Dough Doctor: Baker’s Percent

2011 May: Dough DoctorSome people have accused me of making my dough formulas too complex and difficult to make because I insist upon giving the ingredient amounts in percentages. Actually, they’re given in what is called “baker’s percent”. I must admit, I’m guilty as charged, but before you condemn me, allow me to plead my case for using baker’s percent.

With baker’s percent, all ingredient amounts are expressed as a percentage of the total weight of the wheat flour contained in the formula/recipe, and the total flour weight is always given as 100 percent. For example, if a dough formula contains both white (pizza flour) and a whole-wheat flour, the total weight of the two flours will equal the total flour weight. Or, if a formula contains vital wheat gluten, the gluten weight will be added to the weight of the flour to arrive at the total flour weight. Do not include any other types of flour, such as soy flour, or corn flour, in the total flour weight.

Now for the fun part. Let’s say we want to determine the ingredient amounts to use for the following dough formula:
Flour 100 percent
Salt 1.75 percent
Sugar 2 percent
Olive oil 3 percent
Instant dry yeast 0.35 percent
Water 60 percent

The first thing to do is to ask yourself how much flour do I want to use? Or better put, how much flour will my mixer handle? Let’s say we have a mixer than can safely mix doughs based on up to 50-pounds of flour in the mixer. So we elect to use 50 pounds of flour, which is equal to 100 percent. Now we will turn to our handy calculator for a little assistance. To determine the amount of salt to use, press in 50 X 1.75, and then press the “percent” key. You will be able to read the amount of salt to add in the display window. In this case it will be 0.875 pounds of salt. If you need to convert this to ounces, just multiply it by 16 (the number of ounces in a pound) 0.875 X 16 = 14 ounces.

For the next ingredient, sugar at 2 percent will look like this: 50 X 2, press the percent key, and you’ll see the answer is 1 pound of sugar. Olive oil at 3 percent will be 50 X 3, then press the percent key and you’ll have 1.5 pounds of olive oil. Instant dry yeast at 0.35 percent will be 50 X 0.35, then press the percent key and you’ll have 0.175 pounds of instant dry yeast (0.175 X 16 = 2.8-ounces). Water at 60 percent will be 50 X 60, then press the percent key. You’ll have 30 pounds of water.

If you want to express a formula in baker’s percent. All you need to do is divide the weight of each ingredient by the total weight of the flour and multiply by 100. Let me show you an example of how it’s done. Here is a typical dough formula for a honey-wheat pizza dough:

35 pounds White flour
15 pounds Whole-wheat flour
14 ounces Salt
3 pounds Honey
2 pounds Butter flavored oil
4 ounces Instant dry yeast
30 pounds Water

Remember, we’re going to divide the weight of each ingredient by the total weight of the wheat flour(s) and multiply by 100. In this formula the total weight of the wheat flour is 50 pounds, but it is comprised of both white and whole-wheat flour and we must show the proportions of each as a percent.

  • White flour (35 pounds) divided by 50 (total flour weight) = 0.7 X 100 = 70 percent
  • Whole-wheat flour (15pounds) divided by 50 (total flour weight) = 0.3 X 100 = 30 percent
  • Salt (14 ounces). In this case you should show the weight as a decimal part of a pound (14 divided by 16 = 0.875 pound) 0.875 divided by 50 = 0.175 X 100 = 1.75 percent;
  • Honey (3-pounds) divided by 50 = 0.006 X 100 = 6 percent;
  • Butter flavored oil (2 pounds) divided by 50 = 0.004 X 100 = 4 percent
  • Instant dry yeast (4 ounces). Here again we must change ounces to a decimal part of a pound (4 divided by 16 = 0.25-pound) 0.25 divided by 50 = 0.005 X100 = 0.5 percent
  • Water (30-pounds) divided by 50 = 0.6 X 100 = 60 percent.

As you can see, baker’s percent will only work with weight measures, it will not work with volumetric measures (cups, teaspoons, tablespoons, etc.). There are some really great advantages to working with your formulas in baker’s percent. For instance, you can tell, at a glance, if the formula is in proper balance (correct proportions), you can also easily increase or decrease the size of the dough without the need to “fiddle” with ingredient amounts, and you can easily size your dough to fit any mixer capacity.

If your dough is presently given in volumetric measures, it doesn’t take too much to convert it to baker’s percent, but you will need to have a good scale available for weighing your ingredients. Begin by portioning out each ingredient as you normally do, but put each ingredient into its own separate container. When all of the ingredients have been portioned, weigh each container with the ingredient, then empty the ingredient into the mixing bowl and weigh the empty container. Subtract the “tare” weight of the container form the ingredient weight for the true ingredient weight. Do this for each ingredient that you portioned out. Now prepare a dough from the portioned ingredients and ask yourself if this is “my normal ” dough. If the answer is yes, repeat the portioning and weighing procedure for two more doughs. If each one produces your normal dough take — the average weight for the three weights of each ingredient (add up each of the three weights and divide by three) — you will now have your formula shown with the correct ingredient weights and all that is left to do is to write down 100 percent next to the flour weight (remember flour is always 100 percent). Then divide the weight of each ingredient by the weight of the flour and multiply by 100. Do this for each of the ingredients and you have your formula in baker’s percent and you can manipulate it up or down in size without making any other changes to the ingredients.

Now that you have heard my side of the story, and you now know how to work a formula given in baker’s percent and understand the advantages of doing so, I trust that you will go easy on me the next time you see a formula given in baker’s percent.

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