Question about Peter Reinhart's Bread Baker's Apprentice
I read about this book on other posts on this board and borrowed it from the library. I like the clarity of his instructions and the photos, but am concerned that recipes call for odd amounts like 1 1/3 tsp. of salt, as there is no such measurement of 1/3 tsp. of salt in the American baking lexicon. I converted the given weight measurement of .41 ounces to grams and still wound up with an odd number. I realize that in this example, a heaping 1/4 tsp. would likely suffice, but I'm wary about how successfully his recipes have been scaled back for the home baker. If fellow bakers would weigh in with feedback on this book, I'd appreciate it.
Velda Mae, can you indicate which recipe calls for 1 1/3 tsp of salt? That looks like it might be a typographical error for 1 1/3 tablespoons of salt. When something like that comes up, you can sometimes recalibrate by finding out what percentage of the weight of the flour it is. In typical table salt, 1 1/3 teaspoons weighs 7.98 grams. So round it to eight grams. If you add salt at the typical baker's rate of 18 grams per kilo of flour, it would mean that there is enough salt here for 443 grams of flour, which would measure 3 1/8 cup if the flour comes to 140 grams to a cup. Let us safely round this out to 3 cups of flour. If your recipe is for 3 cups of flour, it makes sense. Although it is an odd measure, you could treat it as 1 and a scant half teaspoon of salt. On the other hand, if the recipe calls for something like 7 cups of flour, then most likely the measure should have been tablespoons. (Generally speaking, 1/2 teaspoon of table salt or fine sea salt per cup of flour works well in a recipe if the flour weighs about 5 ounces or 140 per cup. But some recipes may use less and others more. The usual range is from about 1.5% of the weight of the flour to close to 3%.)
The recipe was for Italian Bread and it actually called for 1 2/3 tsp. of salt. The recipe calls for 3 1/2 c. of biga, which doesn't have salt, plus 2 1/2 c. of flour. If Father Kitchen's theory is correct, than 1 2/3 Tbl. is a straightforward measurement because it's also known as 5 tsp.
Hmmm... Yeh. I looked at my copy, and checked some weights. I hate how he measures in ounces. Any baker using a scale should be employing metric units. I wonder how much of that was the publishers deciscion.
Anyway, the recommended *weight* of salt is 0.41 ounces = ~11 g. 1+2/3 tsp wheighs ~ 8 grams while 1+2/3 tbl weighs > 20 g. So in both cases the indicated volume doesn't match the porposed weight. Something is fishy with this recipe.
Ok... assuming his "baker's percentage formulae" (p.173 upper right corner) is correct then this means that the recipe by weight is correct and that the recipe by volume underestimates the salt by ~25%.
This is from his "baker's percentage formulae":
flour = 100
salt = 3.6
% salt = 3.6
This is from the "by weight" recipe:
flour = 11.25 ounces
salt = 0.41 ounces
% salt = 3.6
I would definately still get the book. I actually have never used those measuremnts he provides in the "weight" or "volume" recipies. I only use the "% formulae" and all the breads I have tried have been great! As a matter of fact, my favorite is poolish ciabatta. This calls for almost the same ratio of salt to flour to starter as the Italian Bread in question and always comes out fantastic. I would get a scale and work with the % formula only. There is a nice, informative section on using the % formula to get you started. Believe me. You won't go back. :)
Thanks for your detailed response and your feedback on the book.
Most cookbooks still use ounces because Americans are so resistant to the metric system and there isn't enough space on the pages to allow for both standard and metric measurements. I saw Jeffrey Hamelman's book Bread for the first time yesterday and was pleased to see it includes metric weights.