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.
33 Comments on “Basics of Baker’s Percentages”
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Pinning this post so that I can always refer to it. This came at the right time – I just dug my copy of Michael Ruhlman’s Ratio out of my moving boxes so that I can start developing some recipes. Thanks for all the awesome science talk, Bettie!
Awesome Nancy! Do you recommend that book?
I definitely fit into the fourth baking category too =). Science makes me happy, especially when there are cookies at the end of it. You’ve inspired me to try my hand at creating cookie recipes again, though it’s rather a challenge to create a great cookie with no sugar component.
I also found it interesting when you were talking about baker’s percentages; I’ve only heard about baking ratios.
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I AM SO EXCITED YOU ARE DOING THIS SERIES! ALL CAPS ARE NECESSARY! THIS IS THE ONLY WAY I WILL EVER CARE ABOUT MATH AND SCIENCE!!! lol
I AM SO EXCITED THAT YOU ARE EXCITED! I WANT YOU TO CARE ABOUT MATH WHEN IT COMES TO COOKIES! IT’S ALL THAT MATTERS IN THIS WORLD!
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Thanks, Bettie! I always wondered how the people who created baking recipes “knew” how much of each ingredient to use. It all makes sense now! If I would have been taught this in school – hey, maybe they SHOULD teach this in school! Americans students would soon rule the world in math and science.
Cookies, not politicians, making America great 🙂
Bakers percent theory has a common analogue that is actually very manly. Think about construction. More precisely concrete. Outside of the branch, very few people realize concrete and cake are just about twins. One makes something tasty, and the other makes artificial stone. Baking works with factors such as autolyse, crumb, texture, flake, and optional allure. Concrete has variables like workability, pumpabilty, flexural strength, ultimate hardness, hydrostatic resistance, ect. In bakers percentage it revolves around flour, and in concrete it revolves around cement. You can tweak your product any way you like if you know how it works. In the end it is all just chemistry and physics. The two even have a common variable in hydration. In bread it determines texture and crumb. In concrete it determines ultimate strength and workability. Science is awesome.
Wow Matt! Never thought about the comparison but you are so right! How interesting!
I happened read your article and love it!
And I love the way you explained everything (I’ve also checked some others from the links in this one).
Thank you very much.
Thank you so much for educating me in this all important subject. I’m going to try to wrap my brain around it and see where it goes. This will be a challenge because math has never been a friend of mine.
Hi Linda! I know it can be difficult to understand. Hopefully the calculators in the post simplify it for you so you don’t have to work out the math for yourself.
Give it a shot!
I wanted to thank you for sharing your knowledge with us.
It is really helpful for me in my Pastry Chef Career.
Your recipes, basic and advanced knowledge is helping like a guide to success.
Please Keep going on!!!!!!
You are doing a great work Chef, Baker Bettie.
Thanks so much!
You’ve yet provided another very valuable lesson in a layman’s turn. I have watched 10% videos and articles about Baker’s % but still not confident that I could do it right. Your video/article explained it perfectly, especially with all the examples. Oh, the sourdough variation is particularly useful.
I can’t thank you enough for providing such a wonderful information.
I do have one question. What confused me most is the conversion between cups/tsp/tbsp to grams. 1 cup of flour could be 120g in some recipes and 145 in others.
Is there an easier way to determine the % if the recipe doesn’t have the weight of the ingredients? Perhaps, I need to just try a few different ratios?
Thank you again!!! Math is fun and I am a nerd. I am so EXCITED! Gotta put on my scholar glasses and start calculating. *scream*
I really do appreciate the calculators you have made available. I’m shall we say a late in life bread baker. Developed my interest at 70 yrs and just turned 73. I have a flour mill and enjoy using it and buying the wheat berries instead of pr-ground store fours which I do at a minimum.
It’s never too late to start a fun hobby! I don’t have my own flour mill but that’s definitely something I could see myself really enjoying. I’m glad you are liking it!
Great video and article. You are a natural at breaking down technical information into simple explanations. Thank you
Thank you for the simplest instructions yet on baker’s percentage. The video stopped at the sourdough portion. Quick question, what do you do if the bread has two different flours? Thanks again.
I really still do understand these bakers percentage pls I need more clarity.
I must be going blind. I enter the amounts and can’t find a “Calculate” button.
LOVE THE CALCULATORS! I have bookmarked your page, looking forward to hearing from you. I did subscribe. Right now i am developing a recipe for Raman Alkaline noodles, and basing on percentages is much more accurate. thank you for the awsone tools!
What I do is subtract the weight of the flour and water in the starter from the flour and water in the recipe then use those adjusted amounts in the recipe. That way, hydration and final dough weight stay the same.
200g starter @100% hydration
Deducting 100g each flour & water becomes:
200g starter @ 100% hydration
Hi Baker Bettie.
For calculating the final hydration of a brioche – I should consider the amount of eggs in the recipe, right?
That will be fine