Weight versus Volume Measurements:
When you start baking, you will be told, that baking is an exact science, - and it is so true!
Baking is based on specific ratios between ingredients, and using imperial/volume measurements these ratios becomes very imprecise.
If I weigh 1 cup of flour, I will likely not end up with the same amount as you would, if you weigh 1 cup of your flour. This difference, plus the difference in water contents in the flour, will give visual and textural differences in the final product.
When baking with pre-ferments or leavens (sourdough), the aspect of weight versus volume measurements becomes more evident. Because the pre-ferment/leaven is filled with a lot of gas/air, it will deflate/degas, when handled.
This is why a scale is one of the best investments you can make for baking.
Tips & Tricks:
Potaske is Potassium carbonate (K₂CO₃). You can replace potaske with Baking Soda, but the cookies won't be as crispy.
Natron is Baking Soda.
Hjortetaksalt is Ammonium bicarbonate (NH₄HCO₃). You can get it here
1 pack of danish live yeast (fresh compressed yeast) is 50 g, equivalent to 1 pack of Danish dry yeast, 11.8 g.
1 pack of Danish dry yeast is 11.8 g, which is equivalent to 4 teaspoons dry yeast.
1 pack of fleischmann's dry yeast contains 7 g.
I buy my fresh compressed yeast from at Copenhagen Bakery in Burlingame or online at The New York Bakers
½ cup butter = 1 stick = 113.4 g
Bakers Percentage (%)
Bakers percentages are when all ingredients are stated as a percentage of the amount of flour used.
The amount of flour (all kinds of flour if using more than one) will always be 100%
You can be baking perfectly good breads without giving any thoughts to the bakers percentage or even trying to calculate it. But when comparing recipes the percentages of water in a dough, might give you an idea how the dough will handle.
Autolyse is another expression bakers use. Basically it means that you mix the flour with water, and let it sit for about 20-30 minutes. This lets the flour absorb all the water completely, and helps activate the natural enzymes in the flour, and improves the gluten development in the dough.
Most breads are just flour, water, salt and yeast/sourdough. So why are some breads full of flavor and texture, while other are not?
I have learned that it takes time to bake a good bread. The times the dough a chance to develop flavors from the leaven and bacteria, including, alcohol, acids and esters (chemical compounds that is a part of the aromas and flavors produced).
Generally there are three parameters you can change in a bread recipe to increase/decrease flavors.
- Yeast or leaven
By increasing, or decreasing, the amount of yeast, or leaven, to the dough, you can limit or extend the time before there is enough yeast cells to produce gas and the dough will start to rise.
A longer fermentation gives more flavor in the bread, but a too long fermentation will yield a very tangy and strong alcohol taste, which will overpower the sweetness of the wheat.
Another drawback of overextended fermentation is the breakdown of the gluten structure, which will make the dough collapse.
A higher temperature will make the fermentation go faster, lowering it will make it slow down. But what are the benefits of either?
Normally I’ll ferment my dough at room temperature, 68-72℉ or 20-22℃. It works great for me. I have not yet tried to ferment at lower temperatures, because I do not have a roomy refrigerator or other professional equipment. But I think my room temperature is lower than most peoples, probably due to my viking genes.
Sometimes you can make temperature work to your advantage. I often make my Basic Country Bread a la Tartine, so I’ll start ferment it in the evening, and by the time I make the final shaping, it is time for proofing and close to bedtime. So I put my proofing baskets in big ziplock bags and put them into the refrigerator. This makes it possible for me to bake the bread first thing in the morning, instead of puling an all-nighter.
Generally speaking a long ferment will yield a bread with a more complex taste. But because dough is a living organism, it has it's limitations. Going to the limits with time and temperature can give you a great or a very bad bread, depending on what you do.
Oven spring is the final rising of the dough, just after the loaf is put in the oven, and before the crust has hardened. To get the maximum oven spring you need to delay the hardening of the crust, to get the loaf to expand. By keeping the surface moist with some kind of steam, you can delay the coagulation of the protein (gluten) in the crust.
Scoring the bread helps you to control where the bread will spilt open due to the oven spring. If bread is not scored, it will split open slightly at the sides, just under the crown if baked in a loaf pan or toward the bottom if free-form.
I use a lame knife, it’s basically a razor blade on a stick. The scoring should be ¼ - ½ inch deep.
Baking with Steam:
There are many ways to try to get steam in your oven. Here is a few methods.
- Put a baking pan on the bottom rack and fill it with pebbles or a large stainless steel chain, and preheat the oven with this in the oven. When you put your bread or rolls into the oven, splash ½ cup hot water on the rocks/chain and close the door quickly. This will build up enough steam to help with the oven-spring/the rise of the dough, before the crust hardens in the heat.
- Place 2-3 soaking wet kitchen towels on a baking pan on the bottom rack, while preheating the oven, and for the first 5-8 minutes of the baking time, and then remove the pan with the towels. Be careful opening the oven the steam will burn you, so stay clear of the oven-opening.
- The simplest way is to spray some hot water into the oven, but this might not be enough to give a perfect oven-spring.
- Baking in a Dutch oven or pot: The moisture released from the dough is trapped inside the vessel and will provide a similar environment as a steam oven. It will slow down the setting of the crust, making a good oven spring possible.
Why use Steam?
By adding steam to the oven during the start of the baking process (the first 5-10 minutes), you'll keep the crust soft, allowing the bread to expand, getting the oven spring. Another thing the steam is a greater conductor of heat, so the steam will allow the temperature in and on the dough to rise faster than without steam. This rapid heating will give the bread a thicker crust and a deeper flavoring, due to the Maillard compounds formed at the high temperature.
Generally you have 3 kinds of batters/doughs when you talk cakes.
A whipped batter is used for spongecakes (lagkagebunde). Whipped batters starts with whisking eggs with sugar light and foamy, then folding in the dry ingredients. Normally you don't add butter or oil to a whipped batter, but off course, no rules without exceptions.
Creamed batters are used in poundcakes (sandkager). They start with creaming butter with sugar, then adding eggs one at a time. A creamed batter will make a denser cake than the whipped batter. The creamed batter is the traditional method here in the US.
The creamed batter has a distant cousin, the Crumble Cake. The crumble cake starts by cutting or massaging the butter into the flour until it resembles wet sand, then adding the rest of the ingredients. This technique prevents the gluten structure from forming, and this makes for thinner more crumbly cakes. You'll use this technique in pie crusts and crispy Scandinavian cookies.
Yeast Based Cakes:
Yeast based cakes are borderline breads. Technically they are not cakes as we come to know them nowadays. But the first cakes know where yeast based, or they were sweet breads. Some of the best known yeast based cakes are pastries like Danish, croissants, or wienerbrød as they are called in Denmark. But also something like cinnamon rolls, are yeast based breads.
A yeast based cake, needs kneading and time to rise, where the other 2 kinds of cakes are more like mix & bake kinda cakes.