Flour, B%, Water, Milk, Yeast, Salt – Bread & Bread machines


Flour, whether refined and milled fine or coarse, is the ground product of grains. It contains plant proteins and starch. Starch is the carbohydrate in bread, and the ingredient thing that makes it food. Starch consisted of complex molecules of glucose and more complex sugars. The molecules react when exposed to water. Starch begins to dissolve which creates the condition when sugar in starch feeds yeast – fermentation. The proteins react to water by making dough sticky and stretchy.

White bread flour (and Canadian All-Purpose flour) and whole wheat flour milled from “red, hard” wheat are nearly standard commodities. There are variations depending on the wheat variety, and milling method. A recipe will describe the kind of flour, as well as the amount. The purposes of this kind of formula are to mix the right amounts of water, yeast and salt to get the right kind of bread,to predict how much dough to expect, and to organize the other steps of the baking process. Recipes for the home baker usually list ingredients by volume – cups, tablespoons etc.  A recipe for a 1 lb. loaf of bread requires 2 cups of white bread flour or whole wheat flour.  By the early 20th century, most recipes referred to a standard measuring cup, which could vary depending on where the recipe was published:

  • A US cup is .87 of an Imperial (U.K., many other English speaking countries) cup. An Imperial cup is 1.2 US cups;
  • A metric cup is a quarter liter (250 millilitres) which is .88 Imperial cups or 1.06 US cups.

The method of filling the measuring cup affects the density and the weight of one cup. When a measuring cup is put into flour and used to scoop the flour, the flour is more dense. When flour is scooped with a scoop and or spooned into a measuring cup, it is less dense. There is a range of weights for a USA cup of (white) bread flour in the sources:

  • 4.25 oz. = 121 g. See: King Arthur Flour ingredient weight chart. King Arthur Flour’s method is to use a scoop, “fluff and sprinkle” and level the top of the measuring cup.;
  • 4.5 oz. = 128 g. Peter Reinhart (The Bread Baker’s Apprentice, and other books) says 4.5 oz.; he measures flour scooped in a scoop and poured into the measuring cup;
  • 4.875 (i.e. 4 and 7/8) oz. = 138 g.;
  • 4.9 oz. = 139 g.;
  • 5 oz. = 141 g. The Bread Lover’s Bread Machine Cookbook (BLBMC) suggests 1 cup of bread flour or whole wheat flour converts at 5 oz. 

Whole wheat flour ranges from 4 oz. = 113 g. (King Arthur) to nearly 5 oz. per cup (BLBMC). While whole wheat and bread flour weigh nearly the same amount per unit of volume, bread flour has more of the proteins that bond to form gluten. It is mixed, kneaded and handled differently.

Many recipes round flour and water to the nearest quarter cup. The Bread Lover’s Bread Machine Cookbook (Harvard Common Press, 2000; by Beth Hensperger) goes to the nearest 1/8 cup. 

Measuring by weight is the standard for commercial baking. Scales in ounces go down to 1/8 oz, but not necessarily to decimal fractions.  Metric kitchen scales go to the nearest gram. That is close enough for flour. Converting a recipe involves interpreting the recipe and making assumptions about the writer measured ingredients, and assumptions about ingredients. Errors in conversion and mistakes in arithmetic (e.g. slips in entering numbers in a calculator) can change the dough and the loaf. A recipe may list flour by weight, or a book may discuss conversion. Where recipes provide weight, I refer to weight. If not, I guess and experiment. In recipe conversion usually drag-scooped cups are more appropriate.

For bread machine bread, I weigh (white) bread flour (Canadian All Purpose) and whole wheat flour at 139 g. per cup in a recipe.

Zorjirushi bread machine manuals recommend scooping and filling measuring cups or weighing. The Zojirushi recipes imply:

IngredientVolumeWeight1 cup =
Bread Flour4 ¼ cups544 g.128 g.
Whole wheat flour4 ¾ cups570 g.120 g.


Baker percentage (B%), a method of managing the production of bread. It is explained in a some baker cookbooks, For instance Peter Reinhardt devotes pages 40-45 of The Bread Baker’s Apprentice to this topic. It is a tool taught to professional bakers, and addressed in texts such as Daniel T. DiMuzio’s Bread Baking; An Artisan’s Perspective. For the baker-manager, it is a calculation to scale inputs to create 2, 10, 100 or 1,000 consistent loaves of bread. The assumptions are consistency of ingredients, equipment, energy, working space, and time.  For managing production, every ingredient is put into the formula.  It is as precise as it needs to be, for how it is used. B% is explained:

B% is a list of ingredients by weight, for a batch of dough. It is an instruction or rule to get the same result every time. The essential ingredients – flour, water, yeast and salt – need to be measured, mixed, fermented and baked the same way. The professional baker will have to mix enough dough to bake dozens or hundreds of loaves, divide it, shape it and bake it. The home baker uses less ingredients and will only make a few loaves in one session. A couple of simple recipes follow. The first is a dough for 2 batard loaves of French bread. The second is for 2 pounds of bread, followed by dough for several loaves of ciabbata or baguette

WeightPercentwhatBy volume,
White Flour580 g.100flour weight4 cups
Water406 g.70hydration1 ¾ cups
Instant Yeast4 g..71 ½ tsp.
Salt12 g.22 tsp.
Total172.7percentage total
Emily Buehler, Bread Science, Location 2878
CiabbataCiabatta %Baguette
Baguette %
Bread Flour1377 g.1002156 g.100
Water1060 g.771488 g.69
Instant Yeast10 g..712 g..6
Salt28 g.254 g.2.5
Daniel DiMusio, Bread Baking

When one type of flour is used, the flour weight is also the total flour weight. When different flours are combined, the weights are added to determine Total flour weight, even when flours differ in density and protein content. The relative amounts of flour are identified as a percentage of the total flour weight (e.g. 50% bread flour and 50% whole wheat; or 90% bread flour and 10% rye flour). The total flour weight can be the weight of:

  • flour, including any grain product such as rolled oats, or grain meal;
  • flour + added gluten
  • all dry ingredients
  • all dry ingredients except salt, yeast, dry seeds, and fruit.

It is useful to be clear and consistent.

The weight of every ingredient is listed and expressed as a percentage of the total flour weight. When the percentages are added up, the sum of percentages is well over 100%. A wet dough for a ciabatta bread will add up to 179%. This means the wet dough weighs 179% of the dry flour alone, at the beginning of the process.

My notes, for the ingredients I use are the table below, at the end of this post. I use mainly use metric weight; I may also note US ounces. For ingredients that are largely water – i.e. milk, butter, eggs, syrups – rather than seed or vegetable oil I note weight of water, taken from conversion tables.

Food Facts labels on bags of flour may suggest the weight of a quarter cup of flour. Online conversion calculators and tables also may appear to be useful. These are based on software that hook into the US Department of Agriculture (USDA) tables or other data, which may use loosely filled cups, rather than drag-scooped cups. Other flours might graph to a mean, but show more variability. These numbers are high and can be reduced by a few grams per cup.

White Whole Wheat flour is mentioned in a recipe from BLBMC (p. 127) “White Whole Wheat Flour Bread”. (see variation with 3 cups of flour). It is supposed to work like bread flour; a loaf is supposed to work on basic bake, which is a “white bread” cycle. It is available from King Arthur mills in the USA:

White whole-wheat flour is … made with hard white spring or winter wheat — the bran, germ, and endosperm are all ground to result in another 100 percent whole-wheat flour. … because it’s made with hard white wheat instead of hard red wheat, like whole-wheat flour, it has a paler color and its taste is milder. It’s still nuttier than all-purpose flour because it includes the fibrous bran and germ of the wheat, but it’s a more approachable whole-wheat flour, particularly for those who don’t enjoy the hearty taste of whole-wheat flour.

It can be used interchangeably with whole-wheat flour in any recipe


I substituted Rogers “Whole Wheat Bread Flour”, for White Whole Wheat in a recipe. The Rogers product was an enhanced whole wheat flour, higher in protein (gluten) than the flour in the recipe. It was a lesson. I stopped looking for flour that can’t be obtained in this part of Canada.


Too much water is cited by many sources as a cause of some kinds of failure – weak and sunken loaves.  Too much is in relation to the amount of flour that is being hydrated, and the mixing or kneading action of the machine. An extra 30 grams (1/8 cup = 2 tbsp.) of water into 3 cups of flour means a wet sloppy dough.  The goal is tenacious and somewhat elastic (i.e. that pulls back to its original size and shape) dough that is also extensible – it relaxes.  Too much water can make the gluten too slack.

In a simple recipe, there is just water. A cup depends on the recipe and the context. A cup of water,

  • USA standard, is 236.6 grams, which rounds up to 237 g. (in the metric system one milliliter of water is one gram).
  • An Imperial cup of water converts to 284 grams.
  • A metric cup of water is 250 grams.

Milk, Honey, Eggs, Syrups

A recipe may include milk, syrup, eggs, butter or vegetable oil. Wet ingredients, except oils extracted from pressed seeds, are water with sugar, fat and protein molecules suspended or dissolved in water. The water in a wet ingredient will interact with flour if it is not already bonded to something else.

Milk is nearly all water, but not all of the water is available to bond to the starch in flour – only 85 to 90%. 1 + 1/4 cups of skim milk has 1 + 3/16 cups (1 cup + 3 Tbsp.) of water. Some water remains bound to natural milk sugars including lactose and to milk fats. A cup of fluid cow’s milk weights 244-245 grams and contains about 12 g. of lactose and other milk sugars according to USDA averages. The sugars are hygroscopic but milk has ample water to hydrate the flour.

Whole milk should be 3.25% butter fat. 2% milk, 1% milk, and non-fat (or skim) milk are reduced fat milk products.

Reconstituted milk (powder and fresh water) is nearly the same as the fluid milk. The ingredients on packages of milk powder and on the Web vary. The ratio of powder to water may be 4 or 5 Tablespoons to 1 cup. It depend on the brand and one use choices. Substituting powdered milk and water for fluid milk can be approached by mixing the powder and water and pouring the reconstituted milk into the measuring vessel, using the reconstituted milk in the amount in the recipe. In mixing the milk, 1 cup of water will gain weight but will only slightly change volume.

Unpasteurized milk can lead to surprizes. Some bakers think milk,  real or reconstituted, should be scalded to denature proteins. Most dry milk has been baked to dry out the water. The heat denatures the protein.

Butter, maple syrup, honey and other syrups have some water. The home baker’s trick is reduce water in a recipe by 1/4 cup for 1 cup of honey, when honey is used to replace sugar. The average for honey in the US and Canada is 17 g water per 100 g of honey. The typical pure maple syrup for sale in the US or Canada is 32 grams of water per 100 grams of syrup. A large egg, in the Canadian egg grading system, is about 57 g.  A large egg contributes 36 g. to hydration – nearly 3/16 of a cup of water.

Wet ingredients that contain water may be noted to see if a dough has a higher real hydration rate than a simple calculation implies. Ingredients that contain water are not necessarily counted directly – it involves conversions and extra math. Water content of baking ingredients can be calculated by referring the USDA Food Composition Databases. For a Canadian product, the Canadian Nutrient File may have the value. Using the databases takes some practice. Not all of the water reported in the data is released from the source ingredient and incorporated into dough. It may be necessary to use a teaspoon or two more water to get the hydration right.

Yeast and Salt

Yeast means yeast organisms commercially grown, preserved, packaged, and distributed as a leavening agent. Most grocery stores carry active dry yeast and smaller grained dry yeast: instant dry yeast, quick-rise/rapid-rise yeasts, and “bread machine” yeast. Cakes and blocks of fresh yeast are rare, and not usually mentioned in home baking recipes. Recipes may refer to active dry yeast by volume measurment (tablespoons and teaspoons); or by packets. Active dry yeast was and is still sold in foil packets containing .25 oz. of yeast. This was a tablespoon at one time. Active dry yeast became somewhat denser and finer grained. A packet of modern active dry yeast is about 2.25 teaspoons, but is still .25 oz. = 7 grams. A 7 gram/.25 oz. packet of modern active dry yeast is equivalent to 5.6 grams of instant dry yeast. Bread machine recipes refer to Instant Dry yeast, bread machine yeast or dry yeast. Conversion is simple if a recipe refers to instant dry yeast or equivalent small grain yeast. 1 tsp = 2.8 g.

Salt affects the flavour of bread, and has two chemical effects. It interacts with amino acids making up the gluten proteins, and affects the elasticity of dough. Less salt means a less elastic and tenacious dough. Salt also inhibits the yeast and the fermentation. The rule of thumb is that when salt is decreased, yeast should also be decreased. This avoids an overinflated loaf that will collapse. But the effects of salt on bread dough and baking are complicated. Recipes that say “salt” always refer to ordinary table salt, unless particular type or brand is stated. Some table salts are fine-grained and denser. Kosher salt has large crystals and it less dense. A baker measuring by volume should be aware of the differences, but these differences do not affect measurement by weight. 1 tsp of ordinary table salt = 5.7 g. For quick reference in baking and bread machine baking, I read a refererence in a recipe as table salt, conventionally ground, and convert:

Tsp. (fraction)Tsp. (decimal)Grams

For bread machine baking, yeast and salt should be measured to .1 gram, which requires a small high precision scale. This item is more expensive than measuring spoons, but important. Some brick and mortar retail stores sell high precision scales. There are several inexpensive scales available online.

The King Arthur Flour ingredient weight table is good, but refers to ingredients as if all suppliers of a particular item have uniform standards and methods. My general table of volume to mass conversion:

US Units
Water {content}/%Brand; notes
*Food Facts label value
Wheat Flours
Bread Flour (USA) or
All Purpose White
Flour (Canada)
1 cup
139 g. | 5 oz.drag-scooped, typical;
Rogers Foods Unbleached
[BC Brand]
Whole Wheat Flour
1 cup
139 g.
(120 g.*)
drag-scooped, typical;
Rogers Whole Grain WW
/whole-wheat-flour-hard-red-spring-fine-grind/">Anita's Organic Mill
Durum blend for flatbreads
1 cup139 g.
120 g.*
Golden Temple
Spelt Flour1 cup120 g. | 4.2 oz.*typical
Spelt Flour1 cup118 g.True Grain Organic SG, sifted (BC brand)
Other flour & Meal
Rye flour1 cup120 g. | 4.2 oz.nominal/typical &
Anita's Organic Mill
Dark Rye Flour1 cup124 g.
(nominal 120 g.)
Rogers Dark Rye
Buckwheat Flour1 cup130 g. Nunweiler's
(Chickpea Flour)
1 cup120 g. Teja
Millet1/3 cups
(2.27 Tbsp.)
1 Tbsp
59 g.

22.1 g.
Bulgur1 cup140 g.typical
Wheat Bran1 cup45 g.
58 g.
Rogers, per label
USDA Survey
Bob's Red Mill
Cracked Wheat1 cup140 g.typical
Cracked Wheat1 cup124 g.Teja
Dry, Soluble
Vital Wheat Gluten1 cup120 g.typical
Vital Wheat Gluten1 tbsp.7.5 g.
Sugar, white
1 tbsp.12 g,
Sugar, brown1 cup
1 tbsp.
224 g.
14 g.
Nonfat/Skim Milk Powder1 cup
1 Tbsp.
96 g.
6 g.
Buttermilk Powder1 tsp.3 g.
Instant Potato Flakes1 tbsp. 4 g.Idahoan
Salt & Leaveners
(Table) Salt1 tsp5.7 g. Regular; not fine grain
Instant Dry Yeast1 tsp2.8 g.
Active Dry Yeast1 tsp2.4 g.
Active Dry Yeast1 "packet"7 g. | .25 oz.
(2.25 tsp.)
Older recipes 2.5 tsp.
Baking Powder1 tsp.4 g.
Baking Soda1 tsp.4.6 g.
Water1 cup237 g.237 g. - 100%
Skim Milk1 cup245 g.
223 g. - 91%
1% Milk1 cup244 g.219 g. - 90%
2% Milk1 cup244 g.
218 g. - 89%
Whole Milk1 cup244 g.

215 g. - 88%
Buttermilk1 cup245 g.

215 g. - 88%
Evaporated milk1 cup256 g.
203 g. - 79%
Butter1 Tbsp.14 g.
2 g. - 14%
Egg, large157 g.
36 g. - 63%Canada standard
Molasses1 Tbsp.21 g.
4.5 g. - 21%
Honey1 Tbsp.20 g.
4 g. - 20%
Maple Syrup1 Tbsp.20 g.
6.5 g. - 33%

3 thoughts on “Flour, B%, Water, Milk, Yeast, Salt – Bread & Bread machines”

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