Baker’s Math: A Simple Guide to Measuring Correctly, Any Recipe
Please don’t close the story just because you’ve seen the word “math”, because it has a good side to it: it’s not the kind of math that confuses your brain at school. Instead, it comes with easy-to-follow formulas and better yet… tasty treats.
So let’s get started, will you?
Ugh, math – we meet again. Personally, I have always hated the subject (sorry, mom), especially since I always told myself that I would never use the Pythagorean theorem. Or I would never use a compass to draw a circle, I would use a bottle cap, compact disc, or even a plate instead!
But, I think, this is a good time to say that my pride was short-lived, since I have met people who use math in their daily lives. And ever since I found my new love for baking – which is as new as it is to you – involves math (I hope I haven’t lost you anymore, since I use “math” a lot).
It’s easy to follow recipes, but what happens when you want to make something for yourself? Or what if you want to do more or less than what’s shown in your cookbook or on the internet? Or if you want to add or subtract one or two ingredients?
Come in, baker’s math (and I promise to make it as easy as possible).
Everything is in the right percentage
The key to baking your bread to perfection is getting the right percentage. And the best part of it all is that your flour stays 100% stagnant, which means you might have 25 kilograms of flour or 125 kilograms of flour, but it will still stay the same.
So your flour will be the basis for you to increase or decrease a recipe.
Now that everything is clear, there is a formula you can apply to find out the percentages of each ingredient.
When it comes to checking the hydration of your flour, the same formula is applied. So if you were to check the hydration of your flour, take the total weight of the water, divide it by the total weight of the flour, and multiply by 100.
Determine the right weight
Likewise, if you are having trouble placing the right weight, but have percentages, there is an easy way to find out.
Since your flour is already 100 percent, let’s set its weight to 50 kilograms.
But what about ingredients like yeast, water, salt or butter?
You will need to divide each percentage by 100, convert it to a decimal number, and then multiply it by the weight of the flour.
(We will allocate 80% to water, just to give you an idea)
Step 1: Convert to decimal number. So 80 100, will become 0.80
Step 2: Multiply it by the total weight of the flour. So, 0.80 × 50 kilograms will give you 40%.
In other words, this is how your formula should look:
These are the basics of baker’s math. And it’s not going to get harder, don’t worry.
Increase or decrease a recipe
While practicing baker’s math, the biggest advantage is that once you get the hang of it, you can immediately apply it well enough to modify a recipe or better yet… create a new one. But before you do, here’s another math tip for tailoring a recipe based on how much you’re going to cook.
Suppose you want to make 90 kilograms of bread. But the flour you have weighs only 55 kilograms. How to add the additional 35 kilos?
First, you will need to calculate the total percentage of ingredients and then divide it by the desired weight of the dough. If the result is in decimal digits, it is best to round it off to get an approximate value.
You must then multiply this value by the percentages of the ingredient.
If you want to reduce the amount by half, it is better to divide the weight of the ingredients in half.
For example, if your sugar weighs 100 kilograms, divide it by 2, or 50 kilograms.
Note that if you reduce the total value of the weight of the ingredients (including the dough), you could end up with a poorly measured recipe.
Add raisins, nuts and everything in between
Maybe adding a handful wouldn’t make much of a difference, but in case it was more than that, you could find a bit more volume for your dough. In this case, you will first need to measure the raisins or nuts according to the percentage, keeping the same final weight of the dough.
The next step is to make sure that the flour / salt / water ratio stays the same. But for that you will need to keep the same final weight and further determine the new total percentage.
For example, if the percentage of raisins is 15% and the total weight of the ingredients (including flour) is 105%, this is how you should apply it:
Step 1: Original total percentage (105) + the percentage of raisins and nuts (15) = new total percentage (120)
Step 2: It’s time to convert, and for that the formula is:
If you get more than one digit behind the decimal point, round it off to get an approximate value, especially if it’s greater than 5. Now apply the same value to the other ingredients to get an accurate recipe.
Calculation of the percentage of pre-fermented flour
According to theperfectloaf.com, the percentage of pre-fermented flour is “the amount of flour that is fermented in advance before the main dough is mixed. This percentage can vary widely depending on the recipe (and if you use only sourdough, instant yeast, a mixture), up to 1% and up to 50% – and even outside of these limits.
So how do you calculate this? It’s easy!
The value obtained from this will give you the exact amount of preference or sourdough (a starter) present in it.
Now that this tiny little math lesson is drawing to a close, here’s one thing you should keep in mind: you will only have to apply these formulas for a minimum of three to four recipes, because you will quickly be able to figure out the process and then apply it further while cooking.
And in case you’re still surrounded by confusion, come back to this story or email us at [email protected]