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Old 07-20-2005, 01:20 AM   #11
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Location: Fort Worth, TX
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Thanks oldcoot .... was starting to peek around corners and only go out at night!

Yes - flour is probably the biggest problem in recipes. My ex-BIL's mother was a chemist for a large bakery and I know they did a lot of testing of the flour before they mixed up thousands of loaves each day - so they could get everything consistent. She and I talked about what she did once and I was totally amazed. Few recipes, unless they are from a flour mill, specify the flour used in the recipe ... how it was measured .... etc. The best we can do is a crap shoot ... stick with one type of flour consistently and adjust our recipes once we have them worked out. I make the same bread every week here in TX, using different bread and wheat flours than I used in CO, and there is about 1-cup difference in the recipe.

Some things you learn by experience - like you were saying. How are you going to explain that in a recipe?

I don't have the recipe in front of me ... don't remember which book it was in .. but it went something like:

... add enough water to the flour to make a batter the right consistency, neither too thick nor too thin. After allowing the batter to rise for a sufficient time pour out on the table and knead in enough flour to make the dough the right texture - the dough should be neither too tight or too loose.

It's a wonder humans ever survived on bread with recipes like that! How did they ever figure out how to determine if the rock was the right temperature???

"It ain't what you don't know that gets you in trouble. It's what you know for sure that just ain't so." - Mark Twain
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Old 07-21-2005, 06:38 PM   #12
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Oky doky, when you are dealing with yeast breads and that includes sourdough starters, bigas, poulishes etc as well as the finished loaves, you simply can't halve or double the recipe. Breads simply don't work that way successfully. The method to increase or decrease formulae is based upon the percentage relationship between the flour and all other ingredients by WEIGHT.
In short, convert the weight of all ingredients to a percentage of the weight of the flour and then proceed from there. You simply can't use volume measurement successfully.

The KAF website has or had an excellent explaination of the process. It is some times called the baker's formulae or baker's math but regardless of what you call it is an esential tool of anyone who wants to modify recipes.

Depending on a number of variables, a cup of APF is going to weigh 4.25 oz + or - 20%. Regardless of these variables, 4.25 oz of APF will always interact with the other ingredients in the same fashion So the moral of this story is throw out the cups and weigh everything in relation to the flour's weight.

An ounce never changes but a cup sure does.

Come to think of it, that might be a better title for my book.

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Old 07-21-2005, 10:15 PM   #13
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Location: USA,California
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George, you are probably correct, and weighing everthing will surely improve reproducabillity.

But few recipes list weights, and even fewer cooks are inclined to "do the math" - simple tho it is.

I know I'm 'way too lazy to bother with all that. Instead, I'll continue to use recipes as a general guide, and let my interpretation of the desired texture direct my dough-making. And I'll win some and lose some. But that is what makes it fun. If I knew the results for certain each time I baked a loaf of bread, I would quickly lose interest in baking. No challenge, no fun.

Then, just for the sake of discussion, what does one do about some of the other variables, like room temperature and humidity, moisture content of flour in the cannister (which can affect the weight and therefore the percentage!), inaccuracies in oven temperatures, baking time, evaluation of doneness, etc., etc., etc.

While a commercial bakery can employ persons to check all of those variable, and thus come up with highly reproduceable results, the rest of us cannot. Yet there are those among us who unfailingly bake a fine loaf. Hmmmmm.
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Old 07-22-2005, 05:23 AM   #14
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Surprisingly, the variables you ask about are negated when you weigh the recipe components. For example, the weight of flour changes in only a minute percentage when it's humidity changes and this change is almost guaranteed to be within the error factor of a scale. The weight to volume relationship however changes dramatically when using volume measures. The variation in the degree of compaction alone when scooping flour will account for as much as 20% variation and this is far more than enough to throw a bread formulae out of whack.

Oven temperature variation is another measurement error that is easily remedied with an oven thermometer and baking time, if the oven temperature is accurate, will not vary if the dough has been prepared using ingredients that have been weighed.

Baking is often refered to as a "science" because of the delicate balance of relationships between the components need to accurately calculated to ensure consistent repeatability of results.

If repeatability of results isn't an issue and for you that seems to be the case, then there isn't a need to weigh components. For me, if I am going to invest a few hours of my time to produce a specific result then I am more interested in the results than the process.

As for recipes not being produced with weights, that is generally correct only for north american recipes and even that is changing. Over the years I have compiled a chart of the weights of ingredients I use and when using a new recipe for the first time I pencil in beside a volume measurement the corresponding weight measure. Obviously this is only need once unless there is tweeking to recipe based on subsequent results.

If a baker wants to halve, double or tripple a formulae then weighing components is the only way to acceive the desired result with any measure of consistency.

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