The Basics of Baker’s Percentages
Learn the basics of using baker’s percentages and how the ratios of recipes can be calculated to determine the final product of the baked good.
In regards to baking, I feel people fall into one of 4 groups:
1.) People who don’t care about baking one way or another
2.) People who hate the science and accuracy involved and therefore avoid baking
3.) People who try and state they can’t do it/aren’t good at it because of the science involved
4.) People who love it because of all the geeky sciency stuff that creates amazing baked goods.
I think it is no secret which of these category I fall into.
Today I want to indulge my geeky side for a moment. I want to explore the science and math of baking a little.
Hold the phone! I know. We’re not just talking science, but we’re talking math too?! Just stick with me. I promise this post is leading us to cookies. Lots of cookies. Because I have declared this week Chocolate Chip Cookie week! A week full of the king of cookies. But first, math. Specifically percentages.
Baker’s percentage is a technique of writing recipes for professional baker’s where each ingredient is given a percentage based off of the weight of flour in the recipe.
When you really think about traditional baking, flour is arguably the most important ingredient. It is the main structure of most all baked goods (with few exceptions). When using baker’s percentages flour is always 100%. No matter how much is in the recipe. The percentage of each other ingredient is then calculated based on the weight of flour.
The basic formula is:
(Weight of ingredient/Weight of flour) X 100= Baker’s Percentage
Let’s start with an easy example. A recipe calls for these ingredients:
If you saw this ratio, what kind of recipe do you think you might have? (Cue Jeopardy music!)
A basic pound cake! If you have a pound of flour, a pound of butter, a pound of sugar, and a pound of eggs then each of these ingredients will be 100%. This ratio of 1:1:1:1 makes a very dense and rich cake.
So I’m sure many of you are asking why one would ever care about baker’s percentages? Well, for most home bakers you may not and you may not ever really need it. But for any of us that are interested in writing recipes or do large volume baking it can be very helpful. Knowing the ratios of various ingredients to flour can shed some light on texture differences and give you a starting point when tweaking recipes.
You have probably guessed it by now, but in order to successfully utilize baker’s percentages you must weigh your ingredients- I can hear all the Americans, including me, groaning right now. But as we know, or maybe some of us don’t, that a cup of flour, a cup of sugar, and a cup of milk are not equal.
This is why the American way of baking using volume measure for everything is so confusing to the rest of the world. Do not fret! I have created this nifty little page filled with basic weights of common baking ingredients for your convenience!
And for the purposes of chocolate chip cookie week, we are going to look at recipes in weights. Don’t worry, I’ll give volume measures too! The purpose is to explore what makes a cookie chewy vs crispy vs cakey. It’s taking my Chocolate Chip Cookie Science to a whole new level! I hope you’ll join me because even if you hate math and science… then cookies!
A few chocolate chip cookie recipes to get you in the mood…