Basics of Baker’s Percentages
Learn the basics of baker’s percentages and use the calculators to determine your recipe formula and final dough hydration.
One of the most valuable things I learned in culinary school was how to calculate and use baker’s percentages. If you aren’t familiar with the concept, baker’s percentages or baker’s math is a way of calculating a recipe formula where each ingredient is represented as a percentage as it relates to the amount of flour in the recipe.
Typically, when we see a percent it is a representation of a portion of a whole. However, when looking at baker’s percentages the number is a representation of the ingredient only in relation to the amount of flour.
When It’s Used
Baker’s Percentages can be used for any kind of baked good and professional baker’s use this technique frequently for many different recipes. However, it is most commonly used for bread baking and this is where it can be most helpful for home bakers.
Most standard bread recipes are made up of only flour, water, salt, and yeast or sourdough starter. The salt percentage tends to stay around the 2% range for most bread recipes. However the amount of yeast/starter and water can vary greatly.
A higher percentage of leavening will make your bread rise faster, however it won’t have quite as much flavor. A high percentage of water can be desirable for sourdough with a very open crumb, while a lower percentage can be wanted for other reasons such as a more even crumb. All of these things can be adjusted to the baker’s preferences.
How to Calculate Baker’s Percentages
When calculating baker’s percentages you need to know the weight of every ingredient in the recipe. These formulas cannot be calculated based on volume measurements. The weight can be in ounces or grams, either will work the same.
In order to calculate the percentages of your recipe you will start with the weight of the flour. The flour weight is always set to 100%, no matter how much is in the recipe. This is our baseline. To calculate the other ingredient percentages, you will take the amount of the ingredient divided by the amount of the flour and multiply that by 100 to get the percentage.
I always love the example of a classic pound cake to represent this. The original pound cake called for 1 pound of butter, 1 pound of sugar, 1 pound of eggs, and 1 pound of flour. All ingredients were equal in weight to the flour. So the formula would be:
- Butter = 100%
- Sugar = 100%
- Eggs = 100%
- Flour = 100%
Baker’s Percentage Equation:
(weight of ingredient / weight of flour) x 100 = baker’s percent
While knowing how to calculate the formula on your own is definitely helpful, I made you a little baker’s percentage calculator that will create the formula for you!
All you need to do is enter the numbers for the weights of each ingredient below and you will be given your baker’s percentage.
How to Calculate the Recipe Amounts from Baker’s Percentages
There may also be times when you need to use baker’s percentages to calculate the ingredient amounts. When I was in culinary school we would often get recipes written out as only percentages and we had to use that formula to calculate our recipe based on the size we needed.
To do this, you do need to first decide how much flour you want to put in your recipe. This can take a little practice to know how much to start with in order to get the proper size batch you are looking for. For instance, if you are making a batch of bread and you are aiming for two loaves, 1000 grams of flour is typically a good place to start.
If you are a little lost on where to start, I suggest looking up recipes of a similar type of recipe that makes the yield you are looking for and starting with that amount of flour. To calculate your ingredient amount you will take the flour weight and multiply that by the ingredient’s percentage and you will be given your ingredient weight.
Keep in mind that when multiplying by percentages you do need to move the decimal place by two points to the left. For instance if I am trying to find the water amount that is set to 65% and I am starting with 1000 grams of flour I would multiply 1000 by 0.65 to get 650 grams of water.
Reverse Baker’s Percentage Equation
(weight of flour x baker’s percentage of ingredient) = ingredient weight
I also made a calculator for this process for you to use if needed! Just fill in your flour amount and the percentages for each ingredient and it will calculate the rest of your ingredient amounts.
How to Calculate Final Hydration of Dough
One additional thing to note if you are a sourdough baker is that the baker’s percentage represented in the formula for the dough is not the true final hydration of the bread. This is because the starter that you add into your dough is made up of flour and water so this needs to be taken into account if you would like to know the true final hydration.
Most sourdough starters are 100% hydration starters, meaning they are made up of equal amounts flour and water. So when calculating your dough hydration you will want to divide the amount of starter in your dough in half, and add that number to the amounts of flour and water. You will then calculate the hydration the same way you calculate baker’s percentages with the new totals for your flour and water.
I also made you a calculator for this! Enter your amounts below and it will calculate your dough’s final hydration.