The Fresh Loaf

News & Information for Amateur Bakers and Artisan Bread Enthusiasts

Introduction and a question

caspersgrin's picture

Introduction and a question


A newbie here and to escape enslavement to my breadmaker.  I've done several batches so far, all from recipes in my wife's old Betty Crocker cookbook.  And they actually didn't turn out bad, but I also want to get out from under enslavement to a cook book.

I've started reading Peter Reinhart's absolutely marvelous The Bread Baker's Apprentice and I'm keenly interested in the math-formula system.  If you look at the 20 pound example for Pullman (White) Bread on page 43, the numbers all work out.  But the recalculated version on page 266, does not and so I'm baffled. The resized recipe yields two 1-pound loaves or a total weight of 2-pounds and the total percentage is 194.9.  But when I add up the weight of the various ingredients, I get 42.4 ounces, and not 32 (16 ounces to the pound).  The formula does work using 42.4 ounces as the total weight, but not if I assume 2-pounds.

Somewher there is a disconnect In my understanding.  My interest in this problem is practical as I prefer 1.5-pound loaves which is not what the recipe as presented yields.  So, how do I glean what the total weight should be when the yields I want is two 1.5-pound loaves, or basically 3-pounds?




flournwater's picture

Welcome aboard .....

His formula on page 43 amounts to slightly over 10 pounds but the odd fraction is rather inconsequential.  The formula on page 266 may take into account the evaporation of water in the baking process but I can't be sure of that.  In any case, unless you're looking for a loaf that weights precisely 1.5 pounds, it's not worth being concerned about.

If you want to use the formula on page 266, simply increase each ingredient quantity by .25 (e.g. 21.5 ounces unbleached bread flour becomes 26.9  {27} ounces.

Just be sure to monitor the development of your dough so ensure that its density and texture are consistent with what you need for your bread.

It's difficult to be precise in publishing recipies, especially when you are converting bulk quantities to weight and trying to make ingredients that actually measure more precisely in grams to pounds and ounces.  Your ability to recognize (both feel and see) the proper and most advantageous points during the development of your dough is the key to optimal success.


PMcCool's picture

And welcome to TFL, by the way.

It is fairly typical for a loaf to lose about 15% of its weight, maybe more, during baking as water evaporates from the dough.  That isn't a hard number but it is in the neighborhood.  So, if you multiply the 42.4 ounces of dough weight by 0.85, the finished loaves (combined) should weigh about 36 ounces, or 18 ounces each.  That's close enough for a process (evaporation) that isn't controllable by the baker. 

I imagine that big bakeries can probably dial in a bit closer but they are also constrained (if selling by weight) to err on the high side so that they don't fall afoul of the authorities who monitor such things.  Given the variables that most of us as home bakers are forced to deal with, a couple of ounces drift in finished weight for the loaves is at the low end of the concern meter.  Your specific example of a Pullman loaf is one of the few that would actually be of concern, since the loaf is baked in a closed container.



Jaydot's picture


Because I once spent more than an hour in total confusion about the maths in a loaf in BBA (turned out to be my own mistake, actually), I took out the book and looked into this.

It gets worse :).

On page 125 it says "makes 3 1-pound loaves", and the total weight of ingredients is 48 ounces almost exactly.

On page 147, it says "makes 2 1.5-pound loaves", and the total weight is 43.

Perhaps we're being much too finicky, and final loaf-weight is simply an indication of the size of the loaf... 

Chuck's picture

AFAIK, the weights in the recipes are of the ingredients (not the finished loaves). The difference is the moisture lost during baking.

References to loaf sizes of "1lb, 1.5lb, 2lb, 3lb" seem to be a just a rough indication of size. They're used to determine things like which Brotforms to use, which loaf pans to use, how many loaves will fit on each sheet in the proofer, how many loaves will fit in the oven, and so forth.