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Monday, October 31, 2011

why I use weights to measure

I love baking. I made my first loaf of bread when I was 12 and my mom was out of town. My dad let me do what I wanted in the kitchen. It was a basic white bread loaf and I was so proud of that loaf. Later in speech class we had to come up with a speech explaining how to do something and I chose bread baking (since I had made 3 or 4 loaves and was now an expert in my 13 year old mind).

I loved the kneading and punching down, it was a great stress reliever. Plus, since regular bread takes so long to prepare - a minimum of 3 hours - it would force me to slow down. That is really what I miss about baking gluten-free is the stress-busting properties of bread baking.

When I saw the list of ingredients for a basic gluten-free bread recipe, it was discouraging. I searched for weeks trying to find the definitive basic white bread before I realized there wasn't one. This person may use white rice flour, cornstarch and sorghum while this person uses brown rice flour, millet and tapioca starch and each claiming that their recipe made the "best ever sandwich bread."

I would spend forever measuring out each ingredient because each baked good has a minimum of 3 flours (except for a few rare exceptions like Jowar Roti). I had done some weighing of ingredients (Alton Brown highly recommends weighing bread or all purpose flours when baking because it is more accurate) and I decided that had to be easier. It just had to.

So I set out to find a conversion chart of weights of gluten-free flours and I found this lovely resource but it wasn't quite what I wanted because I didn't want to have to take out a calculator each time I needed a 1/3 cup. So I sat down and made my own chart with 1/4, 1/3, 1/2, 2/3, 3/4 and 1 cup and then hung it inside the cabinet door where most of the flours are.

It now takes me less time to measure out 2 1/2 cups of several flours than it takes someone to measure out 2 1/2 cups of all-purpose. I know because we went to a 4-H workshop where scones were made and I was surprised at how long it took to measure out the one flour.

It also takes me less time to leave the kitchen and look up the weight of peanut butter so I can weigh one cup of peanut butter than it would for me to try to get rid of all the air holes in the measuring cup.

I have handwritten the weight of All-Purpose flour so I can easily convert recipes that are not gluten-free.

My husband isn't as familiar with the weighing method but he doesn't bake. Last time he measured out flour for me (we were making 3 batches of Jowar Roti), each bowl had a different weight varying by almost 20 grams. A 1/4 of a cup of sorghum weighs 31 grams so there would have been a difference between the batches.

My kids find it much easier to bake with weights. I need to make a chart with other commonly used ingredients like sugar, coco powder, and brown sugar and others rather than look it up each time.

The other thing that makes it easier is with the gluten-free flour blends that most of the cookbooks have. Each one is significant with only that cookbook and they usually make 4 1/2 cups and the recipe I chose usually needs 3 cups - or some similar ratio so that I can't do a double batch of the recipe without making 2 batches of blends.

It. Drives. Me. Crazy. Soon the pantry is filled with blends and there is no unblended flour and no room for any unblended flour.

So I now sit down with a calculator and figure out how much the weight of each flour is in a cup of the blend and I write it in the cookbook. Then on the page of the recipe I want to make, I am able to write down the exact measurement of each flour for that recipe.

So Much Simpler. That is what I did for my sons banana muffin recipe that he made for 4-H contest (post to follow soon). My daughters bread recipe called for 3 cups of our favorite blend, I looked at the weight for Carol's sorghum blend (the last blend I mixed up) and realized I needed 378 grams of a flour blend . . . but more on that later.

The long and short of it, if you bake gluten-free, get a scale.

If you don't bake gluten-free, but you bake very much at all, get a scale.