Over the years, I’ve written a number of articles on using baker’s percent to express a dough formula, but it never hurts to give a refresher course for those who have recently joined our ranks. A lot of time I hear: “Why can’t you just give me a dough formula with the weight of each ingredient shown?” I would if it were just that simple. In order to do this, I would need to know how much fl our you want to use in making your dough, and I’m betting that everyone isn’t using the same weight of fl our, so then I’d get another request to give the formula again, but this time with the correct ingredient weights for a different fl our weight and so on. By expressing a dough formula in baker’s percent, the formula can be easily manipulated up or down in size, based on any fl our weight, and the dough formula will always be in correct balance.

The only tools we’re going to need here are a sharp pencil, a pad of paper and our trusty, hand-held calculator. Here’s a typical pizza dough formula presented in baker’s percent.

Flour: 100 percent

Salt: 1.75 percent

Sugar: 2 percent

Olive oil: 3 percent

Instant dry yeast: 0.375 percent

Water: 58 percent

The only rule you need to remember is this: Flour is always equal to 100 percent. What this means is that whatever fl our weight you elect to use will always be equal to 100 percent, so, just write down your fl our weight next to that 100 percent figure.

Let’s say you opted to use 40 pounds of fl our for making your dough. Keep in mind that the weight of each ingredient will be expressed in the same weight units that you express the fl our weight in (pounds, ounces, grams, kilograms, etc.). Tip: Look at your ingredient scale to see how the weights are shown, for example, some scales will show actual pounds and ounces to the nearest 0.2 ounces (for example: 11 pounds 3.2 ounces, or 3.4 ounces, etc.); other scales might weigh to the decimal fraction of a pound such as 11.3 pounds, or 11.4 pounds, etc.; some might even weigh to a fraction of an ounce such as 11 pounds 4.25 ounces, or 4.5 ounces, or 4.76 ounces, etc. My least favored scale is the one that only weights in single decimal fractions of a pound such as the above 11.3 pound example. The reason for this is because of its inaccuracy in weighing smaller amounts of ingredients. Each 0.1 pound is actually equal to roughly 1.5 ounces, or another way of looking at it is, this scale is capable of weighing your ingredients only to the nearest 1.5 ounce measurement. This can be a problem if you need an ingredient weight of 1 or 2 ounces. Try to show your fl our weight in the same weight units that your scale weighs in. Most of the time we can get away with showing the fl our weight in ounces without any problems.

Ladies and gentlemen, turn on your calculators!

1) 40 pounds of fl our will be expressed in ounces, so our ingredient weights will also be expressed in ounces. 40 x 16 = 640 ounces of flour.

2) Enter the fl our weight (640) in your calculator, then press “x” followed by the ingredient weight you want to find. In this case salt is 1.75 percent; so enter 1.75 and then press the “percent” key, and read the answer (weight of salt needed) in the display window: 11.2 ounces. Since we’re not making rocket fuel here, we can round this off to 11.25 ounces if desired.

3) Going through the rest of the ingredients, the math looks like this: 640 x 2 (press the “percent” key) and read 12.8 ounces of sugar in the display (round to 12.75 ounces).

4) 640 x 3 (press the “percent” key) and read 19.2 ounces of olive oil in the display (round to 19.25 ounces).

5) 640 x 0.375 (press the “percent” key) and read 2.4 ounces of IDY in the display (round to 2.5-ounces).

6) 640 x 58 (press the “percent” key) and read 371.2 ounces of water in the display (round to 372.25-ounces or divide by 16 to get the weight in pounds. 371.25 divided by 16 = 23.2-

Let’s do the math one more time. This time we’ll use 25 pounds for our fl our weight, with the same dough formula.

1) Flour: 25 pounds or 400 ounces fl our weight (25 x 16 = 400).

2) Salt: 400 x 1.75 (press the “percent” key) and read 7 ounces of salt.

3) Sugar: 400 x 2 (press the “percent” key) and read 8 ounces of sugar.

4) Olive oil: 400 x 3 (press the “percent” key) and read 12 ounces of olive oil.

5) IDY: 400 X 0.375 (press the “percent” key) and read 1.5 ounces of IDY.

6) Water: 400 x 58 (press the “percent” key) and read 232-ounces of water (or divide 232 by 16 = 14.5 pounds of water).

If you want to convert an existing dough formula into one expressed in baker’s percent, all you need to do is to divide the weight of each ingredient by the weight of the fl our and multiply by 100. Here’s an example:

Flour weight is 25 pounds or 400 ounces.

The weight of the olive oil is 14 ounces. What is the baker’s percent of the olive oil?

14 divided by 400 x 100 = 3.5 percent.

The water weight is 12 pounds. What is the baker’s percent of water? 12 divided by 25 x 100 = 48 percent.

Do this for each ingredient and you’ve got the dough formula converted into baker’s percent. Now you can manipulate the size of the dough up or down as you wish, knowing that it is always in correct balance.

Remember, you can only work in weight measures. You cannot do baker’s percent in volumetric measures such as cups, teaspoons, tablespoons, etc.

Cut this copy out, or photo copy it and save it for the next time you come across a dough formula given in baker’s percent, or when you need to convert your own formula into baker’s percent so you can adjust the size of the dough without fear of your formula getting out of balance. ?

Tom Lehmann is a director at the American Institute of Baking in Manhattan, Kansas.