Baker’s Math in Action

You’re about to make Vienna bread from The Bread Baker’s Apprentice, when you notice something strange: the pâte fermentée recipe on page 105 nets 16 to 17 ounces; but the Vienna bread recipe only calls for 13 ounces. So, what do you do? Make the full pâte fermentée recipe and throw out the excess? Cut the recipe in half and make do with 8 or so ounces of pâte fermentée?

Neither. You use baker’s math to scale the recipe to 13 ounces. You’ve no doubt noticed the Baker’s Percentage Formula sidebars in Peter Reinhart’s recipes. You may even have read his explanation of the use of baker’s math. But have you ever wondered how to actually go about using baker’s math to scale a recipe?

It’s easier than you think.

Let’s take the pâte fermentée recipe as an example. In baker’s percentages, the recipe is as follows:

  • Bread flour:  100% (remember that the flour will always equal 100%)
  • Salt:  1.9%
  • Instant yeast:  0.55%
  • Water:  65%
  • Total:  167.5% (I know, I know. A total exceeding 100% is maddening; but I didn’t invent baker’s math. I just use it.)

Let’s start with the flour. To figure out how much flour to use, first divide the flour percentage by the total percentage of the recipe:

  • 100/167.5=0.5970

Next, multiply the result by the total amount you want to make, in our case, 13 ounces:

  • 0.5970*13=7.761

The recipe calls for equal amounts of all-purpose and bread flours, so as a final step, divide this amount in half to get 3.88 ounces. (As a final, final step, I rounded this amount to 4 ounces each of all-purpose and bread flours.)

Repeat this process for the remaining ingredients:

  • Salt:  1.9/167.5=0.0113*13=~0.15 ounce
  • Water:  65/167.5=0.3881*13=~5 ounces

And the yeast? To my mind, 0.055 ounce is too small an amount to bother scaling down, so I just used a scant 1/2 teaspoon.

To recap, as long as you know the baker’s percentages, you can scale any recipe to size by dividing the percentage of each ingredient by the total percentage in the recipe, then multiplying by the total amount of dough you want to make.

So, there you have it. Baker’s math in action. Please, try to contain your enthusiasm.

BBA Challenge #39: Vienna Bread with Dutch Crumb Topping

The next bread in the Bread Baker’s Apprentice Challenge is Vienna Bread, an enriched European bread that is often topped with a slightly sweet Dutch crunch topping. This bread was delicious, especially after the nearly tasteless Tuscan bread. In fact, I enjoyed this bread so much that I made it twice in two weeks.

Reinhart’s Vienna bread recipe, like many of his recipes, begins with a preferment, in this case pâte fermentée. The recipe calls for 13 ounces of preferment; but the pâte fermentée recipe in the book makes 16 to 17 ounces of dough. Time to break out the baker’s math! Since the recipe gives baker’s percentages, it was a fairly simple matter to scale it to the amount I needed.

I ended up using 4 ounces each of all-purpose and bread flours, 0.15 ounce salt, a scant 1/2 teaspoon yeast, and 5 ounces water. The result was just over 13 ounces of dough, which I allowed to ferment for a little over an hour before refrigerating it overnight.

The next day, I removed the pâte fermentée from the fridge, cut it into pieces, and allowed the pieces to come to room temperature.

The pieces were then mixed into the dough, which included sugar, butter, egg, and barley malt powder.

After fermenting the dough for about 2 hours, I divided it in half and shaped each portion into a boule.

I allowed the boules to rest for 20 minutes, then shaped them into batards.

The loaves were covered and left to proof for about 90 minutes. While the loaves were proofing, I mixed the Dutch crunch topping, made from semolina flour, yeast, oil, sugar, salt, and enough water to make a thick, spreadable paste. When the loaves were ready to bake, I brushed them with Dutch crunch paste and slashed the loaves lengthwise.

Because Vienna bread contains malt powder, it browns more quickly than other doughs. For this reason, the loaves are baked at a lower temperature than many hearth breads — 450 dF.

I baked the loaves for about 30 minutes, until the internal temperature reached 200 dF.

As noted above, this was a delicious bread, one worth making again and again. And I really liked the look, texture, and taste of the Dutch crunch topping. I’ve never used Dutch crunch paste before, but I think I will find myself adding it to other recipes.

So that’s Vienna bread. Up next: the Big Four-Oh — Pain de Mie.

Check out Paul’s write up at Yumarama.