Baker’s percentage and pizza dough

What is baker’s percentage?

Baker’s percentage, or baker’s percent, is a method of measuring the quantity of ingredients in a dough, relative to the amount of flour in the dough.

I know this sounds confusing but bear with me, it’s not too bad really.

Baker's percent and flour
All dough starts with flour!

All the ingredients are measured as a percentage of the total flour. This is done because the flour is the most important and most abundant ingredient in dough. Other ingredients vary but the flour is always there in relatively large amounts.

Why use baker’s percentage for pizza dough?

The beauty is that once you have a baker’s percentage recipe, it instantly scales up or down to whatever amount of dough you want to make.

What’s more, understanding baker’s percentage will allow you to recognise the dough characteristics of any recipe before you even make it. You will also be able to form your own recipes and adjust quantities with ease.

Baker’s percentage and hydration

You may have heard the term hydration used when referring to pizza dough. The hydration is basically the amount of water that is used in a dough recipe. It is always expressed as a baker’s percentage.

Water is a key part of the baker's percentages
Hydration is typically expressed as a baker’s percentage

The hydration is generally the most important part of any recipe. Learning baker’s percentage will drastically improve your understanding of hydration and dough.

For more information on pizza dough hydration, click here.

Baker’s percentage and salt

The amount of salt in pretty much any bread dough will always be around 2%. Understanding baker’s percentage allows you to instantly get the correct amount of salt you should use in any pizza recipe (or bread recipe).

Salt is generally 2% as a baker's percentage
Salt in any dough is typically around 2%

Some recipes will call for more or less salt than this but personally, I never stray from between 2 – 2.5%. Any less than 2% and the pizza becomes bland. Any more than 2.5% and the pizza becomes salty (and the quality of the dough is affected).

I would be wary of any pizza recipe that is outside the 2% – 2.5% salt range.

Baker’s percentage and yeast

When it comes to yeast, the amount we use will affect the length of fermentation (proving time). For example, 2% yeast (dried yeast) will prove roughly twice as quickly as 1% yeast. Understanding this allows us to adjust the yeast depending on our desired length of fermentation.

Yeast is generally best expressed as baker's percent
Small amounts of yeast make a huge difference

Generally, lower amounts of yeast produce a better dough. A longer fermentation improves the flavour and texture of the pizza crust.

However, using baker’s percentage for yeast allows to estimate and adjust the fermentation time in order to fit the dough making around our daily routine.

Watch this space for an article on yeast amounts and fermentation times!

How does baker’s percentage work?

Let’s assume that we’re using 500g of flour in our recipe. We’re making traditional Neapolitan (Italian) pizza dough so there’s only 4 ingredients: flour, water, salt, and yeast. (Yes that’s right! No oil, sugar, or milk, or anything else.)

This is the recipe that we have (with each ingredient expressed as a baker’s percentage):

– 100% 00 flour
– 60% water
– 2% salt
– 1% yeast

(The quantities add up to more than 100% because we are comparing them to the weight of flour not the overall weight of dough)

This is a fairly typical recipe so let’s see how it works with our 500g of flour:

– 100% of 500g = 500g flour
– 60% of 500g = 300g water
– 2% of 500g = 10g salt
– 1% of 500g = 5g yeast

(In case you’re unsure, I’ll come back to how to calculate these percentages later)

So now we have our ingredients in grams. Pretty straight forward, right?

Mixing from baker's percentages
Let’s get mixing!

Now we can just put a bowl on our scales, tare the scales, and add the ingredients.

Why does the recipe include 100% flour?

You may be asking “why is 100% flour included in the recipe? Of course, 100% of the flour is 100%!”.

This may seem confusing, but it is useful to include in a recipe because it tells us the type of flour the recipe requires.

Also, some recipes call for a combination of different flours. Often, semolina flour is also added to pizza dough as well as 00 flour.

This is a little more advanced, so we’ll leave that for now. However, because the ideal hydration (amount of water) will vary between types of flour, it’s still useful to include the type of flour the recipe uses.

In this recipe we’re using 00 flour, which is generally the best type of flour for Neoplitan style pizzas.

How do you calculate the percentages?

If you’re not friendly with mathematics, then the easiest way is to use the % button on your calculator or smart phone like this:

For 60% of 500 you would type 60%500

Calculating baker's percentages

This should equal 300

Alternatively, for those of you that are more mathematically minded, you can do 0.6 x 500

Calculating baker's percentage

For 2% of 500 you would type 2%500

Calculating baker's percent

This should equal 10

If you’re using the other method, this would be 0.02 x 500 (don’t forget the extra 0 after the decimal – 0.2 x 500 would give us 20% not 2%!)

Calculating the baker's percentages

Use whichever method works best for you.

The best method for making exactly the right amount of dough for your pizzas

Rather than guessing the quantities before making several pizzas, I use this method which guarantees the perfect amount of dough. It also produces no waste at all.

It does take a bit of maths though so bear with me. If you don’t like the maths then feel free to skip over this bit, it’s not necessary. I’ll be bringing out recipes and guides for various pizza sizes and quantities in the near future.

Get your calculator/smart phone ready and here goes:

Let’s say we want to make 4 pizzas, each weighing 180g. The total amount of dough we need is:

180 x 4 = 720g of dough

Working backwards from this figure, we can now use the bakers percentages from the recipe we used earlier to calculate how much flour, water, salt, and yeast we need.

To get the amount of flour we need we can do the following calculation:

720/1.60 = 450g flour

Calculating total dough using baker's percentages

The 1.60 refers to our 60% hydration. If we’re using 58% hydration we would use 1.58.

Now we have our flour, we can simply follow the recipe in the same way we did earlier:

100% of 450g = 450g 00 flour
60% of 450g = 270g of water
2% of 450g = 9g of salt
1% of 450g = 4.5g of yeast

To quickly check that you’ve done it correctly you can add the flour and water together which should equal the initial dough weight that we were shooting for:

450g + 270g = 720g

Perfect!

The Eagle eyed amongst you will be saying “ah, but we’ve actually got more dough than we need because we didn’t allow for the salt and yeast”. Whilst this is true, the amounts are so small that it isn’t worth calculating and some dough is always lost in mixing anyway.

I love this method, it allows you to quickly calculate the quantities for any number of pizzas of any size.

Conclusion

Hopefully, now you have a grasp of baker’s percentage, or baker’s percent. It will probably take a little while to get your head around it but once you do, everything will fit into place.

Before I understood baker’s percentages, every recipe seemed like magic. I had no idea why the quantities were how they were. I yo-yoed from recipe to recipe, never really understanding why each dough turned out differently.

Once you understand it, every recipe will make sense. You will be able to predict dough characteristics from the recipe alone, and spot inconsistencies in recipes. What’s more, you will be able to write your own recipes and adjust recipes to suit yourself.

A perfect pizza, made by a baker's percentage recipe
The perfect pizza is that much closer!

As well adjusting recipes to your taste, you will be able to tweak them for the type of flour you are using, the length of fermentation you want, and the oven you are using.

Trust me, learning baker’s percentage will transform your pizza making game.

Tom Rothwell from My Pizza Corner eating homemade pizza

About Me

I’m Tom Rothwell and I’m super passionate about all kinds of homemade pizza! In the last few years I've been on a quest to find the perfect pizza. Now I'm sharing what I've found out with the world!

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