By Martha Rose Shulman

Like all Americans, I learned to bake using measuring cups and spoons, and have written all of my cookbooks, including baking books, using these standard American measures. When I lived in France, where cooks use weights for dry ingredients (as well as poetic measures like une noix de beurre, une pointe d'ail, a soupÃ§on of this, a poignÃ©e of that), and bakers use them for both dry and wet ingredients, I began to see that using weights was a much easier and more accurate way to cook. But my editors have always insisted on measures. They might concede a metric conversion chart, hidden away in the appendix of the book, but they are convinced that American cooks will not buy cookbooks unless the traditional American measures are used.

I recommend anybody who has doubts about the merits of weights over measures do this exercise as well: Measure 1 cup of flour 10 times and weigh it each time on a digital scale set to grams (grams are much more precise than ounces, as there are approximately 30 grams in an ounce). I guarantee you that you will get 10 different values.

If you want consistency in your baking, weights are the only way to go. Plus, using a scale makes the whole process of baking go much more quickly. You can scale an ingredient much more quickly than you can measure it. Scale all of your ingredients, set them up in the order in which you'll use them, and you're ready to go.

Having thrown in my measuring cups for a scale once and for all, I decided to go back to one of my oldest recipes, a signature mixed grains bread that I've been making since before I began my career as a cook, and reconfigure the recipe using metric weights. One by one, I will do this with every baked good in my repertoire, most of which involve whole grains, which vary tremendously in density, depending on the way they were ground. I do use cups in the recipe instructions, but as a delivery tool for adding grains or flours to dough, not as a measure.

Yield: 2 loaves

This was my signature bread when I began cooking in the '70s and it's still a family favorite. It's a dense, sweet, soft-crusted nourishing loaf, well suited for toast but not for sopping up sauces or soup the way a more porous bread would be.

Ingredients

For the sponge:

675 grams (3 cups) lukewarm water

50 grams (2 tablespoons) honey

40 grams (2 tablespoons) blackstrap molasses

10 grams (1 level tablespoon) active dry yeast

300 grams (approx. 2 cups) whole wheat flour

275 grams (approx. 2 cups) unbleached white flour

50 grams (Â¼ cup) canola oil

20 grams (scant tablespoon) sea salt

150 grams (approx. 1Â½ cups) oatmeal or a mix of oats and other flakes

100 grams (approx. â…” cup) bulgur or cracked wheat

100 grams (approx. Â¾ cup) quinoa flour or millet flour

225 grams (approx. 1Â½ cups) whole wheat flour

20 grams (approx. 2 scant tablespoons) sesame seeds

Egg wash made with 1 egg beaten with 1 tablespoon water

Directions

1. Make the sponge. In a large bowl, combine the yeast and water and stir until dissolved. Stir in the honey and molasses. Whisk in the flours, a cup at a time. Stir or whisk this mixture 100 times, about 2 minutes. Scrape down the sides of the bowl with a spatula, cover tightly with plastic and leave to rise in a warm spot for 1 hour, until bubbly.