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Sourdough Bread Baking: Sourdough Baker’s Percentages

02 Feb

January has been a crazy month. My baby boy celebrated his first birthday on the 18th.

Mom giving Jack his first cake

Mom giving Jack his first cake

Laura made him a fun shark themed cake that matched the wrapping paper on his presents. He made a huge mess of it.

Messy Boy!

Cake Destroyed!

I also got in a car accident which rendered my vehicle useless. That sure has made the weekends more difficult, since I can’t even leave the place to get groceries unless Laura is home from work. At work we’ve gone through four separate change of responsibility ceremonies, starting at the company level and going all the way up to theater. Plus I’ve been preparing for two missions that I’m slotted for, one starting tomorrow and the other at the end of March. It sure has been busy.

So we last left off with making a starter and letting it mature into a levain by feeding it and keeping it healthy. If you followed those instructions and have been taking care of it, you should have quite nice mature liquid levain. It should be very active and smell nice and sour when it’s at its peak. Maybe you’ve even found a bread recipe to try it out with.

Well, now it’s time to learn how to formulate a sourdough recipe with your levain using bread formulas. Hopefully, at this point, you are well versed in basic baker’s percentages and have used pre-ferments before. Sourdough formulas can seem a little more complex at first, as there are extra steps and math involved. You’ll remember from using pre-ferments that you have to start with your total dough recipe. Then you select a percentage of your flour that you want to pre-ferment a day before. That requires you to subtract the flour and water that you used in your pre-ferment from the total dough recipe, which gives you your final recipe. Baker’s formulas using levains use that same basic concept.

Since all of the yeast activity in a sourdough bread comes directly from the levain, we need to ensure that we use enough of it to make sure that the dough actually rises. If you don’t add a high enough percentage of levain, the resulting dough will be slow to rise, or it may not rise at all. As we know, sometimes baker’s percentages require trial and error to get it perfect, especially considering that we all live in different climates with different temperatures and humidity levels. A good place to start, though, is 40% of the weight of your total flour in the recipe.

Let’s use a pizza dough recipe as an example:

Ingredient

%

Weight (lbs)

Bread Flour

100

1.37

Water

69

0.94

Salt

1.8

0.03

Oil

7

0.09

Sugar

5

0.07

Total

182.8 %

2.5 lbs

So, this formula should make sense to you. This is a basic pizza dough formula I use often. I decided that 2.5 pounds is how much I need and the weight of each ingredient is then derived with math. If you’re not sure how we got these numbers, backtrack to my Bread Baking Basics.

You see that we left out the yeast on the total dough recipe because we know we will be using a levain. So now we that we know how much flour is in the recipe, we will take 40% of that to determine how much levain we need.

Flour Weight * Levain Percent = Total Levain Weight

or

1.37 lbs * 0.40 = 0.548 lbs

Now we know exactly how much levain we need. Of course, you need to feed your levain the day before. The goal of the feeding is three things. First, we feed the levain to ensure that it is at its peak fermentation level when we actually use it in the dough. Second, we feed it so that we actually have enough of the levain to meet the required weight of the recipe. Third, we feed it so that we also have enough levain leftover so that we can feed it again for the next time we make bread. Makes sense, right?

Professional bakers use all sorts of fancy formulas and math to figure out exactly how much levain they need for the day to meet the needs of their daily recipes and their subsequent feedings. For the sake of simplicity of the home bakers, we simply double how much we need for the recipe.

Levain Weight * 2 = Total Levain

or

0.548 lbs * 2 =1.1 lbs (rounded to nearest tenth)

Now we know how much levain we need. So we need to feed our existing levain. The formula that you’ve been using to feed your levain works perfect. We just need to adjust the total weight.

Ingredient

%

Weight (lbs)

Bread Flour

100

0.44

Water

100

0.44

Levain

50

0.22

Total

250 %

1.1 lbs

Great, we’re making progress here. So we figured out how much levain we need for our final recipe. Based on that, we figured out how we should feed it the day before so that we have enough for the recipe and enough to keep the levain going for future recipes.

Now we need to subtract the amount of flour and water in the levain that’s in the recipe from the total. It’s the same thing we do when using pre-ferments. So our recipe uses 0.548 pounds of levain. How much flour and water is in .548 pounds of levain? That’s pretty easy to figure out since our liquid levain contains equal amounts of flour and water. But it would be a little harder to determine if we were using a stiff levain. In either case, the best way to figure it out is to put the amount of levain you are using in the recipe into the spreadsheet

Ingredient

%

Weight (lbs)

Flour

100

0.274

Water

100

0.274

Total

200

0.548

Now we take these weights away from the flour and water in the total dough recipe so that we know how much to put in our final dough recipe.

Total Ingredient Weight – Levain Ingredient Weight = Final Weight

or

1.37 lbs of Flour – 0.274 lbs of Flour = 1.096 lbs of Flour

and

0.94 lbs of Water – .274 lbs of water = .666 lbs of Water

Your new and final recipe should look like this

Total Recipe

Levain

Final Recipe

Ingredient

%

Weight (lbs)

Ingredient

%

Weight (lbs)

Ingredient

Weight

Flour

100

1.37

Flour

100

.274

Flour

1.096

Water

69

.94

Water

100

.274

Water

.666

Salt

1.8

.03

Salt

.03

Oil

7

.09

Oil

.09

Sugar

5

.07

Sugar

.07

Levain

.548

Total

182.8

2.5 lbs

Total

200

.548 lbs

Total

2.5 lbs

At this point you would just convert the weights of the final recipe into easier to use units, such as ounces and grams, and follow the twelve steps of baking.

So let’s recap:

  • Formulate your total dough recipe
  • Determine the amount of levain you need for the recipe
  • Based on how much levain you need, determine your feeding
  • Also based on how much levain you need, adjust your total dough recipe to find your final recipe
  • Now feed your levain and wait 24 hours.
  • Make your dough using the twelve steps of baking. For this pizza recipe, making the actual pizza would be considered your final shaping.

If you try out this recipe, I actually recommend covering and retarding the dough in the refrigerator overnight right after the pre-shaping step. This makes the dough a little easier to work with and ensures those pronounced sourdough flavors. Of course, that makes this recipe a three day process 😉

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2 Comments

Posted by on February 2, 2013 in Army, Baking, Bread, Food, Pizza

 

Tags: , , , , , , , ,

2 responses to “Sourdough Bread Baking: Sourdough Baker’s Percentages

  1. Bernard Linde

    January 25, 2014 at 9:32 pm

    Really a nice post this! Thanks for giving such a detailed, yet clear explanation! This page is definitely going to be saved as a bookmark for future reference.

     
  2. golf masters leaderboard live

    April 19, 2013 at 4:19 am

    Hey there this is kind of of off topic but I was wondering if blogs use WYSIWYG editors or if you have to manually code with HTML.
    I’m starting a blog soon but have no coding know-how so I wanted to get advice from someone with experience. Any help would be greatly appreciated!

     

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