Mastering Sourdough Baking with Baker’s Percentages

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Sourdough baking is an art that combines science and creativity. One key tool that can elevate your sourdough game is understanding and utilizing Baker’s Percentages. In this article, we will explore how sourdough baking with Baker’s Percentages empower bakers to master sourdough by allowing flexibility in recipes, varying hydration levels, creating unique flour combinations, and more!

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Baker’s Percentages, also known as baker’s math or formula baking, is a systematic and standardized method used by bakers to express the quantities of ingredients in a recipe as percentages of the total flour weight. This approach provides a clear and consistent way to communicate and scale recipes, enabling bakers to maintain the desired ratios regardless of the batch size.

This method of making sourdough bread was something I learned at the beginning of my sourdough journey and I’m so glad I did! I just happened to stumble upon a video of someone who used baker’s percentages in their sourdough baking and I’ve never tried another way. In fact, if I come across a recipe I want to try for a flavored loaf, I often change the measurements of the base recipe to mirror the hydration I want, based on baker’s math.

easiest sourdough recipe

Why Use Baker’s Percentages in Sourdough Baking?

Getting to understand baker’s percentages can offer many benefits to your sourdough baking journey.

Consistency

Baker’s Percentages contribute to consistency in sourdough baking by providing a reliable framework that maintains the balance of ingredients, regardless of the batch size. When a baker decides to scale a recipe up or down, the percentages ensure that the fundamental ratios remain constant. This consistency is crucial for achieving uniform results and helps bakers reproduce the same flavor, texture, and structure in their sourdough loaves, whether they are baking a small experimental batch or a larger production quantity.

Flexibility

One of the key advantages of Baker’s Percentages is the flexibility they offer to bakers. By expressing ingredient quantities relative to the flour weight, bakers can easily adapt recipes to suit their personal preferences or experiment with different ingredients. Whether adjusting hydration levels, incorporating alternative flours, or experimenting with unique flavor additions, Baker’s Percentages empower bakers to explore and personalize their sourdough creations without compromising the overall structure of the recipe.

Precision

Baker’s Percentages provide a precise and standardized language for expressing and understanding recipes within the baking community. This precision eliminates ambiguity and ensures that bakers across different regions or skill levels can interpret and replicate recipes accurately. By using percentages, bakers communicate not just the amounts of ingredients but also the relationships between them, fostering a common understanding that transcends language barriers and facilitates effective knowledge sharing in the baking community.

Understanding Ratios

Baker’s Percentages make it easier for bakers to comprehend the ratios of each ingredient to the flour, offering valuable insights into the composition of the dough. This understanding becomes particularly helpful in troubleshooting and recipe development. For instance, if a baker encounters issues with the bread’s texture or flavor, the percentages allow them to identify which ingredient might be contributing to the problem. Bakers can fine-tune and experiment with ratios, making adjustments based on their understanding of how each element contributes to the final product, leading to more informed and successful baking experiences.

Need some help choosing the best flour for your sourdough loaf? Check out our suggestions—>>> Best Flour For Bread & Starters

Optimal Baker’s Percentages for Sourdough

The optimal Baker’s Percentages for sourdough provide a guideline for achieving a well-balanced and flavorful loaf. These percentages represent the ideal ratio of key ingredients relative to the flour weight, ensuring that the sourdough bread maintains the right structure, flavor profile, and overall quality.

Flour (100%):

easiest sourdough bread from starter
  • Role: Flour serves as the foundation of any sourdough recipe, providing the structure and foundation for the dough.
  • Percentage: 100%
  • Significance: All other ingredients are expressed as a percentage of the flour weight, making it the benchmark for the entire recipe.

Water (Varies with Hydration):

  • Role: Water hydrates the flour, initiates gluten development, and influences the dough’s texture and crumb structure.
  • Percentage: The water percentage varies with hydration levels, typically ranging from 65% to 85%.
  • Significance: Adjusting water percentages allows bakers to control the dough’s hydration, influencing the final texture and openness of the crumb.

Sourdough Starter (15%):

  • Role: The sourdough starter contributes both leavening power and flavor to the bread through fermentation.
  • Percentage: 15%
  • Significance: Using 15% of the flour weight for the starter ensures a sufficient amount of yeast and lactic acid bacteria for proper fermentation and a distinct sourdough taste.

Salt (2%):

  • Role: Salt enhances flavor, regulates fermentation, and strengthens the dough structure.
  • Percentage: 2%
  • Significance: The 2% salt content adds flavor complexity and helps control the fermentation process, preventing excessive yeast activity.

These optimal percentages are based on traditional sourdough baking practices and are considered a starting point for creating a balanced and flavorful loaf. Bakers often use these guidelines as a foundation and may make adjustments based on personal preferences, desired outcomes, or specific recipe variations. The percentages provide a standard reference point for bakers to create consistent and reliable sourdough recipes while allowing room for creativity and experimentation within the established framework.

simple sourdough recipe

Examples of Baker’s Percentages

Calculating ingredients for different hydration levels in sourdough baking involves adjusting the amounts of water, sourdough starter, and other ingredients based on the desired hydration percentage. Here’s a detailed explanation of how to calculate ingredients for two examples: a 75% hydration loaf and an 80% hydration loaf.

Example 1: 75% Hydration Loaf

baker percentage sourdough
  1. Flour (100%): Assume you have 500g of flour (typically yields a standard size loaf)
  2. Water (75%):
    • Calculate the water content as a percentage of the flour weight: Water=(Flour Weight×Hydration Percentage)
    • For a 75% hydration loaf: Water=(500×0.75)=375g of water
  3. Sourdough Starter (15%):
    • Calculate the sourdough starter as a percentage of the flour weight: Starter=(Flour Weight×Starter Percentage)
    • For a 15% starter: Starter=(500×0.15)=75g of starter
  4. Salt (2%):
    • Calculate the salt content as a percentage of the flour weight: Salt=(Flour Weight×Salt Percentage)
    • For a 2% salt content: Salt=(500×0.02)=10g of salt

Example 2: 80% Hydration Loaf

  1. Flour (100%): Use the same 500g of flour.
  2. Water (80%):
    • Calculate the water content for an 80% hydration loaf: Water=(500×0.80)=400g of water
  3. Sourdough Starter (15%):
    • Calculate the starter for an 80% hydration loaf: Starter=(500×0.15)=75g of starter
  4. Salt (2%):
    • Calculate the salt content for an 80% hydration loaf: Salt=(500×0.02)=10g of salt

By following these calculations, you ensure that each ingredient is added in the correct proportion to achieve the desired hydration level.

Conclusion

Understanding Baker’s Percentages empowers sourdough enthusiasts to customize recipes, experiment with hydration levels, and create unique flour combinations. By mastering this approach, bakers can unlock the full potential of sourdough baking, turning it into a personalized and rewarding culinary experience.

Hey Beautiful! I’m Tara, garden enthusiasts, keeper of chickens, herbal homesteader and stay at home mom of 3 tiny humans and a sourdough starter named Ma. I love teaching others how to live a self-sufficient and sustainable life through homesteading, scratch cooking, and remembering to live barefoot, wild and free!

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