Essentials of Pastry & Baking, Formulas and Ratios.

Formulas and Ratios play a key role in just about everything we do, wether we realize it or not. Even within the hospitality industry we have them in every aspect of operations, for example cost control, accounting and forecasting. However we are here today to discuss there relationship to pastry and baking. Lets get going!

While every professional kitchen uses recipes for certain preparations, the bulk of food production falls into routine techniques and procedures that cooks learn through practice and repetition. Culinary ratios are one tool that helps cooks be more efficient and productive in the kitchen without the need for recipes. Ratios aid in recipe analysis and formulation, and open up a chef’s creativity to modify and create new recipes while helping achieve a better understanding of the science of cooking.

Whereas conventional recipes use specific ingredient measurements, culinary ratios are a fixed proportion of ingredients in relation to one another. Instead of measuring by cups or pounds, ingredients are defined in “parts” that are relative to each other in quantity. By using ratios production can be easily scaled to the desired quantity. Ratios can also be used to develop recipes, and recipes can be evaluated through ratio analysis to test for accuracy.


Ratios are basic science formulas of ingredients and do not include information on procedures or technique. They also don’t take into account individual preferences of taste, texture, consistency, or the addition of other ingredients. Knowledge of fundamental culinary techniques, good organization skills, accurate measuring, and the ability to balance flavors and seasonings are essential to their success.
Ratios based on weight are the most accurate method for a professional kitchen but also require the ability to convert between different measurements. For example, a ratio for preparing a stock calls for 3 parts liquid to 2 parts bones (3 lbs. water to every 2 lbs. of bones), which means converting the water to a liquid measure (knowing that a one-pint liquid measure equals one pound takes out some of the mystery).


Ratios are calculated by weight, volume, or through mixed-methods incorporating a combination of weight, volume, or count. Examples of ratios by weight include a roux (equal parts fat and flour) or a bread dough (flour and water), by volume they include a simple syrup (equal parts water and sugar) or a rice pilaf (2 parts liquid to 1 part rice), or by count when preparing a hollandaise sauce (6 egg yolks for every 1 lb. of butter). As a way of speeding and simplifying the cooking process, these and other simple ratios are helpful and, compared to a recipe, relatively easy to memorize.


In addition to traditional recipes and ratios, scaling recipes by percentages is a method used in culinary and pastry production. Percentages differ from ratios, and a clear understanding of the differences will help avoid calculating errors. Percentages are based on a total of 100 percent for the all ingredients combined in a preparation. A mirepoix can be expressed as a ratio of 2-parts onion to 1-part carrots and 1-part celery, or it can also be expressed as 50% onions, 25% carrots and 25%. Percentages are useful in recipe development and analysis similar to ratios.

Baker’s Percentage/Baker’s Math

A baker’s percentage, also known as baker’s math, differs from a simple percentage and is used in large-scale production applications. In recipe formulas, all ingredients are expressed as a percentage in relation to the weight of flour, which is always expressed as 100 percent. If flour is not an ingredient in the preparation, substitute the ingredient of highest proportion, for example cream in a custard. All ingredients, including eggs and liquid, are scaled not by volume or count, but by weight.  An example of a recipe formula for a cake using baker’s math is illustrated in the chart on the right.

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Since culinary professionals may encounter various measuring theories, it’s helpful to have an understanding of the differences in these methods of scaling ingredients. Ratios are common in culinary practice whereas baker’s percentage, or baker’s math, as the name implies, is found in mainly in the baking and pastry discipline. Simple percentages can be found in either culinary or baking, plus they are also used extensively in determining food, labor, and operating costs.  A comparison of the three methods is illustrated in the following table:

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So there you have it, the inside secret of the Pastry Chef. No recipes, just skill, application and formulas. Keep in mind it takes years to acquire these skills, and put them to memory. A bakers apprenticeship is actually longer than a cooks, 4 years vs 3 years for cook. But because we technically deal with fewer fundamental ingredients, it’s somewhat easier to apply these formulas. Join me Wednesday for an early look at Chinese New Year food, traditions and history. Cheers!

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