The Fresh Loaf

News & Information for Amateur Bakers and Artisan Bread Enthusiasts

Cranberry walnut celebration nightmare

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astephens's picture

Cranberry walnut celebration nightmare

So I'm trying to make cranberry walnut celebration bread out of BBA.  Has anyone else had issues with the hydration of this recipe being WAY too high?  It's possible that I mis-measured something, but I weigh everything out with a scale, and am generally pretty accurate.

The only thing I can think of that went over was the eggs.  I'm making a double batch, so that called for 4 eggs (6.6 ounces), but my 4 eggs was 7.8 ounces.  The dough I poured out on the bench was thicker than a batter, but it was really really wet and sticky.  Total bench time was around 20-25 minutes, adding handful after handful of flour throughout.

What texture is this dough supposed to be after the bench time?  I was going for ever so slightly tacky but wouldn't stick to the bench.  Looking ahead to the braiding, I could see a sticky dough turning into a mess pretty quickly.

Here's the ball when I was done.  It was still soft and quite pliable, grabbed the bench but pulled away clean.  I was happy with it in the end, but I probably added 2 cups of flour on the table:

PastryPaul's picture

This is yet another reason to always go with weight-based  formulae.

Depending on where you live a standard "large egg" could weigh anywhere from 50 to 73 grams (1.75 to 2.6 ounces ). Further, eggs are only sorted by humans and/or technology, but they are produced by hens who don't really care what we consider to be "standard," so there will be some variance in weight within a size class.

Based on what you wrote, astephens, your eggs weigh 55 grams each, the eggs in the recipe weigh 48 (They would usually be classified as "medium eggs"), so you actually needed 3 and 1/3 eggs. That's easy enough to do by weight, not so much by volume or units.

If a recipe/formula offers weight scaling, ignore all other quantities and go with that. While you're at it. You may want to try going metric, at least for your baking. I can't remember when we Canadians switched, and, quite frankly, I never fully adopted it in my daily life. It's a teaching an Old Dog new tricks thing... I still order cold cuts by the pound and sometimes have to explain what a "pound" is. I still convert temperature to Farenheit, although I'm not sure how to spell it. Don't even get me started on liters per 100 kilometers as opposed to miles per gallon... BUT, when baking, it's metric all the way.

A gram is defined as the weight of a cubic centimeter (a cc) of water. A milliliter is the volume of a cc of water. This interconnectivity of weight and volume (for water at least) allows for some simple yet powerful tweaking and conversion possibilities.

Also, accuracy and scalability are improved (it's a lot easier to weigh out 73g rather than 2.572687 ounces).




astephens's picture

Ya, I'm firmly in the camp of 'I hate standard measures' as well.  I recently moved, and since my kitchen hasn't told me how it wants to be set up yet, so my conversion calculator was still in a box I haven't unpacked  :)  I rarely have my scale in any mode but grams.

I really wish books would include both units across the board.  For instance, Hamelman's Bread has both units, but only in the commercial batch size.  In the home scaling he includes only standard.  BBA decided to settle on standard only for some reason.   My newer scale can measure out to .05 ounces, so I at least have a better chance of getting those odd decimal ounce measures correct.

As for the eggs, it wasn't until after I had cracked them all in the bowl that I realized I should have whisked them up and measured out what I needed.  Live and learn.

Might as well post the result pictures.  The dough ended up being pretty easy to work with afterall.  The braiding went ok, I think I could have centered them a bit better.  After proofing they kind of slumped to the side a bit.  Delicious bread though, so that's really all that matters in the end.




PastryPaul's picture

Hamelman's Bread has both units, but only in the commercial batch size.  In the home scaling he includes only standard.


Hamelman also includes Bakers' Percentages which are weight-based. You can use BP to get to any quantity you need. Maybe this is old news to readers here, but ... what the heck... here goes.

Since formulae written in BP don't give a yield, many home bakers can't get their head's around it. When I first saw a formula written in BP back in Pastry School, I though, "Huhh?!? How can it total over 100%????? Did somebody flunk grade 7 math?" Bakers' Percentages describe a formula based on each ingredient's weight relative to flour, so flour is always at 100% since it is relative to itself.  To illustrate how to use BP, let's use the following ficticious formula:

  • Bread flour  100%
  • Instant Yeast 2%
  • Salt  2%
  • Water 66%

(Hmmmm, looks like a yeasty pizza dough, or a salty baguette, no matter)

Determining Yield: If we were to add up all the percentages, we would get 170% which can be stated mathematically as 1.7 times the flour weight. Since everything relates to the flour, if we use 100 grams of flour, we would end up with 170 grams of dough (100 X 1.7) or close enough as to not matter. If we use a kilo, we would get 1.7 kg of dough etc.

Determining Flour Weight from Desired Yield: Let's say we want 5 pizzas of 300 grams each, for a total of 1500 grams. How does BP help? Just divide the desired yield by the total percentages. 1500 divided by 1.7 equals 882, the amount of flour you will need to make 1500 grams of this formula (well, 1499 but let's not bicker)

Changes and Additions: One of the nice things about BP is that changes and additions do not affect the rest of the formula since it is all based on the flour. One sheet can hold hundreds of variations since each one is described only by the difference... the entire recipe is not repeated. For example, change this yeasty pizza dough to a cheezy crust by adding 20% shredded cheddar (20% of your flour weight). You wanna go whole wheat? Swap 25% of bread flour with whole wheat. (Whole wheat is still flour so the total flour fremains at 100%)

Once you get the hang of using BP, you will pretty much use it all the time. We even use a modified version for pastries where we use sugar as a basis rather than flour.


astephens's picture

I probably should get into the habit of using percentages. The scale I have even has a percentage mode, so I don't have much of an excuse.

Thanks for that awesome rundown on it, I'll have to read that a few times to digest.


EvaB's picture

I still like farenheit better, and miles per gallon (tricky when your odometer is in kilometers) but like you like the metric for baking. I have a nice scale that does both, and am slowly converting recipes to metric. But its a lot of work when you have a huge collection like I do! LOL

HeidiH's picture

I don't care how you measured!  I want a slice!!  It looks wonderful!

But actually, I found myself an easy convert from "a scoop and a handful" measuring to metric for making bread.  You can get an inexpensive scale at someplace like Target that will do grams and have a tare button.  We initially bought ours for measuring out meat portions and for that I still do use ounces.  Ours takes two double A batteries that I don't think we've changed in the five years we've had it! 

In some respects, metric is LESS fidgity for measuring the bread.  Let's say you are short or a little over on the flour because of you pantry supply.  All you need do is recalculate the numbers by the percentages.  It's great for experimentation, too. 

Matt H's picture
Matt H

I was hoping for some serious disaster porn here.

"I made a recipe and it was too sticky, so I had to add more flour"? And then your finished loaf looks like it came from a high-end bakery?

Seriously? That's your version of a flop? That's barely a slight inconvenience!

(Nice loaves by the way.)

PastryPaul's picture

I'd put those in my display case any day. If these are your nightmares you must truly have very sweet dreams



GSnyde's picture

Hardly a nightmare.



astephens's picture

Heh, well the nightmare part was the half hour before the picture of the dough ball. The combination of a really really wet dough, some really frantic slap and folding trying to beat some shape into it, and handfuls of flour flying around created quite the mess. It looked like a dough poltergeist flew through the kitchen.

That's what I should have taken a picture of :)

Love that recipe, really really tasty. Definitely going to make that again.