The Fresh Loaf

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Keep 'Secrets of a Jewish Baker' better a secret ....

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BROTKUNST's picture
BROTKUNST

Keep 'Secrets of a Jewish Baker' better a secret ....

just received the newly publlished Secrets of a Jewish Baker ... To make it short, this is the first book I will return to Amazon. I have no idea how this book got some awards but the 'formulas' are all measured by volume ... that's inconvenient but manageable. The real insult is that the quantity of flour in the 'formula' is specified as for example "2 1/2 to 4 cups" (!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!) I had no idea that one would even dare to publish something like that .... how about 'some flour', 'some handful of flour' or 'have your kids scoop in whatever they like'. I guess it is obvious that this book actually upset me.

If you would like to consider buying it anyway (the cover looks good and the award must be for that), then look at it in your local bookstore first.

BROTKUNST

Mike Avery's picture
Mike Avery

Some of the best recipes I have are ones from the first edition of "Secrets of a Jewish Baker" His bagel recipe, his Kaiser recipe and several others I've tried are just excellent. I converted all of them to sourdough, and they got even better, but that's another story.

I think your disdain for "2 1/2 to 4 cups of flour" is really misplaced. It reflects reality.

If a cookbook author in the US only uses weight measures, his book will either never be published or will soon be remaindered when it doesn't sell. I prefer books with weights, but I also recognize the obvious.

Now then, about the cups. How do you fill your cups? It really, really matters. In one of the usenet newsgroups, I'm not sure which one, but I think it was rec.food.sourdough, people were asking about how much a cup of flour weighs. The range was from less than 100 to more than 200 grams. The lighter cups were from people who sifted their flour, spooned flour into their cups, and then used a straight edge to scrape the excess off the cup. The heavy cups were from people who just scooped their flour out of the sacks.

The worst part was that the scoopers had as much as a 25% cup to cup variation.

I find that if I do the tedious sift, spoon and scrape thing, I am usually within about 5 grams of 120 grams per cup. But many bakers feel that is a total waste of time. So, they scoop.

Obviously, this makes life hard for a cookbook author. No matter what you do, you're hosed. If you say 2 1/2 cups, the sifters will have a thin batter instead of a dough, and they will be upset. If you say 4 cups, the scoopers will have a brick and be upset. If you say "435 grams" the no scale people will be upset. If you say, "2 1/2 to 4 cups" other people will be upset.

Ideally, the cookbook author should be able to describe the dough, but that's harder than it sounds. And that is the biggest reason people should take baking classes - to learn how dough should feel. It's all but impossible to communicate "feel" in text.

I've seen similar ranges offered in the first edtion of the Joy of Cooking I owned.  I haven't looked at the bread recipes in later editions.

Mike

 

Paddyscake's picture
Paddyscake

baking by instinct. A true artisan..trying to describe how their dough feels, looks and aroma...very hard to do. It is another approach, opinion to bread baking.

Mike Avery's picture
Mike Avery

If some folks over at rec.food.sourdough saw your reply about my cooking by instinct, they'd spew coffee all over their keyboard and screen.  Some people feel I am a fanatic about weighing.  And I do feel that the three things a baker who wants to get better shouldbuy are a decent scale, an oven thermometer and a chef's thermometer.  Despite this, I am not a scale fanatic, and I know you CAN make good bread without a set of scales or cups, or even consistent flour.

I am largely a commercial baker.  And I measure.  By weight.  And VERY carefully.  

There are two reasons for this.  One is that when I have orders for 22 1.5 lb loaves of bread, I MUST have enough dough to make that many loaves.  If I make less, I lose money because I can't fill an order.  If I make more, I waste ingredients and time.

The other reason is that measuring by weight is the fastest and most consistent way to get my dough close to where I need it to be.  Once the dough is close, I still feel it to see if it feels the way dough for that bread should feel.  If necessary I'll add some more flour or water.  Or knead a bit longer.  Or do another stretch and fold.

Some artistic endeavors are more art than science.  Like painting.  Put the paint on the canvas.  Thepaint company has done the work needed to make sure the paint will stick to the canvas and dry.

Others like photography and baking require both art and science to work.  If you look at wonderbread, that is a triumph of pure science with no art.  If you look at your neighbor who can't produce consistent bread, who burns half the loaves, and who produces too many bricks, that's art taking over.  A  balance is needed.

Every commercial artisan baker I know, and almost all of the good bakers I know, do this.  Measure carefully.  Then they use their experience, their instinct, their art to fine tune the dough.

Many bakers also taste the dough to make sure it tastes right.  In particular to make sure that the salt was added.  I just print a fresh copy of the recipe for each batch and then check off the ingredients as I add them.

While there are differences in absorbency between batches of flour, I find them to be in the single digit percent range.  Using cups puts me in the 25% error range.  By weighing, I will be very, very close to where I want to be.  With many recipes I use regularly, adjusting them is a very infrequent occurance.

Mike

 

Floydm's picture
Floydm

I agree with everything you say, Mike, about the necessity of commercial and serious bakers scaling. But I want to point out that most of us here are not commercial bakers, nor are we all that serious about it.

Speaking for myself, I have more fun when I don't measure or scale. Yes, the quality of my product typically suffers and I have a hard time reproducing a recipe, but I have a better time doing it. So I guess I'm the neighbor you mention, though I rarely burn loaves any more and the bread usually pleases my family quite a bit, which is all I aspire to do with it.

maggie664's picture
maggie664

I haven't had the opportunity to view this book, but am looking forward to when it reaches NZ. There must be some merit in the text and presentation to win all those awards.
Firstly, volume measuring. I find this is a quick easy method when making yeast doughs. I use 2 measuring cups, clearly marked, for each wet and dry ingredients. Just a quick 'bang' on the bench with the measuring cup settles and standardises the measurement of the dry ingredients. i use digital scales for more 'sensitive' recipes.
Secondly, a baker has to remember that the water absorbency of flours varies from location to location, wheat/grain type etc so an honest bread recipe writer acknowledges the discrepency. Attaining optimum dough consistencies, according to the specific bread recipe undertaken, come with experience I think; where one compares one's product with what is described in the recipe or by other bakers, and an artisan moves on and up as lessons learned from evaluations are noted and actioned!

Mini Oven's picture
Mini Oven

I have always had to re-mark my volume recipes with gram notes.  Why can't a new book just include the gram measurments in parenthesis?    Example:    1 cup flour  (120g) 

It would take so little effort and please both parties.   Mini Oven

weavershouse's picture
weavershouse

Isn't that what Maggie Glezer does in her books? A cookbook can show measurements different ways and we can all be happy.                           weavershouse

sourdough-guy's picture
sourdough-guy

Exactly Mini, that way they can please everybody and you get a good idea of what the author really intends. In my experience and the experience flour doesn't change from day to day the way people say, different flours work differently but if you get the same flour week in week out, you're going to get the same product. So whoever you are if you want to help people bake great bread you'll take the time to weigh out your instincts for those that haven't had the time to develop them yet. Or is that the thing. Is it a bit of the case of the Emperors new clothes. You have to be refined enough to know, to have the born-with-instinct. Agh! I don't have anytime for snobbery, nor do I have time to spend ten years in a baker so I don't have use a measuring device. lol An Artisan Baker won't be buying a book of recipes aimed at the home baker (other than out of curiosity) With all due respect of course. : -) 

SDG

maggie664's picture
maggie664

Wouldn't it be a bit confusing for US bakers if I am right in thinking that imperial measures are still used there? Some recipe books do give alternative volume and weight measures (using metric weights). For years I've used a chart with metric weight converstions of cup (250ml) measures which I have found very useful. When we went over to metrics here there was a bit of relearning to do! M

Darkstar's picture
Darkstar

Maggie664,

Marking flour/ingredient weights in grams wouldn't be difficult for us at all provided we have a digital scale that can display grams.

 

Mine was ultra-cheap and it still does grams and has the all-important tare function.

 

Now not to say we wouldn't be driven batty by trying to figure out metric distance measurements.  I personally have no idea how long a killometer is (not COMPLETELY true) but I could probably pace out a mile or several yards.  What we learn growing up is what we best understand when grown.  That said, thank goodness for technology!

sphealey's picture
sphealey

> Wouldn't it be a bit confusing for US bakers if I am right

> in thinking that imperial measures are still used there?'

Science instruction in the US from 1st grade on is primarily done in SI units, and almost all school districts require at least one laboratory class at the high school level. So just about everyone in the US can if they so desire follow recipes in SI units.

The flipside is that it is somewhat like using a different language: if 97% of your recipes are in US ANSI volume measurements that is the "language" you will feel most comfortable in and you will tend to look askance at recipes in SI mass measurements.

sPh

BROTKUNST's picture
BROTKUNST

Mike, I respectfully disagree. When I give you a recipe and tell you to use '2 1/2 to 4 cups' of flour then I'd have no clue what I am actually telling you. The Hydration of a dough is significant - of course one has to make small adjustments to their Hydration depending on the brand and type of flour. But it's quite something different if you bake a loaf with 66% or 41% Hydration (increasing flour in a 2.5/4 ratio). Your Hydration may vary a few percent at best from the original formula - if you intend to reproduce the same kind of dough. A 25% variation in the Hydration level is just not very practical. Try it out ...

Also, if you want to learn from your own experience (and share it with others) you have to be consistent. Therefore weight units are the only reliable way to be able to reproduce results and assure a proper communication. Since most household scales only way in increments of whole grams or 1/20  to 1/100 oz and don't always register minute changes in weight, volume measurements may be handy for salt and yeast when you prepare a small dough.

Besides that, a person who would just start to bake tends to impatiently lower the Hydration of the dough by adding more (and more) flour in order to achieve the 'right' feel. Some are surprised that they end up with a brick in the oven. Patience comes from the confidence that you know what you are doing. So I would feel it is important to give a novice good directions, not just  some broad fingerpointing to a flour sack.

Either way, to me this is not really up for a serious discussion and I feel that whatever is reality for you is good for you. It's your bread and I respect that.

BROTKUNST

Mike Avery's picture
Mike Avery

Brotkunst said,

When I give you a recipe and tell you to use '2 1/2 to 4 cups' of flour then I'd have no clue what I am actually telling you.

That is my point exactly. When you tell me to use cups at all, you have no idea what you are telling me. When a cup of flour can vary from less than 100 to more than 200 grams, you don't know what I am going to do. You have a very good idea of what you mean when you say "3 cups of flour"

But you're a sifter. And I'm a scooper. And I'm gonna make a brick if I follow your instructions. Because you meant about 360 grams of and I understood about 600 grams of flour.

If one has to mention cups, and in the USA it is necessary if you want to sell a cookbook, the only honest way to do so is to use a range. And then specify what the dough should feel like. "This is a soft dough" "This is a stiff dough"

If you want to be consistent, and if you want to learn from your efforts, weighing is a BIG step in the right direction.

Mike

 

BROTKUNST's picture
BROTKUNST

I agree with you, Mike, that 'cups' and 'scoops' are part of the US's emperial system and still well rooted in people's minds. Still, if one writes a book one should say how  one, as the author, scoops and then publish the formulas.

My point is that the broad range is a problem. As somebody else mentioned, giving 'cups' and 'weight' is a good alternative. Easy to handle for the cup-enthusiast and appropriate for the ones that go by weight.

It's true that the description of the dough is very (very!) helpful in any case and the major publishings that are often cited do a great job with that.

BROTKUNST

Mike Avery's picture
Mike Avery

I agree with you, Mike, that 'cups' and 'scoops' are part of the US's emperial system and still well rooted in people's minds. Still, if one writes a book one should say how one, as the author, scoops and then publish the formulas.

Basically, if you have to use cups in a recipe, you have to do SOMETHING to make the measurement meaningful or you haven't communicated. Some cookbooks do that and tell you to "sift the flour, spoon it into a cup, scape off the excess and repeat until you go blind" And except for the go blind part, that is good advice. If I know how the author filled the cup, I am that much closer to preparing the recipe as the author intended.

The old Joy of Cooking also used the range method. And many of the recipes used a 2x range of flour. "2 to 4 cups" sort of thing.

Mentioning how the dough should feel is a good idea, but some descriptions aren't all that wonderful. Everyone has heard the "should feel like a baby's butt" line. And my favorite was a friend who gave me a family recipe for biscuits. In his family the men folk made the biscuits, while the womenfolk made the rest of the meal. And the recipe was handed down from father to son for many generations. The line in the recipe about how the dough should feel was, "the dough should feel like a young woman's breast." Immediately after that was an admonition to not play with the dough too long. But we won't go there. Maybe it's been too many years and I've forgotten what a young woman's breast, or a baby's butt, felt like... but I seem to recall they didn't all feel the same.

In my classes I sometimes use that story, and I ask if any young women are willing to help me improve my baking. So far none have been. Of course, my wife is always in the class helping me, which might put a damper on this particular way of helping the teacher.

Mike

sourdough-guy's picture
sourdough-guy

I don't mean to be sycophantic but Mike really knows what he's talking about, if you think he's wrong you've more than likely got the wrong end of the stick. Don't tell him I said that though. : -) 

 

SDG

BROTKUNST's picture
BROTKUNST

You assume I don't know what I am talking about ?  :-)

BROTKUNST

ehanner's picture
ehanner

Stubborn beyond reason perhaps.

Eric

sourdough-guy's picture
sourdough-guy

 No of course not, but I thought Mike put it very well, and essentially was agreeing with your first post but adding a little explanation to show why the book was written that way.

 

SDG

bluezebra's picture
bluezebra

Hi Brot, I haven't read the book under discussion but a couple of things come to mind from the title. "Secrets of a Jewish Baker".

We used to tease my grandmother about her cooking style. A handful of this. A pinch of that. Season to taste. Cook it to look. A scoash of that. Her recipes that were passed down literally looked like that and had those measurements. As recipe users, we had to rely on our instincts and memory of what her dishes tasted like, not to mention being able to remember about how big her hands were in case ours were bigger or smaller. Cuz my handful of this might be entirely different than her handful.

I think the old fashioned cooks had it goin on. In fact most of them, who learned to cook by watching and through anecdotal recipes were incredible instinctual cooks. But they also knew something that maybe we forget. A measuring cup/spoon or scale does not a cook make. But consistency does make for a great cook over time.

Let me give you an illustration. My grandmother's biscuits...

What that means is...my grandmother used the same tea cup to measure flour each time she made biscuits. Now I gaurantee that cup did not hold a "cup" of flour by weight or measure. She also use the same method every time to get the flour in the cup for biscuits and other baked goods. She used a spoon to convey the flour to the cup. She used the same "tablespoon" (serving spoon) to measure her lard for the biscuits and filled them the same way each time. She used the palm of her hand for measuring the salt, baking soda, baking powder and she eyeballed the milk once the fat and drys were cut together (again using her hands). Then she used the back of the tines of a fork to bring the dough together just briefly and set it aside with a cloth over it to rest for 30 minutes while she let the oven preheat. She then tumped the dough out onto the counter where she had put 2 light handfuls of flour down and patted the dough into the proper shape and thickness. Using the top of a jelly glass she would rub it in the flour then cut straight down to the bottom of the dough and give a twist at the last minute. She'd pick up the biscuit and place it so they lightly touched each other on a pan. She would dip her fingers into a glass of milk and rub it lightly onto the top of each biscuit then she would bake them till "they smelled done". She didn't have a clock or a watch to look at. But she smelled them and only then did she open the oven to look at them and by then it was time to take them out.

Sorry for the long story but what that illustrated was that she was great with consistent methodology. To use scientific method here: she had repeatability through the accuracy and consistency of her actions and the tools she used even though those tools aren't the same "measure" ounce for ounce that we use today. The rough PROPORTIONS were the same though. Her recipes just made a little more of the same proportions of ingredients. She may have had to titrate the recipe (2-1/2 - 4 cups) to get a variation that was to "her taste" and comfort. But once she did, she repeated that.

I think that there is much more to cooking than pure weights and measures. Like my grandmother, repeatable scientific method is important in order to get consistency. After doing the same thing with the same recipe for awhile you know "instinctually" when the recipe is right. By look, by feel, by smell, by taste. Using the tools God gave us.

I think this is the intent of the Jewish baker (like a Jewish mother), like a little Irish grandmother. The secret is in learning the basic proportions and finding "your code" or titration that makes it perfect for your location, your tastes, your memories and then repeating that personalized recipe for generations to come.

BTW, my grandmother's method also created "job security" for her...because to this day, we still can't duplicate her apple dumpling recipe and if she were still alive, her job would be safe and gauranteed! :)

Just my 2 cents! Hope this long-winded illustration aptly conveyed my thoughts. I will have to go back and re-read and no doubt, edit!

Mike Avery's picture
Mike Avery

BTW, my grandmother's method also created "job security" for her...because to this day, we still can't duplicate her apple dumpling recipe and if she were still alive, her job would be safe and gauranteed! :)

 

My now departed mother in law's mother made what I am told was the most wonderful Philadelphia Pepper Pot soup in the world. Sadly, my MIL never got the recipe or procedure, and as a result, neither did my wife or I.

There have been some serious gaps in American culinary knowledge. A recent commercial for KFC featued a kid calling their mom because the kid been invited to have dinner with his friend's family. The kid's mother couldn't believe that they were eating at home. "Oh yes!" the friend's mom assured the kid's mom, "we got chicken at KFC and we're having a family meal!"

I am SO conflicted here. I really am glad that they are eating together. I strongly believe that eating together as a family is one of the strongest glues that holds a family together. But when KFC (or Boston Market, or Marie Callendar or Totinos) is the only way that happens, I think an element of caring and sharing are missing.

When my son was a kid (he's in college now), he invited friends over. And they were often surprised that we cooked almost all the meals we ate. And they were amazed that the biscuits (whose dough did not feel like any anatomical part I've ever felt) were good. "WOW! These are really good for home made!" was an accolade I am especially proud of.

But moms used to teach their sons and daughters (mostly daughters) how to cook. And, by and large, they've stopped doing it. Maybe the sons and daughters don't want to learn. Maybe mom has stopped doing anything that isn't heat'n'serve so there's no real reason to teach a kid how to do it. "Just read the label junior. We have a 700 watt microwave, so nuke it a little longer than the box says."

But I think we are all the poorer for it. I never met your grandmother, but I am sure I would have liked her.

Mike

 

zolablue's picture
zolablue

First I have to say I love all ways of baking and cooking.  I love that Glezer's book tells what measurinng spoons are calibrated to give the most accurate measurements if you don't weigh and also includes that if you use cups for flour to scoop and level to get the most accurate to her recipes.  But I found that weighing on my scales is so much fun as well and I love to compare.

As for using amounts like 3 1/2 - 4 1/2 cups of flour, that is what my grandmother's recipe says for the Memo bread I just have learned from my aunt.  That is how they did it in those days and frankly it works for me since I've been learning more and more.  I find it quaint and it makes me think of how they did things then.  I've been lucky enough to have help for that recipe that was so important in our family and a few others.  It is so important to try and keep those traditions alive if you can.  I always cooked and baked with my mother.  To this day I love to stir things because that was so much fun as a child.  My husband will start to stir something and say, oh, I bet you wanted to do this...and I do.  Important stuff.  And is why I'm especially impressed with the folks on this forum who are baking with their children.  They are creating very strong memories and lotsa love.

So I think there is room for both ways.  Sometimes the science is fun and I love trying to understand what and why.  But I also love learning to experience feeling your way around the dough and using your instincts.  I think it all makes us better bakers.

pjkobulnicky's picture
pjkobulnicky

Here is an interesting phenomena i have noticed in baking cookbooks ... especially ones coming from bakers or bakeries.  They almost never use weights or bakers percentages. They almost always use volume measurements. I am willing to bet it is because they don't want their commercial recipes to be too easily copied. I always wondered why Maggie Glezer was successful in getting her interviewees to participate. I guess the success of those bakers is already guaranteed.  

I didn't see this above but one doesn't do special things to get a cup of flour to weigh the right amount (jiggle, shake, scrape, tap, etc.); one does the opposite. A cup of flour is accurately 5 oz of flour.  If I were given the 2.5 to 4 cups line I would assume that what was really needed was 12.5 oz (2.5 cups times 5 oz per cup). The higher end of the scale of 4 cups assumes, as it should , that volumes are always "light".

I'm a home baker but I have been working on a small line of baked goods that I am thinking of selling locally (from home). Getting the process and the recipes down to a sure thing takes a lot of practice. So, a little of this and some of that works if you don't worry at all what the outcome is. But, if you want to give a loaf to a neighbor to thank them for a favor, I'd want to make sure that I gave them something I knew would be good.

 

Paul Kobulnicky

Baking in Ohio

sourdough-guy's picture
sourdough-guy

  •  

    'I didn't see this above but one doesn't do special things to get a cup of flour to weigh the right amount (jiggle, shake, scrape, tap, etc.); one does the opposite. A cup of flour is accurately 5 oz of flour.  If I were given the 2.5 to 4 cups line I would assume that what was really needed was 12.5 oz (2.5 cups times 5 oz per cup). The higher end of the scale of 4 cups assumes, as it should , that volumes are always "light".'

 Sorry Paul, I appreciate your sentiment and I agree with it but this paragraph isn't right. First Mike has said that we did a survey on rfs to see what people get when they weigh out a cup of their flour, it went from 100g to 200g for one cup. I tend to get around 155g. So there is nothing accurate about measuring with cups, convenient, comfortable, nostalgic, romantic, perhaps, but accurate? Far from it.

A comment was also made about professional bakers not publishing weights. I don't know about the US bakers but here in Europe it is very much the norm.

What many people tend to forget is that all of this is stemming from attachment to culture. Doing what Mom did. I don't think there's anything wrong with doing what your Mom did. But let's not fool ourselves that just because Mom did it it's better, easier, or more homely. What's important is that we cherish each other not that we focus on the minutia, the details of what our parents did. Being kind and supportive is what is important. How we bake is not worth a damn as far as family values goes. I only ever spent time with my Dad when he was doing DIY, I was glued to him asking all number of whys and hows. I spent time with both parents and grandparents doing whatever they did, what they were doing or how the did it really isn't important. My Nan was the best baker around by a long shot and anyone will tell you that. She always, and I mean always weighed everything. I used cups for baking for ten years because the first good book that I got gave measurements in cups. Unfortunately, I didn't find out til I started weighing, my ciabatta dough was more like a bagel dough. Without someone with me to point that out I had no way to know that. This has been thrashed to death at rfs and most people have had to agree that if you want to communicate, that's the point here, a recipe accurately weight measurements is the best. Yes flours vary from each other but not as much as one cup scooped by Martha to a cup scooped by George.

SDG

bluezebra's picture
bluezebra

I won't presume that your reply was aimed at me, but I do want to go ahead and clarify my post.

1. You can always bet when you read one of my posts that it will never be judgemental. I will never be telling someone my way is the right way. I will never be making a value statement on someone. So take that to the bank and if I ever do slip up and do that? Please call me on it. Cuz I deserve to have my hands slapped, that's how much I hate it.

2. I think maybe I didn't make myself clear in my illustration. I wasn't trying to wax romantic or nostalgic. I wasn't trying to discount the need for weighing over measuring. I think this use of technology has improved baking skills by creating repeatability to the "nth" degree.

3. What I was trying to say is that there is more to cooking than merely weighing things. There is repeatable scientific method. bwraith is great at documenting how he does stuff. Why? So he can either a) do it that same way again to achieve awesome results or b) so he can change something to get a different result.

That is what the illustration of my grandmother's biscuit baking was all about. Because I watched her from the time I was itty bitty. I was always on a chair beside her watching her cooked until she died when I was 7 (handing me a glass of o.j. at the breakfast table on sunday morning...ironic yes?) She followed the same steps and used the same tools. The fact that her biscuits didn't vary much (I never remember them not rising, being too dry, being too wet, meant that within a small +/- error, she managed to make consistently good biscuits with very rudimentary tools. (this was back in the 60s) I bet if she were around and would weigh things today, they would still taste about the same.

4. That is what I'm betting the Jewish baker was trying to emphasize. First of all, he obviously wrote the book for a particular market: maybe that market isn't the super achiever home baker or professional baker. Maybe the market is the average home cook, who doesn't own or understand the importance of scale?

5. The name itself "The Jewish Baker"...connotes someone who cooks by tradition and repetition. It connotes artisanal. It connotes comfort and knowledge. Security. Maybe his point is that doughs and recipes are much more forgiving than we give credit for? I don't know.

Anyway, thanks for listening. I admire and respect your baking skills tremendously SD-G.

sourdough-guy's picture
sourdough-guy

Hi Bluezebra,

 

what I was saying wasn't really aimed at anyone, it was merely my thoughts come about by reading many peoples posts over the years, and really in relation to what Mike said, though I did skim through your post. I didn't in anyway think you were judgemental, I think you highlighted many things that could well be the cause for some of the posts I've read on this cups v scales topic that I until reading that hadn't been aware of. But replying to your post, no. I often poor out my thoughts in a post without anyone in mind though it may have been inspired by what one person had said. I think sometimes people read me badly because I'm English, that and having the tact of hippo. But I'm honest and really don't have any negative feelings for anyone, that last longer than a lighted match anyway. For the things people do, okay but that's different, I don't take what others say any more seriously that myself. 

I read a study of people that were shown shapes moving about on a screen. People were told to watch and then answer questions. One group were told nothing about the shapes, one group were told that they owned the circle and another group that they owned the triangle and so on.  The ones that were told they owned the triangle thought the circle was being aggressive, and so on. We're funny creatures. lol. 

I don't see any problem in putting my thoughts down on a screen, I tend not to take them seriously so get quite surprised when others take them personally. I don't think I ever get personal, not in a negative sense at least. I don't think anyone is bad just that some of the things they do or say come from a bad place. But we're all human. 

Anyway now I'm really rambling. lol. Every day is a new day and every thought a new thought. 

 

SDG

bluezebra's picture
bluezebra

I want to also reassure you that I don't "read you poorly". I do understand your posts! I was responding because like you, something in your post got me to thinking and motivated me enough to go back and clarify some things in my original post! lol. Isn't communication cool?

I think the best thing about tfl.com and the community here is that it really does feel like a community. And in a community people get to the point of caring enough about the other members of the community to clarify and clearly communicate. That takes time and effort and desire to reveal parts of themselves they may not do for everyone. lol.

So it's all good! Interesting stuff about the preconception study. I also enjoy learning about personal and social thought order and development and how it influences our interactions with each other.

 Happy baking!

sourdough-guy's picture
sourdough-guy

Thanks bluezebra  I appreciate that. This is becoming a really great, normal community where people look out for each other and take the time for each other isn't it?. That's why I stick around. : -)

SDG

bluezebra's picture
bluezebra

You know I haven't been here long so I don't have any reference to what it was like early on, but I can say, this is a terrific community of people. I think over time it can only get better, especially if we all get familiar with each other's writing styles and know a bit about the inner workings of their minds and personalities. Makes it much easier to infer and even sometimes grant the benefits of doubt to posts.

I'm overwhelmed at the amount of time so many have taken to help me grow from completely novice baker to a state of producing if not awesome goods, then at least edible bread! bwahahahahahaha! That's not to say that Ellie May Clampitt has made a permanent exit I'm sure. But the learning curve thanks to all of you and Floyd along with the incredible wealth of information you get here has really made it a much shorter cylce!

I hope yall will let me stick around for quite a long while to come! And I'm glad you're here SD-G! Maybe one day I will know enough to be able to return some of the help your posts have given to me! (hey btw? your pagnotta recipe as I copied it from Bill's thread is going to become our weekly bread. The crumb is so "there". It's chewy and full-flavored and the crust when re-warmed is just thick enough with a great crisp. The creaminess of the crumb also stands up to the test of time. Thanks for the recipe and instructions!) 

sourdough-guy's picture
sourdough-guy

Thanks, I'm sure you can teach me a thing or two already. I'm still learning so much, who'd o' thought there was so much to bread? : -)  

 

SDG

Paddyscake's picture
Paddyscake

to convey in the 2nd post on this subject. Thank you for explaining it better than I. I'm a person of few words and therefore, not always understood. I was speaking about the author of the book, not Mike A.

pjkobulnicky's picture
pjkobulnicky

My comment about a cup of flour weighing 5 oz was NOT based on my emperical evidence.  It was factual. If you want to know what a cup of flour SHOULD weigh if done perfectly it SHOULD weigh 5 oz. Look it up in any of the conversion charts. My point is that when you see an ambiguous volume measurement, you can readily convert it to accurate weights by using the standard conversions. Even Joy of Cooking had such charts back when granny was doing a dab of this and splash of that. 

 

I often use the Macrina Cafe cookbook and if you convert her "cups" of flour to 5 oz per cup, the recipes all work perfectly. When you are making a recipe for the first time, you gotta use weights to see what you are striving for.

 

Paul Kobulnicky

Baking in Ohio

zolablue's picture
zolablue

I was thinking about this and wondered if you, BROTKUNST, dislike the book for other reasons as well as the measurements or if it is just that reason alone.  I ask because I hate to think what could be a delightful book would be thought of as not good so others would not try it.  Of course, we can all think for ourselves but you know what I'm getting at.  In trying to rewrite some very old family recipes I have gotten a whole new respect for those who write cookbooks of any type.  It is sheer horror!  :o)  It takes an awful lot of dedication and fortitude so I respect the efforts.  Still, once in a while we just come across a book we plain don't care for which is also fine. 

 

Then I remembered (because I can't turn my brain off...hehe) that one of my favorite recipes, BBA, Pain a l'Anncienne, does this very same thing in the ingredient list: 

"...2 1/4 cups plus 2 tablespoons to 3 cups (19 to 24 ounces) water ice cold (40°F)..." 

 

Then he says in the instructions: 

"...The dough should be sticky on the bottom of the bowl, but it should release from the sides of the bowl. If not, sprinkle in a small amount of flour until this occurs (or dribble in water if the dough seems too stiff and clears the bottom as well as the sides of the bowl)..."  

 

So you see, even Peter Reinhart has done this.  And I might add Hamelman, very well respected, makes reference all the time in his recipes to "adjust hydration by adding small amounts of flour or water" and I'm certain Glezer does this as well. 

 

So perhaps in the book you reference in this post it is just another way of stating what other cookbook authors do.  Maybe it will make you rethink the book and find you like it more than you thought at first.  That would be good especially if it has wonderful, tasty recipes. 

 

Paul, is it not true that if you measure flour by cups it will matter what type of flour it is to determine a true weight?  A cup of rye or whole wheat will weigh more than regular AP flour, right? 

BROTKUNST's picture
BROTKUNST

Zolablue, I just mentioned my opinion about the book. I am not a member of the National Book Critic Circle, so my opinion like any other should be taken with a grain of salt. I returned the book, it did not work for me. That does not mean of course that you or somebody else could not absolutely love it.  However, that is kind of obvious, isn't it ?

BROTKUNST

sourdough-guy's picture
sourdough-guy

 Paul, you'll have to explain that one. I will say just one thing. According to KA one cup of I think AP flour should weigh 120g. According to Il Fornaio Baking Book a cup of flour should weigh 125g. 

 

The author of this site reckons

 

http://www.cooking-solutions.com/conversions.html

 

Food Equivalents Flours:

4 oz/ 114g. plain/strong/sifted = 1 Cup all-purpose/self-raising/unbleached = 5 oz/ 142g. unbleached white
6 oz/170g. wholemeal/stoneground = 1 Cup whole wheat
4 1/2 oz/127g. cornflour = 1 Cup cornstarch
6 oz/170g. yellow corn meal/polenta = 1 Cup coarse corn meal/polenta 6 oz/170g. rye flour = 1 Cup


http://www.hintsandthings.co.uk/kitchen/weights.htm


 

COMMODITY

BRITISH
MEASURE

METRIC EQUIVALENT
(APPROX)
AMERICAN
EQUIVALENT
Flour4 oz. (ounces)115g1 cup

http://www.ellis.flyer.co.uk/jill_measures.htm
   

 

I'm not sure what this one means:

 

 

http://www.thenutfactory.com/kitchen/facts/facts-almond.html

 

1 cup flour = 5.3 oz

http://www.sweetnapa.com/volume-to-weight-ingredient-conversion/


Flour - All-Purpose, dipped - cup - 5 oz; 140 g

Flour - All-Purpose, spooned - cup - 4 oz; 114 g

Flour, King Arthur Unbleached All-Purpose - cup - 4.25 oz; 120 g

(note: flour measurements can be all over the place, depending on what your sources are. I use this type of flour, so this is what I’m going by)

Flour, AP Bleached, Sifted - cup - 113 g

Flour - Bread, spooned - cup - 4.5 oz; 128 g

Flour - Cake, dipped - cup- 4.6 oz; 130 g

Flour - Cake, Self-Rising - cup = 1 c Cake Flour, 1.5 tsp Baking Powder, and pinch Salt

Flour - Cake, sifted - cup - 3.5 oz; 99 g

Flour - Cake, spooned - cup - 4 oz; 112 g

Flour - Oat - cup - 3.1 oz; 90 g

Flour - Rye - cup - 2.75 oz; 78 g

Flour - Soy - cup - 3.75 oz; 106 g

Flour - White Rice - cup - 5.6 oz; 160 g

Flour - Whole Wheat - cup - 5.25 oz; 149 g

Flour - Whole Wheat Pastry - cup - 3.1 oz; 90 g


Very confusing. 

 

SDG

maggie664's picture
maggie664

For 40 years of baking, using US, Australian and NZ recipes I have always understood that the standard volume measure of 1 cup =250ml. Correspondingly I have always understood that 1 level cup (250ml as marked on the measuring jug) of flour which is tapped firmly to allow the particles to settle) weighs 155g.

sourdough-guy's picture
sourdough-guy

 

I think Auzy cups are different to US cups, US cups are 240ml I thought Google says almost.

I think this is good enough reason for a newbie to spend his/her money on some scales, unless they really enjoy this confusion : -)

Can just add, I do love my cups, I use them quite often for cooking I even use them when I'm baking but I use the scale when baking at the same time, using the cup as a scoop. They're great for that.

SDG

maggie664's picture
maggie664

Hi Sourdough-guy,
Actually I'm a NZer!
Yonks ago I undertook a Home Science degree and our Foods lectures and pracs were taken by someone who did her M H Sc at an American university. She sort of 'authorised' that a standardised cup was 250ml because of her recent American stint! But if I am incorrect because she was wrong - so be it. My cooking, otherwise, hasn't suffered. Even using American recipes (which use cup measures) for hospital menus where they have been increased x 100 - 150% have not been a problem. I still use a 250ml cup measure when using an American recipe, when called for, and the results are satisfying. I am 65 (ye gods - I've been forced to admit it!) and I will continue to use the 250ml cup measure for appropriate recipes from all 3 countries afore mentioned!

sourdough-guy's picture
sourdough-guy

HI Maggie,

 

: -) yeah I think for the vast majority of things that we cook I don't think 10 mill will matter at all. If you're measuring everything by the same cup anyway then it's the same. A cup is a cup. I always use a large cup for my dahl recipes, no matter how many times I make them I just can't remember the recipe. The curries to go with, notice it's the curry that goes with the dahl, lol, I just put in a handful of this and a pinch of that. you'd never no the difference.  

SDG

Rosalie's picture
Rosalie

I found this thread Googling "Secrets of a Jewish Baker".  I took the 1993 edition out of the library yesterday and am in love with it (despite the lack of weights).  I think it's the promise of "tips" that got my attention.  I didn't realize that there was a new edition.

Now that I know it's been re-issued, I may buy it.  I prefer having weights (especially since I grind my own grains and have to estimate how much to grind) but I can handle it.

Rosalie

dmsnyder's picture
dmsnyder

Hi Rosalie,

You will love the book even more after baking rye breads from Greenstein.Reading through this old thread, I think the discussion had little to do with the true value of this book.

The "secrets" are not the number of cups (or grams, for that matter) of flour, but the techniques. The importance of rye sour for authentic Jewish (and gentile) rye bread. How to build and maintain a sour. How to make an onion filling. The outrageous method of producing "corn bread." How to fold an authentic kaiser roll. And so forth.

I weigh ingredients. It's a more accurate method than measuring volumes, especially of flour. But I don't think I've ever baked a loaf without adding a quarter cup more of this, a splash of that, etc. to get the dough where I thought it ought to be before fermentation. I bet we all do.

And my notion of where a dough ought to be develops from looking at the resulting crust and crumb and, most importantly, eating what I bake. I've not yet baked a perfect loaf, so I'm always saying, "Next time, I'm going to ... (try a higher hydration, add less salt, etc.)"

Using Greenstein's book, I've been able to make as good a sour rye as I've ever had from a bakery. And I bet next time, it will be better because of what I've learned from the last time I baked it. That's a book worth keeping. </rant>

David

RFMonaco's picture
RFMonaco

I totally agree dymsnyder...it's a great book with good info.

ehanner's picture
ehanner

David I totally agree with your take on this. If I have learned anything about artisan baking it's that the technique is everything in the creation of great bread. Matters of timing and handling are far more important to understand than having an exact amount listed in a recipe. For all the variables that have been hashed out here and elsewhere, a successful baker learns to know what the correct hydration and development feels like through trials and error. "Secrets" is one of the better books for helping me understand what I should be looking for.

Eric

TableBread's picture
TableBread

I actually ordered this book with the intention of baking more "Jewish" things.  I have several Jewish friends and I was looking forward to surprising them with authentic Jewish breads and baked goods.

This book however, doesn't really deliver on that one.  Now, I'm not saying the book mis-represented itself or anything like that.  I just made a silly assumption.  Usually if a book points out the religous belief or background of the baker they are implying that the baker is baking said items - IMHO.

Other than that it does have some good recipes that we have enjoyed.

 

~TableBread

http://tablebread.blogspot.com

 

 

RFMonaco's picture
RFMonaco

What "Jewish" things were you looking for?

TableBread's picture
TableBread

Nothing specific really, just something to surprise them.  Maybe something like a traditional bagel recipe of Locks (spelling?) or Challah bread.  I have eventually found some really good recipes for these things but that was what I thought I was buying when i got this book.

nbicomputers's picture
nbicomputers

did you mean lox  as in bagels and lox (smoked salmon)

lox is a salted smoked salmon the les salted version is from nova or scotland.

it is very hard to find real lox today since most people stay away from heavly salted products

Rosalie's picture
Rosalie

I did order the book, and I noticed that there are notations next to the yield for the first version of each recipe.  I finally figured out that they were Jewish dietary notations.  The circled D must mean dairy, because there's milk powder in each one of those.  The circled P is still somewhat of a mystery - pareve??

Anyway, I'm not Jewish.  I figured a Jewish baker must have some good techniques.  My favorite breads when I was young back in Upstate New York were a Jewish rye and a braided bread.  I assume the braided bread was challah, but I'm not sure it was seasonal.

Rosalie

auntmimi's picture
auntmimi

The word "Pareve" indicates containing neither milk nor meat ingredients.

I'll have to pull out my copy of "Secrets".  I have had it for quite some time (I acquired it as a gift) so, I don't think it is the new edition.  I didn't even know there was a new edition out.

Rosalie's picture
Rosalie

If that's what "Pareve" means, then maybe that's not what's meant, as many of the recipes have both symbols.  Unless it means that the dairy is optional.

Rosalie

cordel's picture
cordel

This has been such an interesting discussion. My mother baked the same way as Blue Zebra's grandmother. She had what she called a "breakfast" cup, that she used for measuring flour, and her shortening was always measured by "the size of an egg". Now that confused me, since we had hens and egg sizes varied wildly, from pullets to double yolked, but her egg was always the same size. But, as Blue Zebra said, her success came from repeating her measurements accurately, each time.

I am delighted to have finally purchased a scale, so I can use the recipes that show volumes, and it really does help. But my sense of touch was developed by my mother, so comments on how the dough should feel, or react are particularly important to me. I have learned more about bread since finding The Fresh Loaf than in my 30 years of making it, sort of successfully (it was always better for the family than for company).

Eli's picture
Eli

Rosalie,

I would have to see it but the circled P could mean Pareve. Below is a link to most of the organizations that kasher stuff. Some are not here that are small or specific to a geographic area.

http://www.mazornet.com/jewishcl/Kosher/kosherorgs.htm

Eli

Marni's picture
Marni

Almost invariably, the P after a kosher symbol means that the product is kosher for Passover (Pesach) use.  It is a standard the kosher agencies stick to.  If there is a D, the product either is dairy or was made on equipment that processes dairy foods.  A DE means just the equipment had dairy usage.  The D and DE designations are not standard with all agencies, but close.  For example, a plain U in a circle would mean the food is pareve which means it has neither milk or meat/poultry in it.

In this case, though, I believe the author wants to let the reader know that the recipe can be made to be dairy or pareve.  She/He is not an a kosher certifying agency and just wants to be helpful.

These symbols are helpful to people with food allergies.

Marni

nbicomputers's picture
nbicomputers

lets try to shed a little light

the u in the circle stands for orthdox union

the is also a K in a C kind of symble standing for cof-K

both of these are kosher certifing bodies that certify the product is kosher nothing more

Since it is forbiden to mix milk and meat at the same meal products must be ether decleard meat, dairy, or parve

meat and dairy is self explaining

a simple P stands for parve

parve means the food does not contain ether meat or dairy products and can be consumed an a meal containing ether meat ot dairy

thats why kosher cakes and pastries will contain no milk or butter products

you cant have a slice of cake for desert after having a hambuger if the cake has butter or milk in it eggs are parve

most kosher bakeries do not use any milk or butter and use flavores that recreat the real thing. most cakes in a kosher bakery are sponge type since they use oil and not butter. when a solid fat is called for it must be a shortening type.

once a tool is used for a dairy item such as a cake pan used for a cake with butter in it the pan is now dariy and anything that come into contact with that pan is now also dairy if it has dairy in it or not.

the process for turning a pan back from dairy to parve is a long and slow job and calls for just about burning the heck out of the pan 

kosher bakeries find it simpler to just keep everything parve rather than keeping seperate mixing bowls pans, work tables and ovens for parve and dairy. which is the reason you will never see a cheese danish or a cheese cake in a kosher bakery

when a item calls for brushing with butter a small amount of butter flavor is mixed with oil and that is what is used

if an item is kosher for passover it will be clearly marked as such

Marni's picture
Marni

Kosher labeling can be hard to decode.  One of the leading authorities worldwide is the orthodox union that you mentioned. Here is their link to what the symbols mean. http://www.oukosher.org/index.php/learn/faq It's a bit off subject but it might be useful to someone.  Since there is some degree of subjectivity to kosher, there really is no definitive answer.

abrogard's picture
abrogard

This thread is about a year old I know, but I found it very interesting to read and I don't suppose it does any harm me adding a comment that comes to mind.


What about personal taste?  All this 2.5cups - 4cups business might indicate that it is truly up to you. Experiment, find what works for you.


This would allow for differences in measuring cups at the same time as allowing for difference in taste.


The same principal, surely, applies in many recipes in many parts of them.


When I cook, generally (as in more than just bread cooking, which I'm a newcomer at) I have those 'slack' quantities in mind all the time.  I measure out my ingredients within those broad limits.


To illustrate quite bluntly and obviously, I might make a stew thicker in fluid consistency deliberately by adding more of the ingredient that I expect to stew down to a thickener and other times, considering how I feel or perhaps the people I'm making it for, add less. Even more bluntly obvious is spice, hot spice, as in chili peppers.


One end of the range is too little to be worth putting in, the other end is overpoweringly too much.


Don't we all do that?


Just a thought.


I recognize there's probably a claim that the recipes wouldn't work at all - just wouldn't produce palatable bread - if one end or other of the range were selected.


But when saying that one must recognise the human facts of the situation. We are talking a cook here encouraged to try something and exercise some judgement - that is we are not talking a robot machine expected to arbitrarily select values from the range that are doomed to produce failure. A coming failure this is  probably betrayed or indicted early in the process. And the dumb initiative-less machine persists anyway.


No. We're talking intelligent human beings with an interest, a lively interest, in cooking. A human being that will recognise a range for what it is and what it signifies. And be prepared to work within it and be on the lookout for signs of how it is effecting the outcome.


 It is obvious I am not a good communicator or I wouldn't use all these words.


 I'm just trying to say it seems to me no one has mentioned that the leeway might be just that - leeway, intended to be intelligently used.


 

dmsnyder's picture
dmsnyder

I don't think anyone will argue with "personal taste" being a factor in choices we make about almost anything. However, the range of flour volume in Greenstein's recipes is not because of differences in taste. Rather, it is in recognition of the imprecision of measuring flour by volume and the differences in water absorbtion of different flours. The intended dough consistency is meant to be consistent, not variable.


However, if you choose to make a bread with a different consistancy than intended by the author, you have a perfect right to do so.


David