The Fresh Loaf

News & Information for Amateur Bakers and Artisan Bread Enthusiasts

Confusion about bakers percentage in Reinhardt's book

lancepawl's picture

Confusion about bakers percentage in Reinhardt's book

In Reinhardt's Whole Grain Breads book, he lists bakers percentage for the soaker and starter, but omits it for the final dough.Let's take the whole wheat sandwich bread on page 100 as an example. If I"m using bakers percentage, then I base everything off the flour and I simply use 2, 3, 4 cups, or whatever, at 100% and base the other ingredients off of that. I don't care about the 1 3/4 cup that the recipe lists for the flour. So here's what I can't figure out. I'll just describe one ingredient to keep it simple. The recipe shows 1 3/4 cup of flour for the soaker and the same for the biga. The flour is 100 for the bakers formula as I mentioned. But lets say I' use the 1 3/4 cups listed in the book. I make the soaker and biga with the 1 3/4 cup flour each and now I get to the final dough, which says to combine the soaker and biga and additional ingredients, including  3 1/2 tablespoons of flour. Remember I said there is no bakers percentage shown for the final dough. So what if I used 3 cups of flour for the soaker and 3 cups for the biga using the bakers percentage? Not what do I do for the final dough? The book said 3 1/2 teaspoons of flour, but that is based on 1/3/4 cups flour for the soaker and biga and I used 3 cups. What am I supposed to do here? Why aren't bakers percentages listed for the final dough? I would think the soaker and biga could be combined for the 100% and the rest of the ingredients percentages of that, but no. And nowhere does the book  explain how to handle this. I have no idea how to figure the measurements for the 8 ingredients in the final dough recipe if I started with bakers percentage for the soaker and biga. Another item of confusion is there is a beige box called 'Bakers formula' on page 101 that lists different ingredients with their percentages including one for milk, and milk isn't even an ingredient in the whole wheat sandwich bread recipe. So I don't know why that information is there and how it relates to the recipe, and these beige boxes appear for the other recipes as well. There must be a simple explanation to this that the author unwisely assumed that everyone should know, but I certainly don't. Can anyone explain how to interpret this recipe if using bakers percentage?

And does anyone know why he says to chop the biga into 12 small pieces, flour them, and then combine back with the rest of the ingredients? He says to do this extra step in all the recipes, but why? He doesn't explain the reason. Maybe it's supposed to make the mixing easier?

If anyone can help with either of these, I'd appreciate it. I'd like to get some value out of the book, but I'm lost with how to handle the recipes using bakers percentage. I don't want to use volume or ounces.

Thanks & Regards,




pmccool's picture

The cup measurements you mention are volume measurements, in spite of your stated desire not to use volume.  The ounces which you also want to avoid are the basis for the bakers percentages.  Time to reconsider which route to take. 

Bakers percentages, or bakers math, is always based on weights; ounces, in this case.  You are correct that the quantity of flour is the baseline against which all other ingredient quantities are measured and that it is assigned a value of 100 percent.  It is the flour weight that matters, whether it is measured in grams or tons or other units.  If you sum up every bit of flour in all of the recipe sections, that quantity will be the 100 percent for that formula.

Using cups or other volume based measures will not yield the right results because different materials have different densities.  For that matter, different people will have different weights of flour per cup because of the way they fill the cup.  If you assume that a cup of flour weighs 4 ounces and that a cup of water weighs 8 ounces (close enough if not exactly), then a cup of water divided by a cup of flour = 100% (volume) but 8 ounces of water divided by 4 ounces of flour = 200% (weight).  That's a big difference.

Since I don't have the book, I can't speak to your other questions.


Janetcook's picture

Paul addressed the % question but the thing that is confusing about WGB is that the biga and soaker list the ingredient %'s not against the total ingredients but as though each pre-dough is a total formula in and of itself.  He does list the total % amount for each recipe in a small box at the end of the mixing directions.  

I generally convert his numbers to reflect the total flour for the entire recipe.  44% of the flour is used in the biga and 44% is used in the soaker. The final 12% of the flour being added to the final dough.  All other ingredients are based off of the total flour too.

The biga and soaker mix better if broken into small pieces when you combine them for the final dough.  I don't count the pieces nor do I cut them.  I spoon the biga ingredients into my mixer and I tear the soaker into pieces.  Not sure how many I do but maybe 6-8 pieces each.  This will vary on your mixer.  I have a DLX and the roller attachment handles large pieces with ease.

Hope this helps some.


BakingBad23's picture

I own a few of Reinhardts books but haven't looked at them in years.  I can field one question that Paul didn't answer for you that seems to be one of your main questions.  As for the baker percentages not being displayed for the final dough:  Most of the time bakers don't put put percentages for the final dough because that would be backwards as to how we formulate recipes.  As someone who formulates recipes for a living I start by setting my flours at 100 then work through the rest of it (whether it be 100 of one type or a mixture like 70 white 30 wheat).  So my flour is set then I'll figure out my water and other smaller ingredients depending on how I plan to process the dough and what I want the final product to look and taste like.  Then say I want a pre ferment that uses 20 percent, I'll start  a second offset recipe (100 flour, 60 water, .5 yeast, 2 salt).  Once I am at this point I figure out what yield I want, how many breads am I making and how much does each raw piece of dough have to weigh.  Say my flour is at 1250 grams for a small home bake or something.  Then I'll go through my total recipe and calculate the rest, so if my water is 66 i'll multiply 1250 times .66 to find my water, 1250x.02 to find my salt and so on.  now my preferment called for 20 percent of the flour so I multiply 1250x.2 and then calculate the rest of the perferment recipe off of the total flour weight of the preferment.  then to get my final dough i'll subtract the ingredients in the preferment (or soaker) from the total recipe. 

So in order to change from 1.75 cups to 2 or what have you there are a number of options.  you can recalculate the entire recipe, reset your flour and go from there, or you can simply take 2 divided by 1.75 and multiply all your numbers by that.  that will essentially scale up and down your recipe, just multiplying everything by the fraction you desire...As for having no percentages next to the final dough it simply isn't necessary and normally would only cause confusion...In the recipe I postulated above the final percentages would be something like 80 flour, 55 water, 1.8 salt, 32 Pre ferment.  Your percentages get awkward because part of your flour, water, salt and yeast are in the preferment.  You certainly can calculate it, but it's not really a necessary step when creating recipes in this manner.


lancepawl's picture


Thanks for the replies. Janet is right that he treats the soaker and biga as total recipes in and of themselves, and not having a bakers formula for the final dough makes it difficult to use the bakers formula the way he lays out the recipe. Even the bakers formula at the end for the total isn't helpful because it says 56% for the whole wheat flour and 44% for the bread flour, whereas they were 50 / 50 for the combined soaker and biga. So trying to calculate percentages from there for all the ingredients in the final dough is not worth it. One might as well just use either the volume, ounce, or grams as listed in the book as is or half them, or double, or triple as needed depending oh how much bread one wanted to make. As for the bakers percentage, I don't see why it wouldn't be possible to have the soaker and biga the baseline 100% value for the final dough and have the rest of the ingredients percentages of that. Going with that idea, I did some calculations and if I put the finished soaker and biga on my scale and set it to 100%, then the percentages for the rest of the ingredients on page 101 of the book would be:

Whole wheat flour - 3.54%

salt - .63%

instant yeast - .88%

honey, or agave nectar, or sugar - 2.25 to 3%

unsalted butter or vegetable oil - 1.77%

extra whole wheat for adjustments - 3.54%


My calculations should be reasonably close and in this way make it easy to use bakers percentages. Of course, I may need to adjust the final dough with extra water or flour depending on temperature and humidity conditions, but at least the recipe could be carried out with less headache. AI want touse bakers percentages since I hate measuring out a bunch of ingredients in quantities like 5/8 teaspoon of this, 3 1/2 of that, 2 cups of this, etc., etc., etc. So I will take this line of thought and use these final dough bakers percentage calculations for the whole wheat sandwich bread and play with it until I get a good result. Then I'll be able to use bakers percentage from start to finish without ever having to measure anything. If I can do this for a couple of the bread recipes, I'll be happy.