playing around with different soaker ingredient combinations and ratios. The problem, as I see it, is that the water absorption of soaker ingredients can vary drastically depending on the ingredient. So what I wanted to do was parameterize the hydration levels of the various ingredients. I decided to do some tests to see if I could get some reasonably accurate hydration percents for the ingredients and avoid a lot of trial and error.
So the first thing I did was measure out a known weight of an ingredient. Then I'd put it in a great excess of water (both room temp and boiling) so that I know it would get fully hydrated. I let them soak overnight. Then the next day I put each soaker mix in some cheesecloth and squeeze out as much of the water as I could. Then I weighed that again (minus the cheesecloth) and that gave me the supposed weight of water absorbed, and the hydration percent. What I found was this seemed to work pretty well with some ingredients like most seeds but was a bit dicey when it came to ingredients that made a goo like oatmeal and flaxseeds. So, I wasn't too sure how accurate that was but it gave me a baseline to work with for the next step.
The next step required some subjectivity like when we make hydration adjustments to a dough. So I got some store brand whole wheat for the tests. I made three small batches of dough. One was the control with no soaker and a known hydration. I chose 67% because it was stiff enough to get a good feel for its hydration. For the two soakers (room temp and boiling) I used the first cut hydration level to calculate the water needed for the soaker to get fully hydrated and also added another 100% water to make sure they would be. So, I had the supposed free water amount with the soaker. Then I could adjust the amount of water I put in the dough (without the soaker) such that at the end I should have the right final hydration. Now, I figured that the first cut soaker hydration percents were really too high and that there would be more free water than the hydration said. What that would mean is that when I mixed the soaker in with the dough it would be too loose -- at least I hoped that. It turns out, in many cases, that was true. So then I could add flour to the dough until I got the same hydration feel as the control dough. I had weighed an excessive amount of flour before and after so I knew how much flour I added. Then it was a simple calculation to determine the amount of real free water in the soaker and the real hydration % of the ingredient. So, I had to adjust the hydration percents down for many ingredients except the hard seeds.
Now in making a real loaf, I could know how much water the ingredient would absorb and then add 100% more to the soaker to make sure it got fully hydrated. So finally, that told me how much to decrease the water I added to the final dough (because of the excess water I added to the soaker). The nice thing about it is that you can use any combination of grains, meals, seeds, etc. and still get pretty close. Of course, some final adjustments may still be needed -- just like with different flours, but in my experience, they aren't that significant. The breads I've made using soakers and this method seem to be pretty close. I haven't made real bread loaves with all these so if anyone tries something and finds it off, I'd appreciate the info.
I have a spreadsheet that does the calculations for all this and will be posting it here as soon as I get a help video done but here's the data.
|Ingredient||Water Temp||% Hydration|
|Barley Flakes||Room Temp||125%|
|Chia Seeds||Room Temp||237%|
|Coarse Cornmeal||Room Temp||58%|
|Cracked Wheat||Room Temp||178%|
|Oat Groats||Room Temp||60%|
|Oats, Rolled||Room Temp||90%|
|Oats, Steel Cut||Room Temp||70%|
|Oats, Steel Cut||Boiling||104%|
|Pumpkin Seeds||Room Temp||38%|
|Rye Chops||Room Temp||65%|
|Sesame Seeds||Room Temp||58%|
|Sunflower Seeds||Room Temp||80%|
|Wheat Bran||Room Temp||96%|
|Wheat Flakes||Room Temp||100%|