Baker’s Math Practice Problems

Now that your starter is bubbling away and you’ve learned how to write a recipe, let’s rest and take a day to practice some Baker’s Math. The answers and detailed explanations are at the bottom, so print out the worksheet, grab a pencil and a calculator, and see what you can figure out.

Inspired by practice problems from the Wild Yeast blog.

Problems

1. Convert each recipe to mass

A. Focaccia with 550 g Flour
100% Flour
73% Starter
86% Water
10 % Olive oil
1 % Salt

Calculating Recipes with Baker’s Math

Last post, we talked about all about the science of starters. While you’re nurturing your culture, let’s take some time to talk about all the recipes you’re going to tackle once you’ve for a healthy starter going. Ladies and germs (or, I should say, lacto-bacteria), may I present: Baker’s Math.

If you’re a math person, get ready to learn a new kind of percentages that just might drive you crazy at first. If you hate math, consider this a chance to finally master something that wrecked your GPA in high school.

Recipes for bread (and beyond) are often written in “Baker’s Math,” “Baker’s Percentage,” or “Flour Weight.” While it initially looks baffling, it’s actually a great way to convert recipes between English and Metric mass systems (ounces and grams) and increase or reduce the amount of bread you’re making.

Conversion Aversion: Dealing With The English System of Measurement

The other day, I saw this handy conversion chart on The Kitchen:

I loved the idea, but decided that it was a little complicated to read when I wanted to convert more than a single unit. Since I’ve been working on nailing down recipes – and not just mixing a little of this and a little of that and getting frustrated when I end up with exactly what I want and no idea how to duplicate it – for salves, deodorant, and chapstick, I thought I might go ahead and make charts for myself.

The volume chart includes “English” (because as far as I can tell, Americans are the only ones stupid enough to measure in cups and pints) and metric measurements, as well as drops if you’re using something pungent like an essential oil. It also includes common items that approximate each unit of measurement since not all of us know what a quart looks like.

Click for a full-sized image

Luckily, mass is not quite as complicated. Most of us are familiar with what an ounce and pound feel like, if not a gram.

When measuring for body products, mass is really the best way to ensure that you’re mixing proper ratios. A tablespoon of beeswax, for example, weighs half as much as a tablespoon of olive oil if you pack it lightly, but up to the same weight as olive oil if you pack it tightly or melt it. Cooking by mass doesn’t hurt either, but most American ingredients tend to be measured by volume.

Measuring by mass also reduces your clean up at the end. Rather than using a separate measuring cup or spoon or different ingredients, you can tare a scale to the cup you’re using to mix and throw everything in.