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.

Let’s review a few of the important basic guidelines for using baker’s percentage:

  1. All ingredients are measured by weight, including liquids; they should be measured using a consistent unit of measure, either pounds or kilograms.

  2. 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.

  3. The weights of all other ingredients are expressed as a percentage of the total flour weight.

  4. Spreadsheet programs, such as Microsoft Excel, are recommended to easily and quickly calculate formulas, depending on the desired quantity of bread.

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 baker’s percentage is so critical to success. Listed below are just some of the benefits gained by using baker’s percentage:

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 (i.e., 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.

Now let’s walk through an example using Jimmy’s Bread from Bread Bakers Guild Team USA 2005. To make the formula easier to understand, we have simplified some of the numbers, which now differ from the original formula.

Total Formula %
Flour 70.0
Whole Wheat 30.0
Water 80.0
Instant Yeast 0.3
Salt 2.0
Peanuts 5.0
Total 187.3
Total Weight (kg) 10.0 kg 

Notice that there are two kinds of flour here — white and whole wheat flour — and that their sum is 100 percent. Also notice at the bottom of the percentage column, we have totaled all of the percentages that make up the formula. Now we can calculate the quantity of ingredients for a 10 kg batch of dough.

Although there is more than one way to do the calculations, here is one simple way: First, calculate the amount of total flour. We start by dividing the total percentages (187.3 percent) by the total flour percentage (always 100 percent). That equals 1.873. Then we divide the amount of dough you want, in this case 10 kg by 1.873.

Amount of total flour = amount of dough you want (10 kg) / total flour percent (100)

Subsequently, all of the ingredient amounts can be calculated by multiplying the percentage of each by the total flour weight. For instance:

  • White flour = 5.339 x 70% = 3.737 kg
  • Whole wheat flour = 5.339 x 30% = 1.602 kg
  • Water = 5.339 x 80% = 4.271 kg

Note that the quantities are rounded to the thousandth, so that when using kilograms, the formula is accurate to the gram. The completed total formula would be:

Total Formula % KG
Flour 70.0 3.737
Whole Wheat 30.0 1.602
Water 80.0 4.271
Instant Yeast 0.3 0.016
Salt 2.0 0.107
Peanuts 5.0 0.267
Total 187.3 10.000 kg

The calculations also work in reverse, so if you know the quantities of ingredients in a consistent weight, you can easily calculate the percentages of each ingredient. Remember, flour is always 100 percent, so just divide each ingredient by the total flour in the formula to get the percentage of each corresponding ingredient.

Source: Bread Bakers Guild of America