Demystifying Baker's Percentages

 
Let’s take a closer look at baker’s percentage and some of the features found in the standardized format. First, it is important to understand why and can also be used to identify problems in a formula (i.e., if it is not balanced or if certain ingredient amounts are too high or too low).
 
Consistent results. Measurements in baker’s percent are calculated by weight, ensuring consistent results on a day-to-day basis.
 
Flexibility. Baker’s percentage allows you to calculate exactly how much dough must be produced to meet specific production needs, while maintaining the correct ratios.
 
Ease in troubleshooting. Baker’s percentage can be used to quickly change hydration levels to account for changes in flour consistency and can also be used to identify problems in a formula (if it is not balanced or if certain ingredient amounts are too high or too low).
 
Fixing scaling errors. A baker can use baker’s percentage to calculate additional ingredients needed to maintain a consistent formula if one ingredient is scaled incorrectly.
 
Communication. Baker’s percentage is a common language to bakers. It can be used to share formulas in a concise, universally understood way — even if the spoken language isn’t the same.
 
Now let’s review a few of the important basic guidelines for using baker’s percentage:
 
All ingredients are measured by weight, including liquids; they should be measured using a consistent unit of measure, either pounds or kilograms.
 
The main ingredient in the formula is always considered 100 percent. When two or more flours are used in a formula, their combined total is always considered 100 percent.
 
The weights of all other ingredients are expressed as a percentage of the flour weight.
 
Spreadsheet programs, such as Microsoft Excel, are recommended to easily and quickly calculate formulas, depending on the desired quantity of bread.
 
The best way to learn baker’s percentage is to use it over and over until you are completely comfortable with it. As one great baker said, “learn it, use it, live it.”
 
Take a formula expressed in percentages and calculate the amount of ingredients for various batch sizes, or take a formula in a baking book and figure out the percentage for each ingredient. Baker’s percentage is the most powerful tool bakers have to consistently bake quality bread. 
 
For more discussions of baker’s percentage, visit Craig Ponsford’s baker’s percentage lesson on www.artisanbakers.com or review the appendix of Jeffrey Hamelman’s book, Bread: A Baker’s Book of Techniques and Recipes. Good luck and happy baking!