The Fresh Loaf

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Making up your own recipe and calculating desired hydrations using starter and soakers

kmcquade's picture

Making up your own recipe and calculating desired hydrations using starter and soakers

Sometimes I look through recipes and don’t have what they require or just want to use stuff up that I have. Lately I have been enjoying my seed and grain breads, and mixed flour breads. I had some nice organic brown rice and some millet I wanted to use up. Personally, I think the hydration in dough is often the deciding factor in a quality outcome so I try to pay attention to that and try to determine it for recipes I review.

 OK, so first I needed to decide how much bread to make. For this experiment I figured I would start with a 1kg loaf just to test.

  • I was shooting for about 70% hydration.
  • I wanted to use my nice organic Starter about 30%
  • I figured about 1 cup of the cooked rice and millet would be a good amount
  • I wanted some milk contribution for softness
  • I wanted some organic brown sugar for sweetness

So here is the method I used.

So my initial plan was to use 500gm Organic AP flour

  • 150 gm. Starter (30% of 500)
  • 113.5 gm. cooked millet (about 4oz)
  • 113.5 gm. cooked organic brown rice (about 4 oz.)
  • 113.5 gm. Milk (about 4oz) (2% low fat  is all I had )
  • 2TBSP Brown sugar
  • 1.5 TSP Salt – just from experience about the right amount.

Also just to hedge by bet, I spiked with about ¼ tsp. instant yeast in case my starter is not behaving – I did feed the starter 2 times prior to use.

Water? How much water should I add?

Given a 150 gm. of a 100% starter, that means it contains 75gm flour and 75gm water

So my total flour was 500+ 75 = 575

For basic 70% hydration this would need .70(574) = 402gm water

 But,  there is already 75 gm. of water from the starter, and there is a lot of water in the cooked rice and millet ? How much you ask?

Well I assumed a 2:1 ratio because I used 2 cups of water for 1 cup of rice

This would mean that if I used 113.5 gm. cooked rice  A little math shows that:

The rice was 37.83 gm. and the water was 75.66 gm.

Here is the math for those interested

                        R=rice , W = water.

(eq 1) R+W =113.5

(eq2) W= 2(R) (water is twice as much as the rice weight)

            Substitute EQ 2 into eq 1

(eq3)  R+ 2R = 113.5

            Solve for R

R(3)= 113.5

R= 37.83

W=2R = 75.6

 I was not sure about the millet, because I did not take exact measures when cooking it so I assumed that same 2:1 ratio  - and used 75 gm. for the water component of the millet too.

 Ok so now we have:  desired water 402 gm. – 75gm (from the starter) – 75gm (from the cooked rice) – 75 gm. (from the cooked millet)  = 177gm

But don’t forget I have 113gm of milk,  so 177-113= 64 gm. of water needed to get close to a 70% hydration.

So what happened – Theory meets reality.

When I mixed it all up the dough seemed too dry, so I needed to add another 30 gm. of water or so. I believe I overestimated the water contribution from the rice and the millet. What I should have done was precisely measure the rice and millet  and water separately. Even that, it’s hard to determine the amount of water evaporated during cooking anyway.

 If I just used my original estimates and added 30 gm. H20  I get a hydration of 64% which is about how it felt under my hands – close to the hydration of a French bread ( 65%) but of course heavier because of the grains . My final dough weight was 1,117 gm. pretty close to my 1,000 gm. initial goal.

 On to phase 2 – the dough was on the cusp of being able to hand knead vs. having to do stretch and folds  ( I might add ,all my breads are hand needed – no mixer) .  I let it bench rest for about 1 hour in a cold Seattle Feb kitchen and did a couple stretch and folds then placed in the fridge overnight.

Pretty sticky dough

 Day 2

Out of the fridge the next morning for a few hours because it is cold in our kitchen – then shaped and proofed if for about 1.25 hrs. Bake in a cloche 475F covered 15 min, uncover and bake for another 15min at 450. It still was not reading hot enough inside probably because of the rice and millet, so it took another 15 at 420. (I find I get a crispier crust if I progressively decrease the temps.)

Result See picts

Moist Chewy sweet crust with that nice millet essence and color.




pepperhead212's picture

Just a suggestion about getting a more accurate reading of the hydration of the millet and rice: weigh the grains dry, then cook and cool them, and weigh the cooked grains. This way you can get an exact amount of water, as some will have been lost as steam.

Also, something I almost always do with millet is lightly dry toast it in a skillet, which gives it an even better flavor (though you might not want that stronger flavor, there's only one way to find out!) and will get rid of much of that moisture you referred to - which causes the popping during the toasting. Weigh before and after - would be interesting to see how much it looses.


Janetcook's picture

This loaf looks great!

Thanks for the equation for figuring the water/dry wt amts.  I always just cook the grain I am using and adjust in the final dough if things don't have the right feel/texture.  Nice to have a mathematical way to work off of as I usually have extra grains left over....but I just freeze them and use them in another loaf at anther time....I still like to play with numbers though :-)

Take Care,


linder's picture

Thank you for the great explanation and example. Your bread came out really well!  It gives me a basis to workout some experiments of my own in the future.

Great baking - thanks so much for sharing your process here.


kmcquade's picture

Thanks for your comments - I also use the calculations when making pizza doughs to get the amount I want at the hydration I want .

You can see some of my breads, development of an organic grape starter , and pizzas at :