Understanding bakers percentages is challenging to get your head around. But once you’ve got it you’ll realise that it is actually really easy to use and you’ll be able to adapt or scale-up any recipe. Bakers use bakers percentages to convert a bread recipe from a collection of weights into a formula that can be increased or decreased with ease.
Hey there! Some links on this page are affiliate links which means that, if you choose to make a purchase, I may earn a small commission at no extra cost to you. I greatly appreciate your support and I hope you enjoy the article!
Baker’s percentage definition
A baker’s percentage, often referred to as Baker’s Math is a method of proportioning each ingredient to the total amount of flour used in a bread recipe. Each ingredient is provided as a percentage of the flour, with the total flour used in the recipe always totalling 100% to produce a bakers formula.
Using a bakers formula ensures that no matter the size of the dough, the ratio of ingredients is always the same. This means that any recipe can be scaled up or down with exact precision, thus bakers percentages are absolutely vital to baking bread commercially.
The 7 Things You’re (Probably) Doing Wrong!
Improve Your Baking Skills With My Free Email Course- Sign Up Here!
Not restricted to bread, the use of bakers percentages is used for preparing cakes and other baked goods.
Why use bakers percentages?
To double a recipe it’s pretty simple, you just double the ingredients. But what if you wanted to change the amount of dough made by 10% so that it fits in the tin that you’ve got? Also, how about if you want to lower the amount of water in a recipe and then want to make a bigger batch of dough? Well, as bakers percentages are based on the weight of the flour required, these things are easier to work out.
There are common relationships between the ratio of ingredients. For example, yeast and salt typically have a percentage of 2% and the water is often around 65%. By knowing the baker’s percentages of a new recipe you’ll find that you are able to predict things like how quickly the dough rises or how wet and sticky the dough will be. This knowledge, although not essential, enables you to understand recipes better and grow your baking skills.
To simplify the advantages of using bakers percentages in a list:
- Share recipes easily with the ability to use commercial bakeries recipes
- Adapt the number of ingredients in an existing recipe to suit your environment
- Add or remove extra ingredients
- Increase or decrease the batch size of the recipe
- Assess a recipe to foresee potential issues and expected characteristics
What do I need to use bakers percentages?
It’s best to calculate baker’s percentages by weight in grams as the metric system is accurate and easy to calculate. It is possible to use imperial however you will have to do all your calculating in one denomination, you won’t be able to use pounds and ounces. Most home bakers will use ounces, but you may find bakers who make larger quantities use pounds.
It is not advised to use cups and spoons to measure your ingredients. It’s not accurate and when using a bakers formula you can only use one measurement. So if you don’t fancy measuring your flour with a teaspoon, use scales!
If you don’t have a good set of scales, this set from My-weigh is fantastic. They are durable, hard-working, accurate and affordable. I’d go for them every time!
For ultimate precession when measuring smaller quantities you may like to get yourself a set of jewellery scales. These scales measure accurately to 0.01 of a gram and such a low cost offer many benefits when scaling down a larger recipe.
Apart from scales, you’ll need a notepad and (probably) a calculator to work out the calculations. I prefer to use a spreadsheet to build a formulate my recipes. Here is a link to a blank baker’s formula spreadsheet which you can import into Google Sheets or Excel for your own baker’s formula.
What does a baker’s formula look like?
Professional dough recipes are created with a bakers formula. It works by the bakers percentage available for each ingredient. The amount required for each ingredient is calculated by multiplying the percentage and the total flour weight.
You can see here in my tin loaf recipe that it produces 961 grams of dough. We need 950 grams of dough to fill a 2lb loaf tin so we make just over that to make up for any dough lost in the production process.
White tin loaf
|Total flour:||570.00||Bakers %||Recipe|
How to calculate bakers percentages of ingredients
If we didn’t know the bakers percentage of the tin loaf recipe above we could work it out with a simple calculation. Here’s how it works:
Take the weight of the ingredient and divide it by the weight of the flour. In this case, we’ll calculate the water which is 370 grams into a bakers percentage:
Total flour = 570 grams
Water = 370 grams
(370 ÷ 570) x 100 = 0.65
0.65 x 100 = 65
We now know that the bakers percentage of water in this recipe is 65%.
This method is then repeated for all of the remaining ingredients to produce our bakers formula.
|Flour||570.00||570 ÷ 570 = 1||100.00|
|Water||370.50||370.5 ÷ 570 = 0.65||65.00|
|Yeast||9.12||9.12 ÷ 570 = 0.016||1.60|
|Salt||11.40||11.4 ÷ 570 = 0.02||2.00|
|Sugar||9.12||9.12 ÷ 570 = 0.016||1.60|
|Veg oil||2.85||2.85 ÷ 570 = 0.005||0.50|
Should I round the number up or down to remove the decimal place?
Decimal measurements in a bread recipe can look imposing and for many bakers unnecessary. You are welcome to round the decimals into whole numbers when weighing your ingredients. The reason I don’t do it here is after rounding the decimals from the original recipe, the baker’s formula and then again when the batch size is increased, the recipe changes notably.
How to use the bakers formula to measure the ingredients
If you have a bakers formula to make a dough, here’s how to work out the weight of the ingredients if we want to increase the size of our white tin bread recipe.
First, we need to determine how much flour is required. Let’s take that the flour used in a recipe is 1000 grams.
To calculate each ingredient we use the formula:
Bakers percentage x Total Flour Weight = Weight of ingredient
So to calculate the weights of ingredients in this recipe:
For the case of the water:
65 x 1000 = 650
650 grams of water
The salt percentage for this bread dough is 2%, so:
2 x 1000 = 20
20 grams of salt
For 1.6% of yeast:
1.6 x 1000 = 16
16 grams of yeast
And so on..!
How to use the baker’s formula to increase a recipe
The total dough weight of our recipe is currently 961 grams. If we want to increase the amount of dough to make 2 large loves and 1 little one, we need to change the flour weight.
As discussed in my making bread in bigger batches article, find the weight of the dough required by multiplying the piece weight by the quantity:
2 sandwich loaves at 950 grams
1 farmhouse loaf at 500 grams
2 x 950 = 1900
1 x 500 = 500
1900 + 500 = 2400
Knowing that 570 grams of flour produces 961 grams of dough, divide the target dough weight (2400 grams) by the dough created in the recipe we already have (961 grams).
2400 ÷ 961 = 2.496
Rounded up, this makes 2.5
We know that we need to make our original recipe 2.5 times larger. Thus the total flour of our bigger batch is:
2.5 x 570 = 1425
So the ingredients for our larger batch will be:
|Total flour||1425||Bakers %||Recipe|
How to use a spreadsheet to speed up the calculation of bakers percentages
By setting up a spreadsheet with the values required you can speed up the time taken to work out the ingredients required. Simply change the total flour weight at the top of the sheet (B1) and the rest of the ingredients will self populate.
Here is the formula that I use:
You can download my bakers formula template here.
How to calculate the bakers formula when using preferments or sourdough
The bakers percentage should include the ingredients used in the preferment in the total figure, therefore for this recipe:
We add the flour in the biga and the main dough to get the total flour weight:
100 + 400 = 500g
500g = 100%
To calculate the amount of flour to be used in the preferment, we still require individual percentages.
100 ÷ 500 = 0.2
20% of the flour is prefermented
400 ÷ 500 = 0.8
80% of the flour is for the main dough
The baker’s formula for this recipe will look like this:
How to calculate the percentage of the preferment in the dough?
Calculating the prefermented flour (PFF) percentage makes you aware of the amount of mature dough, or in the case of sourdough, the levain used. This is handy as dough with a higher PFF percentage requires a shorter bulk fermentation.
To calculate the PFF percentage, divide the amount of flour that is prefermented by the total amount of flour used:
PFF = (prefermented flour ÷ total flour used) x 100
For the above example:
(100 ÷ 500) x 100 = PFF
0.2 x 100 = PFF
PFF is 20%
How to calculate bakers percentage when using multiple types of flour
Bakers percentage works by making the total amount of flour 100%. That is all of the flour that is used in the recipe, just to be clear so if you are mixing flour you will have to combine their weights to make 100%. For example:
White flour @ 300 grams = 75%
Whole wheat flour @ 100 grams = 25%
75% + 25% = 100%
If I want to adjust my recipe to use less water, how do I do this?
If you feel you need to reduce or increase the amount of water, or any other ingredient in a recipe using a bakers formula makes it easy.
To prevent a slightly sticky I’ll reduce the percentage of water in the formula by 2%. This is a good place to start and review your dough to make further adjustments if required. But if you know the weight of the ingredient that you want to add or remove we can remove this accurately.
Say we have our recipe:
|Total flour:||500.00||Bakers %||Recipe|
And we want to remove 15 grams of water from the main inclusion.
(15 ÷ 500) x 100 = 0.03
0.03 x 100 = 3
We need to remove 3% of the water from the original percentage:
60 – 3 = 57
Our water percentage is now 57%
57% of 500 = 285 grams
Frequently asked questions about bakers percentages
Should I include the flour in a sourdough starter to the total flour in the baker’s formula?
The flour in the starter should be added to the rest of the flour used in the recipe to provide the total flour weight. It is more accurate when calculating the percentage of the other ingredients, such as salt when creating your own recipe. However, if you are already happy with your recipe you can state your starter as a separate ingredient and the recipe will scale up and down just as well.
Why is the water and flour in the preferment not included in the calculations?
Sometimes it is, sometimes it is not, depending on the author of the recipe.
Should I add less yeast if my dough is bigger?
There is a baking “thing” called the “mass effect”. This is where bigger dough batches contain more variations of bacteria that feed the levain. This result is that bigger batches of dough will develop more flavour and rise quicker. Some bakers may wish to reduce the amount of yeast in the recipe to compensate for this but the difference is negligible. Watching the dough is a better solution.
Can I use bakers percentages when weighing in pounds and ounces?
You can weigh your ingredients in pounds and ounces however it is harder to calculate the ingredient weights. You can only use pounds, or ounces to make your calculations. Also, be careful when dealing with decimals as 0.7 of a pound is not the same as 7 ounces!
How to double a bread recipe?
To double a bread recipe, you can simply double the ingredients without having to convert the recipe into bakers percentages.
How to halve a bread recipe?
To halve a recipe quickly, just halve the ingredients in the existing recipe.