The Fresh Loaf

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Calculating Overall Hydration when Working with Liquid Sweetners

Ricko's picture

Calculating Overall Hydration when Working with Liquid Sweetners

When working with baker’s percentages and such, I understand the hydration percentage is the amount of water calculated against the total flour which is considered 100%. Pretty straight forward in a simple recipe.

I’d like to ask then, how are additional liquids treated such as honey, molasses, corn syrup, maple syrup, melted butter, milk, etc. when listed as separate items, in addition to the water, in a recipe? Are they combined with the water when arriving at the overall hydration percentage, with any final adjustments being made in the amount of water used?

DanAyo's picture

Rick, I’ve seen a chart for water content for specific ingredients, but was unable to locate it. You can google “water content of butter” for example to get the information.

When it comes to dough hydration, most bakers use their experience when considering the “feel” of the dough. In my case a liquid such as milk is 100% added to the dough hydration. Then again if you are using the hydration to determine dough feel, oils for example may not add any or very little to the hydration,  but it will affect the dough feel.


phaz's picture

They aren't, if following q recipe, follow it and forget this thing called "final hydration". It is a misunderstood and thereby irrelevant term. Enjoy! 

gavinc's picture

I hope I can express this clearly and without confusion. I will be making 100 whole-wheat sandwich loaf this week and the formula (in part) is milk 40%, whole egg 10% and water 25%. One might say that the hydration is 25%, but actually, the hydration is 75% as all three are taken into account. This gives you some flexibility to changing the percentages of all three as long as the total is still near 75%. A useful tip is when you have an egg; they are all different weights, so you add the milk and the egg together and weigh and then add just enough water to make up the 75% weight. The tip was given to me by Debra Wink, the author of the recipe. Incidentally, honey is not part of hydration.

Hope this helps.

PS this means both Danny and Phaz are correct.



Benito's picture

I’m going to quote Michael Wilson here on TFL as I believe this is what he posted in another thread on a similar subject of why someone’s dough didn’t rise when they were making an enriched dough.

” Approximating free water consider:

The hydration giving ingredients and their approximate water content.

water (~100% - *1)

whole egg (~75% - *.75)

butter, (~15% - *.15)

To that, subtract water binding ingredients based on solubility.

sugar - binds up roughly half its weight in water. For simplicity you may as well consider honey to be the same, even though it contains some water.

salt - binds up roughly 4 times its weight in water, but also increases ionic strength.

Then calculate the hydration. Anything below 35% is pushing it.

Moreover, the high pre-fermented flour is a significant problem because it brings with it acidity, which affects redox and water binding.

As a rule increased acid load slows fermentation and can even bring it to a halt. Combine that with the low level of water availability and get you what you observed, no rise.

46% pre-fermented flour in a stiff dough is just too high, it is likely too oxidative.”

Timothy Wilson's picture
Timothy Wilson

I honestly didn't try to calculate the percentage of hydration. I just make a soft dough that, after baking, remains soft, doesn't crumble or dry out in half a day.