Search Results for: scales

My Weigh Scales — Winners and Sources

I would like to wish happy weighing to Joey D of San Diego, winner of the My Weigh i5000 scale, and Nicole Dula of Dula Notes, winner of the KD-8000.

Next time I’m going to have to ask My Weigh for 247 scales, so everyone can win one. I’m not sure if they’ll go for this, though, so it might be a good idea to just get one. Here are a couple of online sources:

Amazon: i5000, KD-8000

Old Will Knott Scales: i5000, KD-8000

Tools: Baking Bang for Your Buck

People often ask me what I recommend as the most important tools to get first, if you have a limited budget for baking equipment. These items are listed in roughly the reverse order in which you could pry them from my hands. It’s also not a bad list of gift ideas for any bread baker in your life.*

  • Baking stone. It’s hard to get good crusty hearth loaves without one (and here’s why). High-end is the Fibrament, but a less expensive stone, or even unglazed terra cotta tiles, will do the job, although they’re more prone to breakage. $10 – $100.
  • Steam set-up for your oven. This is not an item you can buy; it’s rigged from inexpensive components. Steam is essential for most crusty breads. Read more about the why and how of steam here. $15 – $25.
  • Bench scraper (aka bench knife, dough scraper, or dough cutter), like this one. Cuts ciabatta dough into pieces, lifts sticky pieces of dough off the counter, and cleans your counter of tenacious dough bits and loose flour. About $12.
  • Digital scale. It is my personal mission in life to see that everyone measures their baking ingredients by weight, not volume. More about that here. I like the My Weigh i5000 and the Escali Primo. $25 – $50.
  • Instant-read thermometer. Dough temperature is important for proper fermentation. Read more about temperature here. A thermometer is also useful if you don’t know whether your loaf is fully baked yet. The Thermapen is wonderfully fast but pricey; this Taylor Digital Thermometer works fine for much less money. $15 – $90.
  • Small ingredients scale. Ingredients like yeast and salt that are usually called for in amounts of 10 grams or less are best weighed on a scale that has precision to a tenth of a gram. However, these  ingredients also measure fairly well by volume, so this is not an essential tool. It’s nice to have, though. $20 – $40.
  • Stand mixer. Although nice to have, especially for certain doughs like bagels and brioche, most breads can be mixed just fine by hand, so a mixer is a lower priority. Mine is a KitchenAid 6-qt. and I recommend it. About $400.

*Note to my male friends on the appropriateness of these things as gifts to wives/girlfriends: For birthdays and other occasions, it might depend on the woman in question, and on the gift — mixer, probably; scale, perhaps; lava rocks, doubtful — but for anniversaries, just don’t do it! Trust me on this one.

World Class Baking

Mike Zakowski loads breads and rolls into the oven.

Last month, when many people had World Cup Soccer on their minds, I was privileged to meet a small group of hugely talented bakers who came together at the San Francisco Baking Institute to prepare for a very different world cup: the Coupe du Monde de la Boulangerie. In the 2012 “World Cup of Bread Baking,” which is said to be the Olympics of the baking world, teams from twelve countries will compete for Gold, Silver, and Bronze medals as they promote international awareness of baking as a highly skilled craft.

Craig Ponsford, Chariman of the Bread Bakers Guild of America, sponsor of the USA team, graciously spent some time discussing the history and structure of this prestigious competition.

The Coupe du Monde was founded in 1992 by Christian Vabret of the Ecole Française de Boulangerie d’Aurillac to honor the art and craft of artisan baking, promote baking education and technical skill, and foster international goodwill and appreciation of traditional regional artisan breads and techniques. It is held in Paris every three to four years in conjunction with the trade show Europain. The previous Coupe du Monde’s top three teams are invited back to participate in the next event. Other countries must compete for the remaining nine slots through four regional qualifying competitions, the Louis LeSaffre Cups.

Jeremey Gadouas works on Viennoiserie.

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Small-Scale Thinking

In the past I have recommended (OK, scolded, ranted, pleaded) that you weigh your baking ingredients. Are you doing that?

Do you have a kitchen scale that gets a workout every time you bake? Yay!

Are you using that scale to weigh all of your ingredients? Not so fast.

Most kitchen scales have a resolution of one or two grams. That means that if you need to measure in small amounts, which is common for things like yeast and salt, it is very difficult to be accurate.

If you needed, say, 2 grams of instant yeast, and you tried to measure that on your 1-gram-resolution scale, you could wind up with anything from 1.5 to 2.5 grams. That’s a 25% margin of error, even assuming the scale is perfectly calibrated. If you’re weighing only one gram, the margin of error goes up to 50%, and if you need less than a gram, you might as well just let lemurs weigh it out for you.

Being the conscientious baker (ok, the phrase “compulsive geek” could come to mind) that I am, this is not okay with me. (Maybe it’s okay with you, and I’m okay with it being okay with you, but it’s still not okay with me. Okay?)

I’m really liking this new Admetior spoon scale. It’s fairly inexpensive, compact, and spot-on accurate, as corroborated by my earlier MyWeigh Axe, which I also like but is a little pricier. Both have 0.1-gram resolutions and can handle up to 300 grams.

Until you can get your hands on one of these little gems, I suggest using good old-fashioned measuring spoons in most cases where you need 10 grams or less. Here are some conversions for ingredients commonly called for in small amounts:

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My Weigh Giveaweigh

I know I’ve said this before (and before and before and before), but I need to weigh in on this again:

If you’re not weighing your ingredients, you should be!

If you don’t know why, go scoot and read my small rant on weighing. (Summary: It’s accurate. It’s fast. It’s neat. Everyone who’s anyone is doing it.) Then come back, because I have something you might want.

For two years my trusty scale has been a My Weigh i5000. I love it because:

  • it is spot-on accurate
  • it can weigh in either grams (to 1-gram precision) or pounds and ounces (to 0.5-ounce precision)
  • it has a capacity of 5 kg
  • it is slim and lightweight and fits easily in a kitchen drawer (although I leave mine out because I use it daily)

I love my scale so much I thought I’d ask the people at My Weigh if they would give me one that I could give to one of you, and they were nice enough to say yes.

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Do-It-Yourself Conversions

Have you noticed that most of my recipes list ingredients in grams? I often receive email from people asking if I would convert the grams into ounces, or into volume measurements. I’m sorry I cannot do this on request, but here are some tips that may help you, if you want to do the converting yourself.

I strongly recommend weighing ingredients, especially flour. The reasons for this are explained in my post about scales and weighing. Many scales can switch between avoirdupois (ounces/pounds; the US system) and metric (grams/kilograms; the sane system) units.

If you do not have a scale, or your scale does not have metric units, you will have to do some math. (Remember when you rolled your eyes in 5th-grade math class and complained that you couldn’t imagine when you would ever need this stuff in real life? Now would be a good time.)

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