Author Topic: about scales and weighing ingredients?  (Read 2269 times)

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Offline pyegal

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about scales and weighing ingredients?
« on: February 03, 2006, 09:52:33 PM »
It's easy to see that many of the experienced bakers here use scales for weighing their ingredients for pizza making or making homemade bread. I'm considering the purchase of an electronic scales and learning how to bake by weight. The thing that is holding me back is......my old nemesis......math. Yes, I am mathmatically challenged and not too proud to admit it.

So, can any kind soul tell me exactly how you measure for pizza making with a scales? I mean, word for word, exactly what you do.

And, is there more than one type of scales? Any brands that you would recommend?

My thanks in advance,
pyegal


Offline Pete-zza

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Re: about scales and weighing ingredients?
« Reply #1 on: February 03, 2006, 11:55:23 PM »
Teresa,

If you plan to use a scale, I would recommend a digital scale. It is more accurate than a spring-loaded scale and easier to use. One of the key features it should have is a tare feature, which I will describe below. In terms of accuracy, the better scales can weigh within 0.05 ounces (the U.S. standard) or 1 gram (the metric standard). In most cases you won't need that degree of accuracy but there are now a fair number of scales on the market that can deliver that accuracy. I would look for a scale that can handle grams (and kilograms) in addition to ounces (and pounds) since there are quite a few recipes that are based on the metric system. You will perhaps want to have a scale that can weigh at least four pounds and preferably more if you plan to make large batches of dough or if you intend to use the scale for other large batch baking applications. Many digital scales also have a time-out feature that turns the scale off after a specified period of non-use. This is to preserve the battery.

I have seen scales meeting all or most of the above features and criteria starting at around $25 and running to over $50. If you do a search on the forum for scales, or look under the equipment boards, you should find recommendations and examples of scales that you might want to consider.

For the most part, the scale will be used primarily for weighing flour and water. They constitute the "heavy" ingredients used to make dough and make up the bulk of the weight of a finished dough. However, the scale can also be used to weigh large amounts of oil and cornmeal and such. In most cases, the scale won't be able to accurately and precisely weigh out small amounts of yeast, salt and sugar. For these ingredients, you will use volumes.

In terms of how a scale is used to weigh ingredients, I can only speak for my scale. It is a simple scale with only a single button. To turn on my scale, I push that button. A digital scale just above the button will register zeros when I do that. To weigh a quantity of, say, flour, I put a container that is to hold the flour on the scale platform and press the button again. This is what is called a "tare" function and what it does is to effectively "zero" out the weight of the container. This "zeroing" out feature will be reflected by zeros appearing again on the display. When flour is added to the container on the scale platform, the weight of the flour will appear on the display as you add the flour. You will usually have to tweak the amount of flour in the container to get the precise amount of flour you want. I do the fine tuning by using a teaspoon or tablespoon. The display will register either ounces/lbs. or grams/kilograms depending on which system you set the scale to use. On my scale, there is a switch under the scale that allows you to select either the U.S. standard system or the metric system.

Once the desired quantity of the flour is in the container, you can set the container aside. I might add that with some scales, the container is a specially designed container that comes with the scale. With some models, it is also possible to weigh ingredients on the scale platform without the need of a separate container. My unit did not come with its own container, and I almost always use a container rather than weighing directly on the scale platform. You can use whatever container you have on hand, although its size should be commensurate with the amount of the flour to be weighed. I should also mention that it is possible to do successive tare operations, each of which zeros out the weight of all of the ingredients then in the container in preparation for weighing the next ingredient added. This is not a feature I often use, but it can come in handy when needed.

To weigh water, I use a standard glass Pyrex measuring cup. I use the tare feature to zero out the weight of the Pyrex container, and I then add the water (or other liquid) to the container until it gets to the desired weight. Again, you may have to tweak the amount of water to get the precise amount you want. When you reach that point, you can set the Pyrex measuring cup aside and move on to the next step in your pizza dough making. One of the reasons I like using the Pyrex container is that I convert most of my formulations to volumes and using the Pyrex cup allows me to eyeball how much water I have weighed on a volume basis. Any other type of container will also work.

As you can see, the process is quite simple. My unit (a Soehnle Futura) is so simple that the only instructions I got with the unit was a single sheet with only sketches on how to use the unit. My recollection is that there were no written instructions.

Peter



 


Offline pyegal

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Re: about scales and weighing ingredients?
« Reply #2 on: February 04, 2006, 10:00:11 AM »
Peter,
Thanks for that great information about purchasing a scale and what to look for. I'll print off your reply to keep for future reference.

I am still not quite understanding how you weigh or measure by the percentages that many dough recipes use here. Do you total the weight of your flour and then multiply by the percentage of the water to get the amount of water in grams or ounces to add? I understand that the amounts of yeast, salt, sugar and oil may be too small to register on the scale, but why are they listed as percentages on the recipe? If the flour is listed as 100%, do you just add water to the flour container to total 62% or whatever?

I think this might be one time where seeing the process would make more sense to me than reading it. And, I did tell you I am mathematically challenged.

Offline Hi Gluten

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Re: about scales and weighing ingredients?
« Reply #3 on: February 04, 2006, 10:15:44 AM »
Hi pyegal,

When I do recipes, I like to go by Bakers percentage. I also use metric, since it's based on the decimal system and easily correlates with Bakers method, which is also based on the decimal system. The only time I use ounces is when I weigh out the dough balls.

The simplicity of metric is ideal for baking because you can get very accurate measurements.

A quick example...100% flour = 100 grams of flour
                               5% yeast= 5 grams of yeast
                               63% water = 63 grams of water
                                 7% salt = 7 grams of salt

The beauty of this method is that you can multiply or divide with the greatest of ease.  100% flour can be 500 grams and therefore you would multiply all of your ingredients by 5.

I will mention that I do on occasion use volumetric measurements (cups, ounces) and I can also make pizza dough by eye (no measurements). But, when trying a new recipe or developing a new one, the Bakers method is the only way to go.

 :chef:  :pizza:

Offline Hi Gluten

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Re: about scales and weighing ingredients?
« Reply #4 on: February 04, 2006, 10:26:02 AM »
I do want to mention one more thing...When doing a dough recipe, I will have more water available than the recipe calls for.
This is the one variable that needs to be observed. Depending on the flour variety,brand,humidity,etc.,etc., this can vary significantly. Sometimes you may need less water, such as in the summer season and/or high humidity. Also you may need more if your in a dry climate or experience a cold dry winter. Experience and experimentation will be your guides. This way you have only one variable to deal with and your results will be more predictable and consistant.

Offline Pete-zza

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Re: about scales and weighing ingredients?
« Reply #5 on: February 04, 2006, 11:16:29 AM »
Teresa,

Your questions go to the heart of what baker’s percents are all about and how they are used. And, since baker’s percents are based on weights, that is where the scale comes into the picture. As I indicated, for most of us, the scale is primarily used to weigh flour and water. But, it is also possible to use a specialty scale, such as the one that member pftaylor has (which appears to have been discontinued), to weigh small quantities of the other ingredients, including yeast, salt, oil, and sugar (and in pftaylor’s case, preferments). Absent such a specialty scale, we rely instead on converting weights of the smaller ingredients to volumes by using conversion data. But, if you were a baker making dough for hundreds of loaves of bread, you would actually be able to use the scale to weigh yeast, salt, sugar, oil, etc. That’s the reason why you can’t ignore the baker’s percents for the smaller items. They are an integral part of the formulation.

As Hi Gluten had pointed out, the math behind baker’s percents is rather simple and straightforward, and I believe that in short order you will come to see and understand the beauty and simplicity of the baker’s percents system. I think you might find it helpful to read a bit on baker’s percents, and as a typical article on baker’s percents you might want to take a look at this: http://www.kingarthurflour.com/stuff/contentmgr/files/4a1eb4311b0be08b2b590b39ac3f2c77/download/bakers_percentage.pdf. To see how I have used baker’s percents to design and make a specific Lehmann dough, you might also want to take a look at Reply # 29, page 2, at http://www.pizzamaking.com/forum/index.php/topic,576.20.html. At that post, you will see where the conversion data comes into play to convert weights of small amounts of lightweight ingredients to volumes.

I think you might also enjoy looking at how Steve has used the multiple tare operations to make a thin, cracker-style dough, starting at Reply # 12, at http://www.pizzamaking.com/forum/index.php/topic,779.0.html. I think seeing the photos at that thread will answer any remaining questions you may have about how the tare feature works. In Steve’s case, he used the food processor bowl as his container to hold all the ingredients, and he added the different ingredients in succession and used the tare feature several times. It isn't necessary to use the same approach, although if you were using a mixer bowl, you could put it on the scale, zero it out using the tare feature, and then start adding other ingredients, and then taring them out also. I don't do this for the reason that Hi Gluten had mentioned. I weigh the flour and water but how I combine them takes into account the various factors mentioned by Hi Gluten.

Peter

Offline pyegal

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Re: about scales and weighing ingredients?
« Reply #6 on: February 04, 2006, 11:59:16 AM »
Thanks, Peter and Hi Gluten for the additional information. That is exactly what I needed to know. While I have a small spring type scale, I know that what is needed is a digital scale like the brand mentioned. It's good to know that they may not be quite as expensive as I first thought. I may be testing some recipes for an upcoming bread book by a "well known" author and the digital scale may be needed for that.

As I admit that I am the type of person whose eyes glaze over when too many numbers and calculations present themselves, I am very grateful for your patience in helping me to understand the weighing process. We know we can come here and received answers to our questions offered in a most helpful and civil tone.

Sincerely,
Teresa - with unglazed eyes at the moment