Can you use a recipe? Part 2 – Baker’s Percentages

While I was researching a post I am working on, I was reminded of something that is helpful for all of us when we bake.  Professional bakers use a different format for recipes.  It is known as a baker’s percentage, and it gives them a lot of flexibility, and also allows them to be very accurate.

Bakers use percentages to express quantities, and this gives them the ability to scale a recipe pretty much at will to whatever size batch they need.  It also allows them to make changes based on a recipe. Each ingredient’s quantity is expressed as a percentage.  The flour is stated as 100%.  From there everything else is a percentage of the flour. For example, if your recipe calls for flour and water, and the water is 25% when you have one pound of flour you need 4 oz of water.  If you have 100 pounds of flour you need 25 pounds of water.  Like I said it is easy.

They are not something I use often at work, but it is always good to have an understanding of different recipe formats.  I have some baking books that use percentages, or in the case of Alton Brown‘s I’m Just Here for More Food, a somewhat modified version of it.  His recipes are set quantities, but he works with weights, and lays things out in a similar way.  If you wanted to modify one of his recipes you could figure out the percentages and scale to your heart’s content.

When you bake, accuracy is important in your measurements.  The most accurate way to measure most ingredients is by weight.  Flour, in particular, can compress quite a bit and a cup of flour can weigh 6 oz or it could weigh nearly a pound.  A scale eliminates this variability.  Speaking of accuracy, when you weigh things, grams are a lot more accurate than ounces.  There are 28 grams in an ounce. That means there are 454 grams in a pound.  Even going by .1 ounce or single grams you will be better off in grams.

Depending on the scale you have, you may be able to get nutritional information as well.  The scale I have allows you to input a code for an ingredient, and it will give you calorie/fat/carbohydrate information.  It is a nice feature, but not strictly needed.  Pretty much any scale will allow you to eliminate the weight of the container and weigh each ingredient using the tare feature. When you put the bowl on the scale, it will weigh it and when you press tare, the bowl is eliminated. Now you can weigh the ingredients.  If you press tare between each ingredient, you don’t even need to take the weight of everything else into account.

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