Yeah, Cocopuffs, Fannie Farmer did that in the States. She standardized the cup into a specific number of liquid ounces. In Italy, they still don't always indicate precise measures in the cookbooks, sometimes there is a q.b. (quanto basta - enough) after an ingredient like flour or salt. But when they do specify, they use grams. Most families, i can attest, don;t have a scale, but use a beaker measured with lines for grams of flour, water, oil, etc, which are obviously different. In the end they;ve taken the weight and transformed it into volume.
On the bread, i did some research. I found the following, translated from the middle english from a fourteenth century source, quoted in To the King's Taste, put out by the Metropolitan museum of art.. This is a recipe for Manchets, a fine bread from white flour, for rich people.
- First your meal[flour], ground and bolted [sifted] through the finest cloth, you shall put into a clean kimmel (kneading tub) and, opening the flour hollow in the middle, put into it the best ale barme [the live yeast from brewing], three pints to a bushel of meal. and some salt to season it with. Then put in your liquid reasonably warm and knead it through the brake (dough hook) or put it in a cloth and with your feet tread it a good space together. Then let it lie an hour or so as to swell. take it forth and mould it into manchets, round and flat. Score it about the waist to give it leave to rise and prick it with your knife on the top, and so put it into your oven and bake it with gentle heat.
Note the measures in bushels and pints, all volumetric. It only makes sense that they wouldn't be weighing that large a quantity of flour in those days. The scale would be used to sell the loaves. The flour, anyway, was so variable, without the same controls over growing season, watering, and the breeding of the wheat varieties, which were many more then than now and more cross pollination. Not to mention the quantities of alien ingredients added by the very notoriously corrupt and hated millers.
I know bread today is all about consistency and the product always looking the same. It's not so true here in Italy, i notice, where the variability - larger, smaller holes, darker or lighter crust from one loaf to another - are signs people look for to know the bread is not industrially produced. Though certainly they now weigh the ingredients. If some of the loaves are darker than others, or a loaf is darker on one side, it means it was in a wood oven, which can;t be as easily controlled. That kind of bread is always more expensive. Not everyone wants each loaf to be identical to the other. And in the end, even if you buy a whole loaf, which is not at all obligatory, the storekeeper weighs it and gives you the price, which is by kilo. This is even in supermarkets. Thus the scales used from ancient times in bakeries, to prevent shortchanging the customer with a lighter loaf.
Edited by siduri - 8/4/12 at 3:39am