What is the Baker's Percentage? | Video



This video will explain and demonstrate the baker's percentage.
What is the baker's percentage?
Below is a chart that illustrates traditional ratios for common types of bread dough.
What is the baker's percentage? Hydration & Ingredient Chart

Further Information

This post is part of our ongoing Bread Baking Video Series, which teaches a wide array of baking techniques and recipes. For more information, you can also view our How To Cook Video Index.

 

22 comments

pericowest
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It is of interest that Nathan Myhrvold's Modernist Cuisine uses the bakers percentage in all his recipes. See his kitchen manual.
Jacob Burton
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That's why I love Modernist Cuisine; it's so much easier for professionals to understand recipes in that context. Most kitches that I've worked, and my own personael prefference, is to keep trak of recipes by their weighted ratio, with the main ingredient always set at 100%. It will always give you a better perspective and understanding on the recipes you make or create.
pericowest
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Sometime ago you mentioned that you may do a few episodes on sous vide. I have been using the technique for sometime and love it for many applications. Long before the current books were out I stumbled across Douglass Baldwin's draft of some of his graduate work (in applied mathematics of all things) where he describes the science of the technique. Very helpful at that time. His current book "Sous Vide for the home cook" is pretty good and easy to follow. Thomas Keller's "Under Pressure" is a bit much for we mere mortals. (He also uses weight vs volume).
I particularly like using the techniques for preparation, chill, then freeze as we eat at irregular hours. All I have to do is bring to temperature, perhaps sear with my torch, season and/or sauce and we have an almost instant wonderfully cooked meal.
Looking forward to your experiences and instruction on sous vide.
Jacob Burton
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We will eventually tackle the Sous Vide topic full force in an upcoming video series. This website is still in it's "foundational stage" though, with some more basics to cover before we get into the advanced topics.

I understand your point about Thomas Keller's "Under Pressure," but I would recommend that you try and get use to doing at least some of your more intricate recipes by weight, prefferably grams. It really is the only way to be consistent and 100% accurate. Surprisingly too, you'll find that once you get use to it, executing a recipe that is measured in grams is faster and more efficient then measuring by volume. It just take a little while to get use to.
pericowest
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Help!!
I tried to convert a recipe for mint pearls to basal pearls. A disaster...
The original was 11/4 cup H20 + 2 gm sodium alginate, mix, boil,let stand 10 minutes.
then 1/3 C of this alginate "syrup" + 1/3 C cream de Menthe (actually the recipe is in French and it states 1/3 C cream mint). Mix, then add drop by drop into 4C H20+ 1gm calcium lactate to form the pearls. I substituted 1/3 C basal "syrup" made by blanching the basal, chill, add to 1/2 C H20, blend with immersion blender,strain. Yield 1/2 C basal liquid.
When added to the Ca lactate bath the drops did not congeal. What went wrong with the chemistry?
The aliginate+basal syrup did gel so I could use it as a base to plate a tomato,basal and mozzarella salad. No flavor so it ended up just for eye appeal. Actually looked cool.
Any thoughts?
Jacob Burton
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A couple of things;

You should never be measuring anything in volume when working with modern techniques and hydrocolloids. Everything should be weighed out on a digital scale and always in grams. Grams are necessary because there are quite a few calculations based upon percentages and ratios that are used in recipes employing hydrocolloids, with even 1/100th of a gram making a big difference in your outcome.

Generally speaking, when using the standard spherification technique (alginate base dropped into calcium chloride bath), you will add 1% by weight of sodium alginate to your water based flavor and 1% of calcium chloride by weight to your setting bath.

Any time you add sugar to your alginate solution (or flavor base), it will raise the viscosity. Sometimes this is negligible, but in larger amounts, you need to adjust the consistency of your chloride bath to match that of your alginate solution. This adjustment of viscosity is usually using Xanthan Gum, commonly by trial and error.

Also, the best way to hydrate any hydrocolloid is by shearing power, not by boiling (although some ALSO require boiling after shearing, like Agar Agar or Methylcellulose). With alginate, usually just hitting the mixture with an immersion blender for about 60 seconds and then straining through a chinois will do the trick.

Let me know if you have any more questions.
Jasonizm45
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What are commonly used fats in bread? I'm interested in making Challah and Brioche. Are the fats liquids or solids? Milk (whole, 2%?), shortening, oil, butter (melted or not?) BTW I really enjoy the percentage method way more then the standard method, thank you for that.
Jacob Burton
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The fats can really be anything that you want, depending on the desired flavor and texture of the finished product. For example, brioche uses a lot of egg yolks and melted butter to give it a rich flavor and texture. But when making flaky bread products like biscuits, croissants, pie crust, etc, it's important to use cold chunks of butter or other fat.

 

Common fats used in enriched doughs are butter, cream, whole milk, lard, shortening, eggs, egg yolks, oils (olive, nuts, seeds) and to a lesser extent animal fats like beef suet and duck fat.

gt651

Can you say something about what's a typical percentage for starter flour to total flour in sourdough bread?

 

For example using 100% starter (equal weights flour and water), I use 50% water, 50% starter, 2% salt.  This results in a starter flour to total flour percentage of 20% - is this typical, high, or low?

Jacob Burton
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It depends how quickly you want your dough to rise and the desired, finished flavor. In general terms, the smaller amount of starter used, the longer it will take a dough to rise, but the more flavor it will have in the end. A common starting point is usually around 1/3 of the total dough being made up by the starter.
gt651

OK thanks.  For 100% starter and 60% hydration, using 1/3 starter to total dough weight would result in a starter flour to total flour percentage of 27%.

PaperTree
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Hello Jacob

 

Could you tell me what I am doing wrong with my calculations of 70% hydration?

 

I am working on your Sourdough Boule ingredients.

275g Water, 500g Poolish, 500g flour, 20g Salt.

If I consider the Poolish as a liquid and therefore something to do with hydration, I'm thinking that 275g Water + 500g Poolish = 775g hydration

500g flour as the constant to base the % on therefore ...

 

775 ÷ 500 = 1.55 x 100 = 155%

 

I was expecting it to turn out to be 70%.  Where is my thinking going wrong?

 

I read somewhere (maybe on this site) that the amount of yeast only affects the time it takes for the dough to rise.  More yeast a faster rise, less yeast a longer rise and more flavour.  My lateral thinking, then took me to thinking that if the yeast is not essential, then, if I only have (X)g of Poolish available, then all I would need to do was to adjust the water to maintain 70% hydration and just wait a little longer for the dough to mature. 

 

For the future, the ultimate goal is to make the dough up at night, then leave a long rest period of about 8 hours (while I sleep) on the counter not in the fridge, so that when I get up in the morning, I put on the oven and have fresh warm bread ready after my ablutions.  If I retard the rise in the fridge, I need to wait until the dough reaches room temperature before cooking and that would not fit into my morning.

 

Where are my mathematics going wrong?

Jacob Burton
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You have to remember that a poolish starter is made up 50% water and 50% flour. So if using 500g of poolish, you would calculate it as 250g water and 250g flour.

 

So your calculation will look like this:

 

  • 750g Flour (500g + 250g flour Poolish)
  • 525g Water (275g + 250g water from poolish)
  • 525g Water ÷ 750g = .7 or 70% hydration

Hope this helps.

 

PaperTree
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Aha!  I was thinking that the poolish was something different, the equivalent of the alchemist's gold, not that it was flour and water just in a different state.  Working on this logic, would it be fair to assume that the total 70% hydration "could" be used only from the water in the Poolish?

 

525g Water in the Poolish (and therefore by definition 525g Flour in the Poolish).

750g Flour (750 - 525g Flour from the Poolish = 225g more flour required to make up the dough).

 

So the new calculation would look like this:

 

1050g Poolish Starter

225g Flour

20g Salt

 

If the above theory is possible in practice, and I will test it out at my next opportunity, I would like to understand why it is necessary to get rid of most of the Poolish Strarter at feeding time?  I know it sounds silly, but I don't like killing things and since I have named my Poolish I have got rather sentimental about it.  It seems different to kill the yeast during the cooking time of making bread, because the result of the product "bread", gives life to me, but dumping all that yeast and killing that, just because it has no use seems wrong.

 

So, if I have a good Poolish starter that I want to keep alive, but only have time to bake bread once every 7 days, I want to keep that Poolish alive by feeding it once a day for 7 days and ending up with  just over 1050g of Poolish so I can make my home bake at the week-end.

 

Starting with 400g of established Poolish, can I then feed it every day with 50g flour and 50g water for 7 days without ditching any Poolish when I feed?  This will give me a yield of 1100g of active Poolish 1050g to be used for my baking and 50g Poolish to start off the next batch?  Why do I need to ditch?

Jacob Burton
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The reasons why you dump the starter is to feed it fresh and keep it healthy. Don't think of it as "killing" your starter, think of it as necessary process to keep your starter healthy and happy.

 

As far as just adding flour to the starter, you won't have good luck with that because the environment will be extremely acidic which will weaken the gluten strands in your bread. These weak gluten strands will give you a flat loaf of bread, like in you previous picture. Dumping most of the starter the night before and feeding will give you a "young," fresh starter that will be active and healthy the next morning.

PaperTree
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Thank you Jacob, it is great that you have so much experience to pass on, because it saves me re-inventing the wheel.  Thanks also to help me change my mindset about "Jacob" my healthy and happy starter. cheeky

Gendari
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Hi Chef,
 I have 2 questions: 1) would it be possible to make Challah with sourdough starter? ; 2) would you consider liquid milk and vegetable oil more as liquid or fat? Thanks in advance Chef.
SharpKinfe
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Chef,
  How do you classify heavy cream, as a liquid, fat, or as a percentage of both?

Also, thank you for your labors creating this excellent resource.
Jacob Burton
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@ Gendari,
  1. Yes, it is possible to make Challah with a sourdough starter. Remove half of the flour from the recipe, mix with the same amount of liquid (subtracting that amount from the recipe), and inoculate with 50g sourdough starter. Let preferment overnight, and then add the rest of the ingredients the following day. Remember, since wild yeast is less vigorous then commercial, you're bulk fermentation and proofing stages will be longer.
  2. Liquid milk, because it's mostly water, is considered a liquid, versus vegetable oil would be considered a fat since it is pure fat, and will have an effect on the crumb of your bread.
@ SharpKnife,

For ease of measurement, I would classify cream as a liquid, but take into consideration that you'll need less fat in your formulation, if any at all. With that said, it's pretty rare to see heavy cream in a bread recipe. Usually rich dough are made up of milk (even whole milk is mostly water, with about 10% fat), butter and eggs.
Rbraham
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Chef: Alas, even Homer nods. Fat in US commercial whole milk is 3.25%, according to The Man (see http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Fat_content_of_milk). That Wiki entry, and a few others, has a great flow chart on dairy types, processing, and fat contents. Unfortunately, it does not detail creme fraiche, for which some French URLS are handy.
Joann F. Chang
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sorry to ask, but I'm a little bit confusing about the milk as fat percentage. If I were making a bread with milk as the fat percentage. Is that mean I don't need to put other kind of oil into my dough? And is that mean I still do need to put  the same hydration rate into the dough? If I were making a White Bread. Do I still put 54%water 2%salt and 17%milk??
Jacob Burton
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Hi Joann,

When using liquids that contain fat (like milk), treat them as a liquid percent (add them to your hydration ratio). Because they're not pure fat, the fat content contained in the dairy won't have a massive effect on the final out come.

Remember too that when adding milk to a dough, you first need to bring it to a simmer (scald), let cool, and then add. The whey protein found in milk can weaken a dough's gluten structure. Scalding the milk first essentially deactivates the weigh protein, allowing you dough to rise better.

Let me know if you have any more questions, and welcome to Stella Culinary!
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