At least I didn’t title this: Baker’s Chemistry! Yes, there is math in baking. However, rather than flat images on paper of pies or pizzas, bakers can practice math concepts like fractions with actual, delicious baked goods. For bread making, math is essential, and delicious math is the easiest to comprehend.
Baking recipes are called formulas and are ratios of the ingredients to each other. I’m not a mathematician, so I can’t with confidence say all, but much, if not most, of math is about ratios between things. Bakers need to understand the percentages of the ingredients in a formula. With Baker’s Math, the flour in a formula is always the 100%, with the remaining ingredient percentages based on the total weight of the flour. Feeling dizzy yet? Has dry mouth set in? Here’s an example using the Country Loaf I’ve included in past PCC Classes:
Ingredient Weight in grams Baker’s percentage
High extraction Yecora Rojo flour 800 grams 80%
Whole grain Expresso wheat flour 200 grams 20%
Water (ºF?) 750 grams 75%
Levain 200 grams 20%
Sea salt 20 grams 2%
The total flour here is 1000 grams, making 2 nice sized loaves. The amount of Yecora Rojo flour is 80% of the total flour being used. The amount of whole grain flour is 20% of the total flour being used. This applies to the amounts of water, levain and salt as well. If I wanted to make just one loaf, I would halve the ingredient weights but those percentages would remain the same. These same percentages will apply to a bakery making 100s of loaves. You can, by all means, bake bread with just one type of flour which would eliminate the pesky adding together of the high extraction + whole grain flours. I usually always bake with combinations of flour for flavor and performance. I also use Baker’s Math in the care and feeding of my sourdough starter. Baker’s Math is essential when recipe testing, tweaking percentages of liquid in a formula. I always measure by weight using grams. Grams give me nice whole numbers which halve or increase quantities easily.
While there are several factors involved in successful bread baking, using weights and baker’s percentages will get you very close to making the same loaves of bread each time you bake. If you don’t have a scale, I encourage you to get one. Then armed with scale, paper and pencil, you can create your own delicious bread formulas!