The Fresh Loaf

News & Information for Amateur Bakers and Artisan Bread Enthusiasts

Recipe Math

Danni3ll3's picture

Recipe Math

Am I the only one who sits down and figures out the math for a recipe like this? I know a spreadsheet would be faster for these calculations, somehow paper and pen just seems easier, especially while lying in bed at 2 am. 😄

In case you take the time to understand what’s on that page, it’s Rue’s recipe for Polenta Sourdough with sunflower seeds and pepitas converted to the amount I need for 3 boules in one batch (1100g of flour in total) and changing the Levain from 80% hydration to 100%.  I know it looks a mess, but that’s the plan for the next weekend’s bake! Ha ha!

Gill63's picture

Yes, pen and paper for me.

I’ve got several bits poked into books ready for next time!


Weizenbrot's picture

My recipe books are full of hand-written notes like this--scaling recipes up or down, figuring SD builds, adding a bit of this flour or that. 


clazar123's picture

I have all kinds of recipe sheets with those kinds of entries on them. My challenge is trying to make sense of it a few months down the line when I'm trying to continue developing the recipe. Sometimes it is hopeless and sometimes I can figure out what my scratchings actually mean.

Danni3ll3's picture

I keep a diary with all the proper weights and ingredients. 

williampp's picture

My vote goes to the Spreadsheet. Mine is 2 clicks away, and is great for checking recipes, saving recipes, altering recipes, making up recipes. I was going to put the above on it, but I am unable to work it out.


DanAyo's picture

Leslie Ruf and I worked together on a spreadsheet. I wouldn’t want to bake without it. For one thing, I can’t read my own writing :-). 

Also when I tweak a formula, as I often do, I simply copy the sheet to a new tab and date it. That way I always have the original and all tweaks. Things have a way of getting confusing for me.

Different strokes for different folks...


albacore's picture

I agree to use pen and paper. It can also be your baking record. I use an A4 spiral bound notebook - the type with the hard plastic covers. The spirals mean that the notebook lies nice and flat for writing/reading.

One page is usually enough for pre-calculations, the record of events and manipulations and a few comments.

Also no substitute for a real calculator for working out quantities, hydrations, etc - so much quicker than messing with the one on the phone.


MontBaybaker's picture

Danni, after scribbling on scratch paper to work out the deails, I have neatly written notes on the back of or stapled to printed recipes.  I often increase/decrease the recipe to suit the # and size of loaves needed that day.  Spent too many years at work on spreadsheets/databases.  While they offer permanence and easy math changes, I don't want my tablet getting dirty in the kitchen.  My black fridge gets enough flour prints as I grab something that's escaped my mise en place. 

I keep a spiral notebook bread journal with overall notes on each bake, especially changes I made or want to try next time.  For all the printed-out TFL and other recipes I have a file box with recipes by category.  I'm old-school and prefer to read a book rather than a device.

Danni3ll3's picture

I do keep a diary. This is just the math to work things out. 

dabrownman's picture

percentages to post them.  20% whole grains using 500 g of total flour is 100 g.  70% hydration is 350 g and 5% more is 25 g or 375 g total for a 75% hydration without any other notation.  I can remember what is what.50 g and 4% more is 20g so 390 g of total liquid.  15% nuts or seeds is 45%. 12% pre- fermented flour is 60 g hydration is 100% so 60 g of liquid so the dough liquid becomes 315 g.  I  just jot down the %'s - Lucy can remember what is what if nothing else.


kenlklaser's picture

I'd rather have a computer in the kitchen, but there isn't any room. (I don't have a tablet, but if I did, I'd have a mount for it on the wall.) Since there isn't room for a laptop, I write everything down on paper which I keep on clipboards hanging on nails in the wall wherever there is room. Version 1 looks something like yours. If it's something I want to make again, then version 2 gets written, and thus is less cryptic (although I joke to folks who have never seen baker's percents that it is very cryptic! If they only knew it was *simpler*! haha) Eventually, with frequently-used formulas, I might rewrite it 8 or 9 times. Once something reaches that number of revisions, it has typically been put in a word processor or a spreadsheet and printed in a clipboard format with a large margin at the top so the clip doesn't obscure the title. I can barely read my own handwriting!

My wife, Barbara, taught me that the art of writing is very much the trudgery of rewriting.

Most of the time I keep the percents instead of scribing weights, since I change base weights and like the discipline of punching the numbers into the 1970s era Radio Shack calculator with non-volatile memory. Alongside the calculator, is a pad of paper and pencil for various scribblings of the current project: base weights, temperatures, times, etc.

Danni3ll3's picture

I sort out the mess and no, this isn’t the diary. 

BobBoule's picture

make life so much easier. After decades of using notes in cookbooks, recipe cards, spiral bound notebooks, relying on memory and loose leaf binders, I finally gave up and started using a spreadsheet. Ever since then everything I cook (not just bake) is on a spreadsheet and it has made my life orders of magnitude easier.

Most of the time I enter the recipe on my Mac, using the Numbers spreadsheet app. I keep each recipe there as well as my journal entries. Experiments and modifications call for a new tab being opened up, where I dimply duplicate the last tab them make the few desired changes and titling the new tab. This is far less effort than any precious method.

The Numbers spreadsheet automatically shows up on my iPad and iPhone because Numbers is connected to Apple iCloud and its synced within seconds of any change. This allows me to use just my iPhone in the kitchen, which is small and unobtrusive. I could use my iPad equally well but there is just no need to do so right now.

A newer method I use more and more often is to copy the recipe section from Numbers to the Notes app. I highlight the text and turn on check marks. This allows me to see the recipe in the Notes app on my iPhone, then I check off each item with a single effortless tap of my finger. This allows me to ensure that my mies en place is perfect every time, all items are played out and weighed perfectly (especially important when I have an update or improvement to a recipe because my muscle memory will tend to follow the old recipe) and that every step and every temp is followed perfectly. This has given me the ability to duplicate recipes with precision I never experienced before, and yet it feels far more effortless than trying to decipher the chicken scrawl on wrinkled up pieces of paper.

I've had some recipes for so many decades that they suffered damage in the kitchen or mysterious loss (maybe the dog ate it) which is a disaster because I just can't remember all those recipes and all the changes I have made so they work better for me.

Weighing my ingredients was the first major moment when my kitchen skills improved dramatically, using a spreadsheet is the other moment. Much of my cooking now feels effortless and fun whereas it was a stressful struggle before these two methods changed my kitchen life.

This method is also more reliable than paper, chalkboards and or memory since my Mac is automatically backed up to my Apple Time Capsule every hour (additionally, once a week to an auxiliary backup device), my iPad and iPad are backed up to iCloud every day (free account), so all my precious recipes are safe and the dog or cat cannot eat or otherwise render useless my precious recipes. LOL

Danni3ll3's picture

that spreadsheet? I am intrigued. 

DanAyo's picture

Danni, if you want to look at and/or use mine see this link.  Leslie also has a similar spreadsheet. Her link is also on the link above.

I guarantee, you’ll never use notes again after to start with spreadsheets. Bobs advice is right on. I do much the same.


If you need help learning, get with Leslie or me. It can look daunting at first, but it is really easy to use. Everything is set to auto-calculate.

syros's picture

Wow, I would love to do this because as I’m making notes in my notepad, I find myself frustrated, would love to try this. Are you taking new students???

DanAyo's picture

Did you place all 3 of the files in the same folder on your computer?

Click the link in cell F3. It will bring up the instruction on using the spreadsheet. It looks daunting, but it is really pretty straight forward.

Open one of the recipes for a bread. In the blue cell the says Total Dough Weight change that to any weight you wish. After notice how all of the weight cells recalculated.

This spreadsheet has many options and possibilities. Let me know how I can help.