I just received an advance copy of the whole grains book, literally hot off the press. I'm really pleased with how it turned out and can't wait for it to hit the book stores. I hope when you see it you will be as pleased as I am--kudos to Meghan Keefe (editor), and Nancy Austin (art director) of Ten Speed Press for an amazing job--as you will all soon see. An author is always a little nervous about these things but, I have to say, their work exceeded all my expectations. Also, again, thanks to Ron Manville for his wonderful photography and to all of you who did recipe testing--I listed you all in the book, even those who dropped out early or came in late--you all contributed more than you can imagine in important ways. More on this in a later post when the book is available but, in answer to one query I received, those of you who were testers will be able to order a signed copy from me at a discounted price when I actually have copies in hand--probably in about a month. Stay tuned....
I received another query about measuring by volume vs. weight. As many of you know, I always favor weight measurements and recommend all serious bakers get a balance or digital scale (one that gives both oz. and grams, imperial and metric systems, if possible). But not everyone has a scale so here's the caveat--volume measurements (such as cups of flour), are always, at best, estimates. I typically get a pound of flour into 3 1/2 cups but some people pack 4 cups, and even 5 cups per pound. When in doubt, let the dough dictate what it needs--whether more flour or liquid--to make the dough "feel" correct. "Feel" is a critical ingredient, and is an ongoing motif in all my books. The brand of flour, the age of the flour, the way it's packed in the scoops--all these can contribute to outcome so, even when scaling accurately, always adjust according to how the dough feels (there will be visual and touch cues to help you make this call, but in the end it comes down to practice. I always allow myself three tries at a dough before deciding on the correct adjustments and "feel"). I hope this helps.
Likewise, in braiding instructions for breads like challah, if I suggest 8" strands for the braids, this is just a guideline--it will probably yield a plump loaf, good for French Toast or sandwich slices. But if you'd prefer longer, sleeker loaves feel free to extend the strands (the "ropes") as much as 12"-14". These are, after all, your loaves so you should always feel free to adjust according to your needs or intuition. If you ever have questions regarding these things, write to me at firstname.lastname@example.org
Finally, here's a link to an interesting site, sent to me by my friend (and serious bread baking enthusiast) Fr. Raphael of Mt. Sinai Orthodox Church: http://www.benchcrafted.com you will see beautiful wood-crafted magnetic blocks for mounting knifes and tools to the wall. These, and other hand crafted products (such as pure beeswax candles) support Fr. Raphael's pastoral work. The wood blocks come in various woods, including a new one made from cocobolo rosewood that looks absolutely beautiful. Check it out.
I'm very close to locking in some travel teaching dates for late winter/early spring and hope to post them next week. Until then, may your bread always rise!