The Fresh Loaf

News & Information for Amateur Bakers and Artisan Bread Enthusiasts

Pre-screening and Analyzing Recipes for Baked Goods

MIchael_O's picture

Pre-screening and Analyzing Recipes for Baked Goods

Hello bakers,

     For some while it has been a quest to decipher baking recipes (e.g. Michael Ruhlman "Ratio: The Simple Codes Behind the Craft of Everyday Cooking", Shirley Corriher, etc.).  But noone has attempted to prove their method is correct for all recipes or that their method defines what and what doesn't make a baked good.

     In short, I have a way to numerically describe recipes, A calculator to automate the calculation process, and an excel spreadsheet with example calculations (over 300). And this method does define what and what isn't a particular baked good.

    What I did is to graph the hundreds of recipes from the excel spreadsheet. The graph has a defined patterns, with defined groupings for baked goods (e.g. between 0.30-0.50 is a bread, and outside this region, bread can not exist using standard preparation techniques). It is essentially an elaborate calculation of the ratio of wet to dry ingredients.

The Purpose of all this is to:

Allow for more complex substitutions (e.g. local ingredients), Diagnosis of recipe problems, Allow for the quick pre-screening of recipes posted on the web, Aid in rapid design of recipes, etc.

For example, in addition to posting pictures of a baked good, posting the three chararcteristic numbers (thickness of batter, butter(oil), and egg content) of this method may allow you to determine the outcome of the baked good recipe (i.e. will the cookie be too cakey, will the pound cake/muffin be dry, etc)

First, please take a look at the chart and everything will make sense or at least it will give you the motivation to learn about what I have done:

Listed in order of importance

1. Chart: Chart

2. Explanation: Article

3. Calculator: Baking Calculator

4. Spreadsheet: Spreadsheet


Bakers percentages are only partially supported. The calculations can also be done manually.


As always , constructive - with constructive being emphasized - criticism is much welcomed.

Good night and great loaves,

Michael O.

csimmo64's picture

Your moistness values must be from overall recipe, and not bakers percentages, correct?

MIchael_O's picture

Yes, the moistness value (I am thinking about changing the name to "batter thinness/thickness") is all wet ingredients that aren't flavorings (sugar, cinnamon, salt, etc.), it also excludes lemon juice.

It is the same concept as baker's percentages (wet to dry ingredient ratio) but it does not treat ingredients with the same weight the same. For instance two baked goods with the same baker's percentage aren't necessarily the same baked good, but for the numbers I use, I say two products with the same numbers are essentially the same baked good. For people who know math, the recipe is treated like a weighted sum.

All chocolate chip and oatmeal cookies will have a moistness number(thickness) of 0.20-0.35. And the standard chocolate chip and oatmeal cookies will have a number of around 0.27-0.29, with a butter content around 14-20%, and always with an egg content under 1.

This same line of thought works for all baked goods (brioche, biscuits, mexican wedding cookies, etc.). To test this out, enter your major ingredients (discard flavorings, leavenings, etc) in the baking calculator and find the numbers on the chart.


clazar123's picture

I just briefly scanned your post-I will have to study it more to really understand it. I believe, though, that you are attempting to use math to allow the recipe reader to determine what the end product looks like based just on the ingredients and amounts to predict outcome of product type. It may be I need to study it more but one thing I've learned is that technique in handling the ingredients has a huge impact on the outcome of the product. Is this taken into account by the "weighting" of the ingredient values?  

MIchael_O's picture

Well in Brief, the goal of this is to allow someone to determine the texture of a baked good. For example, if you use the calculator and get an egg value of 1 or over for a cookie recipe, you will know it will turn out cakey. It also aids you in knowing how a baked good will turn out if you change the ingredients.

If you wanted to screen postings on board, e.g.

brioche 1 , using the chart and the calculator you will know that the author forgot to add two eggs to the brioche recipe in his post.

brioche 2 , you will figure out this author also forgot to add eggs before she reposted a correction because the characteristic number were orginally
0.262, 14.51%, 0 (a shortbread cookie) before the correction and
0.479, 14.51%, 1.31 (brioche) afterward

You only have to look at the chart a few times to get used to it since it is pretty intuitive.

Also, the chart can be used to generate ideas of what you want to bake, i.e something lowfat? pick an item from the left side of the chart. Don't have eggs? pick an item from the 0 eggs column.

Good Question about preparation. The technique assumes nothing weird went on, e.g. you are not 6000 feet above sea-level. When I looked at magazine recipes there were a few techniques were weird enough to defy the chart based on technique alone, one required you to begin baking a pound cake at 200 degrees, 250, then 275 Fahrenheit, another used ice cold water for a muffin. For those I just say they are outside the scope of the method or just consider it an error in the method.

What different techniques are you referring to? Alternative handling techniques for the same recipe, correct vs. incorrect handling procedures?




dscheidt's picture

How you mix ingredients, in what order, at what temperatures, and so on, can make a huge difference in the outcome.  Yes, you can get some idea of what a recipe might be like from looking at its ingredients (and experienced bakers can do that without a web page or spread sheet), but ignoring procedure and baking method means you ignore a very important part of the problem space. 

MIchael_O's picture

thank you for your kind words.

great loaves,


hanseata's picture

I put a bookmark on your calculator, and next time I want to try a new pastry recipe, i will run it through. I had issues mainly with muffins and cupcakes that sometimes were too dry.



MIchael_O's picture

A notice; to the list of baked goods on the chart (pie crust, challah, muffins, etc) I added granola - yeah really, I was suprised it worked too.

I also expanded the number of ingredients that can be entered from 4 to 6, and added more ingredient options (coconut flakes, wheat bran, etc.).

From what I can see, Baker's percentages is the only thing I need to work on.

great loaves,



MIchael_O's picture

Here's a run down of what it has:

*Recipe analyzer, converter and calculator (baker's math)
*No downloading required
*Easy-to-read layout and execution
*Includes pre-defined starters of (60%,70%,100%,and 125%)
*Compact format
*Performs conversions of ingredients and entire recipes

B.Bakers Math
*calculates hydration
*calculates weights from bakers percentage
*Calculates final dough weight
*Supports a mix of units in calculations
(e.g. 43% 100% starter, 320g flour, 0.6 cups water)

C.Recipe Reviewer
*Check published recipes before you bake them
*Comes with a "sanity check" (chart) to ensure analysis is correct
*Aids in the diagnosis of problematic recipes
*Allows for substitutions

1.Example one:
Formula of the month: Light Spiced Cookie,

Light Spiced Cookies

2.Example two:
SF Food Wars: Semolina Bread