Basic economics tells us if a producer can yield more wheat flour without spending more money, that producer increases profit. All producers of ingredients are constantly working to increase their yields without simultaneously increasing expenses. More important, they want to increase their yields without compromising the consistency of the quality. What does this mean to you, the food producer?
Obviously, it’s a little more complicated than that, but with how important flour is to baking, wheat flour producers play a vital role in our industry.
In order to increase the yield, millers need to get as much of the endosperm from a wheat kernel as possible. The endosperm makes up most of the kernel, is high in carbohydrates and protein and is the only part of a kernel used in white flour. Whole-wheat flour also uses parts of the bran (the fiber-rich outer covering of the kernel) and germ (the fatty inner part of the kernel), which are byproducts of white flour.
Courtesy: University of Huddersfield (UK)
Milling techniques to keep the endosperm in tact and separate from the bran continue to evolve, with recent science even developing strains of wheat that make it easier to separate the endosperm from the bran.
Aside from economics, why is it so important for producers to yield more flour? Because, as bakers know, just about every recipe depends largely on flour.
The Base of Baker’s Percentage
It might seem like common sense, even to someone who has never baked anything, that flour is a crucial ingredient in baking, but it is so crucial, in fact, bakers use it as the constant in Baker’s Percentage.
Baker’s Percentage bases recipes on flour weight, which aids in consistency among several different batch sizes, recipe comparison or altering and even forecasting a recipe’s characteristics.
Flour is always listed as 100%. In a recipe requiring 50 pounds of flour and 25 pounds of water (also known as hydration), flour would be listed as 100% and water would be listed as 50%.
The percentages will always combine for more than 100 and the actual amounts of all non-flour ingredients depend completely on the weight of the flour. Bakers measure flour in weight rather than volume as flour can settle while being stored, making its density inconsistent.
While using Baker’s Percentage might not be the most efficient method for a mainstream home baker (sometimes, small quantities become impossible to measure among other inconveniences), it is incredibly valuable to mass producers and food manufacturers who know consistency is quite possibly the most important aspect of their product. Using Baker’s Percentage allows for a consist product no matter the batch size and predictably alter ingredients when needed.