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Scaling down ingredient quantities using baker's percentages

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rossnroller's picture

Scaling down ingredient quantities using baker's percentages

Until now, I've used recipes from the good folk who post on this and other forums, or from books like Dan Lepard's The Handmade Loaf catering specifically for the home baker. I've always either followed the ingredient weight as per the recipe, or if it looks like too much bread for my purposes, I simply halve the quantities.

I recently bought Hamelman's Bread and would like to try his SD semolina bread (p. 171), but I have hit a mental brick wall trying to scale down his quantities. Those who have the book will know that he gives 3 sets of ingredient weights per recipe: U.S. imperial (lbs), Metric (kg) and Home (oz), as well as baker's %.

His 'Home' ingredient quantities produce "2 large loaves" - I probably only want to bake the weight equivalent of 1.5 loaves or so (don't ask!) - and are in ounces. I don't like using anything other than gms, and I'm thinking baker's % is most easily used to calculate ingredient weights for the total weight of bread required. I have an Excel sheet that theoretically makes these sorts of calculations easy, but even with that, I am currently struggling.

My problem is, Hamelman doesn't give weight or baker's % for the levain component in his "Overall Formula", although he does give the weight and baker's % of the levain components separately.  My brain is further addled by the fact that he makes 0.3kg more levain than the recipe needs (to keep for use in the next bread), so that presumably has to be subtracted from the levain total weight if I want to make only enough for the recipe. All this caluclating is starting to look like a pain, but I want to push through and get on top of this scaling down stuff because I am sure that Hamelman's recipes are as good as the raves suggest. And I've got the book now, so want to use it!

Would be most appreciative if a more experienced bread wiseperson could lead by example here, and calculate Hamelman's Semolina Bread ingredient weights and the levain weight required to make, say, 850gm of dough . Once I've seen it done once, I'll be fine.

Hope the above makes sense. Reading it to myself prior to posting, I have some doubts as to my intelligibility...


RobynNZ's picture

Hi Ross

I find using the metric column easier to work with myself and scale that to the amount of dough I want to prepare.

I'll do the maths for the semolina  and send you a private message, standby!


RobynNZ's picture

Hi Ross

Sent the calculations, hope you understand. I'm off to bed 1am here now.

Night, Robyn

ericb's picture

Hi, Ross.

Hamelman actually addresses the issue of scaling on page 378. The calculations are a bit tedious, though.


rossnroller's picture

Thanks a lot, Robyn and Eric. Much appreciated.

dghdctr's picture

I realize you may want a quicker answer and no homework assignment, but as long as you've posed your question, I thought I'd provide an alternative suggestion.

Not to get Biblical or anything, but the old metaphor about teaching someone to fish as opposed to giving them a fish could definitely apply here.  It may be that the "fish" is all you want now, and that's fine.  Still, you'll run into the same questions with regard to other formulas designed by Jeffrey or other pros, so I encourage you (when you have time) to actually read the excellent explanation that he provides from p.376-382.  For that matter, reading from the beginning through page 63, as well as all of the appended material in the back of the book can reveal a lot about things that may have puzzled you already.

What people like Jeffrey offer you for your money is not just access to new recipes (only about half his book is devoted to that).  He's a master baker who's willing to parse out the how's and why's of what he does, so that you can master the process in general.  That way you can become a baker who creates their own reliable formulas or who knows how to manipulate aspects of others to their own preferences.

There's nothing wrong with being a casual baker.  Not everybody wants to be a bread geek.  But when you start asking questions that require mathematical conversions and precisely expressed answers, that's a pretty good sign that you've moved away from the casual end of baking and more toward the scientific end.  Might as well embrace it.

--Dan DiMuzio

rossnroller's picture

Hi Dan. Oh, I'm with you on everything you wrote. Perfectly put.

I put out my distress call because I've just gotten Hamelman's book and am impatient to try some of his recipes - and because I really had run into a mental roadblock! If I'd paused a moment, I might have been sensible enough to have investigated Hamelman's book a little further, in which case I would have come to the explanatory pages you and Eric mention.

Too late for me to worry about becoming a "bread geek" - I'm already there! Amateur and relatively inexperienced, yes, but like many, obsessed and on the bus with a one-way ticket! I've baked on average 3 SD breads per week (or other things like bagels, stollens etc) since I happened upon this world 6 months ago or so, and there ain't no stopping now! I spent until 2am last night poring over Robyn's PM explanation of the calculation process and trying things on an Excel sheet in relation to the semolina recipe! I think I'm almost on top of it, but will need to apply the theory to different recipes over time to feel that the light has really gone on.

Thanks for the reminder on actually reading Hamelman's book all the way through. I always intended to do so, but I do have a tendency to go straight to recipes I like the look of and neglect a proper reading. This, I'm afraid, has been the case with Maggie Glezer and Dan Lepard, and it's time to do something about it! Thanks for the inspiration and the mild cuffing of this SD cub!

And Robyn thanks again for the hand-holding. Good combo of yin and yang with you mentors!

RobynNZ's picture

Hi Dan

I've got your book too and have been really enjoying learning from it. To be truthful I haven't tried any of your formula yet (SMBSLT), but have really appreciated the format and content of your text for study, really suits my approach to learning. Thank you.

I did hold Ross's hand a bit on this one but hopefully did so in a manner that next time he'll have no problem doing it himself and getting the link, so that using baker's percent for scaling will also become second nature to him. Hamelman's presentation is fantastic and easy to follow once you "get" that separate levain business.

Regards, Robyn