The Fresh Loaf

News & Information for Amateur Bakers and Artisan Bread Enthusiasts

Flour discrepancy

kdovin's picture

Flour discrepancy

I could use a little help.  I have Beth Hensperger's The Bread Bible.  So far I have loved the recipes, but the past 2 I have made have required far less flour than the recipe called for.  They were both recipes that started w/ a sponge.  One fermented overnight, the other in about one hour.  The former had whole wheat flour in the sponge and wheat bran and white flour in the dough.  The latter was all white (bread) flour.  In both I used less than 1/2 of the flour called for in the dough which resulted in fairly small loaves.  The whole wheat is in the oven now.  The white was excellent; it rose nicely, tasted great and had a nice crumb.

I wonder if my whole wheat flour is sucking up a lot of the moisture and causing the problem, so I plan to try a different one, but the first bread I made didn't have any whole wheat.  Does anyone have any advice or thoughts on this?  Am I doing something wrong?  I would definitely like a bit more bread for my effort if I can correct the error.


Mike Avery's picture
Mike Avery

A recurring issue is measurement.


In a usenet newsgroup the members with scales all measured the weight of a few cups of flour and reported the results.  And the weight of a cup of flour ranged from less than 100 to more than 200 grams.


The less than 100 gram people sifted the flour twice.  The more than 200 gram people scooped the flour out of the bag vigorously, compressing the flour in the cup and then compounding that by not leveling their cups.  The scoopers had as much as a 25% cup to cup variation.  Do people really do that?  Yes, on both extremes. 


The flour companies, by and large, say a cup should be measured by sifting the flour once, spooning it into a cup, and then using a straight edge to scrape off the excess.  This yields a cup that is quite close to 120 grams.


So, when you use a recipe from a cookbook that is measured in cups, it helps to find out what the cookbook author thinks a cup is.  How does the author fill a cup?  And then, you need to do it the same way.

Personally, I measure a recipe with cups once, weighing all the ingredients, and thereafter I weigh the ingredients.  I find weighing is more consistent than using cups, as well as being faster.  Further, it's a better way to communicate recipes.


Oh, the flour companies say that both whole wheat and rye flours have the same weight per cup as white flour.




dcbakerman's picture

The flour could be very old,  the flour's weight is about 10% water, unless it is old and then the water would have evaporated.... just a thought.

kdovin's picture

Thanks for the thoughts. 

Both flours are actually pretty new, purchased within the past month, so I don't think that is the issue.  Of course, I don't know how long it sits at the store, but it appears at least for the white bread flour that the supermarket has a pretty good turnover. 

 Regarding the measurements, I will double check the weight.  When I one time checked my weight of the flour it was pretty consistent w/ the author at 5oz per cup, but she measures all recipes in cups.  I usually measure in cups without weighing, but she describes exactly how she measures - unsifted, scoop and level - which is usually how I do it.  (lazy, I know)

 I guess I would think the loaves would be about the right size if it were just a weight vs volume issue.  My "medium" loaf is only 6.5in in diameter and rose to 3-3.5 inches.  The recipe said I should get two medium loaves, but the size I got seems small to me.  Maybe my expectations are too high?

 If the flour is old, what to do about that, considering I recently purchased?

 Thanks again

Paddyscake's picture

You said that you have used her recipes before and only until the last two, have you had a problem. So..the other recipes came out fine? Perhaps, if you posted which recipes you had problems with,  someone whose made them can offer some insight.

HogieWan's picture

I just started using weight to measure my recipes, and it is much quicker and easier. I put my mixing bowl on the scale and hit "tare" before adding each ingredient. Works great.

nbicomputers's picture

just be carefull

remember when it comes to things like salt it is easer to put it in than take it out.

i know a lot of people that learned that the hard way

Marni's picture

The weather could be drying things out.  I don't where you are, but here in Southern CA, a dry day can make a difference. ( Although, half the flour is a lot!) Just a thought.


kdovin's picture

Wow!  I'm pleased to see so much input.  I've thought about the weather as an issue.  Of course I am in the Upper Peninsula of MI not southern CA, but it gets very dry in the winter, so maybe that is contributing. 

If anyone has Hensperger's book, the two recipes were the Italian Olive Loaf and Vienna bread. 

 BTW,  I made her oatmeal potato bread today which does not require a sponge, and I'm pretty sure I used the reccommended amount of flour.  (Sometimes I lose count adding 1/2 cup at a time.)  So I wonder if it has something to do w/ the sponge?  Maybe the sponge is drying out as it is sitting in this currently dry climate?

 If anyone has made either of these recipes, I'd love to hear the results.

Thanks again,  kimd

Mini Oven's picture
Mini Oven

You can cover your sponge simply with a plate to keep moisture in. I don't have the Bread Bible, but one thought could be that the measure cups have different sizes, silly as it sounds. Dry measure cups and liquid have different amounts. If you use a liquid measuring cup for flour, there will be more flour than the recipe.   Just a thought.

Has "the lake" froze over yet?

In measuring the flour, you could measure it into a bowl first, and then remove for the recipe, 1/2 cup at a time.   Just another thought.

My senior year in Ontonagon, we had 4 day weeks for the entire month of March due to Friday blizzards.  Uncanny! 

Mini O

kdovin's picture

Mini O

You know it!  I'm in Houghton.  What a small world.

 Thankfully, the lake did not totally freeze this year.  I think the last time it did that was about 5 years ago, before I moved here - again, thankfully.  It was a bitter winter I hear.

 It's 37F today, and the snow is starting to go, but we have plenty around still - just got back from a morning ski.

 Thanks for your thoughts on the bread.