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%|
THis was a LOT of experimentation! I often use recipes as "suggestions" and add all kinds of seeds/different flours/cracked grains to a dough and have always had to adjust the hydration by adding either water or flour. That is not always ideal.
I do not see ground flax on the list-an ingredient I often use. The whole seeds do not exhibit a great deal of absorption (which is why I do not like to use them) but I know that ground flax forms a gel so it might rival chia in its hydration properties.
I bake a lot with whole wheat and have learned how to work around its vagaries. The difference in hydration of wheat bran from room temp to boiling is tell-tale on why whole wheat bread made without some form of soak/autolyse/biga tends to form crumbly slices the day after it is baked. The heated, baked bran portion of the WW continues to absorb the moisture from the crumb so by the time it cools, the crumb is actually dried out-the bran particles act as dessicants. Take a bite of that nice WW sandwich and it's in your lap in pieces! WW needs hydration BUT ALSO TIME TO FULLY ABSORB THE WATER.
Thank you for this information. I look forward to seeing the spreadsheet and hearing more about this.
Yes, it was a lot of experimentation. At first, I didn't intend to do so many but got started and just kept going. That's a good point about ground flaxseed. Maybe I'll do that one as well. Right now I'm using a whole flaxseed soaker a lot. My favorite recipe currently is a Spelt / Whole Wheat combination with a flaxseed soaker. I just love the flavor the flaxseeds give the bread. Flax and Chia seeds are unusual. They both create a thick gel. As small as Chia seeds are it is amazing how much they transform in a soaker. One thing I should also mention is that some ingredients seem to have a large content of oils. While technically not water, I read somewhere that oils "hydrate" the dough as well and should be considered the same as water in hydration formulas. I think this is true.
When I use whole wheat in a bread, I like to put that it in a substantial pre-ferment (20-30% of total flour). That way the bran gets softened. Spelt seems to not have as hard a bran so I put that in the final dough. I also use sprouted versions of both WW and Spelt. I'm not sure but I think it gives a bit more open crumb.
Thank you so much for this information! I love soaker breads, but the few times I've decided to create my own recipes it has been disastrous. This is terrific guidance.
Here's a link to the topic where I list a download link to the spreadsheet
Wow - thank you.
Some people may have wondered how to use the data I offered for the soaker ingredient hydrations, so I thought I'd provide a manual procedure on how to use it for a recipe. There are several steps but, if followed, it will give the right amounts.
The key to using a soaker in a recipe is to get the weight of the water for the soaker determined so that the final hydration is what you want. To do that we have to determine how much water will be absorbed by the soaker ingredients. This requires determining the dry weight of each ingredient and then using the hydration % of each ingredient to get the amount of water absorbed for full hydration. Now, one could guess the weight of a dry soaker ingredients for the recipe but a method that is more scalable is to base it on a percentage of the total flour weight in the recipe. Here's the procedure for that method.
Using this procedure you should get pretty close to the final hydration you are looking for. As always, conditions can vary somewhat (i.e. different flours, soaker ingredient variations, etc.) so you may need to make some minor adjustments in the final dough as needed.
Extremely helpful info since I use soakers and tons of add-ins. Thank you!
I hope it helps with your creations. I love soakers and use them all the time. I also like to experiment with adding other non-soaker ingredients like eggs, beer, buttermilk, potato flakes, etc. Since some of those also affect hydration, I've included them in my spreadsheet to do the weight and hydration calculations. In case you might be interested, here's a link to the post that details how you can use the spreadsheet either with the Excel app on your computer or online.
I copied the chart and used it this morning to figure out the water used by my porridge. I did stay on the very conservative side when calculating the water for the dough as it seemed like a lot of water. However, in practice, your chart was right on. There wasn't enough water in there to get my usual dough texture. So I added water during the folds as per the bassinage technique.
I toasted the seeds I used in my dough this morning. Have you noticed a difference in absorption rates with toasted versus raw seeds? Oh and if you want to test another type, hemp hearts aren’t in your chart above.
I hadn't thought about toasting the seeds but that's a great idea. I've tried raw sunflowers seeds in a soaker but didn't think it added much to the flavor or texture. Toasted sunflower seeds might be really good. Also, I usually put hemp hearts in my oatmeal porridge for breakfast but putting them in a dough might be good as well. I haven't done the hydration experiment on those but sounds like something to do.
There are innumerable variations and ingredients one could use in a soaker. So, if some are not covered in the chart here's a rough-and-ready way for the baker to get pretty close without doing the cheesecloth method I used to get an initial estimate. Here's the procedure. This would only work with one ingredient at a time in the soaker.
1. Add up all the weights of the flour ingredients.
2. Choose what percentage of the total flour you want the soaker dry ingredients to be and calculate that weight.
3. The easiest way to get an accurate hydration % for the soaker ingredient is to soak it with excess water. That way you know it's not underhydrated in the final dough, because added extra water might not really hydrate the ingredient too well. So, when you add the water to the soaker try to over hydrate it, but not so much that there is more free water than you would normally add to the final dough according to the recipe. Make note of the weight of the water added to the soaker.
4. So you have the soaker dry ingredient weight and the weight of the water added to it.
5. Since you have free water in the soaker when you make the final dough, then using the normal amount of added water in the recipe, your dough should be too loose (a feel thing).
6. Weight out some excess flour to add to the final dough. Then start adding it to the dough until the hydration (stiffness) seems about right. Weight the leftover excess flour and subtract that from the initial weight. That gives you the weight of flour you added to get the dough hydration right.
7. Multiply that weight times the final hydration % of the dough. That gives you the amount of free water the soaker gave up to the dough that had to be absorbed by the extra flour.
8. Subtract that amount from the water weight you added to the soaker and that gives you the amount of water the soaker absorbed for full hydration. Divide that by the soaker dry ingredient weight and now you have the hydration % of a fully hydrated soaker. This is the number like those in the chart.
It may sound complicated but it will give you a number to use from then on. Then using those numbers, as I detailed in the prior post procedure you can mix soaker ingredients as you see fit.
If anyone does this procedure and comes up with a number for some soaker ingredient, I'd appreciate knowing about it and will add it to the chart.
Sorry for my english and maths, but, can I simulate an easy calculation?
If I had to add 30 grams of 10 hours cold soaked flax seeds in my loaf, and I want a 80% hydration, can I do as below?
400 gr flour
191 gr water
100 gr starter 100% hyd.
69 gr soaker (30 seeds plus 39 water).
I tried to take a look to your yt file, but I'll try again with my husband.
Thanks a lot for sharing.
Sorry, pardon. These are the new calculations. The above one is wrong.
400 gr flour
271 gr water
100 gr starter 100% hyd.
69 gr soaker (30 seeds plus 39 water)...
According to the spreadsheet, the water in your formula is a bit less than it should be. The water you should add to the final dough should be 310g to get an 80% final hydration.
Another factor that might cause a problem is that the extra water in your soaker is just 1% more than what is needed for full hydration. This may be OK but you might have had some dry spots in the soaker that will later soak up water in the final dough.
.. evidently I've to study your theory and excel file, or I can't understand.
In your seed list I read about 130% of hidration for flax seed in cold soaker, so I made
30seeds * 130% = 39water
After that I added seeds and water to make soaker, so
30seeds + 39water = 69soaker
Now, maybe you consider seed as flour, and ok, but then we have 384 grams of water as 80% hydration compared to 480 grams of dry material:
400 gr flour
295 gr water (384 minus 50 minus 39)
100 gr starter 100% hydration (50 flour plus 50 water)
69 gr soaker (30 seeds plus 39 water)...
Is it not right yet?
Why 371 grams of water?
Actually from what I knew, flax seeds absorb about 7 parts of water.
So with a 1: 7 ratio I also thought that the water had to be much more in order not to "steal" hydration from the dough. But perhaps this is another point of view, and another chapter.
Anyway thanks a super-lot for the patience.
Yes, the flaxseeds are in grams not the number of seeds. Second, dough hydration is based on the water % of total flour weight that the flour soaks up and does not include other dry ingredients. You have a total of 450 grams of flour. So, for an 80% hydration you will need a total of 360 grams of water (450 * 0.8) for the flour. Since, you aren't adding any extra water to the flaxseeds beyond their full hydration and you have 50 grams of water in the starter, that means you'll need to add 310 grams of water to the final dough.
The main reason I developed the spreadsheet is precisely because I didn't want to have to do any of these manual calculations. I don't know if you've seen it but I created a video to explain how the spreadsheet works.
... obviously "30" were grams of seeds. I just forgot to mention it.
.. and yes, i tried to see your file in yt, but i have to study it for a while.
So could this be the right formula?
400 gr flour
310 gr water (360 gr minus 50 gr)
100 gr 100% hydration starter (50 flour plus 50 water)
69 gr soaker (30 gr seeds plus 39 gr water).
If so, I got it.
I just thought the actual hydration was due to all liquid ingredients and all dry ingredients (83.12% instead of 80%).
Yes, that formula looks right. Happy to help.
Something is not clear.
flax seeds - water absorbed - minimum ratio found 1:5 (but somewhee I read also 1:7)
So, how can your calculation match with this? Which is the right way to go?
Yours: 10gr flax seeds and 13 gr water - total amount 23 gr soaker - ratio 1:1,3
Literature: 10 gr flax seeds and 50 gr water - total amount 60 gr soaker - ratio 1:5
Even for chia seed is very different:
chia seeds - water absorbed - minimum ratio found 1:9
Can you help us?
I can't read Italian so I don't know how they came up with those numbers. I love using flax seeds so I have made many, many loaves using the 130% number and it seems right. I'd say just try their numbers. For a small % of flax seeds to the total flour weight, it might not be perceptible but from my experiments, the dough would be looser than the % hydration of dough would suggest. One of the problems I have with recipes with soakers in books and online is that they aren't clear on the amount of free water they anticipate in the soaker. What I'm calling the free water is the water that is left over after full hydration of the soaker ingredient that can be soaked up by the flour. For instance, in one of Jefferey Hamelmann's recipes in his book "Bread" with a soaker if you calculate the final dough hydration from the water added to the final dough you get 55%. That is obviously not right so it means that the soaker had free water that was available to hydrate the flour.
Is there any maximum percentage of soaker in a loaf?
Which is yours?
Depends on kind of seeds or what?
Thank in advance for your replies and promise to study your sheet, it's very interesting
(and ... my english is bad, but now and then I help myself with google translator).
I guess the max soaker weight just depends on what one is looking for. At some point, the gluten might not be able to keep the dough cohesive.
I usually keep the soaker weight somewhere around 10% of the total dough weight but there could be situations where considerably more or less would be used depending on the soaker ingredient.
... and will show my loaf with soaker
... with your calculations, I made two loaves.
(150 gr starter 100% hydration)
806 gr flour W260 (730 gr for the dough plus 75 gr for the starter plus 1 gr turmeric)
684 gr water (609 gr dough plus 75 gr starter ) - 85%
16 gr salt - 1,80%
Cold soaker (12,64%)
90 gr seeds (30 gr chia s., 30 gr flax s., 10 gr pumpkin s., 10 gr sesame s., 10 gr sunflower s.)
128 gr water
More or less I followed a recipe of a friend of mine
Don't know if I can add the link.
Sorry, don't remember how to do for the photos.
First loaf, baked in a dutch oven.
Second loaf, baked in a pullman pan.