A work in progress

Time to bake with beer again.

I’m a nerd. In fact, I’m such a nerd, I own a Supermath pencil. Don’t believe me?


You so asked for it ^_^

So it should come as no surprise that I loved getting to know baker’s percentages and was eager to start mucking around with them. I should say in advance that if you’re not familiar with baker’s percentages, skip down to the bottom of this post for a link to an excellent set of tutorials written by Susan at Wild Yeast Blog.

Beer Bread

Beer Bread

Beer Bread

The original proportions came from this post on The Fresh Loaf:

– 16 oz. / 454 g beer (boiled to remove the CO2)
– 4 oz / 113 g water
– 12 oz / 340 g unbleached bread flour
– 10 oz / 283 g whole wheat flour
– 3 oz / 85 g molasses
– 1 oz / 28 g honey
– 0.30 oz / 8.5 g active dry yeast
– 0.60 oz / 17 g salt

Autolyse: 20 min.
Bulk ferment: 60 min.
Shape: boule
Final proof: 45 min.

Bake on stone preheated at 500F, reduce to 450F for 20 min.

I converted everything into grams because I can think better in grams.

To convert these amounts to Baker’s Percentages (BP), first add up the amount of flour – this total will be set at 100%, and the proportion of all other ingredients are calculated relative to the amount of flour in your recipe.

In this case, the total amount of flour is
(amount of bread flour) + (amount of whole wheat flour)
= 340 g + 283 g
= 623 g

Now for example, the BP for honey would be
(amount of honey)/(amount of all flour) x 100%
= 28 g / 623 g x 100%
= 4.5%

Okay, so here are the BPs, oz and g all organized into a table:

BP oz g
bread flour 54.5% 12 340.2
whole wheat flour 45.5% 10 283.5
beer 72.7% 16 453.6
water 18.2% 4 113.4
molasses 13.6% 3 85.0
honey 4.5% 1 28.3
active dry yeast 1.4% 0.3 8.5
salt 2.7% 0.6 17.0
Total 213.2% 46.9 1329.6

Then comes some tweaking. The hydration level is a calculation of how wet a dough is, and to a certain extent, how this dough will behave. Bagels tend to have a lower hydration (~55%), i.e., stiffer dough, whereas ciabattas are made at higher hydration (~70-75%), meaning you’ll be working with a much wetter dough.

So what’s the hydration of this particular dough?

Hydration = (amount of liquid) / (amount of flour) x 100%
= (453.6 g + 113.4 g)/(340.2 g + 283.5 g) x 100%
= 567 g / 623.7 g x 100%
= 90.9%

Or you could simply add the BP of the liquid components together.

Hydration = sum of BPs for all liquid components
= 72.7% + 18.2%
= 90.9% (The same number as what we got above, but much quicker! Come on, you know you’re starting to love baker’s percentages.)

A hydration level of 90.9% is really high. I think, though, that the actual hydration for this loaf would be much lower given that the 16 oz / 454 g of beer was supposed to be boiled first, which would reduce the amount of liquid depending on how long the beer was boiled for. What I ended up doing was removing the water from the recipe, and added enough beer for a ~65% hydration dough.

If I want 65% hydration, how much beer do I need to add to the recipe?

We know that 100% is 623 g, or the total weight of the flour. 65% of 623 g would give me 405 g, and so adding 405 g/14.3 oz of beer (and leaving out the water) would put my loaf at a hydration of 65%, and make it much easier to work with if I’m aiming for some sort of sandwich loaf.

The new proportions now look like this:

BP oz g
bread flour 54.5% 12 340.2
whole wheat flour 45.5% 10 283.5
beer 65.0% 14.3 405.4
molasses 13.6% 3 85.0
honey 4.5% 1 28.3
active dry yeast 1.4% 0.3 8.5
salt 2.7% 0.6 17.0
Total 187.3% 41.2 1168.0

Lastly, if you look at the total values at the bottom, you’ll see that this recipe makes a 1,168 g / 41.2 oz (slightly more than 2 lbs) of dough. I halved the amounts to get a final dough weight of 584 g / 20.6 oz (1.3 lb):

BP oz g g at 50%
bread flour 54.5% 12 340.2 170.1
whole wheat flour 45.5% 10 283.5 141.7
beer 65.0% 14.3 405.4 202.7
molasses 13.6% 3 85.0 42.5
honey 4.5% 1 28.3 14.2
active dry yeast 1.4% 0.3 8.5 4.3
salt 2.7% 0.6 17.0 8.5
Total 187.3% 41.2 1168.0 584.0

In retrospect, I should have adjusted it to something around 700 g (1.5 lb+) to fit a 1.5 lb capacity 9″ x 5″ loaf pan. That’s why my loaf in the photo above looks to be on the small side. Maybe I could have even left it at 1,168 g for the 9″ x 5″ loaf pan – I’m still pretty new at thinking about dough in terms of weight, so am working on getting a feel for how much dough I should be using for rolls, sandwich loaves, boules, and so on.

Alright, that was probably enough calculations to make your head spin, so I’ll leave it at that for today. I just thought it might be interesting for you to see how I came about to the recipe for this particular loaf.

Eek, I don’t understand any of this 187.3% tomfoolery!
No worries. Head over to Susan’s blog Wild Yeast, where she deftly explains baking math magic a.k.a. Baker’s Percentages.

* * *

I’m sending this loaf o’ math to Susan at Wild Yeast for YeastSpotting.


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9 Responses to “A work in progress”

  1. Susan/Wild Yeast Says:

    Oh Jackie, a loaf o’ math, that combines both of my favorite things! Can I have one of those pencils please? Great loaf!

  2. toxobread Says:

    Susan: Baking bread and math are two of my favourite things too! That pencil was a “participation prize” for writing a math contest way back in Grade 7 – pretty awesome prize if you ask me.

  3. YeastSpotting March 13, 2009 | Wild Yeast Says:

    […] Beer Bread […]

  4. Mary Says:

    I learned something today! Now I have to go and study cause I think I confused myself. Thanks for the information.

  5. toxobread Says:

    Mary: If you get stuck (and are still confused) give me a shout and I’ll see if I can help figure it out. Good luck!

  6. foolishpoolish Says:

    Made sense to me and a great looking loaf!

  7. Chuck Says:

    Jacqueline, your like some mad scientist or one of Darwin’s grandchildren lol. Great teaching. Love the bread!

  8. toxobread Says:

    Ha ha Chuck, it would be pretty awesome, to be Darwin’s [great?] grandchild. Nothing like whipping up some edible experiments after running several research experiments during the day!

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