The Fresh Loaf

News & Information for Amateur Bakers and Artisan Bread Enthusiasts

Measurements

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bobkay1022's picture
bobkay1022

Measurements

Ok folks. How do you know when you look at a recipe if it is a measuring cup full of flour 8 oz. cup? Or if it is a weight amd measure of a common ingredient  like Un bleached bread flour which for a cup of flour is 4.5 oz,


Certainly make a big difference and one big mistake or am I missing some thing.


To all the folks that wrote on my problems with convection baking.  I have now put in a conventional stove with a oven. How nice the bread is comming out  One loaf of Italian made 2 days ago such a nice chewey crust and a delicious crumb. Nothing to do with my question but two pix of the freah Italian Bread below.


Have a nice holiday every one.


Mr. Bob



Janknitz's picture
Janknitz

If the recipe contains cups and spoons (teaspoons, tablespoons) to measure ingredients, it is a recipe written for VOLUME, not weight. Do not assume a "cup" of an inredient will weigh 8 ounces. 


In order to convert such a recipe to weight, you have to know the weight of each individual ingredient.  For example,  1/2 cup of butter will weigh a different amount than an equal volume of oil, 1 tsp of salt will weight a different amount that 1 tsp of sugar,  etc.  Even Whole Wheat and All Purpose Flours weigh different amounts--one source puts them at 127 g and 120 g per cup, respectively (NOTE:  Just to make it more complicated, different sources vary on the weight of ingredients, particularly flour!  Find  a source you're comfortable with, and stick to that source--test it out by weighing a cup of flour you have filled over several trials to find a source that is close to the way you typically measure flour).   


You need to find a good reference (I just learned about this one today for flours:  http://www.traditionaloven.com/conversions_of_measures/flour_volume_weight.html)


And for other ingredients:  http://www.kingarthurflour.com/recipes2008/master-weight-chart.html


I write the weight of ingredients next to the volume measurements in books I own.  I prefer grams to ounces because it's easier to calculate fractions and percentages in grams. 


Once you convert to measurement by weight, you will not want to use volume any more--I love that I don't have to clean up 4 or more measuring cups and spoons every time I bake.  However, it's hard for an inexpensive scale to accurately measure very small amounts, so I still use my measuring spoons for those ingredients that are less than 10 grams or require fractions of grams. 


Janknitz

bobkay1022's picture
bobkay1022

Thanks folks,


   I agree with all the info. Just some recipes you have to wonder.  I have a scale plus a  weight and measure chart so I try to use a little common  sense.


     Nice to know folks on this forum will keep you informed


   Have a nice Holiday


Mr. Bob


   

ananda's picture
ananda

Ok, so I'm English, which may explain my thoughts shown below?


All my recipes are expressed as formulae, where flour is 100, and all other materials expressed as % of that.   This is based on WEIGHT, not volume.


The only sensible weighing system is the metric system; that way you multiply by easy factors such as 10 or 100.


Frankly, any recipe not written out this way isn't worth the paper it's written on.


So, you have 2 choices: work it out so it balances correctly, or go somewhere else and and find a decent recipe.


Recipes based on volumetric measuring will never work.   The Imperial system went out with the ark.   Welcome to the 21st century; it's so much brighter, accurate and easy here folks...come and join us and ditch the out of date stuff.


Have a great day


Andy

PMcCool's picture
PMcCool

I whole-heartedly agree that weight measurements give me better precision and accuracy, along with more predictable results, in my baking.  And I agree that metric measurements are much easier to work with.  And that bakers math makes scaling a formula up or down for a desired yield much, much simpler than other methods; especially those that are rooted in volume measurements.


However...


Volumetric recipes have worked for a long, long time and will continue to work for a long, long time.  I value those pieces of paper (especially the hand-written ones). 


More to the point, people have been making wonderful breads with absolutely no measuring devices whatsoever, other than their eyes and hands.  Their years of accumulated experience have taught them that "this much" of one thing and "that much" of another thing can be combined "this way" to produce something delightful.


So, yes, let us use whatever tools we have at our disposal, including scales.  And let us enjoy the myriad methods for producing one of our favorite foods, rather than being dismissive of anyone who does not follow our dictums.


Paul

davidg618's picture
davidg618

and beautifully said!


I was raised on wonderful breads, cakes, muffins, hotcakes, etc., etc. all made and baked with volume measurements--or none at all--and yet they were excellent. I doubt the metric system, weighing, or Baker's percentage would have made them even a whisper better.


I use all those excellent tools, but it's much more than that that make my baking successful.


David G

bobkay1022's picture
bobkay1022

Amen

Yumarama's picture
Yumarama

... you can't. Whatever the weight of the author/baker's "cup of flour" is all up to good guessing. Unless they specified somewhere in the book that their "cup" weighs X oz or grams, then all you can do is give it a good shot at about 4.25 to 4.5 oz (weight) and see if it works for you.


Keep notes of the amounts and your results and adjust accordingly. Accept that there will possibly be differences between your "cup" and theirs, your flour and theirs, the humidity when they were making their bread... and you can see where the "art" of bread making comes in. So that recipe is more a guide than an exact formula.


Even if it were given in milligrams, once you have everything together and start mixing and feeling, there's still the magical "and adjust as necessary" that you may need to avail yourself of to make the dough wetter or dryer. Because the flour, even from the same company, may be slightly more dry or humid one day than the next. Or the humidity in your kitchen may change. Or it may be warmer/colder... or... lotsa variable will necessitate a little clever handling beyond "use 4.5 oz (127g) of bread flour". 


And that comes with practice. Lots of loaves with some duds included. 


BUT for reproducing as close as possible, weight is still best. Doesn't completely remove the "artsy" part though.


And no, there doesn't seem to be an "official" weight to "a cup of flour" although it's generally ~4.25 - 4.5 oz, although I've seen pro bakers' books say everything from 3.5 to 5.5 oz or more. If the pros can't agree, how can we mere mortals? That's why "128g" is so much handier. It's precicely 128g. (And then you still "adjust as necessary" anyway).


 

bobkay1022's picture
bobkay1022

Wow  I sure got a lot of pros out of the woodwork on that question.  Now to digest it all and still remain a novice. 


Have a Happy Holiday


Mr. Bob

ananda's picture
ananda

I agree with rainbowz about the importance of the phrase "adjust as necessary".   Actually, that IS where the arty bit comes in, surely?


We have a very different range of flour in UK to those in the US.   I accept your point about humidity, although it is rarely an issue in our island where it tends to be cool and damp most of the time anyway!!   But yes different flours absorb different amounts of water.   I actually think that makes it all the more important to "do the bakers math" [ how it would be expressed in US, I believe?]


If you weigh accurately, both flour and water, then you know exactly what adjustments you need to make to achieve the correct dough for your needs that day; surely this gives an even greater understanding of the make up of your dough?


I don't want to be disparaging of anyone who makes bread at home; the bread in UK [mass-produced, anyway] is absolutely woeful.   Whilst the artisan movement is clearly way ahead in US, I guess the big boys are turning out the same rubbish we have to put up with?


Celebration of these wonderful breads is wholly appropriate.   Here, here!


But, I'm not sure how obsessing about a measuring system which is inherently inaccurate, is really going to help anyone arrive at a more accurately formulated recipe, which will definitely work, and bring greater understanding to the baker.   I absolutely take the point about the difficulty of weighing very small amounts of materials such as salt, baking powder, etc.   Yes, these are the critical ingredients too; small errors can be catastrophic!   A good set of digital scales, and exercising great care in weighing is so important.


It is good to see agreement that weighing is best for accuracy.   If we all moved forward to converting and using recipes in this format [metric too?!] we would make life so much simpler for those following on from us.   Maybe that would allow them to make greater new discoveries than our generation?   Over here all our bakers have come up with is how to add fancy chemicals and enzymes to eliminate the true characteristic of any good bread; namely fermentation.   There are a few of us challenging this, and we are the "Campaign for Real Bread"


Have a very Happy Holiday, all of you


Andy

clazar123's picture
clazar123

I'm laughing because there are several other threads on this and people got a little....insistent.....on their viewpoint in that thread.A recipe is a guideline so it should communicate what the author had in mind so the next person can try and get close to a similar outcome. A clear understanding of what measurements mean is a good starting place.Of course there are some adjustments to be made as you go.


The best cookbook format I saw was when the author used volume and weight. She wrote "Flour X lb-oz/X cup/X g". ALL the ingredients were listed this way. She was writing to an international audience and realized people used different but sometimes similar sounding measurements.She covered all the bases.


People can be inconsistent in how even a single recipe is written.I don't think it is always obvious what is meant when the term "ounces" is used.We are especially inconsistent in America. For example,in one recipe, flour will be listed as 16 oz, Water as 16 oz but you are supposed to intuitvely know that water is being measured in fluid ounces since it is liquid and the flour (not being a liquid) is in weight (as in 16 oz=1 lb and not as in 16 fluid ounces=2 cups).Or maybe it does mean 2 cups?Or did this recipe come from a European friend and the water really was in ounces by weight and this recipe is kind of mishmahsed in terms of units. See what I mean?


Any time "ounces" is used,it should actually be written "Fl.ounces" or perhaps "ounces-by wt" . That would save a lot of discussion and be very simple.I am not as comfortable with metric but that,indeed,would save a lot of discussion-but only after all the initial chaos of converting recipes.


My opinion.Here we go.


 

bobkay1022's picture
bobkay1022

Thats exactly what I was trying to get a answer for. Being a Novice at 76  it is a wonder that I even get a good loaf as lot of the recipes are vague in liquid or volume. I think that is one of the reasons my birds have ate about 40-50 lbs of my bread. My self not  thinking a cup  or ? of liquid in a liquid measuring cup . Was not the same as a cup of flour or so many oz. in the same measuring cup.  If not on a scale or estimate for flour in  oz./volume of a cup. .


Thanks for clearing the air


Mr. Bob


 

bobkay1022's picture
bobkay1022

Thanks


I will look into KA flour. Never heard of the other. Stores here can really be awful in flour. What goes for 1.98 for 5 lbs in one place goes for 4.99 in another and try to catch any of them  on the shelf for that price when your in the store.


I agree with your experience. It certainly is helpful.   I am not one for a debate or the politics of it. Hope no one on the forum feels his or her opinion is nothing but a opinion and what they have done with baking to their satisfaction works for them and that is all that is important. 


Nice to know that a forum is as open as it is here and no one has hurt feeling if some one else has a different way of doing things in baking.


Have a nice New year to all,


Bob 

jyslouey's picture
jyslouey

I have the same problem with meausrements so I tend to skip all recipes that use cups as unit measurements.  I'm not familiar with the metric systems either as I was was brought up to work with lbs and ounces. However, now that the metric system has become more common, I'm happy to use either but as mentioned earier, I skip any recipes using cups.


 

ananda's picture
ananda

Some good sound comments from Dillbert and jyslouey made above.


Flour quality is a variable; you have to use the information available to form an idea how each brand/type will perform.   You can use the nutritional info, plus all the info a Co. will give on its website to find out how the flour type will perform; but until that is known, yes, for sure, the recipe is not guaranteed.   Some things are beyond the authors' means.   However most reputable authors would specify a type of flour which works, if not a particular brand


I can't agree about a recipe being a guideline, however.   I teach baking in a College, so if my recipes were guidelines, I'd be lacking in any credibility whatsoever.   Also, if you are using recipes from half decent books, then what of the reputation of the author?   I don't think Mr. Hamelman et. al. would like to see their recipes cast off as guidelines?


"Once you convert to measurement by weight, you will not want to use volume any more--I love that I don't have to clean up 4 or more measuring cups and spoons every time I bake.  However, it's hard for an inexpensive scale to accurately measure very small amounts, so I still use my measuring spoons for those ingredients that are less than 10 grams or require fractions of grams. " Janknitz


This comment above is so true; I still think it's best to convert your recipes to weight using metric.   Regarding scales; it costs about £20 over here for suitably accurate digital scales.   With care, weighing accurately to a single gram is perfectly possible.   They are worth every penny.


For all that, I agree there is so much more to successful baking.   I don't ever want to stop learning new things about the wonders of real bread


To finish; a Happy New Year to all


Andy

Royall Clark's picture
Royall Clark

I agree with you Andy. It is so much easier and faster to use scales because clean up goes a lot faster. I'm far from a neat nick, but I can't stand to have a bunch of dirty utensils cluttering my rather small counter. Once I've got mise en place, every thing comes together quickly. Now I just need to learn how to time baking better to make several loaves while the oven is hot with out some of the loaves over proofing!


Aloha,   Royall

ananda's picture
ananda

It's not the mess that's ever concerned me Royall, tho' I do try and keep the necessary cleaning up to a minimum.   I just know volumetric measuring does not work.   If you are talking liquids, then a 1L measure is just a line on a measuring jug.   As for volumes of flour, well, how tightly do you pack a "cup"; some people haven't got their heads round a cup being 8 fl oz.   It's all a total lottery to me.   Using scales properly, and a gram is a gram is a gram!   No contest really.


Anyway, I think you and I agree on this, and I hope others come round to the same view.


To be more helpful to you; most obvious means to control your loaves for a viable baking schedule are dough temperatures, and yeast levels.   So if you are doing different batches of dough, you can vary the yeast levels [this works for pre-ferements as well]   If it is one batch of dough, then work out a retarding system, so you can keep some of your loaves back using your fridge, and others move at a faster rate in the ambient climes of your kitchen.   If you have cooler areas of the house, put some of your loaves there, others in the warmer areas; I'm sure you get the idea.


Best wishes


Andy

sheffield's picture
sheffield (not verified)

Some folks have a problem converting from ounces to grams.  I printed copies of this chart for my cookbooks and have taped them to the inside of the front cover of each of my books.


http://www.asknumbers.com/OuncesToGramsConversion.aspx

jyslouey's picture
jyslouey

I finally got myself an inexpensive digital scale  (without a bowl/tray) earlier this year and made use of a tray from a broken scale.   Some comes in both ounces and grams but are slightly more exp. 


I  used a regular scale before but found it difficult to measure for smaller amts. It is definitely worth the small investment to purchase a digital scale.

bobkay1022's picture
bobkay1022

Hi thanks for the coment. I bought one at Walmart for about $18.00 . Has all the different digital weights and so far very accurate.


Happy New Year also


Mr. Bob