Weights, Not Measures

The crackers are pretty awesome. They were time-consuming, in the sense that rolling out the dough to the right thickness  and putting them all on the pans takes time, but they’re really quite tasty and I will definitely be making them again.

The banana muffins also came out well. For those, I actually wrote down what I included (!):
60 g dried nectarines, cut (with kitchen shears) into small pieces
60 g date pieces
60 g flax seeds, somewhat ground up but not flour
45 g barley flakes, ground (in the extra coffee grinder) to coarse flour
48 g oats, ground to coarse flour
100 g honey
30 g buttermilk powder (mine’s from KAF, but there are grocery store brands available)
120 g whole wheat flour
about 330 g bananas (more on that in a sec)
50 g butter
2 eggs
baking soda, a little baking powder, and salt (I can provide amounts if anyone cares)

For the bananas, as they thawed, I put them in a strainer over a bowl. This left me with mushy bananas (which I mashed with a pastry cutter) and about a cup or cup and a half of banana juices. I took that and reduced it somewhat, and I also put the honey in with that, because otherwise the honey is harder to mix in.

When I started mixing them up, I had one bowl of dry ingredients (flours, including the oats and flax and barley; salt; buttermilk powder; and baking powder/soda), one bowl of wet ingredients (the mashed bananas, the melted butter, the honey/banana juice mixture, and, after all of that cooled, the two eggs, whisked until combined well), and the dates and nectarines. I dumped the wets into the dries, whisked enough to combine them all, then stirred in the dates, nectarines, and chocolate chips. Oh, wait–didn’t mention them, did I? They were a last-second addition, because why not. I made 24 smallish muffins–perfect size for a breakfast or a snack. I gave away a couple, tasted a couple, left one out for breakfast, and, yes, put the rest in the freezer. I can grab one in the morning and it’s thawed out by the time I get to work.

You will notice that I provided you with weights rather than measures. I had always used measures, too, but then I went to pastry school, where EVERYTHING is by weight, as it was at the bakery where I worked for two years. And, not just weights, but, at school, in grams. (The bakery was pounds and ounces, which was a pain. The metric system has much to recommend it–way easier to divide and multiply in your head by 10 than by 16.) More and more cookbooks, especially baking books, are beginning to give weights, and, the more you work that way, the more you just translate measures into weights as you go. (For example, a cup of flour is 120 grams.)

For cooking rather than baking, weights are somewhat less important, but I still find it to be much more precise, which is useful if you’re trying to figure out the nutritional content, among other things. My four tablespoons of butter is likely to be the same as yours, given the handy markings on the package, but my four cups of cubed vegetables may be very different from yours, depending on how small our respective cubes are, or even depending on the vessel we use to measure, and flour can vary wildly, depending on multiple factors. I also use my kitchen scale at the other end of the process: when I’m portioning out the final product for lunches, I just weigh it out, and when I’m making rolls instead of loaves of bread, I weigh out the pieces. If you do decide to go the scale route, get one that weighs grams and ounces, and that goes up to at least 11 pounds. You can get a decent one for under $50, and maybe under $30.

The scale is also helpful if you’re trying to figure out portion sizes. Nutritional info on most packages is pretty useful, and typically gives you enough information to measure out a portion, but other things are more difficult. Bulk cheese, for example: how much is an ounce? How about when it’s grated? It can be quite educational to see just how large or small a “portion” or an “ounce” really is, and, after awhile, you start getting pretty good at estimating.

At the bakery, one of the little games my coworkers would play among themselves was showing off how good they were at portioning. Say you have dough for 25 loaves of bread and you need each loaf to be 12 ounces of dough. You would dump the dough on the work table next to one of the scales and use your bench cutter to hack a piece off. If you throw the piece on the scale and it’s exactly 12 ounces, you then point it out and note that you really don’t need the scale anyway. (Half of this conversation is in Spanish, given that most of my coworkers were Hispanic.) Of course one would continue to use the scale, adjusting each piece as needed, but the point is, after working with this dough for years, or even just a few times, you have a pretty good idea how big a 12-ounce portion looks.

The other thing you do, if you’re the coworker who makes most of the breads, is if you have an 8-ounce piece left over, you can either hack it up or you can bake it separately and call it “lunch.” “Lunch” was the catch-all descriptor for the odd pieces, and the best was getting it hot out of the oven and cutting it open just enough to put a slab of butter inside it. (This is actually bad, in that one should never cut bread while it’s hot, but oh my does it taste good.) Much to my delight, when I stopped in at the bakery about six months ago, that coworker buttered up a lunch piece of sourdough as it came out of the oven, and then hacked it up for me to have some. He would also butter up a couple of sourdough rolls for me, when I still worked there, because he knew how much I loved them, and I usually ended up helping him run the pieces through the roll shaper.

But I digress. As I often do.

I think my point was to urge you to buy a scale and to start using it. Or maybe it was just to think longingly about hot buttered sourdough bread.

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1 Comment (+add yours?)

  1. Mary
    Jun 30, 2013 @ 22:29:21

    no scale, don’t measure so why would I weigh???

    Reply

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