The Fresh Loaf

News & Information for Amateur Bakers and Artisan Bread Enthusiasts

Communicating with Bakers math

davidg618's picture
davidg618

Communicating with Bakers math

Is there a "standard" format for communicating a bread formula? If there is, I'd love it if some whould guide me to it.

I think Bakers' math is wonderful: a tool that carries so much information, in so few symbols. It's akin to tensor analysis. However, when I both read or write a bread formula I find myself stumbling. How do I "correctly" communicate the amount of preferment (sourdough starter, poolish, biga, pate fermente, etc.)? What useful information does the bakers' percentage of the total dough weight communicate? A check-sum digit?. 

For example, as a home baker who keeps his seed starter refrigerated, I don't have a bubbling pot of fresh levain handy on the kitchen counter, for those moments when I think, "Why don't I just whip out a loaf before dinner time." Before each sourdough bake--or for that matter any bread incorporating any preferment--I have to build the budgeted amount of ripe levain needed by the amount of dough planned for. Of course, I have to account for the water and flour in the preferment in the final dough's balance. In my head (and in the spreadsheet program I wrote more than two years ago) I simply account for the flour in the levain--its weight(s) and type(s)-- in the planned flours' budget. Similarly, I account for its liquid weight in the planned liquid's budget. This has worked for me since day one; however, since day two--wanting to post/boast of my success--after I'd looked throughout TFL for a way to list, not a recipe, but this new found tool, a Formula--I was, and remain to this day confused. Now when I post the ratios of ingredients on a bread I've baked, I report the baker's percentage of the flour(s) used building the levain, and the levain's hydration. I think it is an accurate and complete communication, but it seems cumbersome. Furthermore, on both TFL, and in published breadbooks, I've not found a "standard" practice.

I've never listed the bakers' percentage of the total dough.Mea culpa.

In the words of the Beatles, "Help me, if you can!

David G

proth5's picture
proth5

the scorn that is often heaped upon me for suggesting this, let me recommend the standards of the Bread Baker's Guild of America (www.bbga.org) Go to the "Bread" menu option and then "technical articles" - you do not need to be a member to access these -  and read the formatting guidelines and other helpful articles.  Although after seeing what the BBGA can offer - you may wish to join.

The more I work on formula development and the more I use these standards (except for the theoretically sound, but practically odd "soakers are hydration neutral" standard) the more I come to appreciate their usefullness and simplicity.

Other than that I am reduced to saying that everyone has their own ways of doing things and none are better than any other so "Do your own thing!"  Which I am told is the best way to approach formula development.  I don't believe it, yet I will be told it.

Hope this helps.

Janetcook's picture
Janetcook

Pat,

I tried your suggestion...didn't get formatting guidelines though.  Just part of one article appeared and was not about baker's math. How does one access to the 'formatting guidelines' your mention above?  (I am assuming it deals with baker's math in detail???)

Thanks,

Janet

LindyD's picture
LindyD

Janet, the guidelines are at the bottom of the first paragraph of the BBGA Bakers Percentage.  Here's the link to the .pdf:

http://www.bbga.org/files//2009FormulaFormattingSPREADS.pdf

Hope this is what you were looking for...

Janetcook's picture
Janetcook

Lindy,

Thanks for this.  I thought I had looked through them all....not sure how this one escaped me :-?.

Janet

davidg618's picture
davidg618

I vaguely remembered reading one of your posts recommending BBGA's format, but I assumed (wrongly), that it wasn't available to non-members.

I've downloaded and printed Formatting Guild Formula. I've scanned them briefly, and tomorrow will read them in-depth. If you have any influence with the Guild, it would be nice if their PDF version of this document allowed the option to print all pages full size. Using the free download Adobe Reader Part  I, II, and III emerge from the printer in roughly 6pt type. I'll have to read them with a magnifier. Part III would require a little editing to allow printing on two sheets of paper rather than one.

I also checked: the Guild's format includes tabulating the total  dough's weight baker's percentage. Why? Am I missing something? To me, it seems a meaningless number.

David G

 

gary.turner's picture
gary.turner

Quote:
I also checked: the Guild's format includes tabulating the total  dough's weight baker's percentage. Why? Am I missing something? To me, it seems a meaningless number.

That's the key number that makes the system work so well. Divide that number into the total desired dough weight, and you have the multiplier for each ingredient. Consider this example for a soft sandwich bread:

ingredientpercentageweight
bread flour100?
milk60?
sugar8?
butter10?
salt2?
yeast1?
total percentage181

Now divide that 181 into the desired dough weight, say 1000g; which yields ≈5.525. Now multiply each ingredient percentage by the multiplier to get the weight needed for that particular sized batch. E.g. 525g flour, 331g milk, 44g sugar, 53g butter, 10g salt, and 5g yeast.

cheers,

gary

davidg618's picture
davidg618

But, on the other hand, you've shown me yet another sign I've gotten OLD. Seven years studying advanced math, and I completely missed it! arrgh!

David G

ananda's picture
ananda

Hi David,

Gary's bang on here.   I teach bakers the same concept.   The number he refers to arrived at by dividing required dough weight by % total is known as a factor.

It's not advanced maths at all, maybe you are looking over the top of it!

All good wishes, a Happy New Year, by the way!

Andy

Janetcook's picture
Janetcook

David,

Don't feel so bad...I have several 'advanced' degrees and still had to have others point this out to me but once pointed out it opened huge doors for me in how I now can convert any recipe I want into any size I want.

Every bread I bake has a Baker's Percentages sheet filed with it. (I use binders for this.) When I want to bake a loaf I simply adjust according to the size I need.  Like someone suggested..I generally do the math for a dough wt of 1000g and then adjust from there.

I find playing with the numbers fun and it really allows you to see how much of a difference changing one thing makes....or, sometimes, it doesn't make a difference at all....

Janet

subfuscpersona's picture
subfuscpersona

Thanks for the link to BBGA's guidelines for detailing the Baker's Percentage. Very useful. I've saved it to my computer for future reference.

Having a standard approach for presenting the baker's percentage is extremely useful for those of us who are comfortable with using baker's percentage to evaluate bread formulae.

Janetcook's picture
Janetcook

David,

I can't help you but I am here to see who can.  

My system is similar to yours and does work well for me but I always like to see what else is 'out' there and, if I like it, I add the information and adjust how I do things.  In fact, I just sat down to my computer to update my 'Baker's Percentage' sheet that I include in my bread 'files' on each bread I bake.....Very grateful to microsoft word and the 'save' button. :-)

Thanks for posting the question!

Janet

vtsteve's picture
vtsteve

The total percentage lets you scale the formula to a desired final dough weight. If you divide the desired weight of your final dough by the total percentage, then multiply by 100, it gives you the flour weight. Then you use that flour weight as your 100% BP to calculate all the other weights in the formula. As long as you have the percentages, it doesn't matter what units you're coming from or going to; you don't need to do any unit conversions at all.

davidg618's picture
davidg618

Gary, (see note above) also pointed me in the right direction.

David G

proth5's picture
proth5

the Guild formatting guidlines, I go to www.bbga.org and then select "BREAD" from the menu bar, then "Formula Formatting" then on the "here" on the "Click here to read the full article"  I don't need to log in - so I assume it's available to everyone.

I'll try to figure out your printing issue and talk to the person who takes care of the website.

BBGA is dedicated to the education of artisan bakers, so I think it is both right and very generous to put these guidelines out for free.

They take a little getting used to.  But once you put in the effort, you will find them very, very useful.  I actually like the format where the total formula is calculated separately.  Not only does it give me an understanding of the nature of the formula - let's say I've got my printed copy and am away from my computer.  Let's also say that I typically bake a certain formula with a pre ferment, but now I want to do it as a straight dough (I've had this happen to me...) just take the overall formula column and there you are.  Cool. 

Good luck.

davidg618's picture
davidg618

They will take a little getting used to.

I spent some of this morning reading the format in detail. I also visited the site again, to remind me why I didn't become a member when I visited the site a couple of years back. The reasons haven't changed. Member or not, it strikes me as a great organization.

In the interest of standards, I'll use the BBGA's formula format to communicate formulae, but I'll still use the my own spreadsheets at home. They serve my needs well. For example, I decided I'd make the USA Team 2008 baguette formula that's published in the sample Bread Lines. It took me less than five minutes to derive the formula for 1050g of total dough using my desired dough weight, my seed starter's hydration, and the Bread Line percentages.  Formulating a formula from scratch takes only about twice that time, mostly because there are more choices to be made.  And I did add a "Totals" row of calculations in my spreadsheets.

Thanks again,

David G

proth5's picture
proth5

I had a fairly elaborate spreadsheet where you could put in a number of variables and get out the ingredient weights.  It even allowed me to combine pre ferments if I was baking a number of breads with the same type of pre ferment.  I'll be honest and say that I don't use it much anymore because this format is much simpler and a bit more versatile if there are a lot of added ingredients.   I'm not pushing their format just for the sake of standards, but giving my actual experience. I can also use spreadsheets formatted to the BBGA standards to calculate specific dough weights in mere minutes.  My own format was easy to use like that, but as I said before I'm not using it anymore.  No big thing either way.

Also, in terms of a pure mathematical problem, the BBGA format leaves out starter hydration.  My spreadsheet included that also, because I enjoyed doing the math problem.  What I have found in practical terms is that the seed quantity is generally such a small amount of the total formula that its hydration is not relevant - the process itself has more variability than is introduced by seed hydration.  Just taking that out of the calculation simplifies the process. Not a big deal with one preferment, but my spreadsheet was beginning to get cumbersome for two or more preferments - plus soaker - plus etc.  Again, no big thing, just what I have found through experience.  We are all different.

I'll have to say that my experience as a BBGA member has just gotten better and better over the years as the organization continues to grow and improve their programs and publications. You do make me curious as to why you don't feel you would get any benefit from joining and I'm sure that the folks I know in the organization would be interested if only to improve further.   I don't mean to be pushy and if you want to send a private message, please do (or not if you don't want).  I will admit that the upcoming Coupe du Monde de la Boulangerie (I'm so excited about it I can barely stand myself...) is absorbing a lot of energy right now and that we haven't seen much in terms of the classes - but 2011 was a fabulous year for education and I have had opportunities that as a home baker I would never have had.

The problem with printing is that the standards pages were originally two page spreads in Breadlines.  I'm not enough of an Adobe expert to tease out how to print the instruction pages - but I'll see if I can get to the right person for a more "printer friendly" version.

Have fun with your formulas!

davidg618's picture
davidg618

To respond to your curiosity, in recent years I've been plagued with severe leg pain induced by spinal stenosis (arthritic narrowing of the nerve pathways) in the lumbar region; commonly called sciatica. At its worst I can't walk. It's controlled by steroid injections, but I have to be constantly aware of my posture especially sitting, and laying down. Ironically, standing is the most comfortable position, although the problem was caused, in part, by decades of work, and play, that kept me on my feet long hours each day.  I'm limiting both car and air-travel to short trips.  I did make a trip to Europe last year, but I had to rise and move about in the aisles once or twice each hour.

I live in in North Florida. None of the BBGA events are within  comfortable travel distances. I'm not a professional baker, and have only a mild curiosity about professional baking. Based on the online sample Bread Lines appears to be a quality niche magazine, but, again, I'd make little use or it. TFL is all the bread-focused community I need. I'd be delighted if one of my neighbors showed an interest in bread-baking, but ocassional socializing with other bakers is not high on my Bucket List. 

I guess the main reason is bread-baking in particular, and cooking in general are not  hobbies with me. I do the majority of the cooking in our two-person home. We enjoy entertaining, and I enjoy gourmet cooking as  much for the two of us as for guests. I've been baking bread for more than sixty years (since my teens), and a steadily increasing share of the cooking for the past thirty years.  Twenty-years ago I started brewing beer, and ten years ago I added wine-making. About a dozen years ago, I quit buying commercial bread, and, with the aid of a Zojurishi bread machine, I've been making our daily bread, rolls, pizza dough, cinnamon rolls, sticky buns, and other specialty items. I also make a mean pie dough. About three years ago I decided to expand my bread baking skills. My goals were modest, and I've nearly met them: consistent, flavorful sourdoughs, baguettes, challah (mostly for French toast), and croissants. I'm happy with the plateau I've reached--I make a nearly all white flour sourdough, or a 50% whole wheat sourdough alternating weekly, satisfactory baguettes also weekly, and consistently good challah randomly. I haven't tackled croissants yet--made them once at KA baking class, and once, so far, at home; need lots more practice. We still make sandwich bread doughs with our Zo. And I'm moving into a new food interest: charcuterie.  I'll continue to do all the food things I've learned, but the research, experimenting and especially trial and error will not be focused on bread.

David G

proth5's picture
proth5

Thanks for your explanation.  I'm fortunate that I can pretty much travel anywhere I want to go, but yes, the distribution of classes has been in specific areas of the country.  That is an area that they are trying to improve  - but it sounds like it's "just not for you" - and that's 100% understandable.  I don't mean to try to recruit members - I've enjoyed the experiences so much that I can be enthusiatic.

Good luck with charcuterie.  Being someone who gets sucked into process I've contemplated working in that area - but seem to have run out of hours in the day and days in the week.

Thanks!

Pat 

thomaschacon's picture
thomaschacon (not verified)
subfuscpersona's picture
subfuscpersona

Please include the baker's percentages in your post(s)!

I appreciate that you take the tiime to post. I appreciate your ingredient lists (by weight), your detailed description of your method, your photos.

However, a significant percent of you do not include the baker's percentage for your ingredients. Yes, I can calculate the baker's percentage from the info you give. However, it would save me time if you also gave the baker's percentage. As a favor to those of us who are comfortable with the baker's percentage as a "language" for understanding bread, could you routinely include this in your posts?

A few things I almost always want to know about a bread recipe that are easily determined by having the baker's percentage...

  • total dough hydration
  • percent of prefermented flour
  • percent of gluten-containing flours other than commercial white bread flour in the final dough

Having the baker's percentage makes it trivial for me to make a different quantity of dough. There are other adjustments I may wish to make which are easily derived from the baker's percentage.

I will be eternally grateful to those of you who will include the baker's percentage in your posts. The link provided by proth5 - http://www.bbga.org/bread/formula_formatting provides a model for presenting baker's percentages for many types of bread. (The actual BBGA guidelines - in pdf format- is here - http://www.bbga.org/files//2009FormulaFormattingSPREADS.pdf )

THANKS! - SF

David Esq.'s picture
David Esq.

I took the time to create the spreadsheet for Diagram 3, Part II (RUSTIC SOURDOUGH WITH THREE FLOURS, A CRACKED WHEAT SOAKER AND A YEASTED PREFERMENT)

I am pretty sure I did it correctly, though if corrections need to be made I am happy to try and do so.

In the end I do not find the format terribly useful because the only bread I'm making is Chad Robertson's basic country loaf and while he says the recipe is 75% hydration, that is because he does the math including the levain as a unit, whereas this spreadsheet is set up to require the bakers% to include the components of the levain.

I had hoped that once I developed a spreadsheet to track the most complicated of the breads in the BBGA guidelines, it could "do anything" I need of it, but that is not really the case.

 So I have added a tab to deal with the basic country loaf "problem" but that is no longer in the BBGA format.

 

 

MisterTT's picture
MisterTT

is to write a program or spreadsheet that allows you to account for several variables which you can freely change. The most convenient ones are, for example when making a levain bread, these: dough weight, dough hydration and levain hydration. It's really easy to work out the math and write that sort of spreadsheet and then just adapt it to whatever bread you are making (or write a new one using the experience).

OK, in the spirit of full disclosure, I am a mathematician, so my view of it might just be a bit warped, but I like to have as many variables to tinker with in a bread formula without rewriting the whole thing. For example, just today I made a sheet for a simple sourdough:
https://docs.google.com/spreadsheet/ccc?key=0Ajcq2xngz6tsdE5DUV9WYjl1YVFxSE1SRGRva1lSNkE&usp=drive_web#gid=0

The user just has to plug in the amount of dough he needs and the hydrations for levain and dough and voila, you don't have to calculate anything by yourself. So a spreadsheet like this will do almost "anything" you require and adding another element such a soaker isn't at all complicated either.

David Esq.'s picture
David Esq.

It still does not seem to solve the problem of what to do with a formula like Chad Robertson's basic country loaf.  I created a tab on mine that deals with that so you can see what I am talking about.  I am sure yours would work the same way if I could figure it out...but mine seems more intuitive. That said, if you could show me your spreadsheet with the basic country loaf recipe on it that might help me out. :)

(My spreadsheet has you input the % Levain but obviously it would be nicer if you could go both ways and also opt to input the weight of the levain on hand to calculate how much total dough you can make).

MisterTT's picture
MisterTT

who doesn't like that Tartine books don't count the flour in the levain in the total flour percentage, so I won't ever count the levain as ingredient rather than a combination of flour and water. You are however right on the point that it could be nice to adjust the prefermented flour percentage, which in that particular formula is set to 20%. This is easy enough to do and you'd get this spreadsheet:

https://docs.google.com/spreadsheet/ccc?key=0Ajcq2xngz6tsdFNwdXhiRVlYZlMxaU9Qb0JxTFphS2c&usp=sharing

There's frankly not much more to tinker with! Sure, you could change up the flours the formula doesn't care what flours are you actually using after all. I'm sorry but I don't have Tartine Country Loaf spreadsheet, since I've never baked it (well I probably did without even knowing, but not straight from the book anyways)!