Baker’s Percentage Tutorial, Part 3

As promised, this installment of the Baker’s Percentage Tutorial focuses on how to make a given amount of dough from a BP formula. I’ll also discuss how to make dough that uses a given amount of a certain ingredient.

If you didn’t catch Part 1 and Part 2 of this tutorial, you may want to do so before reading any further. I’m assuming that you’re familiar with what BP is and how to convert a recipe into a BP formula.

A couple of things are helpful to have before getting started: a calculator and a “math is fun” attitude. Smile and repeat after me: “Math. Is. Fun.”

Now consider this simple formula, expressd in BP:

  • White flour 90%
  • Whole wheat flour 10%
  • Water 70%
  • Instant yeast 1%
  • Salt 2%

Let’s say we want to make 1100 grams of dough with this formula. (Note we’re talking about dough weight, not baked weight; some dough is lost to the bowl and your fingers, and some moisture weight is lost during baking.)

The first step is to add up all the percentages in the formula: 90% + 10% + 70% + 1% + 2 % = 173%.

This tells us that however much dough we make, we can think of it as being made up of 173 parts: 90 parts white flour, 10 parts whole wheat flour, 70 parts water, 1 part yeast, and 2 parts salt.

Now we want the whole package of 173 parts to weigh 1100 g, so each part must weigh 6.4 g (1100/173).

Recall that in any BP formula, the flour is always 100%. (If there is more than one type of flour, as here, the total of them is always 100%). In other words, no matter how many parts a formula is divided into, flour always accounts for exactly 100 of those parts.

So if each part weighs 6.4 g, and there are 100 parts of flour, then the total weight of the flour is 6.4 g x 100 = 640 g.

And now we’re home free, because in the BP world, Total Flour Weight rules. Once we know the TFW, the weight of each ingredient is a snap to calculate:

  • White flour: 576 g (90% x 640 g)
  • Whole wheat flour: 64 g (10% x 640 g)
  • Water: 448 g (70% x 640 g)
  • Yeast: 6.4 g (1% x 640 g)
  • Salt: 12.8 g (2% x 640 g)

To summarize and generalize, if you have a BP formula and a desired dough weight, use these steps to calculate the amount of each ingredient:

  1. Add the percentages in the formula to get the Total %.
  2. Total Flour Weight = (Desired Dough Weight / Total %) x 100
  3. Multiply each ingredient’s percentage by Total Flour Weight to calculate the weight of that ingredient.

That wasn’t too bad, was it?

We can come at this from a slightly different angle if we we need to know how much dough we can make with a given amount of a particular ingredient.

Let’s say I want to make Semolina-Sesame Flatbreads, but I’m down to my last 14 g of sesame seeds, and I want to make as much dough as I can with that handful of seeds.

The recipe expressed as a BP formula is:

  • White flour 50%
  • Semolina 50%
  • Water 57%
  • Salt 2%
  • Sesame seeds 7%

The sesame seeds account for 7 parts in the dough. I want those 7 parts to total 14 grams, so each part must weigh 2 g (14/7).

Because there are 100 parts of flour (always), the Total Flour Weight is 200 g (100 x 2 g). And you can take it from here, right?

Those of you who just can’t get enough math fun can try these exercises.

As always, questions are welcome and encouraged. However, please forgive me if I don’t respond right away; it’s time for a vacation! As I write this I’m Here, but by the time this is posted, I should be There, and I don’t know how much time I’ll get with the computer until I return.

Post a comment » 19 Comments

  1. Your “going back to 100%” seems to me overkill.

    Once you know the weight of each part, it’s easier to just multiply for the parts.

    That is:

    * White flour: 576 g (90 x 6.4 g)
    * Whole wheat flour: 64 g (10 x 6.4 g)
    * Water: 448 g (70 x 6.4 g)
    * Yeast: 6.4 g (1 x 6.4 g)
    * Salt: 12.8 g (2 x 6.4 g)

  2. Maybe I’ll be getting this about the time you’re back. Because this is the part I need.
    Do enjoy the vacation!!

  3. H, thanks for the comment. I chose to relate it back to the 100% flour to reinforce the concept that in BP everything is based on Total Flour Weight, which is always 100%. Your shortcut works too (and is just a matter of moving the decimal point at a different point in the calculation). My bottom line is always “do what works,” so whatever method is easiest for anyone is of course the one they should choose. Both get to the same result in the end.

    Tanna, please let me know if/how I can clarify!

  4. I’m really enjoying the BPS tutorials. Thank you.

    I’m experimenting with sourdough recipes and find that a cup of sourdough isn’t a cup of sourdough. In the first place, I find my starter difficult to measure by volume. It seems that the BPS would be the ideal method to help me gain consistency. Would I do the logical thing and separate my 100% hydration starter into its components?

  5. Donna, you’re welcome. My next BP post will be about how to work with BP when you have a formula that uses a preferment, such as sourdough starter. Stay tuned…

  6. Hehe… Growing up, my dad’s mantra that he instilled in us was “Math is our friend” said in a really goofy voice. Sometimes it worked, sometimes it didn’t, but combine it with bread and voila – 100% success rate!

  7. Why do you insist on using the acronym BP in your text? What’s wrong with spelling out “baker’s percentage”?

  8. Hi, thanks a lot for the baker’s percentage tutorial. Very informative, I’d like to know if there will be part 4 to it?

  9. Caitlin, I wonder if engineers and mathematicians generally prefer baking to cooking. I do notice that on bread forums such as The Fresh Loaf there is quite a heavy proportion of math/engineering/science people.

    Jennifer, thanks, there will be Part 4, I’m just not sure exactly when. Let’s say Real Soon Now.

  10. Dies the baker’s percentage apply to all baked goods (like cookies) or just breads?

  11. Tracy, my understanding is that this is a convention used primarily by bread bakers. In theory it could be used for all baked good but I have rarely seen it except for breads.

  12. This really is a useful series, Susan. Many thanks for doing it!

    Another question:
    Does it matter in the calculations about gluten content? What if some rice flour were included in the recipe? Would that rice flour be part of the flour composition, even though it has no gluten? Or would it be included with the other ingredients?

    And what about corn flour? Or cornmeal? Would cornmeal be included in the flour content or the rest of the ingredients content?

    (I know these probably seem like silly questions; please excuse my literal-mindedness.)

  13. Elizabeth, it’s not a silly question at all. You’ll see it done different ways, but in my observation anything that can be called “flour” is usually included, while other grain ingredients that are not flour are usually not. However, I’ve seen one formula that includes wheat germ as part of the flour, and others that include polenta. Just look at the formula and it should be clear what the author is counting.

  14. Please help the stupid here. You had me understanding everything up to the sesame flat bread example. You said you can take it from here. But, no I can’t. I am trying to understand all of this before I get into culinary school. My math is so bad that I thought if I could get a handle on this stuff it may click when in class. I am an old dog returning to school after about 30 years. If you could finish the example so I could study it I would really appreciate it. You have been the most helpful source I have found. Thanks.

  15. Never mind….. you stare at something long enough and you go crazy. I looked at it again this morning and wa-la there it was as simple as can be. Sorry for the melt down. Thanks again for the study.

  16. hi thanks for the tutorials. they were exactly what i needed. i just wanted to ask though, if i wanted to make up my own recipe from scratch how could i do that? thanks again

  17. Rolls, developing your own formula from scratch is a complex process! Didier Rosada wrote a two-part article on formula development for the SFBI newletter:
    http://www.sfbi.com/pdfs/SFBINewsWI07.pdf
    (That’s part one)

  18. Hi Susan,

    I’ve been baking bread for around 6 months now and the last couple of months I’ve ventured into BP but I found it hard to get to grips with. Maths is not my strong point but this series was my ‘eureka’ moment your explanations were clear, simple and fun to read.
    Thank you so much for this series on Bakers Percentage and thank you for making me feel I was not entirely stupid :-)

  19. i agree that going back to 100% seems to be overkill, its also more confusing to do it that way, i much prefer to skip that step and simply multiply the percent of each ingredient by the part:

    * White flour: 576 g (90 x 6.4 g)
    * Whole wheat flour: 64 g (10 x 6.4 g)
    * Water: 448 g (70 x 6.4 g)
    * Yeast: 6.4 g (1 x 6.4 g)
    * Salt: 12.8 g (2 x 6.4 g)

    I dont see the point in adding the back to 100% step it just makes it harder. And personally as im new to bakers percentage, I struggled and found skipping the back to 100% step made it a hell of alot simpler and easier to do.
    I think you should update your blog to remove that step… its not necessary and just confuses people who have seen bakers percentage described elsewhere without this step.

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