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How to use Bakers' Percentages

The recipes that most of us are familiar with use specific weights of flour, leaven, salt etc in grams, teaspoons, tablespoons, cups or ounces. But what if you would like to make the recipe a little larger, or a lot larger? Doubling or trebling a recipe using mental arithmetic is usually easy enough but can lead to very annoying mistakes (at least, in my experience!). Making an odd proportion of the original recipe, say 3/4 or 2.5 times is much more prone to error. Bakers use a system of proportion, or percentage, based on the relationship between the weight of flour to the weight of the other ingredients in the recipe. It provides an easy and reliable way to make a lot or a little of a specific recipe, reliably. The weight of flour added to the mix is always 100%. Then, all other ingredients are described as a proportion of the weight of the flour. So, a very basic bread recipe that would make four small loaves might comprise:

  • 1kg white flour (100%)
  • 650g water (65%)
  • 400g sourdough starter or leaven (40%)
  • 20g salt (2%)

If you are lucky, the author will have already added the percentages for you, otherwise you need to work these out once (and write them on the recipe). This recipe shows 1kg flour, or 100%. There is 650g of water which is 65% of the total flour added and so, on.

Using the recipe or formula above, it is very easy to scale the recipe to any size since the proportions are easy to work out given a desired quantity of flour. More than this, looking at recipes (or formulae) in terms of percentage is a good way to get a handle on the nature of the recipe since it allows the baker to quickly understand the proportions of water (hydration) the type and weight of flour specified and so the stiffness of the dough and so, with experience, the resultant bread.

Developing an understanding of the essential proportions used in various doughs allows for confident experimentation and the development of new recipes.

The MyWeigh KD8000 is a kitchen scale that has a baker's percentage function. It is easy to use and here is a summary:

  1. Place your empty measuring bowl on the scale and zero the weight by pressing "Tare"
  2. Start by measuring the quantity of flour that you want to use. This will be the 100% flour measure.
  3. Press the "%" button to set 100%.
  4. Press the "%" button again to show the proportion of 100% for your next ingredients.
  5. Now, tip the flour from your measuring bowl and into your mixing bowl.
  6. When you put the measuring bowl back onto the scale, it will read 0% in readiness for you next ingredients.
  7. Add your ingredients to the measuring bowl and you will see the % weight.
  8. Tip the measured ingredient into your mixing bowl and continue until you're finished.

That is all there is to it. Starting with a formula that gives a known number of loaves or quantity of dough, this method allows you to increase or decrease the recipe with ease and accuracy.

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