Sourdough baking without a kitchen scale


Having stumbled on this site, I've now got my starter going (about 9 days now and it seems fairly active; it'll actually double in 3-4 hours after a refresh).

I also successfully baked the "biga" recipe from the tutorial. While I was doing the brief kneads & shaping I was cursing it (very messy dealing with such a soft dough) and I didn't expect it to work at all but it turned out amazing, huge holes in the loaf and a decent crust. (the taste is just a little bland but I think I didn't use quite enough salt)

Anyway I'm kinda hooked now and looking forward to my first SD loaf from my new starter. So I'm wondering how those of you who don't have a kitchen scale get along with all the weight-based recipes.

For the starter & biga I initially tried converting using standard flour weights found on the 'net (100g = 208ml) but I think my flour was too packed, as it ended up looking way dryer than the pictures, so I kinda just started winging it. I've been using about 150mL (2/3 cup) to make 100g flour, but it's hard to tell (my biga-tutorial dough was REALLY wet!).

Anyway I think I'll invest in a kitchen scale if I end up liking the SD baking, but for my first few bakes should I just keep winging it? Any advice from pro-bakers on what you did before you had a scale?

Mike Lucas

380 users have voted.


rossnroller 2010 March 10

 I dunno about pro bakers, but I suspect that the very great majority weigh their ingredients.

As a home baker I wouldn't be without my scales. There are so many wonderful recipes out there, and without scales you can't try them! Mine were from Target and cost less than $50. WELL worth the small outlay. I use them daily, and not only in bread-making.

I economise wherever I can. I don't have a mixer (apart from my hands and a kitchen knife), and don't intend to get one. I don't have bannetons or baskets or a couche. I don't use a lame for slashing - a serrated knife does the job OK. But I wouldn't be without my scales or pizza stone!

mlucas 2010 March 11

Sorry, by "pro-bakers" I really just meant anyone who does a lot of baking including at home. (In Canada "pro" is sometimes used colloquially as serious attention to a hobby or activity, depending on the context.)

And I agree, a kitchen scale is definitely a useful investment, but I was just wondering, does anyone have any advice for the baking I do prior to getting one?


mlucas 2010 March 12

Well I caved and got a scale last night so no worries!

My wife hates acquiring too many kitchen gadgets that clutter up the cupboards, hence my initial hesitation, but I figured a small one would be okay.

It was only $20 and seems accurate to the gram. I had no problem measuring 10g of salt into a kg or so of dough; just under 2 tsps salt which is what I expected. The only thing I don't like is it has a bad habit of turning itself off (to save battery) pretty quickly, so I gotta measure fast and pay attention to the last number in case it shuts off!


rossnroller 2010 March 12

 Onya mulcas...and now, a whole wide world of SD bread opens up to you!

That autoswitch timing is a bit of a pain, though. I read about that when researching scales prior to settling on the brand I have. Mine does switch itself off, but it gives you quite a good breathing space. Maybe you can still return yours for another that takes longer to activate the power-saver thingo? You've only just bought it, after all...?

mlucas 2010 March 14

Thanks, yeah I'll keep the box it came in and think about returning it, so far it hasn't caused any problems though. (Plus returning to stupid Wal-Mart is such a pain!)

Hey is scales always a plural word in Australia (like sunglasses?) or did you actually buy more than one for some reason?

rossnroller 2010 March 14

 Good question, mlucas - and one I should know the answer to, since I work as an editor/copy-editor and am a grammatical pedant, with a background in ESL teaching that has left me with an intimate but largely useless knowledge of the grammatical 'under the bonnet' workings of English! But...

I'm going to have to apply a bit of guesswork (educated guesswork, I hope). I would default to the plural, but language is ever-evolving, and if ever there was a case for an evolution of a word, it is this one! In the past, scales came as a 'set': that is, a balance on a fulcrum, with weights at one end, and a tray for the ingredient to be weighed on the other. Hence the plural. Digital scales are not a 'set' as such, so they could be logically referred to in the singular. That said, people like me still use the plural out of habit. Grammatical purists might be loathe to accept the singular form - in which case, they need to read Darwin!

My bet is that both forms are now acceptable.


PS: And yep, I only have one of said article!


mary fadel 2020 May 6

Can I make starter without a scale? How did people bake bread 100 years ago without digital scales?


melanie gyles 2020 June 8

This has being " weighing" heavily on me too. lol. I don't want to buy or even use a scale. I have baked and cooked great food everyday of my life without one and i am pushing 60. i got my starter going with 1/2 cup flour, 1/3 cup water and patience. it took about 2 weeks to get happy. Had beginner's luck on the first loaf, but a few flops followed. still scouting recipes that have cup measurments. good luck!


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