The Fresh Loaf

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Ounces, grams, scales

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chuppy's picture
chuppy

Ounces, grams, scales

Goodmorning all,

I've noticed in several blog entries that people use ounces and grams in thier recipes. Is it realy that important to be that exact with your measurements? If so, how much do you spend on a first time scale?

Chuupy

Comments

sphealey's picture
sphealey

> Is it realy that important to be that exact

> with your measurements?

 

It all depends on your personal cooking style. To make the same bread with the same results 95% of the time you need to use precise recipes and measure accurately, and you will want to weigh your ingredients. Some people like to work this way; others prefer Mollie Katzen's "throw about 4 cups of flour in the bowl and add a bunch of water" way of doing things.

Good electronic scales are available from $20 - $80 (and up to $5000 of course!). You will want one with a capacity of 2500-5000 grams, resolution of at least 1.0 g, converts between oz and grams, and has a tare function. I have a MyWeigh i5000 which runs around $50 from various online suppliers (a bowl is included but the bird perch is extra).

HTH

sPh

sourdough-guy's picture
sourdough-guy

Doesn't the bird make a mess on the scale? : -)

 Seriously, i5000 is $50? Wow, I had the i7000 or whatever it was called, I seem to remember they were around $35 but I could be wrong, they were postal scales too which might make a difference. 

Sourdough-guy

sphealey's picture
sphealey

> Doesn't the bird make a mess on the scale? : -)

Based on what I have seen at the local bird sanctuary: YES, they do make a mess on the scales!

In fact when we were at the free-flight demonstration the bird handler told the audience anyone worried about a little mess in their hair / on their clothes should leave the room...

sPh

PMcCool's picture
PMcCool

Chuppy,

Since finding this site a year or so ago, I have taken the plunge and purchased a scale to use in my bread-baking.  Mine is a Salter model, about $30US.  If you search the site for 'scale' or 'weigh', you will find a lot of discussion on the topic, as well as some other folks' recommendations--I think MyWeigh scales are a favorite for some. 

Yes, precision does make a difference.  Partly in the outcome of any single bread that you make but more importantly, in the consistent results that you can achieve from one batch to the next.  Now that I think of it, the precision of the measurements leads to improved accuracy in the results.  Gosh, wouldn't my chemistry and physics instructors be proud of me?  Keep in mind, of course, that deviating by a gram or two in the flour content is going to be much less noticeable than the same size deviation in salt! ;-)

Weighing the ingredients also makes it easier to understand the effects of any change that you might make in a recipe.  Having checked my own volume measurements, I find that my method for measuring flour yields anywhere from 4 to 5 ounces per cup, which is a significant variance that will affect the texture and other characteristics of the finished bread.  I have also found that some of my measuring cups don't really measure up.  For instance, 1 cup should contain 8 fluid ounces (volume), or 8 ounces (weight) of water.  Most of my measuring cups seem to run a bit on the light side.  So, in my own case, if I am heavy-handed with the flour and use a volume measurement for the liquid that is not quite the amount that it appears to be, I'm apt to have a dough that is dry and stiff.

The unexpected benefit in all of this is how much easier and neater it is to measure by weighing.  If you choose to buy a scale, make sure that it can tare; in other words, that it can be reset to zero after each ingredient is added.  Then all you do is set your mixing bowl on the scale, tare, pour in the first ingredient, tare, pour in the second ingredient, tare, pour in the third ingredient, etc.  No  muss, no fuss, no cuss!  Best of all, no sticky/greasy measuring cups to wash afterward.

So, can you make good bread without a scale?  Absolutely!  I did it for years.  Does using a scale make a difference?  Absolutely!  Especially as you become acquainted with baker's percentages and start to understand how easy it is to modify formulae for different yields or different results.

Paul

SDbaker's picture
SDbaker

Chuupy. a few thoughts on a great question:

Various flours can have significantly different volumes, especially depending on how you measure with a cup.  "1 cup sifted" is not "one sifted cup."  There's the fork and scoop, etc.   Brown sugar? How densely do you pack it?  All eliminated by weighing. And more and more recipes are coming out that way.  Baker's math is easily done when halving recipes (good for me, a single guy).

Definitely get one with grams and oz.  Mine goes down to grams but only 1/4 ounces.  I wish I had got an accuracy down to decimals of oz.  .1, .2, .3 etc.

With the tear function, and a steady hand, you can add right to mixing bowl.  Or, just use one bowl for measuring, and one for mixing. Tear, pour, continue to next ingredient.

I use my scale for all kinds of cooking, especially baking.  Great for measuring chopped chocoloate too.  My scale easily converts wet liquid too, so just pour as you measure.  In attempting to learn various cooking styles and recipes, by measuring with a scale, I eliminate one variable when I try to find out what happened when I get the perfect product, or when I don't  : )

Note: Make sure you you can see the read out with the largest bowl you think you'll use.

I think mine is a "baker's choice" model. Will have to check when I get back from deployment.  Cooks Illustrated just did a review I believe.  $80 will get you a tool you will use for a long time.  I use mine almost every day when I am in full cook/bake mode.

As for clean up, many models can be wiped clean. If it's a problem, just lay a piece of plastic wrap over the controls if you get a flat unit.

hope this helps,

SDbaker

  

sphealey's picture
sphealey

Another advantage to weighing is that once you get used to it it can be a lot faster (if you want). I can put together the ingredients for the basic bread machine bread {the one printed on the side of our machine ;-) } in 2 minutes or less using the scale; it takes a lot longer using measuring cups.

That said, the method is still a choice of personal preference and style. Some people like to work by approximation and feel and prefer that their results be a bit different each time. Also I love my King Arthur measuring cups; I was very happy the day my 1-1/2 cup measure arrived!

The MyWeigh i5000 has a resolution of 1g; its sibling the i2500 goes to 0.5g. When I buy a new one [1] I might get the i2500 because the one thing I would always measure by weight now is salt, even if I were doing the rest by volume. Then again, it is nice to be able to put my largest ceramic mixing bowl on the scale, which weighs about 1500g, zero it off, and still be able to put 2#/1kg of flour in the bowl.  Maybe I need two scales, a 5000/1.0 and a 100/0.01...

sPh

[1] I had a little dropping incident about a month ago, onto the tile floor. Although the case is now in bad shape it still works as tested with my antique lab weights, but it does bounce around +/- 1 or 2 g now.

sourdough-guy's picture
sourdough-guy

Hi sph,

you get quite a few brands of scales that are ideal for measuring small quantities like salt and yeast if you use it. I did have a set of scales that measure only to 2 Kilos, though I had them for at least 10 years and they served me very well for most of the time, when I wanted more than 1270 g of dough (my large bowl weighs 727g)  I  had to separate everything, really tedious, I wouldn't dream of scales less the 3K now. I love my scales for most things but for salt they drive me nuts. I have to put the salt into my hand first, guessing, then drop it onto a saucer, and repeat until I've got what I need. If I add slowly it doesn't 'notice'. I noticed a few like that when I was looking around. I bought these Hanson scales from the internet. Not recommended. 

 

Sourdough-guy

Mini Oven's picture
Mini Oven

I keep a measuring spoon...1 teaspoon... in my salt jar.  Very handy and a level teaspoon is 5 grams.   Mini Oven

sourdough-guy's picture
sourdough-guy

Then you must be using free running table salt. I have three different salts all with a very different density.

 

Sourdough-guy

Mini Oven's picture
Mini Oven

And it is dense.  Maybe you could adapt some spoons for each of your salts.  like the spoons they have for medicine.  ...or get a small spice scale.  I was looking more for something handy and simple.   Sorry.  Mini Oven

audra36274's picture
audra36274

King Arthur came through... I got mine from the King Arthur store Baker's Secret, for $27.95. I told my husband I needed to get a scale for me from him for Christmas. We do lots of gifts that way. He doesn't know a dough scraper from a silpat so I get what I need, he gets off without having to shop, it works well!

verminiusrex's picture
verminiusrex

One of the best investments for my bread baking was a scale.  I use it for flour mostly, when it comes to salt and such I just go with measuring spoons because they don't generally fluff up like flour can.  Mine came from Wal-Mart, and was a fairly inexpensive (under $30 if I remember right) scale that goes up to about 6 or 7 lbs.  I use ounces when I measure, and quite honestly you can be a fraction of an ounce off without messing up your average loaf.  But it is wonderfully easy to take down a couple jars of flour, pour them into a bowl on the scale until I reach whatever amount I need, and just put them back up without having to clean up spilled flour from messing around with measuring cups.  And I can keep much better track of flour combinations with weight compared to cups.

 If you are just a casual home baker, go with an inexpensive digital model, it should serve your basic needs.  Don't get a spring one, they are crap for accuracy and break easily.