The Fresh Loaf

News & Information for Amateur Bakers and Artisan Bread Enthusiasts

Using weights instead of volume

joeparrilla5790's picture
joeparrilla5790

Using weights instead of volume

Hey! so Im relatively new to bread baking, and I have been constantly running into confusion regarding measurements. Its obvious that using cups to measure something like flour is really off because of packing and density of the cup. I really am into the idea of just weighing everything into grams (especially since I have a pretty accurate digital scale.)

 

The issue is, so many of the recipes I come across use cups for things like flour, sugar, milk, etc. Ive found some conversion charts, but even they tend to have different numbers between each other. Not only that, but when a recipe says a cup of flour, how can we know if its poured into the cup or scooped out? Ive personally noticed a huge difference in weight by using a scooped cup vs a poured cup of flour. Are bread measurements just not meant to be so precise so that it doesnt matter? If I was to convert all ingredients to weight when writing into my recipe book from an online recipe, what source would you use for an accurate conversion of stuff like sugar, milk, butter, etc? I found a pretty long list on kingarthurflour.com. but its hard to tell if its accurate.

 

Thanks!

drogon's picture
drogon

Well, so says this European ...

However they're not going to go away... And this came up recently here too... The best suggestion I can make is to try to work out most of the recipe based on "feel" or bakers percentages. So if a recipe calls for 3 cups of flour and X of water and makes mention that this is a 70% hydration recipe, then you can work out that 3 cups might be about 360g, then 70% of that is 252g of water, and so on.

The critical things might be dried yeast - especially for long fermentations - my rough guide is to use 7g of dried yeast per 500g of flour for a normal 1-2 hour ferment and 1g for an overnight ferment.

Good luck!

-Gordon

 

williampp's picture
williampp

What Gordon has said is great. You look for clues in the recipe, or in the method. Do they mention firm dough, or sticky dough, what type of bread is it. 

Bill

joeparrilla5790's picture
joeparrilla5790

Got it, makes sense. What Im going to do is just find a reputable table of conversions (I like the one on king arthurs site) and just use it as a base. Then when copying down recipes ill just do the conversions to grams based on that, but make notes to consider percentages and hydration when actually doing the work.

 

I really wish the use of cups for dry measurement would die... I really cant understand the logic behind it. Did the first person to use this not understand the concept of density???

Jon OBrien's picture
Jon OBrien

...weren't planning on passing the quantities on to anyone else. If their cup is always pretty much the same then their bread will be pretty consistent, once they work out how many cups of what makes the bread they like. It's only when someone comes along and asks how that delicious bread is made and they say: "Well, I use X cups of this and Y cups of that..." and the enquirer goes off and makes bread that's totally different, consistently, that it matters.

There's nothing wrong with using cups but, as with any strange personal habit, they're best kept to the privacy of your own home.

MonkeyDaddy's picture
MonkeyDaddy

I agree, the things we do at home provide pretty decent consistency, as long as we keep it at home.  I always wondered when I read a recipe calling for a "medium onion" what definition of "medium" they were actually using.  Finally it dawned on me that it's whatever you decide.  Whether medium means tennis ball size or baseball size to you, you're going to grab that same size every time you make the recipe.  Ergo, consistency.  

And I like Gordon's comment that cups are for drinking tea.  I'm thinking that the earliest measuring cups were most likely whatever vessel the cook had on hand.  Then over the ages, as Jon says, people wanted to share recipes and standardization became more of an issue.  

Interestingly, in the restaurant industry, I believe a "standard" cup of coffee is defined as 6 oz., which has carried over into home use as well.  So on our coffeemaker at home the pot goes up to 12 "cups" meaning it holds about 72 oz., instead of 96 oz. that you would expect.  And to throw another ripple in it, the "cups" my wife and I drink from are actually 16 oz. latte mugs, but we just call them cups.  And we fill the coffee pot to the "5-cup" mark, for a total of 30 oz. to make two "cups" of coffee.  But our coffee is consistent because we're the only ones who drink it.  Crazy, ain't it???

dobie's picture
dobie

MonkeyDaddy

I think you're right that finding what works for you is the way to go.

I did a Wikipedia search for 'Cup (unit)' and the information there I find to be mind boggling.

According to that Wiki page; in the US, a coffeemaker cup is 4.8 US Customary fluid ounces (not to argue what your machine does, this is just what the Wiki page says). Also in the US, there is a 'Custumary' cup and a 'Legal' cup of measure (that are not quite the same).

Going abroad, there are the measures of the Metric cup, the UK cup, Canadian cup, Japanese cup (and I suppose many others), none of which are the same.

Apparently, there is a slight difference between an Imperial fluid ounce and a US 'Customary' fluid ounce.

But as has been said, the only time it really becomes a problem is when trying to convert or share recipes. That's why I've changed my habit to using grams of weight alone (whenever possible).

Yes, crazy it is.

dobie

Jon OBrien's picture
Jon OBrien

It's supposed to be a 'six cup' pot. I get one 'café creme'/'latte' out of it.

AbeNW11's picture
AbeNW11 (not verified)

"There's nothing wrong with using cups but, as with any strange personal habit, they're best kept to the privacy of your own home"

Good one. I'm of this opinion. 

Mini Oven's picture
Mini Oven

you're talking "A" "B" "C" and "D"... cup sizes!  

Not only do they vary from country to country but from store to store!

gerhard's picture
gerhard

Can you explain ;)

Gerhard

dobie's picture
dobie

Funny Mini

And they're all good, from my point of view.

Just to be clear, other than the Coffeemaker cups, all the others I mentioned are 'official' measuring cups.

dobie

dobie's picture
dobie

Jon

Very funny, very true (as most good humor is).

dobie

wspahr's picture
wspahr

Check out insidethejewishbakery.com for an extensive list of ingredients with their weights in both grams and ounces for a variety of volume measurements. I have used this to convert some volume recipes successfully. 

dobie's picture
dobie

wspahr

Thanks for that link. Lot's of other good information available as well. I'll give it a thorough look.

dobie

doughooker's picture
doughooker

We're not splitting atoms here. In addition, different flours have different absorbencies anyway, so one cookbook's 3-cup measure may have to be adjusted anyway, depending on the type of flour used.

What has worked very well for me is, volume measures for dry ingredients (flour and salt); weight measures for wet ingredients (including liquid starter). I get very consistent results. The hydration may be off by 1/4 percent from one batch to the next, but you'd never know it from the finished product.

Mini Oven's picture
Mini Oven

will tell you how they measure ingredients.  Look for the information and mark the page.  The problem with most internet recipes is they don't tell you how to fill the cup and where the recipe is from (who's cup it is.)  Older recipes tended to include half a cup extra flour so you could hold back some while mixing.  Very rarely was all of that 1/2 cup used.  Some of it was also bench flour.  The bigger the recipe, the more flour to be held back.

So the method with cups is to have the liquids more or less fixed and add flour for the right dough feel.  The problems with holding back flour to a recipe is that the salt and other ingredients flavour the flour and not the water so that with more or less flour, there is a need to raise or lower salt.  So tasting the dough is common.  Left over flour is common.  

With weights, one come closer to the intended recipe and more often than not, water is used to adjust for the right dough feel, this has been the professional way to mix dough and also very practical as added ingredients do not have to be adjusted for unfixed flour amounts.  Still, a good idea to taste bread dough making sure salt is not forgotten.  Using weights empowers the baker and home baker in making more precise adjustments to a recipe.  

Some cup recipes exist simply because they are easy to remember.  One cup of this two cups of that and three cups of something else.  Funny enough, even if the cup size varies, they will work but salt becomes the variable.  Converting into weights often comes out with weird numbers (Ex. 146.2g)  but the same is true converting a weight recipe to cups. (Ex. one cup plus a Tbls.)   Rounding and tweaking is done in both cases.  

Be careful with recipes listing two recipes, one by weight and one with cups.  Compare lightly across the recipes but don't mix them taking water from one and flour from the other.  They may not be exact.  Use one or the other as each recipe will be formulated for the measuring method used.  

If I were to take an internet recipe and convert it, the first thing I do is to find out it's origin and age of the recipe.  If coming from the US, then use the tables at King Author Flour.   If from Europe, go with 250ml cup.   History of a country plays a role.  

Once you figure your flour, you can figure salt by % in weight.  Depending on the recipe, bread will range from 1 to 3%  1.6% is low range of middle, 1.8% to 2% average.  Sweeter bakes use less salt or none at all.  

Salted butter is a force to be dealt with. US standard is salted butter, so if not specified as unsalted, a US recipe contains salted butter.  If you normally use unsalted butter, don't go out of your way to add salted butter it will most likely be too salty for your tastes unless it is in small quantities like tablespoons.  Still, taste the dough or batter for salt.

KathyF's picture
KathyF

I have a copy of the first American cookbook, "American Cookery" by Amelia Simmons first published in 1796. There are no bread recipes, but most of the recipes for pie crusts and cakes use weight in pounds for the flour. There are a few that measure the flour in quarts or pints. Interesting that this is one of the first cookbooks to refer to potash as a leavening agent. Some of the recipes do refer to "emptins" which seems to be a barm leavening.

dobie's picture
dobie

KathyF

You really stumped me there. I did a quick google search which led me a King Arthur page on quick breads.

http://www.kingarthurflour.com/tips/quick-bread-primer.html

Who knew?

I knew of potash in garden use. I knew of wood ashes to make lye and I knew of lye and fat to make soap, but I never knew of the refinement of lye to Potash to 'Pearlash', nor it's use as a leavening agent and as a precursor to 'Baking Soda'. Fascinating stuff.

I will look for 'American Cookery' on the Guggenheim Project, etc., just in case it might be available.

Now, if I only knew what 'emptins' meant.

Thank you,

dobie

KathyF's picture
KathyF

I do believe it is available online. My favorite part is in the first part about "How to choose flesh":

Veal
Veal is soon lost - great care therefore is necessary in purchasing. Veal bro't to market in panniers, or in carriages, is to be preferred to that bro't in bags, and flouncing on a sweaty horse.

The recipes for "Pastes" (pastry) are interesting as they include beaten egg whites and egg yolks.

dobie's picture
dobie

Kathy

I've known a few people who I believe must have come to town 'flouncing on a sweaty horse'.

If it's online, I should be able to find it, and if I do, I'll post the link here.

Thanks again,

dobie

gary.turner's picture
gary.turner

Quote:
The recipes for "Pastes" (pastry) are interesting as they include beaten egg whites and egg yolks.
It's quite common among premium desserts.  Egg whites will not whip up all light and fluffy (e.g. meringue) in the presence of fats.  So, eggs are separated and the yolks and their deliciosity are used in the base while the whites are whipped and folded in, injected or laid over the top.

I was going to say that the whites (albumin) were used as glue to hold the past(i)es on, but after MiniOven's comment on cup sizes, I just couldn't inflict that on everybody.  Oh, wait. I already did. ;-P

gary

KathyF's picture
KathyF

True, but I have never seen a modern recipe (doesn't mean it doesn't exist) where the beaten egg whites are incorporated in the pastry dough itself. Here is one of the recipes:

Puff Pastes for Tarts.

No. 1. Rub one pound of butter into one pound of flour, whip 2 whites and add with cold water and one yolk; make into paste, roll in in six or seven times one pound of butter, flouring it each roll. This is good for any small thing.

Hold on, in the errata it says:

In pastes, the white of eggs only are to be used.

So, no egg yolks in the dough.

MonkeyDaddy's picture
MonkeyDaddy

to one pound of flour.  Sounds really rich, probably awesome!!

KathyF's picture
KathyF

I know. Sounds a little too much to me. All the recipes for pastry seem quite rich. Here are the other ones:

No. 2. Rub six pound of butter into fourteen pound of flour, eight eggs, add cold water, make a stiff paste.

No. 3. To any quantity of flour, rub in three fourths of it's weight of butter, (twelve eggs to a peck) rub in one third or half, and roll in the rest.

No. 4. Into two quarts flour (salted) and wet stiff with cold water roll in, in nine or ten times one and half pound of butter.

No. 5. One pound flour, three fourths of a pound of butter, beat well.

No. 6. To one pound of flour rub in one fourth of a pound of butter wet with three eggs and rolled in a half pound of butter.

A Paste for Sweet Meats.

No. 7. Rub one third of one pound of butter, and one pound of lard into two pound of flour, wet with four whites well beaten; water q: s: to make a paste, roll in the residue of shortning in ten or twelve rollings—bake quick.

No. 8. Rub in one and half pound of suet to six pounds of flour, and a spoon full of salt, wet with cream roll in, in six or eight times, two and half pounds of butter—good for a chicken or meat pie.

Royal Paste.

No. 9. Rub half a pound of butter into one pound of flour, four whites beat to a foam, add two yolks, two ounces of fine sugar; roll often, rubbing one third, and rolling two thirds of the butter is best; excellent for tarts and apple cakes.

MonkeyDaddy's picture
MonkeyDaddy

...while the whites are whipped and folded in, injected or laid over the top.

Folded - I get it... been there, done that.

Laid over the top - I'm assuming a meringue foam, like on a pie.

Injected - ???   How does one "inject" egg whites into pastry?  You mean like a pastry cream into an eclair?

 

gary.turner's picture
gary.turner

Quote:
You mean like a pastry cream into an eclair?
I've seen recipes where whipped egg whites and sugar or whipped cream and sugar are gently mixed into a base sauce or custard, then squirted into the pastry.  I've not done it myself; with my palsy, I would go through three or four dozen eggs before I could separate enough to make an angel food cake.  If I were to try to use a pastry bag I'd likely be painting the walls with foamed egg whites.  Not a pleasant thought.

gary

David Esq.'s picture
David Esq.

You can't really have a universal conversion unless the authors of your recipes universally measure their volumes the same way.  But all hope is not lost. Start with what is easy -- the side of the bag of flour.  If it tells you how many grams of flour are in 1/3 cup, multiply it by 3 and use that for the weight of a cup of flour.

*IF* the product turns out satisfactorily using that conversion factor, great.  If not, use more or less flour as appropriate and try again. Eventually you will get the proper weight for the flour you are using, and get a proper result!

mrs_o's picture
mrs_o

 

I've been very happy with the Convert-to.com website for converting volume measurements to weight: 

http://convert-to.com/conversion-of-ingredients-from-cooking-recipes