When baking it is really convenient to think of recipes as formulas, using percentages rather than cups or tablespoons. The rule is pretty simple: flour is considered the reference (100%) and all the other ingredients as percentage of the flour.
For example, let’s take a look at the burger bun recipe:
- 450 g bread flour (90 %)
- 50 g whole wheat (10 %)
- 100 g liquid natural yeast (ready = about 4 hours after feeding if maintained at 26-28 °C) (20 %)
- 230 g of milk (46%)
- 100 g butter (20 %)
- 1 egg (= 55 g, 11 %)
- 30 g granulated white sugar (6 %)
- 5 g diastatic malt powder (1 %)
- 10 g salt (2 %)
This is an enriched dough with milk, egg, sugar, and butter. By quickly looking at the percentages, we can easily understand that is a standard hydration provided by the milk (46%) and the egg (11%), so it should be easy to work, pliable but not sticky. Most of the flour is bread flour to sustain the richness and it should result in a soft bread with a little hint of sweetness (6%) and rather fat (20% of butter). Looking at percentages facilitates understanding the relationships between ingredients and allow us to predict the result.
A particular case is represented by poolish, biga, and pre-ferment. Should you consider the flour of the pre-ferment as part of the 100% total flour weight? Or should you consider the pre-ferment as a regular ingredient? Both options are valid, but different! I find it easier to consider the pre-ferment as a distinct ingredient rather than split flour, water, and yeast in two portions, the pre-ferment and the dough. However, with this approach you might loose track of ingredients ratio with respect to flour and might be harder to realize what is going to be the hydration of the dough and thus its workability.