Search Results for: Baker's Math

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.”

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Baker’s Percentage Tutorial, Part 2

A number of people left comments or sent email saying that they found Part 1 of my Baker’s Percentage Tutorial helpful. Thank you for that! And now that you know what baker’s percentage (BP) is, you might be wondering what you’re supposed to do with it.

In addition to flour, most bread contains three other basic ingredients: water, yeast, and salt. One thing BP is useful for is allowing you to look at the amounts of these ingredients and get a rough idea of the kind of bread the formula will make, and whether the ingredients are balanced.


Bakers often talk about the “hydration” of a dough. Simply stated, hydration is the amount of water in a formula, relative to the amount of flour. That’s exactly the definition of the BP of water. Look at this dough formula:

  • Flour 100%
  • Water 66%
  • Instant yeast 1%
  • Salt 2%

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Baker’s Percentage Tutorial, Part 1

If you bake bread, sooner or later you’re going to encounter (cue ominous music) Baker’s Percentage. Did I just strike fear in your heart? No doubt about it, this can be confusing, even scary, stuff. But it really doesn’t have to be.

My first brush with Baker’s Percentage (BP) came a few days after baking my first loaves, as I was perusing my newly-acquired copy of Peter Reinhart’s The Bread Baker’s Apprentice. I saw these weird sidebar versions of all the recipes in which the total of the ingredients always added up to more than 100%.

My first thought: Huh? Wow, this fellow really needs a math lesson.

This was followed pretty quickly by a second thought: Mr. Reinhart is a rock star baker and he’s managed to get quite a few books published; just maybe he knows a little more than you do about this, my dear. Maybe he’s on to something.

Lucky for me I had that second thought. It turns out that this convention, which to my knowledge is unique to bread bakers, is both straightforward and useful.

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Going Wild

One of the questions I get asked most often is how to take a bread recipe and substitute sourdough starter for baker’s yeast.

The short answer, in my humble opinion, is: you can’t. Do I hear gasps? Can Ms. Wild Yeast be advising against using wild yeast?

No, she isn’t. But let’s think about this a minute. You have a recipe you like, and it uses baker’s yeast. (You do like the recipe, don’t you? Otherwise why would you want to keep it around?) Now you want to simply take out the the baker’s yeast and replace it with wild yeast. Simple, right?

But with sourdough starter, you’re not only adding yeast, your’re adding flour, water, bacteria and the acids they produce (these are what make sourdough sour), alcohol, and other compounds that are products of fermentation. And in so doing, you’re potentially going to be changing (for better or worse) some things: dough consistency and strength, fermentation time, keeping quality, and, of course, flavor and texture of the bread, to name a few.

So, what was it you liked about that original recipe, anyway? If you care to, you can read more of my thoughts on tweaking recipes. It pretty much boils down to this: if you do things differently, you may well wind up with a different result.

That said, I don’t want to make it sound like you can’t or shouldn’t use a baker’s yeast recipe as a starting place to develop a different, sourdough-leavened, bread. What I can tell you is where I would start If I were going to do this (and I have, plenty of times). What I can’t give you is a pat formula — and that would be boring anyway, wouldn’t it?

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YeastSpotting 2.26.10


YeastSpotting is a weekly collective showcase of yeasted baked goods and dishes with bread as a main ingredient. For more bread inspiration, and information on how to submit your bread, please visit the YeastSpotting archive.

See this week’s yeast spottings…