Steamed Rice

Steamed rice is rice cooked in water. It is not fried first (pilaf, biryani, some Mexican styles) or cooked as a risotto, paella, rice pudding, congee or other flavoured rice dish.  Cooked rice can used in a dish, as an accompaniment to other dishes, fried or processed further, or added to other dishes e.g. Nasi Goreng is preparation of fried cooked long grain white rice.

Steaming is an absorption preparation.  Salt is optional; it does not play a part in the cooking process and is added for taste. Steamed rice can be cooked in a pot or cooking vessel over a heat source, or in rice cooker appliance. Pressure cookers and Multi-cooker appliances (e.g. Instant Pot) can do steamed rice. The slow cooker can cook rice in a soup or stew. It does not do well with plain rice where the goal is fluffy grains.

Rinsing some white rice is useful. Rinsing brown rice is pointless – the grain is still coated with bran. The editors and authors of Cook’s Illustrated/America’s Test Kitchen have a theory about rinsing white rice. They published it as concept 30 in The Science of Good Cooking (2012) with their summary of their “Test Kitchen Experiment”. Their aphorism is “Rinsing (Not Soaking) Makes Rice Fluffy). CI/ATK publishes summaries of its test kitchen tests, Their tests are not controlled scientific experiments, but they are useful Rinsing is useful for long grain white rice and some medium grain rices, but not for short grain rice that is supposed to be creamy (for risotto) or sticky (for sushi and other Asian dishes). For some kind of white rice, and some preparations, rinsing removes rice flour and talc and helps to keep it from getting sticky. Rinsing rice is normal for White Basmati but uncommon with long grain white rice grown in the Southern USA, and with some European short grain rices (risotto rices or Spanish Bomba for paella).

Soaking rice before cooking is not useful. It is recommended by some sources, but it is not useful.

It is possible to put rice in ample boiling water and strain it like pasta. Some cookbooks promote this; many suggest this as an option among other methods.

Sri Owen, in The Rice Book (1993), said that steaming rice in a vessel on a heat source can be a 2 step process.  First, rice is simmered in a measured amount of water in an uncovered pot at the boiling point until the rice has absorbed the water. The second step is “finishing”; Owen describes 4 ways:

  • Cover the vessel and leaving it on very low heat to steam the rice internally, taking it off the heat and leaving it covered;
  • Moving the rice into a collander and steaming the rice suspended in another vessel over boiling water.   This is basically parcooking the rice and put it in a steamer or collander, recommended by Jamie Oliver;
  • Moving the rice into a casserole, covering it and baking in an oven;
  • Moving the rice into a microwaving vessel, covering with the usual wrap or cover, and a few minutes in a microwave oven.

Owen pointed out that a rice cooker was a good tool; she did not write about presssure cookers or multi-cookers.

The conventional method of steaming rice is a slow simmer at the point that water steams. It is simpler than the two step processes above, and allows the cook to deal with other tasks once the temperature has been brought down to a simmer. It requires a pot that disperses the heat evenly, a tight lid to hold in the steam, and control of heat and time.

Put rice in a meaured amount of water, bring the water to a boil,  cover the pot, reduce the heat, simmer. Leave it covered and set a timer. Remove from heat and rest off heat, covered for 10-15 minutes. Set the timer for the final rest.

The cooking time can be from 12 to 20 minutes. The method works within a range of rice/water ratios and times. The results may be more or less fluffy, absorbent or sticky.  The rice recipe at What’s Cooking America has a table of rice to water ratio and cooking times for several kinds of rice. The instructions at that site for cooking white rice are a bit contradictory.  There is a concise article by Fine Cooking magazine and some videos and notes at the Kitchn site. The normally stated ratio of long grain white rice to water is 1 cup of dry rice to 1.5 to 1.75  cups of water.  CI/ATK recommend the low end of this range. 1.5 cups of water to 1 cup of rice is too much water for Basmati rice. It may be suitable for pilafs of other long grained white rice.

Package directions for the standard varieties such as long grain white rice tend to go high on water; many recipes do. This will lead to soggy overcooked rice.

Steaming can be performed in a pressure cooker. Laura Pazzaglia calls for 3 cups of water for 1.5 cups of long grain white rice in the print version of Hip Pressure Cooking! This is soggy; there is a mistake in that recipe! Her table on her web page states a reasonable 1.5 cups of water per cup of long grain white rice. When the water boils, the lid is locked and the pot is brought to high pressure, and the cooking time on high pressure is 3 minutes. Then rest off heat 10 minutes or more without releasing the pressure (i.e. do not use the release mechanism); let the pressure drop as the pot cools.

I normally use a normal pot on a stove for white rice. The pressure cooker is not actually that much faster or more convenient.

White Basmati Rice, a long grain aromatic rice originating from Northern India, Pakistan and Nepal can be cooked by the slow simmer method. Refer to: article from the Guardian; Madhur Jaffry recipe from the Telegraph. I like the rice fluffy and go light on the water:

  • 2.33 cups of water to 2 cups of rice, simmering 23 minutes, or
  • 2 cups of water to 1.5 cups of rice, simmering 20 minutes . 

White Basmati  rice can be cooked in a pressure cooker at the ratio of 1 cup rice to 1.25 cups water. As with other long grain white rice, I normally use a normal pot on the stove.

All rice delivers carbohydrates, a source of glucose, an essential nutrient. Rice is normally milled to remove the husk or bran and germ, leaving the white kernel of endosperm with the carbs. White rice can be cooked quickly, saving time and fuel/energy.

Brown or whole rice has been dried, but the bran has been left. It is heat treated to keep the oils in the bran turning the rice rancid. Roger Own, in his essay “A Rice Landscape”, published in Sri Owen’s The Rice Book (1993) wrote: “… brown rice always costs more because there is less demand for it, and because the bran … milled off … would have been sold separately.”

The demand for brown rice has been increasing because it has become perceived as a healthy whole food, and because restaurant chefs and food writers have developed palatable preparations and liberated healthy foods from the ideas that eating should be directed to the hope of healthful longevity, a that tasty food must be unhealthy. Brown rice has more micronutrients and fiber than white rice. 

Steaming brown rice takes a longer cooking time – 40 minutes or so. Many recipes suggest 2 cups of water to one cup of brown rice. CI/ATK suggests 1.5 cups of rice in 2.33 cups of water. Sri Owen suggests that white and brown rice should have the same amount of water for some techniques.

In a pressure cooker, Laura Pazzaglia calls for 2.5 cups of water for 1.5 cups of long grain brown rice in the print version of Hip Pressure Cooking which is a bit soggy. She calls for 2.5 cups of water for 2 cups of long grain brown rice in her recipe in the recipe book that ships with an Instant Pot (in the table on her web page she recommends 1 cup of rice to 1.25 cups of water); cooking time 18 minutes with a stovetop pressure cooker or 22 minutes with an electric. Rest off heat 10 minutes or more without releasing the pressure; let the pressure drop naturally as the pot cools, and release the pressure valve then.

Yeast – Panasonic Bread Machine

Bread baked in the Panasonic SD-YD250 bread machine does not need as much yeast as recipes other than the Panasonic manual say:

  • The machine will bake an extra large (2.5 lb) loaf that may take more than 4 cups of flour. The yeast dispenser does not hold much more that a tablespoon;
  • Panasonic’s  recipes (in the manual; see its online recipe resource pages) call for half the amount of yeast in typical recipes:
    • 1 tsp (instead of 2 tsp or more ) for 3 cups of flour for a medium loaf;
    • 1.5 tsp. for 4.375 cups of flour for extra large loaves;
  • Medium loaves  based on The Bread Lover’s Bread Machine Cookbook (“BLBMC”) and other recipe resources filled the  pan, and had airy, weak crumb; some ballooned or cratered/collapsed/imploded.

Panasonic’s recipes for medium loaves, both with bread flour and whole wheat flour, on the bake sandwich cycle, call for 1 tsp of yeast. These recipes have identical hydration rates – the flour and water weights are identical.  In each formula the yeast is 2.8 g to 417 g; in baker percentage (B%) 0.7%. Panasonic’s  “bake sandwich” cycle selects for medium loaves – it locks out the use of the loaf size command setting.  The recipes in the manual for white sandwich and whole wheat sandwich bread on bake sandwich cycle are identical to the formulas for medium loaves in the basic white and 100% whole wheat recipes. For the 2 hour “bake rapid” cycle and the 3 hour “whole wheat bake rapid” cycles, Panasonic suggests 2 tsp of yeast.

Panasonic’s engineers worked the mix, knead and rise phases to work that way. Set for medium loaves, basic bake and whole wheat cycles, the machine mixes for 3 minutes, kneads for 20-30 minutes and rests to rise for nearly two hours.

I prefer low sodium bread. The principle is to reduce yeast by the same percentage as salt as suggested in BLBMC at p. 290 and by the Please Don’t Pass the Salt bread page

I monitored recipes in June-August, 2018. I peeked under the lid to see what happened – including the last part of the rise phase after the machine knocked down the dough.  I made manual interventions a few times – I ran a silicon spatula between the dough and the pan 5-10 minutes just before the start of baking to gently deflate the loaf. (Using a spatula risks marring the no-stick surface of the pan. Silicon spatulas are safer.)

I adjusted yeast in BLBMC formulas for white, whole wheat, and combined flour (multigrain), and formulas requiring 2 tsp  yeast for a medium loaf (a formula with 3 cups or 15 oz. flour +/- by weight). This approach resolved the inflation problem and produced loaves that were not inflated:

  • Ignore the amount of “bread machine yeast” in a formula in the BLBMC – (BLBMC has different amounts of SAF instant dry yeast and any other “bread machine yeast”);
  • Weigh yeast and know the correct conversion factor. I use a factor: 1 tsp of instant yeast weighs 2.8 grams;
  • Weigh salt and know the correct conversion factor, I assume a recipe refers to conventionally ground table salt; 1 tsp weighs 5.7 grams;
  • Use half the amount in the recipe for SAF instant dry yeast in a BLBMC formula (instant or “bread machine” dry yeast in other formulas not specifically written for a Panasonic machine).

For low sodium I cut yeast and salt equally.  For 50% sodium I just halve them. Then I make a “Panasonic” adjustment for yeast by halving it. When  I use 50% of a BLBMC recipe amount of salt, I use 25% of the BLBMC recipe amount of yeast.

The recipes and my notes for that round of tests are in a separate post.

SD-YD250 Bread Machine

panasonic bread maker sizes

Reviews at Everyday Sandwich and Make Bread at Home describe and illustrate the Panasonic SD-YD250.  It has loaf size settings for medium (1.5 lb), large (2 lb) and extra large (2.5 lb) loaves baked in an extra large vertical rectangle pan. Extra large pan means big loaves. The loaves that are all in the pan are long when laid town, and still relatively wide and tall.

It features a yeast dispensing compartment. This is a rare feature, but does not seem to change the process. It helps make sure that the yeast stays dry until the ingredients are blended.

It was not offered in Panasonic Canada’s online store in 2018 & 2019. It has been in Panasonic USA’s web store for about $140 US; prices in online retail go a few dollars lower – but also higher. Like the more expensive Panasonic 2.5 lb loaf machines – the SD-RD250 and the SD-YR2500 – it has settings for medium, large and extra large loaves but not for small loaves. The SD-YD250 seems to have the motor, drive train, non-stick pan and heating element of the newer, higher priced models.

The SD-YD250 can bake daily or sandwich bread, whether with white flour or whole wheat, as well as I can bake those loaves in conventional baking pans in an oven. It can bake light rye bread (a mixture of white flour and rye flour), and other multigrain loaves.

The pan coating releases the loaf easily at the end of the bake cycle but the paddle stays on the shaft in the pan.  I don’t know if Panasonic has a uniquely effective coating, or has designed the connection fitting on the shaft and paddle in a better way, or if these innovation or features are present in modern machines by other manufacturers. (Removing the paddle from the pan can be done after the pan cools after taking the loaf from pan.  It works better before the bits of crumb around the end of the shaft dry out and bond the paddle to the shaft.)

The inside measurements  of the pan are 19 cm (7.5 inches) long by 14 cm (5.5 inches) wide in the pan’s normal operating configuration when it is vertical. Any loaf will be or should be 19 cm x 14 cm.   The pan is 14.5 cm (5.7 inches) bottom to top. In a Panasonic extra large pan, a 2.5 lb. recipe of 4.4 cups of flour and about 2 cups of liquid would bake a loaf over 14.5 cm “long”, 19 cm “high”, and 14 cm “wide”.

A medium loaf baked on a basic cycle has about 3 cups of flour and 1.25 cups of water or fluid. This dough is hydrated at 71%.  It could be baked in a 1.5 pound bread pan (about 2,600 cubic centimeters) – perhaps filling it.
A 1.5 pound conventional oven pan is 25 cm (10 inches) long, 13 cm (5 inches) wide and (about) 8 cm deep.

With white flour on the basic bake cycle, the height of  medium loaf from the bottom of the pan to top of the loaf at the wall of the pan would be around 75% of the height of the Panasonic extra large pan: about 9 cm at the side of the pan. To the top of the domed top of the loaf, 11-12 cm is reasonable; more is tall.  Height changes with:

  • type of flour (e.g. rye flour does not rise as well as wheat flour); or a small change in the amount of flour (1/4 cup), water, salt or yeast; or
  • cycle, e.g. French Bake – the bread rises and is less dense – more space for the same mass.

Height affects how I store and slice the loaf, and can be a sign that a loaf lacks structure.

There are two kinds of cycle, “bake” and “dough”.  Each cycle has three phases; a bake cycle has the fourth one:

  • (Initial) Rest – the ingredients come to a common temperature. The heating element, as far as I can tell is used for short intervals but not enough to heat the outside of the machine;
  • Knead – mix the ingredients together, hydrates the flour, dissolves soluble starches and works the proteins into gluten;
  • Rise – fermentation. 2 hours in basic bake cycle. There are clicks indicating that the heating element is deployed to keep yeast at a good temperature (the dough may heat up on its own) on a cooler day. The mixer drive is deployed for knockdowns in this rise phase in all cycles including the dough cycles. In basic bake cycle there are 2 sets of about 15 slow turns  at -2:00 and -1:40 on the countdown timer;
  • Bake – the heating element bakes the bread.

The knead phase includes mixing. The motor has two speeds: off and on.  Mixing involves turning the power on and off in short intervals.  Mixing, for a medium loaf, on any cycle, is under 5 minutes:

  • 30 seconds – 40 pulses: 1/2 second on, 1/4 second off;
  • 120 seconds – 120 pulses: 3/4 quarter second on, 1/4 second off;
  • 30 seconds on;
  • The yeast dispenser drops yeast;
  • 35 second pause.
  • 60 seconds – 10 pulses: 4 seconds on, 2 seconds off.

The mixing forms a ball of dough centered on the paddle.

After, the second mix the machine knead the dough. The machine pushes it around the pan to knead it – longer intervals with the motor on.

This machine has a long warm rise using the motor to mix for short intervals twice. This deflates or knocks down the dough. After the second knock down (50 minutes before baking)  the dough should relax and flow to fill the bottom of the pan and rise again. In the first part of the bake phase, the dough should spring. A tenacious dough holds its ball shape for a long time. It may gather at one end of the pan.  The result is that the top of the baked loaf slopes. This happens with some dough in this kind of pan.  There is a hydration zone.  A tenacious dough may not flow.  A wet dough may balloon or collapse.

It supports low sodium baking, as any bread machine does. If the salt is reduced, the yeast should be reduced by the same proportion.

This model uses less yeast than other machines. It kneads hard and gives the dough a long rise with a bit of heat to keep the dough at the right temperature to ferment. It deflating the dough softly in short knock-downs. It need only about half as much as another machine.

This means, with many or most recipes, for 50% sodium, I am using half the salt and one quarter of the yeast.

BLBMC

Beth Hensperger’s baking books published by Chronicle Books, such as Bread (1988) were sound and useful book about home baking, which rode the currents of liberation from industrially processed bread, the recovery of whole grain baking, and inception of foodie artisanal baking. Her Bread Bible (1999) earned the 2000 James Beard Foundation award for a cookbook in the Baking & Dessert category. I have a copy – an inexpensive Kindle version. Her books before 1999 contain useful advice on basic technique. They refer mainly to active dry yeast and sometimes to yeast cakes (wet raw yeast) and skim over the introduction of the various kinds of instant yeast. She had a chapter on bread machines in the Bread Bible.

She must have been working on The Bread Lover’s Bread Machine Cookbook (2000) (BLBMC) for Harvard Common Press as the Bread Bible was being published and sent to market. The BLBMC preceded Not Your Mother’s Slow Cooker and other title in that series. Ms. Hensperger suggested that bread machines were a new way of doing an old thing. The BLBMC explains the technology , as it was at the time, and explains the use a bread machine to make the range of breads that might be purchased from a commercial bakery operation.

The BLBMC implies that its recipes should work in any bread machine. It treated all bread machines (it listed 18 manufacturers in the market at the time) as equivalent, with a  warning to “Take Stock of Your Machine”. This oversells the capabilities of bread machines and undersells the complexities of adapting the knowledge of bakers for a consumer appliance:

  • Baking involves doing something until a result it observed (the dough is mixed and supple; it has risen, or is ready to bench or bake);
  • Some steps cannot be described to a novice without pictures and videos. A baker with some experience might know how a “shaggy” dough (whole wheat dough that has been mixed to the point that the ingredient including water have been blended and the flour has absorbed the water and can be kneaded to develop gluten and left to rise may be described as shaggy) differs from a dry dough that needs more water;
  • Machines work in simple steps, without feedback.  The designer can program combinations of steps that should produce results with some combinations of ingredients if the machine is loaded properly;
  • Machines are not all the same; some machines work with some doughs, and not others;
  • The book did not anticipate technological and market changes including the developments in growing and preserving instant dry yeast and changes in machine mixing.

I had a problem with BLBMC recipes in a Panasonic SD-YD250, which I solved. There are differences in bread machines, particularly in their programmed cycles and times.

While Ms. Hensperger is clear about the importance of measurement of ingredients for bread machines, she uses home cooking conventions in her recipes including measuring out ingredients by volume.

BLBMC recipes have ingredient lists for “medium” 1.5 lb. and “large” 2 lb. loaves. A medium loaf usually uses 3 cups of flour – white, whole wheat and multigrain. The BLBMC recipes are consistent with other bread machine recipes and with conventional oven recipes. There are outliers; e.g. the recipe for a “medium” loaf of 100% whole wheat bread on p. 124 is 4 cups of flour with 1.5 cups fluid.  That is a 2 lb. loaf. “Tecate Ranch Whole Wheat” at p. 126 is a more workable 100% whole wheat loaf.

Like other bread and bread machine recipe books for the American market, the BLBMC says bread flour should be the white flour in bread recipes.   Ms. Hensperger describes bread flour as having 12.7 % protein. White bread flour in the USA has 11.5-13.5 % gluten-producing protein. All purpose white flour in the USA has 9.5-11.5 %.  Canadian all purpose flour is milled from hard red wheat, and has the same protein content as USA bread flour (Canadian Millers’ technical standards are not necessarily reflected in retail packaging). Canadian all purpose is fine for bread.

Ms. Hensperger favours the use of vital wheat gluten (gluten flour; added gluten) in formulas for many breads baked in the machine.  She suggested added gluten in almost every formula for bread baked in the machine up to 1 tsp of added gluten per cup, less gluten for bread flour. Added gluten changes the balance of the loaf and the performance of the dough (flow and rise); the effect may be different according to the machine. Adding gluten doesn’t improve white flour breads made with high gluten bread (Canadian AP flour. It doesn’t seem to help if the machine has well planned whole wheat cycle for whole grain breads.

Ms. Hensperger described the varieties of dry yeast as: 1. active dry yeast; 2. fast acting or instant dried yeast; 3. quick-rise (rapid-rise) yeast; 4. bread machine yeast.  There are few functional differences between 2, 3 and 4. Instant yeast, under any of its names, is the choice for bread machines.  Ms Hensperger prefers SAF instant yeast to the point that she says it is more potent. She suggests two alternatives for each recipe:

  1. SAF instant dried yeast (SAF Red),
  2. 25% – 33% more bread machine yeast than SAF instant dry yeast.  For instance, for Dakota Bread, BLBMC says 2 tsp SAF or 2.5 tsp bread machine*.

SAF makes a good product but its superiority may be debated. (*Ms. Hensperger has moved away from this  approach. In a version of the recipe for Dakota Bread in 2015 on her blog she said 2 tsp “bread machine yeast”).

The range of views about  the amount of yeast:

  1. For a 1.5 lb. loaf, Bread Lover’s Bread Machine Cookbook calls for 2 tsp instant dry yeast  or more and 1-1.5 tsp. salt for 3 cups of flour. This  is in the range of recipes in other books at the time, and of many recipes published on the web. It is .67 tsp instant dry yeast, or more, per cup of flour. This is 1.9 g. yeast per about 140 g. of wheat flour; the B% is 1.4%;
  2. Manufacturers of instant, rapid/quick rise and bread machine yeasts recommend .5 tsp yeast for each cup of flour for bread machines: Red Star Quick-Rise; Bakipan Fast Action and Bread Machine; SAF Gourmet Perfect Rise and  Bread Machine. Fleishmann’s  recipes on its web pages imply the same amounts of its instant Quick-Rise (Rapid-Rise) or its Bread Machine product, or more. This is 1.4 g. yeast per about 140 g. of wheat flour; the B% is 1%;
  3. Panasonic suggests .33 tsp of dry yeast per cup of flour -which works in Panasonic machines.

Ms. Hensperger covers conversion from volume to weight for flour but not for yeast and salt.

Several online converters report: 1 cup, (48 tsp (US)) instant dry yeast = 136 grams; 1 tsp = 2.8 g. My average for 15 samples of 1 tsp of SAF Red was 2.8 g. Instant yeast has a sandy texture and doesn’t pack down like flour. I was able to scoop a few dozen samples, weigh them on a scale and verify the weight of a teaspoon of instant yeast.

Salt can be measured by volume with measuring spoons, but should be used carefully with level measurements. It is better to go by weight. The conversion rate is 1 teaspoon of table salt to 5.7 grams – the teaspoon that the recipe writer will have assumed.  Table salt is not all the same – some is pretty finely ground and more dense.

It is a useful book. It has worthwhile sections on bread machine operation and (pp. 38-39) on common failures. It has sections, sidebars, and detail sections on bread making and bread machine topics. The table of contents and the index don’t locate all of them.

  • p. 12 flour, and
    • pp. 46-47 white flour from wheat,
    • pp. 62-63 whole wheat and non-wheat grain flour,
    • p. 125 proteins in flour,
    • pp. 106-107 whole wheat flour,
    • pp. 133-135 rye flour.
    • p. 140 diy milling of whole grain flour,
    • pp. 150-152 non-wheat specialty flour,
    • p. 193 organic flour
  • pp. 13-14 yeast;
  • p. 13, p. 59 vital wheat gluten;
  • p. 15, p. 290 Salt
    • is not used as a seasoning or flavour agent;
    • should not be exposed to the water and the yeast before the machine mixes the ingredients;
    • can be reduced if yeast is reduced by the same proportion.
  • p. 15 ingredient measurement;
  • p. 18 converting volume to weight for flour and sugar;
  • pp. 69-72 6 “sampler” recipes for one pound loaves;
  • p. 76 eggs;
  • p. 168 dough enhancers;
  • pp. 170, 172 gluten free ingredients;
  • pp. 182-183 baking with whole grains, and preparing whole grain;
  • pp. 197-198 using the machine to mix and knead dough for baking in an oven, and using artisanal baking methods:
    • starters and pre-ferments,
    • shaping loaves
    • baking stones, tiles and ceramic containers (and cloches);
  • p. 233 olive oil;
  • p. 354 the shapes of bread machine pans.

The sections on using a bread machine to mix and knead dough for baking in an oven, and artisanal baking methods are informative, but a bread machine is a labour saving tool, and not a replacement for the tools and method of artisinal baking.

Labels

The idea of a low sodium diet is to consume less salt. There are many sources of information. Sources may  promote a fad or a personal theory. Buyer beware. These resources are scientific and fact based:

Salt can be avoided or reduced. A product label will identify sodium in almost anything that has been packaged.

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Measuring, Conversion

Bread recipes for the home baker usually list ingredients by volume: cups, tablespoons etc.  A recipe for a 1 lb. loaf of bread requires 2 cups of white bread flour or whole wheat flour. 

Most recipes round flour and water to the nearest quarter cup. The Bread Lover’s Bread Machine Cookbook (Harvard Common Press, 2000; by Beth Hensperger) goes to the nearest 1/8 cup.   Too much water is cited by BLBMC and others as a source of some kinds of failure – weak and sunken loaves.  Too much is in relation to the amount of flour that is being hydrated, and the mixing or kneading action of the machine. An extra 30 grams (1/8 cup = 2 tbsp.) of water into 3 cups of flour means a wet sloppy dough.  The goal is tenacious and somewhat elastic (i.e. that pulls back to its original size and shape) dough that is also extensible – it relaxes.  Too much water can make the gluten too slack.

Small measurement errors can affect the loaf.  If the recipe rounded the wrong way, being precise may lead to an unsatifactory outcome.Errors in conversion factors and mistakes in arithmetic – even in putting numbers into a calculator can lead to the extra tablespoon of water (15 ml = 15 g.) that changes the dough and the loaf.

Usually, recipes refer to a standard measuring cup. A US cup is .87 of an Imperial (U.K., many other English speaking countries) cup.  An Imperial cup is 1.2 US cups.  A metric cup is a quarter liter (250 millilitres) which is .88 Imperial cups or 1.06 US cups. The amount of flour in a cup depends on how the cup is scooped or filled.

Measuring by weight is more exact. It is the standard for commercial baking, and useful for bread machine making. Converting volume to weight is fuzzy. The Bread Lover’s Bread Machine Cookbook suggests 1 cup of bread flour or whole wheat flour converts at 5 oz.  Reinhart (The Bread Baker’s Apprentice, and other books) says 4.5 oz.; he measures loosely scooped bread flour scooped in a scoop and poured into the measuring cup. Flour scooped with a measuring cup is lightly packed, and weighs in at 4 and 7/8 oz. (4.875) or 4.9 oz. There is a range of weights for a cup of bread flour – milled high protein wheat flour:

  • 4.875 (4 and 7/8) oz. = 138 g.
  • 4.9 oz. = 139 g
  • 5 oz. = 141 g.

I weigh white bread flour (Canadian All Purpose) and whole wheat flour at 139 g. per cup in a recipe. Scales in ounces go down to 1/8 oz, but not necessarily to decimal fractions.  Metric kitchen scales go to the nearest gram. That is close enough for flour.

The volume to mass conversion for other flours varies. Millers have conversions for their products – e.g.  King Arthur. There are generic conversion calculators and tables but these have to used with care.

Books for home bakers may refer to baker percentage (B %), a method of managing the production of bread. For instance Peter Reinhardt devotes pages 40-45 of The Bread Baker’s Apprentice to this topic. It is a tool taught to professional bakers, and addressed in culinary texts such as Daniel T. DiMuzio’s Bread Baking; An Artisan’s Perspective. For the baker-manager, it is a calculation to scale inputs up or down to  create 2, 10, 100 or 1,000 consistent loaves of bread. The assumptions are consistency of ingredients, equipment, energy, working space, and time.  For managing production, every ingredient is put into the formula.  The formula can be used to build dashboard indicator of the use of a bakery.  It is as precise as it needs to be, for how it is used. B % is explained:

Flour has plant proteins and starch. Water and protein make dough sticky and stretchy. Starch feeds yeast – some is fermented. Starch is the carbohydrate in bread – the thing that makes it food. Flour is the ground product of grains, including flour and meal. All flour is counted to determine Total flour weight, even when flours differ in density and protein content. It is conventional to express the relative amounts of flour as a percentage of the total flour weight (e.g. 50% bread flour and 50% whole wheat; or 90% bread flour and 10% rye flour). It is conventional to count all dry ingredients – which works better for a bakery manager than for a home baker.

The weight of every other ingredient is expressed as a percentage of the Total flour weight. The fluid percentage is called the hydration rate, a scale of how wet, sticky and messy the dough is. Conventionally, only the main fluid counts for the hydration rate. Water or milk.

Milk is nearly all water. Butter has water. Maple syrup, honey and other syrups have some water. Eggs have water. ingredients that contain water are not necessarily counted directly – it involves conversions and extra math. Wet ingredients that contain water may be noted to see if a dough has a higher real hydration rate than a simple calculation implies.

A cup of water, USA standard is 236.6 grams (in the metric system one milliliter of water is one gram). (An Imperial cup of water converts to 284 grams. A metric cup of water is 250 grams.)

A cup of fluid cow’s milk is 244-245 grams according to USDA averages. Whole milk should be 3.25% butter fat. The reduced fat milk products: 2%, 1% and non-fat (or skim) milk. In grams, the water/total weights, per cup:

  • Skim 223/245
  • 1% 219/244
  • 2% 218/244
  • Whole 215/244
  • Buttermilk (whole) 215/245

1 + 1/4 cups of skim milk has 1 + 3/16 cups (1 cup + 3 tbsp) of water.

The home baker’s trick is reduce water in a recipe by 1/4 cup for 1 cup of honey, when honey is used to replace sugar. The average for honey in the US and Canada is 17 g water per 100 g of honey.

A typical pure maple syrup for sale in the US or Canada is 32 grams of water per 100 grams of syrup.

A large egg, in the Canadian egg grading system is about 57 g.  A large egg contributes 40 g. to hydration – nearly 3/16 of a cup of water.

Water content of baking ingredients can be calculated by referring the USDA Food Composition Databases. For a Canadian product, the Canadian Nutrient File may have the value. Using the databases takes some practice. Not all of the water reported in the data is released from the source ingredient and incorporated into dough. It may be necessary to use a teaspoon or two more water to get the hydration right (for 2 cups of flour in bread machine).

Yeast means yeast organisms that have been commercially grown, preserved, packaged, and distributed as a leavening agent. Commercial yeasts changed. The smaller grained instant dry yeast and quick-rise/rapid-rise yeasts entered the market.

Volume to weight conversion is simple and direct if a recipe refers to instant dry yeast or an equivalent small grain yeast. I convert from measuring spoon units to mass units with the factor 1 tsp = 2.8 g.

Recipes published up to about 1999-2000 tend to refer to active dry yeast and could refer to active dry yeast in packets. A recipe might say a packet or a tablespoon of active dry yeast. Active dry yeast was sold in foil packets containing .25 oz. of yeast, which was apparently a tablespoon until late in the 20th century. Active dry yeast changed, although it remained distinct from the instant dry yeasts.

A modern packet of active dry yeast is about 2.25 teaspoons, but is still .25 oz. = 7 grams. 7 grams of modern active dry yeast is equivalent to 5.6 grams of instant dry yeast.

Salt is a chemical control on yeast. Recipes refer to standard table salt.

B % descriptions of a recipe may have 2% salt and 1% yeast. For 2-3 cups of flour,  this means fractions of an ounce of salt and yeast. These ingredients seem to standard commodities – close enough that the brand does not matter for calculating for conversion from a recipe teaspoon to weight:

Table salt 1 tsp = 5.7; but some table salts are fine-grained and more dense.

Yeast

There was a shift from wet yeast to active dry yeast to dry instant yeast throught the 20th century. Recipes written before 2000 may refer to active dry yeast or even to wet yeast “cakes”. Industrial formulas were based on weight and baker’s percentage. Recipes for home bakers used volume measurements.

The differences between active dry yeast and  others dry yeasts: the particles of active dry yeast are larger, and coated in dead yeast cells killed in the drying process.  Active dry yeast has to activated with hot (not boiling) water. Instant dry yeast grains are smaller. It activates on contact with the water in a recipe, and almost never needs to be activated or prehydrated to propogate.  See All About Dried Yeast, What is Bread Machine Yeast, the King Arthur flour Ingredient Guide, the King Arthur web article All About Yeast, and the King Arthur blog post “Which Yeast to Use”. See also  Commercial Yeast in Fresh Loaf Baker’s Handbook, and What’s the Difference between Active Dry Yeast and Instant Yeast. For the history of baking yeast, and the ways it has been presented, Lesaffre’s Explore Yeast pages are informative.  A leading baking industry paper on instant dry yeast: Lallemande’s Update, Volume 2 # 9.

Instant yeasts, once they activate, ferment and propogate, pick up speed and hit a peak. Some compressed and active dry yeasts have a second peak – home wine makers and home beer makers encounter this with their yeasts which have a vigorous first fermentation and a secondary fermentation. Bakers may time their  bulk fermentation and final proof to take advantage of each. I found a graph on SAF Instant dry yeast gas production (with the Cyrillic text and the red line for SAF in the post by Mariana January 2, 2018 in the forum Difference in Yeast Brands). I have not found comparison graphs for other instant dry yeasts.

Some yeasts are called quick-rise/rapid-rise yeast. These names refer to the a way of preparing the product – chemical coating of the individual grains. The varieties of product are tried and coated differently. Commercially, instant dry yeast is diffent than some rapid/quick-rise products. See: Yeast: Dry vs. Rapid-Rise and the thread “Fast Active Fleishmann’s vs. SAF Instant” (about pizza dough). The equivalences are debated in forums like Instant Yeast vs. Fleishmann’s Rapid-Rise.

Some yeasts are labelled as bread machine yeast. The proliferation of types and names arose because manufacturers use different techniques and marketing terms.The manufacturers do not explain how rapid/quick-rise products are made, or how bread machine yeast is different from the rapid/quick-rise products. Bakipan, for instance, says that its “Fast Rising Instant Yeast [is] … cake yeast in a semi-dormant state. The drying process in its manufacture reduces moisture content, giving it a longer shelf life than cake yeast while retaining optimum activity. … Bakipan® Fast Rising Instant Yeast is a fast-acting yeast that can shorten the rise times for traditional baking …” Specifications and methods are not noted on the packaging or published widely – perhaps only for some customers.  The manufacturers don’t, according to what home bakers say on the Web, respond to inquiries from home bakers.

Books on artisinal bread baking do not distinguish quick-rise/rapid-rise yeast from instant dry yeast: e.g.: Peter Reinhart, Crust and Crumb (Ten Speed Press, 1998); Peter Reinhart, The Bread Baker’s Apprentice (Ten Speed Press, 2001); Peter Reinhart, Artisan Bread Every Day (Ten Speed Press, 2009); Robert DiMuzio, Bread Baking; An Artisan’s Perspective (Wiley, 2010). Reinhart said that instant dried yeast can be substituted for compressed fresh and active dry yeast for home bread baking – it is good enough for artisanal recipe uses. He came to accept that instant dry yeast should be rehydrated for artisanal breads in Artisan Bread Every Day  at p. 13 (although fermentation should be slowed down with refrigeration). The accepted ratio to substitute instant for active dry  in oven baking is 1 tsp of instant dry for 1.25 tsp active dry.

Instant dry yeasts , rapid/quick-rise yeasts, and bread machine yeasts vary in some way but are equivalent for bread machines.

Some recipe and baking books suggest letting the yeast and ingredients warm to room temperature. Some  sources suggest that keeping yeast cold, including dried yeast, slows it down. Reinhart noted that instant yeast is potent but slow to awake in The Bread Baker’s Apprentice at p. 32. refrigeration preserves the product.

Bread

Bread is high in sodium, as an effect of the baking process.  The master formula for bread is to grind dried grain into a paste or flour, add water and yeast, let the stuff ferment and throw it on a hot surface until it dries out and stops fermenting.

Salt controls yeast which affects fermentation. Fermentation affects flavour but it also affects rise, which affects the size of the loaf and the production line; it also has a chemical effect on the taste buds (Lallamand Baking Update, Volume 2, No. 6). A few bread styles, such as Tuscan bread, are made without salt.  Salt is part of the process for most bread sold by grocery stores and bakeries large and small.

Archeologists have found evidence that the Nafufians, hunter gatherers in Jordan were making bread with wild cereal (grain) 12,500 BCE.   Baking uses the products of many technologies. Flour is the product of grinding and milling cereal.  Flour mixed with water makes dough which is baked.  Dough can be fermented or leavened. Yeast consumes starches in the flour – it ferments, creating gas, which is trapped in gluten in the dough, which makes the bread rise. Bakerpedia explains:

When yeasted dough ferments rises and increases in volume, and flavor is developed.  Yeast converts starch  in flour into sugar, carbon dioxide and ethyl alcohol. CO2  gas  is trapped by gluten proteins in the flour which causes dough to rise. Fermentation results in a light and airy crumb.

The yeast propogates.  Propogation and fermentation accelerate until the living yeast cells run out of starch, or are killed off by high temperature. If gas production goes on too long, the air cells in the dough rupture. An overproofed loaf is a lump of wet flour.  In oven baking, the dough rises in 2 or 3 stages: bulk fermentation, and intermediate and final proof. Dough is knocked or “punched” down to release gas at the end of the bulk fermentation and again when the loaf is shaped. The dough rises again in the baking pan and springs when yeast warm up the pan goes in the hot oven – before the heat kills the yeast.

Gluten “is a composite of storage proteins … found in wheat, barley, rye, oats, related species and hybrids …  Gluten gives elasticity to dough, helping it rise and keep its shape and often gives the final product a chewy texture.”  When flour and water are mixed (kneading is a continuation of mixing) the water interacts with proteins in the flour to form strands of gluten that make the dough sticky and stretchy.  Gluten relaxes in time which lets the dough flow and rise. As we read at Bakerpedia:

Consisting of mainly gliadin and glutenin, wheat gluten is unique among cereal proteins based on its ability to form a cohesive and viscoelastic mass. This rheological property makes it a dynamic material that is able to grow and keep the gasses within the dough during extended fermentation periods. The viscoelastic nature also provides the oven spring (increase in height due to the expansion of gasses) that we see in the oven.

Wheat flour has the necessary proteins to form gluten.  Added gluten is wheat flour processed to contain this proteins, used as a dough enhancer. (Wheat gluten also is the main ingredient of the vegan food Seitan).    Commercial bakers know, referring again to Bakerpedia:

Excessive use of wheat gluten would result in drier doughs that have a hard time with pan flow, and a higher than normal oven spring.

Mark Kurlansky’s excellent book Salt: a World History (2002) tells of the use of salt to bake bread in Egypt (3,000 BCE),  The production of salt may have started about 8,000 years ago.

Salt is a standard and necessary ingredient in most formulas and recipes. The right ratio of flour to salt and yeast means a loaf that will rise on time, and not overproof or balloon.

Professional bakers and some home bakers express ingredient lists or recipes as formulas expressed in baker’s percentage (B%). Bakers use consistent processes to manufacture a consistent product. A formula with salt needs more yeast to ferment and rise properly.  Reducing salt changes the process. Professional bakers may use 2 pounds of salt and .77 pound of instant dry yeast per 100 pounds of flour.  The B% for salt is 2%; instant yeast is .77%. This works out to .3 ounces = 8.5 grams = 8,500 mg. salt per 3 cups (15 ounces) of flour.  A normal loaf of bread has 3,400 milligrams of sodium per loaf – several hundred milligams per slice or serving.

Salt can be reduced , with a reduction in the amount of yeast. A few books and some internet pages unwisely suggest eliminating salt and but list the same amount of yeast that would be used if there was salt in the recipe!  Every reduction in salt in a bread formula has to be balanced with a reduction of yeast.  The accepted method is reducing yeast by the same percentage as salt. Please Don’t Pass the Salt has recipes for yeasted breads and a note on the general adjustment for yeasted bread recipes.

Artisan bread baking writers suggest that adjusting the salt in formulas leads to unsatifactory results  – e.g. Peter Reinhart, Artisan Bread Every Day (Ten Speed Press, 2009) at p. 15 suggests not reducing by more than 10%.  This approach warns the aspiring baker that salt is important to baking what consumers and food critics regard as good bread. This approach does not help much for someone avoiding sodium.  It is easy to get to 50%. It is possible to go further if final proofing can be extended to let the dough ferment and rise longer. Conversely, working in the kitchen, a baker may detect and arrest an active fermentation by knocking down the dough or getting the loaf in the oven.

Home bakers work with small amounts of salt and yeast. Measurement by weight is desireable, in theory.  Few home bakers have scales precise enough. And what is the conversion?

For table salt: 1 tsp = 5.7 grams (round to 6 grams) or .20 oz.  There is some confusing information in some modern culinary publications.

  • America’s Test Kitchen/Cooks Illustrated The Science of Good Cooking (2012) lists several brands of kosher salt and sea salt and compares them to table salt, suggesting that Morton’s brand is the standard for table salt at 1 tsp = 7.15 g.
  • Peter Reinhart, The Bread Baker’s Apprentice (Ten Speed Press, 2001) says on p. 28 that 1 tsp of table salt = .25 oz which converts to 7 grams. 

Some fine crystal table salt on the market in the US weighs 7 grams per teaspoon.  A recipe or bread formula ought to read as referring to conventional table salt. The size of the salt crystals affects solubility, which can affect the distribution of salt in the dough, and effect of salt on yeast.   Density, as such, doesn’t matter when adding salt by weight.  Home bakers can normally read a recipe in terms of level teaspoons of table salt, and should adjust when using coarser (eg. kosher salt, some sea salt), or finely ground salt measured by volume. 

Most sources say for instant dry yeast: 1 tsp  = 2.8 grams = .10 oz. .   Peter Reinhart, The Bread Baker’s Apprentice (Ten Speed Press, 2001) says on p. 28 that 1 tsp instant dry yeast = .11 oz which converts to 3.1 grams.

Commercial bakers use chemical leaveners for some bread.  Home bakers use baking powder and baking soda for corn bread, soda bread, cakes and other baking.  Baking powder is baking soda mixed with cream of tartar. Kraft Foods Magic Baking Powder does not provide Food Facts on the labels of small jars in Canada.  The published information is that 1 tsp has 300 mg. of sodium.  Substitutions for baking powder involve 1/4 tsp of baking soda plus some acid (e.g. vinegar, cream of tartar) for each tsp baking powder.
Baking soda is sodium bicarbonate.  It has 1,259 mg. of sodium per teaspoon, which explains the food facts for baking powder.

The science of substitution for baking soda and baking powder is to use potassium bicarbonate, or to use natural bubbles, if possible e.g. whipped egg whites. Potassium bicarbonate is the key ingredient of Featheweight, but is not a grocery product.  It is available as a supplement but has a list of side effects and do not use if taking medication warnings.

There is a no sodium baking powder on the market, called Featherweight. Please Don’t Pass the Salt has recipes for quick breads, and suggestions on low sodium “baking mixes”

Cookbooks

Dietary and culinary theories abounded – and still persist, that salt is adds flavour and should be used in cooking nutritious and tasty food. Salt has been added to food as necessary preservative e.g. ham, sausage, olives, cheese, soy and other sauces. It has become a normal practice to put some salt into any dish, or the water to prepare boiled ingredients.

Some culinary books say that consumers can avoid the wrong processed ingredients and avoid processed foods. That’s true, but that advice may be accompanied by advising home cooks to use salt, as suggested in a recipe, in preparing meals.  Also to brine certain foods to make them cook better. The writers, presenters, and publishers of the  Cook’s Illustrated/America’s Test Kitchen family are an example. This sends contradictory messages about processed food, prepared food, home cooking and eating to satisfy taste and psychological needs:

  • It supports home cooking and food preparation with less reliance on processed ingredients
  • It appears to encourage safe and wise use of salt
  • It is a rationale for trying a salted item for one’s own pleasure or as  comfort food, which is also a rationale for departing from a program.

Recipes from some sources include nutrition facts.  General recipe books generally do not provide this kind of information.   General recipes may involve processed ingredients; these are worthless in a low-sodium diet unless a no sodium alternative can be substituted.

Some culinary books recommend measuring salt by weight, because it is more precise and because of the variations in the densities of salt (oarse, kosher, table, sea salt etc).  Table salt is not uniform.  Recipes assume table salt, at 6 grams per teaspoon. Cook’s Illustrated/America’s Test Kitchen published the weight of a specific brand of iodized table salt (Morton Iodized Salt) in The Science of Good Cooking (2012) at p. 113 as over 7 grams. The extra gram of salt is 400 mg. of sodium.

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Salt

Salt (sodium chloride) is a chemical agent used to cook or process food. Saltiness is regarded as one of 5 main tastes. (Scientists have not, as of 2018, identified a distinctive taste receptor for salt.)  Sodium is an essential nutrient, but consuming more sodium than the minimum has no health benefits. Excessive sodium is a health risk. The upper limits for sodium intake, in milligrams, per day:

These numbers are not stated in ranges for body type, or weight.  The limits are stated as a single high number and a second lower number for persons diagnosed with hypertension, or defined by age or other statistical risks. The 2,300 milligram figure is the sodium in about a teaspoon (the unit of volume) of salt. Exceeding the upper limit is risky and harmful.

Food products high in sodium:

  • Bread;
  • Sandwich spreads, condiments and salad dressings;
  • Processed meat, cold cuts, charcuterie;
  • Cheese;
  • crackers,
  • pickles, olives,.
  • Processed (flaked/puffed or shaped and toasted) breakfast cereal;
  • Tomato juice, vegetable juice and tomato-clam (some very high);
  • Processed spaghetti sauces and tomato sauces (very high);
  • Pizza – bread topped with tomato sauce, cheese, and whatever else (most very high);
  • Canned soups (monstrously high);
  • Soy sauce, hoisin sauce and fish sauce (monstrously high);
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