Weight a bit!

First, Happy New Year to everyone. I hope you all thrive in the coming months (without recourse to commercial yeast).

You know me: tend to go my own way and ignore advice to spray ovens, use a baking stone, bake in pots, do the window pane test, etc., etc. Never worried too much about recipe conversion or whether hydration is a couple of grams high or low (according to the book) – it’s all in the feel, init?

For reasons I’m not yet ready to go into, I’m currently doing some work on pizzas – I’ve actually gone as far as to buy Peter Reinhart on the subject (I thought that would shock you). Furthermore, I’m attempting to accurately transpose some of his formulas from US to metric. Previously I’ve been really sloppy about this sort of thing – weigh a cup of flour, weigh a cup of water and take it from there – always seem to have got away with it.

How do Americans manage to cook anything anyway? “Take three and two third cups minus two tablespoons …”

Anyway, this time I’m going to be scientifically accurate. He starts off “Take 5 cups (22½ ounces) of unbleached, all-purpose flour”. So, using the dip-and-sweep method (see, I do know somethings) I measure out 5 cups. It comes to way over 22½ ounces (and this is before we even consider grams). Do it again in case I put in an extra cup. No difference. Start to wonder if US ounces are the same as UK ounces. Start to Google.

Can’t find anything to indicate more than one ounce weight. So cups then? I did know that cup sizes varied but not just how complicated it got. I assume my cups, which I bought in the UK years ago, must be UK (Imperial) cups. But no – several websites later I establish they are metric cups. So all I have to work out is the proportion of metric cups to US cups (I think we can safely leave Japanese cups out of the equation). It is then that I discover there are two types of American cups, the Legal Cup and the Customary Cup. Make myself a large Hot Whiskey and give up for the day.

I wonder if measuring spoons vary? That just leaves flour equivalents and temperature doesn’t it? Although what exactly does he mean by a grill? what’s a cheese steak, a hoagy …

9 thoughts on “Weight a bit!

  1. There are Australian cups as well! Spoons are not much better. However if you just stick to one set it should not matter its just ratios. So as long as you fill them in a similar manner each time you should have problem.
    Yes I have come across this 1 cup minus a tablespoon nonsense, but what gets me is how measure a cup of butter. Melt it first?

    1. Hiya Martin
      Happy New Year but please don’t introduce the Australian cup! I can’t cope as it is.

  2. As an American, I could not agree with you more. I do not like the English system of measurement that has persisted despite the more useful metric system. That is why I use the metric system for my pizza dough. The recipe comes from Maggie Glezer’s “Artisan Baking Across America” (oddly enough) and I get excellent results. I occasionally add honey or olive oil to the recipe as Reinhart does in some of his recipes. The basic recipe is 1 kg of flour, 660 g of water, 20 g of salt, and 1/4 teaspoon of yeast; though, I now use 200 g of liquid starter.

    I’m new to this blog, so I’m assuming the questions about grills, hoagies, and cheesesteaks are rhetorical.

    1. Hi Mark
      Welcome to the blog. I do have Maggie Glezer’s book so I’ll check out the recipe.
      I am tongue in cheek most of the time but I had to google hoagies and I’m still not sure what cheese steaks are or precisely what grill refers to. I know you use broiler for what I would call a grill but in the context of cheese steaks does grill refer to a hot plate/griddle?

  3. Thank you.
    You will find that the recipe in Maggies’s book is half that which I listed. Out of habit (since I do the recipe very often) I listed the double recipe that I usually use. It is a family favorite for me to make pizza.
    I’m aware of only two variations of the “grill” here in America. There may be regional uses for the term that add to these. The common feature of both is that the heat source is below the heated surface and is usually a flame from gas, wood, or charcoal. The difference between the 2 is that one is an open-grate heated surface; and the other is a solid metal surface.Another name for the open-grate grill is a barbecue.
    Yes, the grill used for cheese steaks would be very similar to a griddle. For restaurant production of this sandwich is usually a large (I’d guess 3 feet by 5 or 6 feet) rectangular griddle.
    The cheese steak itself is thinly sliced beef grilled usually with onions. When I say thinly sliced I mean paper thin slices. This is topped with cheese (usually cheddar, Swiss, or American) so that it melts. It is scooped onto a 8 to 12 inch long soft roll.
    They are very popular in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania around which I (and Reinhart) grew up. If you want to start an argument, go into a bar in South Philly and ask who makes the best cheesesteak in Philly…then stand back.
    I don’t think Reinhart is referring to the griddle-grill when he talks about grilling pizza. I believe he is referring to the open-grate grill for that.

    1. Hi Mark
      I know Americans use grill to mean barbeque. Peter Reinhart’s reference to grill was in the context of cooking cheese steaks so I’m assuming the rectangular griddle is what he was talking about.
      It’s a whole other language!

  4. Happy New Year Mick! to misquote an essay title I was set at school many eons ago, ce n’est que l’Atlantique qui separe les anglais des americains It is not only the … oh you speak French I know you do xx Joanna

  5. I knew there was a good reason that I only use baking recipes that list ingredients in weights. I, too, have spent many an hour with a calculator trying to convert American recipes (and reducing the amount of sugar in them) and have usually given up in disgust and, like you, hit the booze – red wine in my case!

  6. Well, Zeb, I can work my way round a French menu pretty good – and, looking out at the mist and drizzle, I wouldn’t mind being on the terrace of a restaurant in the Sud-Ouest right now. “Deux pastis s’il vous plait, Monsieur ….

    And, OP, I can drink with both hands, red wine always welcome.

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