The Fresh Loaf

News & Information for Amateur Bakers and Artisan Bread Enthusiasts

Percentages and other terminology

hedera helix's picture
hedera helix

Percentages and other terminology

Hmmm, prepare yourself for dumb question #26. (I know, I know, no such thing as a dumb question...). And sorry if this has been covered before. :^)

A lot of threads make reference to percentages. I understand percentages, but not how it is applied to baking. How does this work?

and now dumb question #27.

I have also seen quantities expressed as 1:1:1 or 1:5:47 or whatever other permutations it comes in. So what's what in that sequence?

While we're here...

What's 'Peel'? Is it like a floured cloth to stop the dough from sticking?

When you talk about 'cups' for quantities, do you literally have a cup to measure it out? What does that equate to in ml? (I think this is a trans-Atlantic issue)

Thanks for any answers you can give me. I may well be back with another selection of basics to cover, but I can't for the moment remember all the questions that have passed through my head since I first arrived here.  You're a funny, lot you bakers. Oh, I guess that's me as well.

ryan's picture

The baker's percentage is the percentage of product in any weight of bread in it's relation to flour which is always 100%. For example:

66% water

2% salt

2% yeast

could be for 454gr (1 lb also 100 %) of flour: 299.69 gr water,9.08 gr yeast and the same for salt.  SO any amount in grams will be the same percentage of ingredients according to the recipe.

I've never worked with the ratios so I don't know that one.

A peel is like a pizza paddle used to get things in and out of the oven.

A cup is 250 mL, always, and yes we literally have one to measure stuff out with.

So there you go, any more questions?

Happy Baking,


dolfs's picture

Here in the States, a cup is NOT 250ml, but rather 236.588ml. Most people use 237, or some even use 240 (CIA cookbooks for example), but certainly not 250ml. Other parts of the world have their own definition.

This might help you out:

Furthermore, for anything but water, the equivalence between volume and weight is either not precise, or is subject to how densely packed your ingredient is in the measuring cup. For baking, which is a fairly precise process, this can easily lead to trouble.

Avoid all potential trouble by always weighing ingredients. 


bwraith's picture


The problem is that there are a number of ways I've seen the recipes done as far the percentages. Quite often 100% is the total flours in the dough, not including any flour coming from levains and maybe not including "specialty flours". So, you really never know without carefully examining the recipe.

I like to use the total flour weight including specialty flours as 100%. I think it's better for understanding what's going on in a recipe. Hamelman more or less does this, as do some other authors when they print an "overall formula" for a recipe. However, even there the style varies from author to author in small ways.

The 1:1:1 or 1:4:4 usually is a way for people with sourdough starters to talk about the ratios of (old starter:water:flour) they use when they do a feeding of their culture. There again, you have to be careful, since the order of the ingredients is not always the same. Sometimes, the flour and water might be reversed in order in that ratio. I've never seen a case where the old starter wasn't the first ingredient in the ratio.

A peel is the tool, often with a long handle, that would be used to carry a loaf ready to be baked over to be placed in the oven. It looks like a giant paddle, sometimes of metal, sometimes of wood.

A cup is a volume measure, but I guess there are some different versions of cups and other volume measures, depending on where you are in the world. I don't use them and instead stick to a scale and usually to grams. I feel useless without one when it comes to baking.

I'll get in trouble with some for saying this but I think it's just more trouble than it's worth to try to figure out a recipe in volume, and there are so many great books that provide either grams or ounces now, both of which are on even the least expensive digital scales, that I just stick with my scale and those wonderful books, and I'm good to go.

However, if you need to, there are surely people on TFL, probably one or two reading this who can give a very detailed lecture on the various types of volume measurements you would run into while baking. If you need to do some conversions, I would ask away, and I bet you'll get answers here.


KipperCat's picture

My best guess would be a large boule shaped hearth bread, but is there something more involved?

bwraith's picture

That's my understanding too. I think of it as a large, round "country" loaf that would normally have some whole grain or less refined flour, such as a high extraction flour or maybe a mixture of whole grain and regular flours. It probably is technically just a shape, but to me it also connotes a less refined flour choice. I get this meaning for miche in the context of recipes in Reinhart's BBA and Hamelman's Bread. Maybe someone here knows more, like the origin of the word miche or the style of bread that inspires it, which I believe is a traditional French "country bread".