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"dough percentage" pros and cons?

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Chuck's picture
Chuck

"dough percentage" pros and cons?

What are the advantages of "dough percentages" over "bakers percentages"?


(I don't own any books by Rose Levy Berenbaum, have no experience using dough percentages, and can't readily find more than a couple un-enlightening examples:-) I understand they're a little different and some people like them better; what I want to understand is in detail how they're different and specifically why they're better. (For example I want to know whether you can calculate them yourself, or they're only something that might accompany a recipe.)

(My guess is their biggest advantage is they provide a pretty accurate and direct "hydration level" without having to make a whole bunch of somewhat obscure adjustments depending on the particular ingredients, but at the cost of not being very useful in scaling a recipe up or down.)

I'm curious: what's the real story?

blaisepascal's picture
blaisepascal

As near as I can tell, they both express the same information, but use different numbers to express it.  Baker's Percentages (BP) measure ingredients as a percentage of the total weight of flour in the recipe, which Dough Percentages (DP) measure ingredients as a percentage of the total weight of the dough.


To work an example both ways, I'll use "my" ciabatta recipe (which I found elsewhere on The Fresh Loaf, but I'd have to search to find who posted it):


Preferment:



  • 480g flour

  • 600g water

  • 7g yeast


Dough:


 



  • 22g salt

  • 240g flour


 


The total flour weight is 720g, the total dough weight is 1349g.


In BP, I divide the ingredient weights by the total flour weight to get 100% flour, 83.3% water, 0.9% yeast, and 3% salt.


In DP, I divide th ingredient weights by the total dough weight to get 53.3% flour, 44.3% water, 0.5% yeast, and 1.6% salt.


In both cases, the ratio of the ingredients is the same, but the numbers reported are different.  I could reconstruct my recipe equally well from either system, and I could scale it as I needed to also equally well.


The major functional difference between DP and BP is that DP is virtually useless for communicating to the vast majority of bakers who use a percentage system.  If you want to talk to a broader community than just folks who read Berenbaum, you need to use the language they use, which is predominantly BP.


Besides, one very important aspect of the development of bread is how much water the flour has to hold, which of course scales with the amount of flour, not the amount of dough.  This, the ratio of water to flour, is hydration, and BP is the natural language for hydration.  to get that ratio from DP, you have to divide the %water by the %flour, which is basically how you'd convert to BP anyway.


Let's work an example of the problem.  Let's say I modify my ciabatta by adding 100g of chopped nuts to the recipe.  In BP, this addition changes it to 100% flour, 83.3% water, 0.9% yeast, 3% salt, and 13% nuts.  I can still easily read off the 83.3% water, so I know that my dough will handle like a 83% hydration flour.  Adding nuts to the recipe in BP was simply a matter dividing 100g nuts by 720g flour.  In DP, I need to recalculate the total dough weight (now 1449) and redivide all the ingredients: 49% flour, 41% water, 0.4% yeast, 1.5% salt, and 6.9% nuts.  The recipe looks much different, even though the change was minor.

Chuck's picture
Chuck

Thanks for the detailed example. It makes sense to me, it fits a likely meaning of the words, it's "intuitively obvious". It lists every ingredient, it can be used for scaling (although it's not the "standard" way to do so), it can be easily calculated by the user for any recipe, and it adds up to 100%.


But it's not at all clear to me it's what RLB actually presents in her books (I wish I could look inside one of her books for myself). I found the example below, which purports to be an excerpt from one of RLB's books, on the web. These numbers do not list every ingredient and they do not add up to 100% (nor are they traditional bakers percentages).


 


...
THE DOUGH PERCENTAGE

Flour: 100%
Water: 55.4% (includes the water in the butter and egg white)
Yeast: 2.1%
Salt: 1.5%
Fat: 47.7% (includes the fat in the egg yolk)
...


 


Hence my follow-on questions:



  • What does RLB actually mean when she uses the words "dough percentage"?

  • How the heck did she come up with these numbers?


 

ananda's picture
ananda

Hi Chuck,


My understanding of adopting Baker's Percentages as standard teaching in the UK is that it shows progression at a glance across a range of formulae.


So, if you divide baked products into categories, the BP shows where each product fits, by immediately clarifying fat levels, sugar levels etc in relation to the flour constant.   So there is also an instant picture of the level of enrichment in the formula, as well as the hydration you mention.   It helps to clarify that the recipe is balanced, and that the formula will work.


Best wishes


Andy

Chuck's picture
Chuck

Your explanation makes sense to me as to why these numbers might sometimes exist and how they might be used. But I'd still like to understand them in a little more detail. Specifically:



  • How are these numbers calculated?

  • Am I limited to the numbers I might find pre-calculated in a recipe (or can I calculate them myself)?

  • Are these numbers of any use in scaling a recipe up or down?

gary.turner's picture
gary.turner

Rose Levy Beranbaum's "Bread Bible" is is an excellent introduction to bread baking in many ways.  Ingredient percentages are not among them.


Let's examine her basic soft white sandwich loaf:


Starter


341g          AP flour


405g          water


 45g           honey


   2.4g        yeast


Flour mixture


311g          AP flour


 40g          non-fat dry milk


   2.4g       yeast


128g         butter, softened


 15g           salt


Dough percentage


Flour         100%


Water         66.3%


Yeast            0.74%


Salt              2.3%


Butterfat   15.9%


Notice that she does use bakers' percentages, i.e. ingredients weight as a proportion of the total flour.  However, she's been hanging out with her friends at the FDA too long.  Not many of us, pragmatically, care about how much water is in the butter or honey.  The measure of water is only 62.1% by weight of the flour, and the butter is 19.6%.  We know they each contribute some small amount to the hydration level; that's why we hold back one or two ounces of water until we know whether it will be needed.  In this case, the butter and honey contribute about 24 grams of water.


Where RLB goes wrong imo, is in breaking down the ingredients to their constituents for formula purposes. That may be important to the commercial baker, but I doubt its helpfulness to the home baker. If we were to mix a dough based on her percentages chart, we would over-hydrate and under-butter. We would have no clue about the honey.


Rather than use her percentage tables, it would be better to create your own chart based on the recipe weights, and do your scaling from there.


cheers,


garyt

Chuck's picture
Chuck

No wonder it's confusing. Apparently the term "dough percentage" can mean either of two different things, and almost all folks think the meaning they use is the only one (and never realize some others are using the same words to talk about something different).


As near as I can tell, the full situation is like this:



Baker's Percentages - flour is 100%, other ingredient weights are specified by their weight compared to the flour, total (including flour) is 200%



  • pros -

    • by far the most common

    • used by virtually all professional bakers

    • fully specifies a recipe (i.e. nothing else really needed)

    • scaling a recipe up or down is very easy

    • water percentage is a good first estimate of hydration percentage

    • adding an ingredient (ex: nuts) doesn't affect any of the other number



  • cons -

    • water percentage often needs to be "adjusted" for other wet ingredients (butter, eggs, etc.) to produce a more accurate hydration level






Dough Percentages I - dough is 100%, other inredient weights are specified by their weight compared to the dough, total is 100%



  • pros -

    • reference is the desired final weight, which is sometimes more obvious than flour weight for home bakers

    • fully specifies a recipe (i.e. nothing else really needed)

    • scaling a recipe up or down is fairly easy



  • cons -

    • calculations for adding an ingredient (ex: nuts) --or otherwise tweaking the recipe-- are a little more complicated





Dough Percentages II - flour is 100%, other numbers (ex: fats, sweetness) "characterize" the dough, total is not exactly 200%



  • pros -

    • make it easy to see which doughs are "similar"



  • cons -

    • at first glance easily mistaken for "Dough Percentages I" (or even "Baker's Percentages")

    • very difficult to calculate yourself if your recipe doesn't already include these numbers

    • not useful for scaling a recipe up or down (but that's not always immediately apparent)