Tag Archives: Tips

Digital Scales: Which Weigh To Go?

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.

Sourdough on my Scale

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. 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

All Flours Are Not Equal

What would happen if you ran out of bread flour but still wanted to make bread? Or the store had an awesome sale on cake flour which you were tempted to use instead? Flour is basically just flour, after all, no? There’s not much difference between Pastry and All Purpose, besides a bit more protein, right?

As an experiment, the class did a test this week to see what each of four types of flour could make, using the same recipe for each and changing only the type of flour used. The recipe was put together by team of Chelsea, Connor and Lauren.

We tested simple panned bread loaves made from:

  1. Organic Bread flour
  2. All Purpose flour
  3. Pastry flour
  4. Cake flour

Each batch were made with the exact same ingredients except for the flour, in the same quantities and mixed in four identical 10-quart mixers. Each mix made four identically sized loaves and baked for the same amount of time. Although not under strict laboratory controlled conditions, these were, in effect, identical breads.

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Dry Your Starter: Simple Insurance

There you are, going along making another batch of tasty sourdough bread, everything’s going peachy, the dough is in the oven baking, making the kitchen smell heavenly, the loaves are a lovely golden brown and only a few minutes before it’s time to pull them out to cool, when you suddenly realize…

O! M!! G!!!  You immediately feel flushed and light headed, your stomach suddenly knotting up: you’ve accidentally put ALL your starter into the dough and forgot to save some to keep feeding. There’s no way to get it back out of the dough, it’s now bread and well baked.

This is the end of your starter, one of the few ways to actually kill it.

Perhaps you’ve been cultivating this starter for several months or even years, perhaps it was even handed down to you from your great gran from the “old country” and there’s no way to get more. You even washed out the jar so you can’t scrape a little batch up from the smears on the sides and continue on.

Or maybe a good hearted soul decided they’d do you a big favour one day and clean your fridge of all the old stuff, that bottle of sauce with just a teaspoon left, the lettuce that’s seen a better day, that jar of white goo that smells really weird… all into the trash or recycling and the jars washed up. “See how neat it all is?” they proudly say.

Or you have not fired up the starter for a very long time and go to grab your yeasty pet only to find the contents are totally encased in mould.

Oh, I hear a few of you chuckle, “That would never happen to me” you say with confidence. Stop chuckling, this has happened to a LOT of people, people who are totally familiar with and have been using sourdough for years, verily, your “pro” home bakers. All of the above scenarios have happened to people I know.

An inattentive few moments and there goes that starter you created from scratch several years back, gone. The bread comes out of the oven and tastes great but it is a sad affair indeed because it’s the last you’ll get of old Sam or Punchy or whatever you named you pet starter. Gone to sourdough heaven.

All you can do now is start from scratch. In a few weks, you will have a new starter but it will take a long time before it has matured and developed its own character. And very likely it will be different from ol’ Sam.

So how do you avoid that heart-crushing scenario? Simple: dry your starter. Do it next time you do a starter feed. It’s crazy simple and will ensure you can revive ol’ Sam even if you do get a brain fart moment and toss all of it into your latest dough. Here’s how…

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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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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.