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Old 03-15-2006, 07:09 PM   #21
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I'm not a baking expert, but what some experts have said is that, if you want to scale a professional recipe that is measured in weights, you should use the percentage method.

From the original recipe, calculate the weights of the ingredients as a percentage of the flour's weight. Then you reduce the flour weight and calculate the weights of the other items based on the percentages.
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Old 03-15-2006, 07:24 PM   #22
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Because I live alone, I frequently make half or quarter or one third (whichever is convenient according to my limited mathematical skills!) of a cookie or scone recipe. I have never had a problem with it.

When I had family at home, I used to frequently double cookie recipes, too. But I've never cooked for 20 or 30 people. I think the principle woudl remain the same. The only difference would be in the cooking time, perhaps.

Other recipes, I've fiddled with all the time. The only 'formula' I use is the keep the ingredients in proportion ie if you want halve/double the recipe, then halve/double all the ingredients. I have a beaut recipe for a meatloaf for which I always double the amount of the sauce, but keep to the recipe for the loaf itself. And for self-saucing puddings - ditto. Double the sauce.

Mind you, I'm an inveterate 'recipe fiddler', with decades of experience behind me. It's easy to tell if something 'looks right' or not. If the cookie batter looks a bit too soft, I don't have a problem adding more flour, for instance! I use recipes only as a guide, not as something written in stone.
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Old 03-15-2006, 10:14 PM   #23
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Scaling in baking can be done just fine in most circumstances. Bo Friberg, in the Professional Pastry Chef, states that all of his recipes (most of them scaled for professional use) can be multiplied or divided 4 times. If you want double the recipe, then just multiply every ingredient by 2. It isn't rocket science...

As for using baker's percentages, I think you're just complicating your life for no reason. A Baker's percentage is simply the ratio of a given ingredient to the amount of flour in the recipe. If there's 5 oz of butter and 10 oz of flour, then the baker's percentage for the butter is 50%. I am not a professional, so I am no expert on this, but my understanding of this system is that it is used primarily as a tool for comparing recipes to one another. If you want to glance at a brioche recipe and immediately understand how it compares to another brioche recipe, for example, a baker's percentage can be a useful tool. When I see a 50% butter figure, that tells me immediately what kind of brioche I'm dealing with, versus, say, a 100% figure. Using this method does not appear to have any real application to home baking. I imagine it helps streamline recipes for professionals, but honestly, I can't see why you'd bother at home. Just multiply and divide and you'll be fine in most cases.

That being said, it is true that you have to be careful. There have been times when I have gotten odd results when I tried to divide or multiply by 4 or more, although I have never had any trouble doubling or halving any recipe. I think there are two main reasons why excessive multiplying or dividing can ruin a recipe:

1. As others have alluded to, some ingredients, most notably yeast, do not necessarily scale well. There are also situations where there are physical and practical limitations to scaling: try to scale a cream the butter cookie recipe too far down, for example, and there isn't even enough butter for the mixer to mix; before you even start the machine, all the butter is dispersed on the side of the bowl.

2. Recipes are not perfect. The ingredient ratios are often approximations, especially when you're dealing with volume measurements, which are highly unreliable. Your 1/4 cup of flour may not be the same as someone else's. And this discrepency will only get bigger the more you scale the recipe. A recipe that more or less works as is can completely break if multiplied by 10.
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Old 03-16-2006, 12:27 AM   #24
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Quote:
Originally Posted by mish
Can a recipe turn out correctly if you divide and conquer - or multiply - for the correct amount of servings? My instincts tell me no. Is there an accurate formula or ratio for scaling a recipe? ...
From everything I have ever read - recipes should only be adjusted by even multiples of 2 (double or half) or 4 (quadruple or quarter). Hormel has a good discussion on scaling recipes here. You can also Google on "scaling recipes" or "recipe scaling" and find some more resources such as Adapting Home Recipes for Quantity Cooking (has good info on adjusting cooking times) - but they all say pretty much the same thing.

One thing Andy_M brought up - scaling is not always a proportional double of everything if you are doubling the recipe. For things like baking powder, baking soda, herbs, spices and salt - if you increase the recipe by a factor of 2 you only increase those ingredients by a factor of 1.5, increase the recipe by a factor of 4 and you only increase those ingredients by a factor of 2.

A lot goes back to the fundamental basics of "taste as you are cooking and adjust your seasonings accordingly" and "you can always add more of something but you can't take something away".

The factors of 2 and 4 seem to be the magic workable scaling numbers.

Sometimes - it's just easier to make multiple batches without changing anything.

Sorry I couldn't give you a definitive answer - but I haven't been able to find one.

Licia - I'm with Debbie ... post your recipe and I bet we can figure out how to cut it down to size for you!
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Old 03-16-2006, 09:04 AM   #25
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Twelve months ago I didn't even know what the Baker's Percentage was, much less how to use it.

Then I embarked on a personal odyssey to learn how to make different types of bread. During that time, the Baker's Percentage became an important tool in my efforts, not only for scaling a recipe, but in understanding the commonalities in different recipes for essentially the same thing and for working out ingredient substitutions.

Mastering (and using) the Baker's Percentage really helped me for making both bread and pastry. It also changed the way I viewed recipes - now I'd never buy a cook book on baking that didn't show ingredients by weight (as well as volume) or have a Bakers Percentage formula for each recipe.

sooo.....while the Baker's Percentage is more commonly used by professional bakers, I've found it incredibly useful too, even tho I'm only a home cook.
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Old 03-16-2006, 11:31 PM   #26
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Quote:
Mastering (and using) the Baker's Percentage really helped me for making both bread and pastry. It also changed the way I viewed recipes - now I'd never buy a cook book on baking that didn't show ingredients by weight (as well as volume) or have a Bakers Percentage formula for each recipe.
On the measurement by weight issue, I agree. I rarely waste my time with a book that doesn't give mass measurements. The irony is that the "American" way (measurement by volume) is not only inferior in terms of accuracy, but is also a pain in the ***. Who needs to futz around with measuring cups and worrying about lines on your butter, when you can just throw it onto a scale in 1/4 the time and get perfect results?

However, on the issue of the baker's percentage, what do you find is so useful about it? How does it make you a better baker? I measure my skill based on how well I replicate the recipe and achieve what it is asking me to achieve. How does using a baker's percentage further this end? It seems to me good baking is about precisely following instructions combined with dexterity. Is knowing that my genoise has a butter to flour ratio of X:Y going to help me fold in the flour more delicately, and achieve a higher cake? Will knowing that my challah has a 1:3 egg to flour ratio (by weight) make it softer and more flavorful?

I can see the utility of using this method if I were going to categorize recipes. It would be very helpful as a comparative tool, especially if I were interested in developing my own recipe, and wanted to see how different recipes compare with one another. But I just can't understand how knowing this changes anything when you've got a recipe to follow and you want to get the best result.

I have read many professional level texts, and none of them have explained this to my satisfaction.
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Old 03-19-2006, 08:38 AM   #27
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Quote:
Originally Posted by jasonr on 03-16-2006
On the measurement by weight issue, I agree. I rarely waste my time with a book that doesn't give mass measurements...

I can see the utility of using this method if I were going to categorize recipes. It would be very helpful as a comparative tool, especially if I were interested in developing my own recipe, and wanted to see how different recipes compare with one another.
hi jasonr,

I'm more a bread and pastry maker - not good with cakes - but I like using (or seeing) the Bakers Percentage for all the reasons you cite - plus being able to scale a recipe (I often don't want to make as much bread as the recipe will yeild).

And when you say
Quote:
Originally Posted by jasonr on 03-16-2006
(how does) the baker's percentage... make you a better baker? I measure my skill based on how well I replicate the recipe and achieve what it is asking me to achieve... I just can't understand how knowing this changes anything when you've got a recipe to follow and you want to get the best result.
I agree there too. My problem is that I don't always want to follow a recipe (even an excellent one) or maybe it doesn't work for me in my kitchen with my equipment (or lack thereof) but I still want to get the best results. Tracking my attempts (using the B's Pct along with careful notes) helps me trouble shoot my own failures.

A lot of this comes from my personal habits, experience and inclinations. Especially in bread-baking I like to try different flours or experiment. Also, when I started making bread, it was hard to find different flours (even bread flour wasn't readily available) so I just got in the habit. I'm also comfortable with computers so I set up a spreadsheet to calculate ingredient amounts by weight, given the Bakers Percentage (I just plug in the amount of dough I want to end up with and it does the rest).

This thread started with questions about scaling and has kinda veered off in another direction (that's what fun about long threads!). Anyway, one thing I've learned from DC posters is that there are as many approaches to cooking (and baking) as there are cooks (and bakers!). Do what you are comfortable with - if it tastes good, you did it right!
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Old 03-20-2006, 03:27 PM   #28
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How to scale recipes for just one person

Hi, I have just learned how to cook. Most recipes are made for more than two servings. May I ask, if I just want to cook for myself, how should I calculate the ingredient to make just for one serving? If there is a recipe for 4 servings and I just want to make one serving, should I divide the ingredients by 4?
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Old 03-20-2006, 03:29 PM   #29
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Hi Alyssa. Welcome to the site. Yes you have it exactly right. If you have a recipe that serves 4 and you just want to cook enough for one then divide everything by 4.

Personally if it were me I would divide by 2 though. That way you have leftovers and another meal
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Old 03-21-2006, 08:44 AM   #30
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I'm going to sort of echo Michael FtW -- I actually learned to cook for six, and the truth is most of the time I still do, even though there are only two of us. I often "halt" a meal at a point where I can freeze it and change it. For example I was given a large venison roast. I braised it with onions, garlic, red wine, spices. At that point I divided it up and re-froze it. Then I made us a stroganof for two. Hubby made a goulash soup this week, and there is one more meal in the freezer. I just find it simpler to make up the entire recipe, then divide it and have meals ready to go at a later date. Especially if it is something I can change a little to make it different.

When I do use a recipe that requires division, I make sure to pencil in the amounts that worked. I don't view books as religious artifacts, but as working tools. I have a couple of recipes I go back to, and the division has been done and written right next to the amounts in the original recipe. For example, I tend to like foods less sweet than most might, or may decide I like a different ingredient. I write that right into my cookbook so I'll remember it next time.
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