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Food
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Organic Honey Whole Wheat Bread

Bread recipe clarification

PG Food has had some calls about the following recipe for Organic Honey Whole Wheat Bread. Although the reporter tested the recipe as written (a cup of her flour weighed in at 1/2 pound) and hers turned out OK, others found that there was not enough flour listed. One caller said a pound of flour is not 2 cups as the recipe said, but more like 4 cups. An experienced bread baker says she used almost three times the amount of flour listed.

We turned to a favorite food scientist's book, "CookWise" by Shirley O. Corriher, to see what the expert had to say. In her reference book is a graph derived from her "personal measurements," as well as "Average Weight of a Measured Cup of Various Foods," USDA Home Economics Research Report No. 41.

According to the "Cookwise" graph, the weight of a cup of all-purpose flour is 5 ounces if it is "dipped," but 4.25 ounces if it is "spooned." (We're presuming both methods included leveling with a spatula after measuring.) All-purpose sifted flour weighed in at 4 ounces, but bread flour -- dipped not spooned -- weighed 5.6 ounces.

Perhaps this is the crux. According to Corriher: "There are many variables in going between weight and volume so these values are therefore approximate. The only way to be accurate is to weigh the flour over and over in the manner that you measure volume and take an average."

In our experience, the amount of flour required in bread recipes varies greatly, depending on the weather, the brand of flour -- and maybe even the disposition of the cook for the day's baking. Bread-baking, as much as we would like, is not given to specifics in either amount of flour or rising times. Yeast seems to have a life of its own as well, the same brand rising fast one day, slowly the next.

Despite the occasional variation, you can ensure good results in baking if you know that most recipes are based on a conventional method of measuring flour: Gently spoon the flour from the canister into a dry measuring cup, then level with a spatula. If the recipe calls for sifting the flour, do that, too.

This general rule would not be true for some cookbook series, such as Betty Crocker, which specifies measuring flour by the "dip-level-pour" method.

-- Suzanne Martinson


Poolish:

1 pound water (approximately 2 1/4 cups)
1 pound flour (approximately 2 cups)
1 teaspoon yeast

The dough:

Poolish, recipe above
2 1/4 cups water
2 tablespoons yeast (2 packets of dry yeast)
1/2 pound honey
6 eggs
2 pounds flour (2 to 1 white to whole wheat)
2 to 3 tablespoons salt
1/4 pound butter (1 stick), softened

Combine the poolish ingredients the night before and let it rise overnight, covered, in a warm, dry spot.

Begin with the poolish the next morning. Add the 2 1/4 cups water, about 90 degrees, and the yeast. Let it sit for 5 minutes, then add the honey and eggs.

Begin mixing in the flour. When the mix is soupy, add the salt and butter. Continue mixing in the flour until you have a slightly sticky dough. If the dough becomes stiff, you've added too much flour, so add a few splashes of water. The dough should pull away from the mixing bowl.

Let it rise in a warm (74 degrees) dry spot, covered, for about an hour and a half, or until double in size. Gently knead down and let rise again to nearly double, about 45 minutes to an hour.

Shape into equal size loaves and place into 5 or 6 greased bread pans. Let rise again to nearly double, 45 minutes to an hour.

Preheat oven to 325 degrees. Bake loaves for about an hour. Makes 5 or 6 loaves.

Some tips: Avoid the common mistakes. Don't make the dough stiff. Never let the dough over rise. Make sure the dough has a warm, dry spot to rise, covered. Toss a few ice cubes into the oven or mist the oven just before baking. Rotate the bread once during baking. Leftover bread can be frozen. Wrap well and thaw on counter. Dough can also be frozen. Thaw on counter and let rise. Put in pan and let rise again.

Ray Werner

Thursday, June 24, 1999



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