Making Baker’s Percentages Work for You
Right now you are probably thinking… Anita, what’s with the math homework, can’t we just bake bread and forget about the numbers? And I get it, we Sourdoughmaniacs mostly prefer a crunchy crust over crunching numbers… but for the best possible sourdough success, a little math is necessary, especially when you are just getting the hang of sourdough baking and figuring out how much of each ingredient to use.
So today in honor of it being International Math Day, let’s tackle Baker’s Percentages and make them work for us.
Swipe to learn the basics and get starte(r)d.
WHAT ARE BAKER’S PERCENTAGES:
Baker’s percentages tell you how much water, salt, and starter a recipe calls for based on how much flour your recipe contains. They make it easy to tweak any recipe to your liking.
THE PROOF IS IN THE FLOUR:
The first thing you need to know is that ALL THE FLOUR YOU USE IN A RECIPE counts as 100%.
Let’s say you want to bake with 1000 g all-purpose flour. That means your 1000 g of flour count as 100%.
If you are mixing flours, add them up. A mixture of 750 g of all-purpose flour, and 250 g of rye flour amounts to 1000g of flour in total. That is your 100% for that recipe.
Hydration is the amount of water you add to all your flour. Typically for most breads it starts at around 60% of the total amount of flour, give or take. I recommend using lower hydration to start with, and increasing it if needed. Different types of flour can absorb more or less water.
60% hydration for all-purpose or T500 flour. 1000g of this flour calls for 600 g water.
50-55% for spelt flour. 1000g of this flour calls for 500-550 g water.
65% for whole-wheat flours. 1000g of this flour calls for 650g of water.
Most Slovenian and European types of flour can absorb less water than the flour types available in the USA, Canada, and Australia for example. Adjust the hydration accordingly, but err on the side of less water at first.
LET’S LEARN THE MATH:
Let’s say you want to use 1000g of flour to make bread. This is your 100%. You want this bread to be 60% hydration.
To get the desired hydration you need to multiply the amount of flour with the desired percentage. 60% is 0.6.
1000 g of flour x 0.6 = 600 g of water
You get 60% hydration by adding 600 g of water to 1000 g of flour. Your mixture is now 1600 g in total.
More examples of 60 % hydration:
500 g of flour x 0.6 = 300 g of water
250 g of flour x 0.6 = 150 g of water
FROM THEORY TO PRACTICE: adjusting recipes to your liking
You get a recipe using only percentages. Now what? Don’t panic. Let’s see what happens.
Recipe in percentages
100 % flour: 50% T500 or all-purpose flour, 40% wheat flour type T850, 10% rye flour
60 % water/hydration
2 % salt
20 % active, bubbly starter
10 % seeds of choice
RECIPE CONVERTED using 400 g flour in total
400 g flour total (100%)
400 g x 0.5 = 200 g all-purpose or T500 flour (50%)
400 g x 0.4 = 160 g wheat flour type T850 (40 %)
400 x 0.1 = 40 g rye flour (10%)
Water: 400 g flour x 0.6 (60% hydration) = 240 g
Salt: 400 g flour x 0.02 (2%) = 8 g
Starter: 400 g of flour x 0.2 (20%) = 80 g
Seeds: 400 g of flour x 0.1 (10%) = 40 g
Don’t forget to tag a fellow Math lover or hater and tell me which team you’re on. No judgement and no worries, whether you absolutely love Math or shudder at the mention of it, our love of sourdough baking unites us all.
Count your blessings and your grams, enjoy your day, and let’s bake the world a better place,
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