The two most commonly used terms in bread making world are baker’s percentages, also called baker’s math, and dough hydration. Novice or experienced baker, yeast or sourdough bread baking – I’m sure you came across those terms.
What is the baker’s percentage and how do you calculate it?
The baker’s percentage is a formula used to calculate the ingredients for a bread recipe. It’s expressed as a percentage relative to the flour. The weight of flour is always regarded as 100%, regardless of the amount.
The baker’s percentage is calculated by taking the ingredient weight, dividing it by the total flour weight, then multiplying by 100.
Ingredient % =( Ingredient weight ÷ Total flour weight ) x 100
Don’t fret! You don’t have to calculate every single ingredient each time you’re baking and no serious math is required – below you can find easy to use baker’s percentages calculators for both sourdough and yeast baking as calculating baker’s percentages for sourdough baking and yeast baking differ slightly.
What is dough hydration and how is hydration calculated in bread dough?
The amount of water (and other liquids) in relation to flour in a bread recipe is called hydration and is expressed in percentages. Dough hydration is very important as it changes the structure of the dough considerably.
High hydration dough is wet and usually doesn’t require traditional kneading. It produces an open crumb structure and is more difficult to shape and score. Ciabatta is an example of a bread made with high hydration dough.
Low hydration dough is easier to shape and produces a close crumb structure. Bagels and pretzels are typically made with low hydration dough.
To calculate the hydration percentage in a recipe, you divide the total water amount by total flour, then multiply by 100.
Hydration % =( Water/liquids weight ÷ Total flour weight ) x 100
For example, 650g of water and 1000g of flour will produce a 65% hydration dough:
(650 ÷ 1000) x 100 = 65%
How do you use baker’s percentage calculators?
Baker’s percentages calculators can be used to scale up or down a recipe you already have. You enter the amount of flour and adjust the hydration bar to reflect the amount of water you have for your original recipe. Then you change the flour weight up or down to give you the new ingredient amount.
You can use the calculator to increase or decrease dough hydration. Enter the flour amount, then adjust the hydration percentage on the sliding bar to get different water amounts.
I mostly use the baker’s percentage calculator to scale up a sourdough bread recipe, or when I increase or decrease the amount of starter. Changing the amount of sourdough starter affects the dough formula as you are adding or deducting extra flour and water, and the total amount changes for both.
Flour – White bakers flour is the default for calculating percentages. If using all or part wholemeal or wholegrain flours, more water is needed and the amount will depend on the ratio and type of the flour. Even white flour from different types of wheat or different mills absorbs a different amount of water. Seasons, date of milling and how long the flour was sitting in the warehouse or on the shelf also impact liquid absorption.
Liquids – If using liquids other than water, you need to calculate the amount of water in it. For example, if you add butter, egg or milk, they all have a different amount of water in them. Milk will be similar to water, but has milk fats and solids as well. Eggs have more solids than liquids.
Weight – The default measurement unit is the gram. However, baker’s math works with a pound or ounce measurement, too. Please note that water is measured in grams, as 1 ml of water is exactly 1 g, so using a digital scale is definitely a more precise way of measuring.
Baker’s Percentage – Yeast
Medium hydration for yeasted bread using white bakers flour is 65%. This is also the default hydration for our yeast baking calculator. The other ingredients’ default percentages are salt – 2% and dry yeast – 1%. As you can see, there’s no sugar listed at all. There is no need to add sugar when making bread as there is enough food in flour for the yeast to multiply.
Here’s the complete formula:
- Flour 100%
- Water 65%
- Salt 2%
- Dry Yeast 1%.
Whereas salt percentage is static, flour, water and yeast amounts can be changed. The yeast amount can be decreased for a longer fermentation. I would advise against increasing the yeast to speed up dough rising as the loaf might taste yeasty. Having said that, there are instances when you need more lifting power for a heavy and rich dough, and thus more than 1% dry yeast. Doughs made with lots of butter, sugar, eggs, fruit or nuts are such. But don’t overdo it – less is more when it comes to yeast. Longer rising time is rewarded with better flavour.
If you prefer to use fresh yeast, here you can find a yeast conversion calculator.
Yeast Dough Baker’s Calculator
Baker’s Percentage – Sourdough
The medium hydration for sourdough bread using white bread flour is 73%. This is also the default hydration for our sourdough baking calculator. The other ingredients’ default percentages are sourdough starter / levain 20% and salt 2%. The assumption is that the starter is 100% hydration, or one part flour and one part water (most common).
Here’s the complete formula:
- Flour 100%
- Water 73%
- Sourdough Starter / Levain 20%
- Salt 2%.
Please note that the total flour and water amounts will include flour and water from your levain. So if you enter 1000 grams of flour in the calculator and 200g of sourdough starter, the water requirement will be 703g and that would look like 70% hydration. However, in 200 g of sourdough starter / levain there is 100g of flour and 100g of water. So the total flour amount is 1100g and the total water is 803g (can be rounded up to 800g):
(803 ÷ 1100) x 100 = 73%
The sourdough ingredients calculator lets you change the flour content, hydration percentage and starter amount. The water and salt required will be calculated according to your input.
Sourdough Baker’s Calculator
Hope you find our calculators useful. Ask away if you have any questions. Happy baking!