Friday, May 7, 2010

Metric or Bust! (Or, bakers weigh everything, part deux)

Recently a reader wrote that, while he understood why I measured all ingredients by weight (in grams) in the recipes included in 52 Loaves, he didn't own a metric scale and suggested I post volume equivalents on this blog. It's a legitimate request, but I think I'd be doing him (and all bakers) a disservice if I did so. Here's why:
  • First of all, bakers weigh everything. Even, as I've mentioned before (in this blog's initial post) the firewood that goes into the brick oven. This is because measuring by volume (especially flour) is inherently and unavoidably inaccurate and inconsistent. Someone's 2 cups of flour is someone else's 2-1/4 cups. Even water is hard to measure by volume, given the miniscus (the curvature) in the measureing cup. And just 5 grams of water (inperceptible in a measuring cup) can make a difference in your bread.
  • Secondly, you're going to be investing a lot of time and a little bit of money to master artisan bread. A really nice, accurate, digital kitchen scale like the one I use can be had for just $19 -- the cost of a few of bags of flour. I don't know if people realize how cheap these things have gotten recently. I like mine so much, I even use it for weighing the water for coffee every morning. Okay, so I'm a bit anal, but...my coffee is consistent.
  • Thirdly, I'm on a personal, one-man campaign to convert the United States to the metric system. Weren't we, like, supposed to do this 40 years ago? I remember being prepared for this "calamity" in high school science classes. So, bakers unite! Let's go metric!
PS: If you have a serviceable scale that only has Imperial (US) weights, use Google or Bing to do the conversions in my recipes for you. In the search window, just type, e.g., "500 g in ounces" and it will give you the equivalent.

2 comments:

  1. Dear William Alexander,

    Congratulations on your canpaign to use the metric system only. We have been doing this for years at our house and we have never regretted it for a moment.

    On the thought that you are, on a personal, one-man campaign, might I suggest that you will find supporting resources at http://www.metricationmatters.com.html and that you will gain loads of support fro the U.S. Metric Association (USMA) from http://lamar.colostate.edu/~hillger

    Cheers,

    Pat Naughtin
    Geelong, Australia

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  2. You do realize, of course, that with all this perfect bread you have to start making your own butter. I found out how easy this is here. Now if I only had time to cook I would do this. Until then it's stocking up when Land o'Lakes is on sale for a buck ninety-nine.

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