How big is a cup? Flour volume vs flour weight

one cup of flourHow much does a cup of flour weigh?

Here’s a question that seems to pop up on a fairly regular basis in the bread forums. Someone sees a recipe that requires 3.5 cups of flour, or one that looks for 368g of flour. Either way, they’re used to the other method of measuring and they run into problems making the conversion from one to the other.

Why is it confusing? Because one is a volume measure and the other is a weight measure. As we all know a cup is not always a cup:  a cup of rocks and a cup of feathers will not weigh the same. Simply stated, volume and weight are not a consistent and easily interchangeable form of measure. Add in the confusion of liquid vs dry ounces and cups and you have a mess.

But there’s probably a set “standard” weight for flour, right? I mean, measuring flour is something people do ALL the time and have done for eons so someone, somewhere probably has The Definitive Weight for a “cup of flour”.

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Why Discard Starter: A Mathematical View.

DiscardingYou see this question pop up all the time in sourdough discussions:

“Why do I have to discard? I hate the idea of throwing anything away. Can’t I just keep feeding the starter?”

Although reducing the waste we produce as a species is a good thing, there are times when it’s actually more logical to NOT do so. And feeding a starter is one of those times.

Let’s first see about the starter when you’re just starting it up from scratch.

Early in your starter’s young life, within the first two weeks or so of starting a starter from scratch, there is absolutely no good reason to save the excess “flour soup” you’re cutting back. It has done it’s job and is spent, and unless you’re building excessively large amounts (see the Starter Step by Step series to see the recommended  quantity), it should only be about 2 tablespoons of flour each day, this is not worth worrying about. Even if ditched directly into the trash or compost, it’s still not “wasted” any more than that nice dinner you ate yesterday was “wasted”: it was used to feed your starter, so it had a purpose and served it well. So right off the bat, we need to get out of this idea that bit of flour you used to feed our yeast is wasted.

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Sticky vs Tacky dough

For those who wonder how you can tell the difference between those two states of your dough, here’s a simple explanation with visuals that should clarify the differences.

FrenchBBA08 FrenchBBA09

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Pâte Fermentée

PFheaderPâte Fermentée is one of the basic pre-ferments used in bread making and it refers to a dough that is made before the bulk of the main bread dough is put together and allowed to mature or ferment.

OK, so how do you say it? The French word “pâte” means ‘dough’ and is pronounced “paw-tt”. “Fermentée” means fermented and is pronounced “‘fair-mahn-tay”. (Please don’t confuse“pâte” and “pâté” – one means dough where the other means a paste, as in “pâté de fois gras”.)

By allowing a portion of the dough to ferment ahead of time, it can be allowed to do so overnight (or however long) in a cool space (slowing yeast activity)  where it develops a lot of great flavour that would not be available in a shorter rest time. The dough is then added to the rest of the bread’s ingredients and presto, your “new” dough gets a tremendous flavour boost.

In a bakery setting, a large amount of this dough would be made regularly and a small portion of it would go into, say, baguettes, another portion into kaisers, etc. This is why the pâte is very basic – it would be used throughout the day to make whatever bread was on the menu.

At home, you still want the fermentation/development that occurs but would normally just make enough for your next bake.

In The Bread Baker’s Apprentice, this shortcut is used a fair bit. It’s a very simple, lean dough.

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Home-made Pan Release recipe

Tired of having your baked goods stick to your pans? Are you frustrated with cakes, panned breads and cinnamon rolls ruined because they rip out, leaving half of it glued to the bottom of your loaf pan? Then this is the solution just for you!

And no, there’s NOTHING being sold here! Billy Mays is not being channeled. This is just a handy tip for all you bakers out there.

As noted in a recent post on Banana Bread that came out – or rather didn’t – of a loaf pan, here’s the excessively simple Pan Release recipe that a lot of pro bakers use.

Don’t blink or you’ll miss it, it really IS that simple!

Ingredients:

  • one part flour (by volume)
  • one part vegetable oil
  • one part vegetable shortening.

CakeRelease1 CakeRelease2

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Place all three ingredients in a bowl and mix (by hand or with mixer) until smooth.

Yup, that’s it!
Now, put this in a lidded container and use a pastry brush to apply to your pans (cake, bread, whatever). Your fingers or a bit of paper towel will also do if a pastry brush isn’t handy, they’re also easier to clean.

This can be stored at room temp in the cupboard, lasts for 6 months.

How much to make? For the pint jar above, I used a 1/3 cup measures. I measured the flour, then the oil then the Crisco shortening (which dropped out of the now oiled cup easily). If you don’t do a lot of pan baking, try 1/4 cup of each. Total cost for that jar full: maybe 20-25¢? So even if you only use half, toss out leftovers and make a new (smaller) batch in 6 months, it’s still insanely cheap.

This is not only easy to make but a lot less costly than commercial stuff and without questionable additives (did you know some spay oils use propane as their propellants?).

The pro bakers swear by this stuff. Obviously this won’t replace spray oil when you need to mist a loaf but for keeping baked things non-stick, it’s great and a lot simpler (and less messy) than greasing and flouring. I use it to grease baking pans but also for the proofing bowls.

I have never, ever had anything stick when I use it. And it’s what I use when I want to be sure even the stickiest stuff doesn’t glue itself to my coated pans; commercial spray oil can build up on those and become gummy.

So give it a shot, if you bake you probably have all the ingredients already. Then come back and let everyone know if it worked well for you.