This article was written for the latest issue of Bread Lines (Vol. 9, Issue 3), the Newsletter of The Bread Bakers Guild of America. For those who either are not aware of the guild or have not visited their web site, we we have provided a link to same. This version of Baker's Percentage updates and replaces our original article on this topic.
One way for all of us to strive to be better bakers is to understand how to apply "tools of the trade." One of these tools is Baker's Percentage. Professional bakers do not use "recipes". They use "formulas". Formulas show basic proportions of ingredients, calculated and expressed as percentages. Formulas also contain instructions.
An informed baker can infer a wealth of information when analyzing a formula. This information often includes, but is not limited to, the relationship of one ingredient to another, the hydration or water content of the dough, the mixer type, mixing speed and time, the stage of dough development, the desired dough temperature, the primary fermentation time including the time in which to turn and fold the dough, the rest time, the shaping technique including how to handle the dough and what equipment such as boards or cloth may be necessary, the final proof time and temperature, and the bake time and temperature. All of this information allows the baker to know not only how the dough will behave, but also what to expect in the appearance, taste, and texture of the bread.
With practice and familiarity this method will allow a baker to work "off of the grid"' to decide on a desired bread, to pinpoint its characteristics and to then develop one's own formula truly from scratch that yields exactly the bread visualized. It's a very powerful tool.
Each ingredient in a formula, including the liquid, is measured by weight. There is an advantage in using the metric system for this purpose. It is more precise and less confusing than the weight and measure system ordinarily used in the United States. In the metric system, units of weight and measure are based in increments of 10. This makes it easier to both calculate and resize formulas. It is important to weigh the flour, because the texture of various flours and the extent to which they are packed down affects how much or how little space they may take up. Weighing the flour leaves less room for error.
Baker's Percentage is not the same as true percent. In true percent, the total of the ingredients always add up to 100%. In Baker's Percentage, the weight of the flour in the formula equals 100%. All the other ingredients are calculated in proportion to the weight of flour. The mathematical equation is: (Weight of ingredient divided by weight of total flour) times 100 = ingredient %.
Table I shows a formula for “Pane Casereccio”:
Ingredient Weight Bakers % Unbleached all-purpose flour 500 g. 100
Water 360 g. 72 Salt 10 g. 2 Yeast 10g. 2
Total Dough 880 g. 176%
NOTE: 176% does not represent true percent. It represents the sum of the percentage of each ingredient in the formula or the percentage of the total dough.
The percentages are calculated as follows: Since we know that the weight of the flour (500 g) is 100%, we divide the weight of the water (360 g), by the weight of the flour (500 g), which is equal to the decimal .72. We multiply .72 by 100 to convert the decimal to a percent. The result is 72% water. ((360/500) X 100 = 72%). Using the same calculation for the salt and yeast ((10/500) x 100) results in 2% salt, and 2% yeast.
If more than one flour is used in a formula, the sum of the weight of all the different flours is equal to 100%, with each of the flours being a certain percentage of the sum of the flour. For example, if a formula includes 400 g of unbleached all-purpose flour and 100 g of whole wheat flour, the sum of the weight of the flour is 500 g (400+100 = 500), which is equal to 100%. The unbleached flour is equal to 80% ((400/500) x 100 = 80%), and the whole wheat flour is equal to 20% ((100/500) x 100 = 20%), of the sum of the flour.
When a pre-ferment is made as part of a specific formula, or when the proportions in a pre-ferment differ greatly from those in the final dough, the pre-ferment can be treated in the same way as other ingredients. Table II shows a formula for “Pane Casereccio” in which the weight of the pre-ferment is calculated separately and expressed as a percentage of the flour weight in the final dough:
Ingredient Weight Bakers % Unbleached all-purpose flour 100 g. 100 Water 60 g. 60 Yeast 2 g. 2 Total Biga 162 g. 162%
Ingredient Weight Bakers % Unbleached all-purpose flour 500 g. 100
Water 360 g. 72 Salt 10 g. 2 Yeast 10g. 2
Total Dough 1042 g. 208%
The percentages are calculated as follows: Since we know the weight of the flour in the pre-ferment (100 g) is 100%, we divide the weight of the water (60 g), by the weight of the flour (100 g), and multiply by 100, to get 60% water. ((60/100) x 100 = 60%). When we divide the weight of the yeast (2 g) by the weight of the flour (100 g) and multiply by 100, we get 2% yeast. ((2/100) x 100 = 2%). When we divide the total weight of the pre-ferment (162 g), by the weight of the flour in the final dough (500 g), and multiply by 100, we get 32%. ((162/500) x 100 = 32%).
Some formulas with a pre-ferment base ingredient proportions on the weight of all the flour in the formula, i.e. the flour in the pre-ferment plus the flour in the final dough. Table III shows the same ingredients as those listed in Table II, with the difference that the weight of the flour in the pre-ferment has been added to the weight of the flour in the final dough.
Ingredient Weight Bakers % Unbleached all-purpose flour 600 g. 100
Water 420 g. 70 Salt 10 g. 2 Yeast 10g. 2
Total Dough 1042 g. 174%
The percentages are calculated as follows: Since we know that the weight of flour in the pre-ferment is 100 g and the weight of the flour in the final dough is 500 g, when we add the two we get 600 g, which is equal to 100% flour. When we add the water in the pre-ferment (60 g) to the water in the final dough 360, we get 420 g. (60+ 360 = 420). When we divide the total weight of the water (420 g), by the total weight of flour (600 g), and multiply by 100, we get 70% water. ((420/600) x 100 = 70%). By adding the yeast in the pre-ferment (2 g), to the yeast in the final dough (10 g), we get 12 g yeast. When we divide the total weight of the yeast (12 g) by the total weight of flour (600 g), and multiply by 100we get 2% yeast. ((12/600) x 100 = 2%). Since the pre=ferment does not contain salt, the weight and percent of the salt remain the same.
There is an additional way in which to display a formula which includes a pre-ferment. The information contained in Table II and Table III has been combined and is displayed below. All calculations of Baker's Percentages remain the same. It is only the display that changes here.:
Ingredient Weight Bakers % Weight Baker's % Weight Bakers % Unbleached all purpose Flour 600 g. 100 100 g. 100 500 g 100 Water 420 g. 70 60 g. 60 360 g. 72 Salt 10 g. 1.7 (1) --- --- 10 g. 2 Yeast 12 g. 2 2 g. 2 10 g. 2 Biga --- --- --- --- 162 g. 32
1042 g. 173.7 162 g. 162 1042 208
Note 1: Since the Biga does not contain salt, the percent salt in the Total Formula is 1.7% ((10/600) x 100 = 1.66%), and the percent salt in the Final Dough is 2% ((10/500) x 100 = 2%).
Not only does Baker’s Percentage give bakers an uncomplicated way to compare formulas, it also gives them an clear-cut way to resize or scale a formula. Once the percentages are known, the calculations are straightforward. Table IV shows triple the amount of dough in the formula for “Pane Casereccio“ in Table I:
Ingredient Weight Bakers % Unbleached all-purpose flour 1500 g. 100
Water 1080 g. 72 Salt 30 g. 2 Yeast 30g. 2
Total Dough 2640 g. 176%
The ingredient weights are calculated as follows: If we divide the desired weight (3x880 = 2640), by the percentage of the total dough in the formula (176%), we get the number 15. (2640/176 = 15). We now multiply each ingredient percentage in Table I by 15 and get the numbers shown in Table IV. . Flour: 15x100% = 1500 g. Water: 15x72 = 1080 g. Salt: 15x2 = 30 g. Yeast: 15x2 = 30 g.
Another way in which to calculate the desired weight is to divide the desired weight by the original weight. (2640/880 = 3). We now multiply each ingredient weight in Table I by 3 and get the numbers shown in Table IV.. Flour: 3x500 = 1500. Water: 3x360 = 1080. Salt: 3x10 = 30. Yeast: 3x10 = 30.
Either of the methods shown above can be used to resize or scale a formula up or down, i.e. to make more or less dough.
A point worth noting is that formulas shown in both the metric and US system will not necessarily be in exact proportion. Formulas are often constructed in increments of 500 grams (1/2 kilogram) and 16 ounces (1 pound). In these instances, the yield, (batch size, or amount of dough) is slightly different because 500 grams is equal to 17.6 ounces, and 16 ounces is equal to 454 grams.
Understanding and using Baker’s Percentage increases bakers skills. Not only can bakers compare, and resize or scale existing formulas, they also can create new formulas themselves. Baker's Percentage offers bakers a practical way in which to think about the relationship of one ingredient to another. This is especially important when thinking about hydration or water content. Modifying the water content, i.e. changing the percent water in a formula, is easily accomplished using the Baker's Percentage. Since hydration is critical to the development of different styles of bread, and the consistency of bread dough is a function of its moisture content, I have included the rough guidelines found in Chart I which relate the consistency of dough to the percentage water content:
Consistency Water Content Example Very Stiff 55 to 58 % Bagels Stiff to Firm 62 65% Pane di Casa Soft 65 to 70% Focaccia Soft & Slack 70-80% Ciabatta
Breads of North America typically fall into the range of Stiff to Firm, and Moderately Firm dough. Breads of France, such as the baguette, typically fall into the range of Moderately Firm dough. Breads referred to as country style or rustic typically fall into the range of Soft dough. Breads of Italy, such as ciabatta and focaccia, typically fall within the range of Soft and Slack dough.
Hydration or water content can not be considered alone, but rather in relation to the type of flour in a formula. Different flours have different rates of water absorption. For instance, whole-wheat and rye flour absorb more water than does white flour. This is largely due to the nature or kind of protein present in the flour. As an example, the amount of protein in wheat and rye flour is similar, but when rye flour is made into a dough by the addition of water, the gluten that is formed is not the same as when wheat flour is treated in the same manner. This also holds true for the difference in dough made with white as opposed to whole-wheat flour.
In summary, Baker's Percentage is a useful and effective tool that enhances the skill and creativity of the baker.
Click Here to return to the Baker's Percentage Spreadsheet discussion and links.
Last updated on:12/02/01 09:23:37 PM