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My husband's grandmother's recipe card for bread calls for "one half canister of flour".

Does anyone have any ideas on what that might equate to? My brother-in-law has been playing with measurements and all attempts have been undesirable.

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    The whole recipe would help (recipes are encouraged in questions, not in answers.) The nature of the undesirable results, and what amount was used for them would help. I suspect it's half of whatever her flour canister on the kitchen counter was, rather than something standard. Can without the -ister would suggest a 1, 3 or 10 lb "tin" can, though in that case a size is commonly specified. For my canister, half would be roughly 2.5 lbs, as it comfortably holds a 5 lb. bag. – Ecnerwal Mar 15 '17 at 3:51
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    As Ecnerwal said if we could look at the recipe we could make an educated guess. At least tell us how much water and other liquids and we could give you an idea of different hydration levels To try. – Alaska Man Mar 15 '17 at 4:22
  • I've seen bail type canning jars called canisters... if you still have her canning jars, check what sizes they are.... – rackandboneman Mar 15 '17 at 18:07
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    @Ecnerwal : you're an optimist if you think most sizes are commonly specified when people give measurements in 'cans' or 'tins'. I collect old & community cookbooks, and a good number of them just assume there's only one size (which there might have been when and where they wrote it) ... but cans of tomatoes come in lots of sizes these days. – Joe Mar 15 '17 at 18:58
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Has anyone located Grandma's canister and looked to see if she marked it? It might be that simple. Otherwise... this is a shot in the dark, but without any other clues to go on, I'm going to guess it means 2 1/2 pounds, or 9 to 9 1/2 cups. Typically, flour canisters will hold 5 pounds of flour (a standard bag), with a little headroom. I don't know what kind of bread recipe you're looking at, but if the amount of liquid is in the neighborhood of 2 1/2 to 3 cups, it's probably around 2 1/2 pounds of flour.

I know "around 2 1/2 pounds" and "1/2 canister" sound terribly imprecise, but an experienced baker knows that imprecise measurements are a way of life when it comes to baking bread. Ambient humidity -- as well as the moisture content of flour -- are in a constant state of change. I'm guessing Grandma baked a wonderful loaf of bread, which is why you're trying to duplicate it. She, like any good baker, would have started with slightly less flour than she knew she would need, then gradually added more as she mixed and kneaded it until the dough reached the desired consistency.

You have tried this a few times already, right? I suggest that you simply take what you've learned so far and guess a little low for the volume or weight of flour, mix it thoroughly, then add a bit at a time until you arrive at a workable dough.

Oh -- one more thing: many of us are not perfectly consistent in recording our recipes (especially when using scant, rounded, or heaping measurements). Some improvements we simply remember and don't take the trouble to jot down. Grandma might have left out a detail or two, so don't beat yourself up if your best efforts to follow a recipe don't yield the expected results. With experience, you'll figure out how to make results more to your liking.

Good luck -- and happy baking!

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In the book "Ratio" by Michael Ruhlman, a typical flour to liquid ratio for bread is 5:3 by weight, so that would probably be a good starting place. If you provided more information on the rest of the recipe, that would be helpful.

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    In baking that's called 60% hydration. 100% flour, 60% water (by weight of flour.) But we don't even know if this is a yeast bread where that is one typical ratio or a quick bread which might be a lot different. – Ecnerwal Mar 15 '17 at 22:48
  • This does not address OP's question though – user110084 May 15 '17 at 7:37

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