I’ve run into a few questions of late that involve the weighing of ingredients. Some of the writers mention that they don’t have a scale and I wanted to point them to a good choice when they do decide to make the upgrade to weighing their doughs so they too can benefit from the multiple advantages of scaling.
I realized that although I’ve talked about weighing in passing in many posts, as well as a slight rant or two about the benefits of weight over volume measures, I’ve not put myself behind any specific scales people could consider when they do go out hunting for this most important baker’s tool. I’m going to fix that here.
There will be two levels of bakers to look at here: the hobby home baker and the professional (or expert home baker), both these levels having slightly different requirements. Primarily, the home baker will need something simpler, dependable and can do with an inexpensive model while the pros will (hopefully) have a bit more of a budget for this tool they depend on for their trade. This aside, there are aspects that both ends are in need of and even if a scale is in the lower price area, you will want to hit some points so your purchase will not become a frustration.
Let’s outline some of these “must haves”, in no specific order.
Scale Shopping: The Power Source
Look for a scale that uses normal batteries, such as AA or 9 volt (the small, rectangular type with snap-on terminals). Avoid any scale that uses the flat disk lithium batteries as these are rather expensive and, as they also do not have a very long life, will begin to run up the bill over a short time. Although a lot of scales now use these small batteries because they allow for a “sleeker” design, it is really not a good trade-off. And the other batteries don’t necessarily make for bulkier scales. Yet, they will give your scale power for a very long time. Continue reading “Digital Scales: Which Weigh To Go?”
Here’s a great post (one of several so far) from the relatively new Flour-And-Spice blog by Tia, about Renée, a dedicated artisan baker from Molitg, in the south of France. Running his small scale operation, he and his assistant produce 150 to 400 loaves of bread three days a week, depending on the season. All artisanal, all as organic as they can be. He sells his wares at a local market in Prades and anything not sold that day goes to a co-op shop.
Hop over to Flour and Spice to read the posts on this ambitious small baker.
Good friend Steven, over on Made By You And I – that’s his handsome mug there – decided to toss out a challenge to me a while back to do a recipe for Baumkuchen. Baum is German for tree (“O Tannenbaum, O Tannenbaum…”) and Kuchen is cake. Tree Cake. He had seen this post over on The Daring Kitchen, a site where a selected member picks a recipe once a month and the DK members all give it a shot then post the results. There are two sides: a cooking (i.e. chicken, veggies, etc.) and a baking side (cakes, breads, etc.). I checked the Daring Kitchen challenge out and decided to go for it. And that’s how I came to give this interesting cake a try.
The full recipe is published at the DK site and you can nab a PDF of it if you wish (link a bit further down). Although much more detail is given on that site and on Wikipedia, here are the basics:
A Baumkuchen is basically cake baked in very, very thin layers, built up until you get a cake that, when sliced, looks like the rings of a tree, ergo its name.
Traditionally and in a commercial bakery, it is made by baking a white or almond-flavoured batter as it is poured onto a rotating large pole set in front of a special broiler. As each layer is poured on top of the previous one, a slight browning occurs and these result in the distinctive “rings” seen in the finished cake. The undulations you see in the 2nd and 3rd photo above are made by simply pressing the still uncooked batter while adding the very last few layers bake. This gives the cake a distinct look and allows it to be cut into clear portions, if desired: some Baumkuchen are simply left flat, as shown in the first photo. It is usually finished with chocolate coating although some types are covered in other flavours.Continue reading “Baumkuchen: Multi-layered Tree Cake”
A good online friend of mine, Steven on his blog “Made By You and I“, recently posted his method for making a fail-safe apple pie.
In his post, he shows how he bakes the pie shell and the filling separately, seals the pie or tart shell bottom so it doesn’t get soggy, adjust the sweetness and flavour of the filling while it is cooking, then combines the two once they are cooled. The result? A flakey pie crust that won’t get soggy, and perfectly cooked apple pie filling.
Go visit his post, “Apple Pie Your Way” for the full details. And check out the rest of his new blog. Lots in interesting stuff there!
The instructions given make use of no mixer; it is, as the book title indicates, all done by hand. You’ll also use a process called “autolyse” to hydrate the flour by letting it sit after mixing, then a “stretch and fold” after 30 minutes of proofing which bypasses the need to knead the dough.
Also note that all ingredients are given in weights, not volumes (cups), save for salt & yeast. If you need a scale, please read this post.
Fougasse is Provence’s answer to the Roman-born Focaccia. Their names both come from the Latin root word focus, meaning “hearth,” and they’re both flattened doughs that feature toppings or folded-in ingredients. The distinctive feature of the fougasse are its decorative holes cut into the dough’s surface, which are really up to the baker’s whim. You’ve got three flavor variations to choose from here, or you can leave the bread plain or come up with your own tasty additions. If making olive fougasse, the bread will come out a teeny bit bigger, but that’s fine. Continue reading “Fougasse By Hand”