The Fresh Loaf

News & Information for Amateur Bakers and Artisan Bread Enthusiasts

Understanding Peter Reinhart’s Baker’s Percentage formulas for bread.

ibor's picture

Understanding Peter Reinhart’s Baker’s Percentage formulas for bread.

On December 13,2013 I gave up on trying to understand the way Peter Reinhart presents his Baker´s Percentage calculations for breads with a “soaker” or a “sponge”in his book “The Bread Baker’s Apprentice” and posted here a plea for help (  Richard of “oregoncrepe” picked up the challenge and kindly offered an explanation. But it still wasn’t clear enough for me because I am not very good at math. Being a firm believer in the advantages of using the Baker’s Percentage  I kept thinking about the problem, and now I have solved it.

As an example let’s take Reinhart’s Multigrain Bread Extraordinaire. He presents the Baker’s Percentage for the bread as follows (the way the formula is laid out in the book is important because it helps create confusion):

Page 189

Baker’s Percentage Formula

Multigrain Bread Extraordinaire   %


Cornmeal                                       50 

Rolled Oats                                   37.5

Wheat bran                                    12.5

Water                                           100


Total                                             200



Soaker                                          29.6

High-gluten flour                        100

Brown sugar                                 11.1

Salt                                                 2.8

Instant yeast                                   2.4

Brown rice                                     7.4

Honey                                            7.4

Buttermilk                                    29.6

Water                                           44.4


Total                                          234.7


To abbreviate the solution:

Start with the Baker’s Percentage of the dough. Forget temporarily about the soaker.. Once you know how much soaker you need, apply to it Reinhart’s “soaker’s” formula.

Case solved.


dablues's picture

I have no idea if this is right, wrong, etc., but am saving the info.  I, also, didn't excel in Math, and as you know we need to use it almost every day.  Wish I had better teachers way back then to help me out.  As it was, after 9th grade you no longer needed to take it, so I dropped it.  Wish I hadn't, and wish that wasn't possible to do so.

joann1536's picture

Yes, ibor, that'd sort of be the way I'd begin the calculation, too, because the baker's percentage counts the amount of flour as 100%, and all of the other ingredients are relative to the amount of flour.  There is no flour in the soaker.  Because only the dough has flour, you'd begin your calculation there, and then calculate the amounts of the soaker ingredients relative to the amount of flour used in the dough part of the formula.  It'd be exactly the same if he just had one list of all of the ingredients together, without separating the list into "soaker" and "dough".  I would have preferred that he used grams rather than ounces, myself, then the arithmetic is a tiny bit easier.

There are baker's scales that will do the math for you.  You just measure out your flour first to set the 100%, and it'll do the rest.

Ovenbird's picture

Yes, everything is relative to the amount of flour in the final dough. I find this way of doing it much easier to calculate than the method in Hamelman's bread book where everything including the soaker is factored into the percentages for the overall formula, but he doesn't give the percentages for the final dough like Reinhart does. I suppose Hamelman's method give a better sense of what texture of dough to expect because the overall hydration will be more accurate, but Reinhart's way is nice because it makes it simpler to figure out how much levain or soaker you actually need. I agree with you though that it is a bit confusing to put the amounts for the soaker first.