If you’ve ever made bread dough, you’ve probably stumbled across the phrase “until doubled” more than once. See here for “until doubled in bulk.” Here and here for “until doubled in size.” And, just to shake things up, here for “increased by at least one-third of its size.”
But eyeballing this growth is harder than it sounds.
Many home cooks, myself included, rely on tapered mixing bowls—wide at the top, narrow at the base. You know the ones:
Which brings me back to some math that I haven’t thought about since high school. (My teacher swore it would come in handy one day and, you know what, he was right!) To calculate the volume of a cylinder, you multiply pi times the radius-squared times the height. On the other hand, to calculate the volume of a cone (aka that curvy mixing bowl), you multiply pi times the radius-squared times one-third of the height.
This is a very long-winded way of saying: If you’re using a standard mixing bowl, you can’t just estimate when the dough started at one level and is now twice as high in the bowl. Because you need to account for the tapering. And honestly, my eyes just aren’t that smart.
Enter: trusty Cambros. These food storage containers were everywhere when I worked in professional kitchens, from modest single quarts to buckets big enough to climb inside. We used them for dry goods like beans and rice, liquidy mixtures like custards, and bready situations like doughs.
Of course, a home kitchen doesn’t need a million and one containers (that’d be cool, though). Just one or two sizes will earn their keep on bread baking alone: After mixing the dough in a bowl, transfer to a greased Cambro (say, a 4-quart, depending on the loaf size) and never have to second-guess when something is “doubled” again. Because, like a measuring cup, these containers come with volume markers.
Likewise, this container is a workhorse for sourdough starters. (Did you start a starter in quarantine? Me too.) Some folks use a rubber band as a way to measure when their starter has doubled in size. But thanks to the containers’ markers, no band is necessary. A 2-quart container should do the trick here.
It’s an easy way to make baking bread more foolproof, with less second-guessing. And these days, I’ll take anything easy I can get.