The Foundation of Great Pizza Dough (Geeky)

Good pizza starts with good math.

Ok, I’ll admit it.  The subject of this post isn’t the most exciting.

But its important.

If you’re serious about making good pizza at home you need to weigh ingredients.  And work with Baker’s Percentages.

Let me explain.

Weight is Best

Professional bakers and pizzaiuolos don’t measure ingredients by volume.

Scooping ingredients into a cup is both messy and inaccurate.

Flour, for example, settles.  This means that the weight of one cup of sifted flour is different than non sifted.

Then there is the issue of where to measure.  Do you measure to the line on your measuring cup? Or just above it?  Are the ingredients flush or mounding? It’s never exactly the same.

To accurately measure ingredients, weight is better than volume.  Hands down.

Sadly, not all weight systems are the same.  Metric (grams) is more precise to work with than Imperial (ounces).   Let me show you why.

1 pound (Imperial) = 16 ounces (Imperial) or 16 units of measure per pound

1 pound (Imperial) = 454 grams (Metric) or 454 units of measure per pound

Yes, there are scales which measure in fractions of an ounce.  But most don’t.

And then there’s the fact that the entire professional baking world works in Metric.  If it’s good enough for them, it should be good for you.

2. The language of dough

Pick up a good pizza or bread book and you will quickly notice a few things.  Recipes are called “formulas”.  Formulas are written using grams or kilograms.  And ingredients are listed with a percentage next to them.  This last point might seem strange, but it’s actually the language of bakers.  It’s called “Baker’s Percentages”.  Yes, not the most creative name, but easy to remember.

What the heck is this and why is it so important?

Pizza dough has relatively few ingredients.  In it simplest form flour, water and salt is all you need.  Because the ingredient list is short, the relationship of the ingredients to one another is extremely important.  Baker’s percentages is a method of writing recipes that describes this relationship.

This is done by listing each ingredient as a percentage of the total weight of flour.

For beginners, this can be confusing to understand.

The cardinal rule for working with Baker’s Percentages is to use the weight of the flour as the benchmark for calculating the formula.  NOT the combined weight of the ingredients.

This means flour is always 100% of the formula regardless of the weight.

So let’s say you have a recipe which calls for 1000g of flour, 650g of water and 20g of salt.

Translate this recipe into Baker’s Percentages and this is what the formula looks like:

Flour: 100%

Water: 65%

Salt: 2%

In the example above I’ve made the flour weight 1000g to make the math easy.

To calculate the water percentage divide the weight of the flour (1000g) by the weight of the water (650g).  650/1000 = 65%

Do the same to get the salt percentage.  20/1000 = 2%


[If this still seems confusing check out a few more examples at the end of this post.]

Once you start working with Baker’s Percentages you quickly start to see the advantages.

First, its easier to write new dough recipes when you’re thinking about how ingredients relate to each other instead of in isolation.  The water to flour percentage, for example, is a such crucial relationship there’s even a term for it: “Dough Hydration”.

Second, Baker’s Percentages allows one to easily scale a recipe up or down and still be sure of having good results.

This means I can develop new dough formulas by testing small batches, but quickly calculate larger production batches when needed.

Let me show you.

Here’s a formula I’m currently working on.

[Since I’m using multiple flours, all of the flours have to add up to 100%.]


High Gluten Flour: 40%

High Extraction Flour: 50%

Whole Wheat Flour: 10%

Water: 65%

Salt: 3%

Yeast: .5%

Oil: 2%


Here’s how I calculate a small test batch formula using 2Kg (2000g) of flour.


High Gluten Flour:  2000 x .40 = 800g

High Extraction Flour: 2000 x .50 = 1000g

Whole Wheat Flour: 2000 x .10 = 200g

Water: 2000 x .65 = 1300g

Salt: 2000 x .03 = 60g

Yeast: 2000 x .005 = 10g

Oil: 2000 x .02 = 40g

When the time comes to make a large production batch, I plug in the new weight of the flour (could be 11Kg, 22Kg or even 44Kg) and then perform the exact math.

Make sense?

Ok, that enough for today.   As always, email me your questions.



Additional Baker’s Percentages Examples:



White Flour: 10000g  (100%)

Water: 6000g (60%)

Yeast: 30g (.3%)

Salt: 200g (2%)

Malt: 100g (1%)



White Flour: 900g (90%)

Whole Wheat Flour: 100g (10%)

Water: 600g (60%)

Sourdough Starter: 200g (20%)

Yeast: 2g (.2%)

Salt: 20g (2%)

Oil: 15g (1.5%)












80% Busy: Part 2

How to tame your schedule and go from stupid busy to stupid happy

I’m not going lie.  It took awhile to go from miserable burnt out fuck to happily functioning at 80% busy.  Here’s how I did it.


My recovery from burn out, required learning to let go.  During the early years of running my business I felt like I needed to control everything.  But control is an illusion.  It breeds mistrust and its exhausting.

A better place to put your energy is helping others succeed.

When I hire someone today, I want them to do their job better than I could.  This is not about ego.  If they are successful, the business succeeds and I have more time.

The old, burnt out Ian would try to do everything himself.  The 80% busy Ian now focuses on teaching and empowering.  This was a major shift for me.  And it was extremely liberating.

I used to directly manage 30 people.  Today its one.  And she works part time.

Time is more important than money

I like making money.  Always have.

But what’s the point of making a bunch of money if you’re always stressed out and don’t have time to spend it?

The structure of both of my businesses today is designed to maximize my freedom while still allowing me to earn a nice living.

Its not complicated.

In short, I have a lot of working partners throughout my two businesses.  In every single case these partners started as entry-level employees who worked their way up the ranks.

Business partnership can be tricky.  Despite the pitfalls I still believe in them.  The dozen or so employee owners in Ian’s Pizza bust their ass to make the business successful.  Because our interests are aligned it means I spend less time checking their work and wondering if they are motivated.

More free time.  Less stress. Cha-Ching.

Chasing buffalos

Being 80% busy means thinking about my return on time (ROT).  Yeah, it’s a lousy acronym, but you get the point.

A few years ago, I calculated how much my time is worth.  It was a great exercise. Having a number in my head has made a big difference in what activities I choose to pursue.  I used to spend a ton of time killing myself to make a few bucks or save a few bucks.  Today, I’m much more focused on the cost of my sanity and time.  If there isn’t a clear upside to the activity I’m considering, I don’t do it.

Of course, I don’t just pursue activities based on financial return.  There’s a lot of stuff I choose to do, simply because it brings me joy.  These activities reduce my stress and actually give me more energy.


That’s it.

I know.

Easier said than done.


Need help figuring out your own 80% busy strategy? Send me an email.

80% Busy

How to avoid burn out, make more money and be a better spouse

Today, I’m going to share with you one of the secrets of my success.  Its deceptively simple.

My goal is to be 80% busy.

Don’t worry, this post isn’t a slacker manifesto.

In later posts I’ll explain the nitty gritty of how this works.   First, let me explain how I got here.

For many years I worked all the time. When I first started my business this was necessary.  But once things settled down, I continued to do it anyways.  Who works hardest, wins.  Right?


After three years of going at – let’s call it 110% – I burnt out.

Initially, I refused to accept it.  I kept pushing.

Until I couldn’t.

There’s a cost to being stupid busy.  Relationships suffer.  And so does your health.   For some crazy reason this didn’t bother me.

But then I noticed my work began to suffer too. I was making more mistakes and also missing opportunities.

After one especially bad week –  I lost a great customer, had a star employee quit and my girlfriend dumped me – I knew I had to make a change.

The good news about burn out is that recovery is easy.   Two weeks on a beach somewhere can make you feel almost new again.  The hard part is breaking the cycle that got you there in the first place.

This took me awhile to figure out.

The answer was to structure my life so I always had spare capacity.  By spare capacity I mean extra time and energy to be with my family.  To take on new opportunities.  To put out fires.  To think!

“80% busy” became my new mantra.

Some people will hear this and think “80% lazy”.

This couldn’t be farther from the truth.

Since 80% busy became my goal, I’ve invested in four new businesses, purchased half a dozen real estate investments and continued to grow both of my core businesses.  I’ve also gotten married, had two kids and travelled around the world.

I’m getting shit done.  And I’m still sane.

Of course, no week is exactly the same.  Sometimes I’m operating at 100% busy.  Sometimes I’m at 60%.  But my goal is to always bring it back to 80%.  Its what works for me.  Its my Optimal Functioning Capability (OFC).  Less and I start to get bored.  A lot more and I can feel burn out creeping in.

In my next post I’ll detail the specific things I did to get here.

For now I’m curious to find out how busy you are.  What is your OFC?

Send me an email.  Lets talk.