Measuring Correctly Is the Key To Good Baking:
written by: Pastryitems.com (copyright 2014)
When great cooks make soup, they seldom measure anything. They make their broth and throw in their vegetables. They'll usually add some herbs and spices, but again, they don't measure anything. Instead, you'll see them by the stove with their spoon stirring and doing taste tests. You'll hear them say things like, "needs a pinch more cumin." If they want to add noodles, they usually just "eyeball it" and throw them into the pot.With no measuring at all... soon the aroma of the homemade soup fills the house stirring everyone's appetite into a frenzy. Finally, the call to dinner comes, "Soup's on!" As the hungry crowd digs into their piping hot bowl of soup, the verdict comes back, "Best soup you ever made Mom/Dad/Grandma/Grandpa!"
This method of taste testing and eyeballing the ingredients works great for soups and many other stove-top culinary delights. However, when it comes to baking, things are much less forgiving! To bake well, you are going to need to get precise. In fact, the more accurately and consistently you measure your ingredients, the better your baked goods will turn out and the more consistency you'll achieve!Have you ever wondered why your cake turns out great one time and then is a complete flop the next, even though you used the same recipe and measured everything exactly the same? The reason is almost always due to the differences in the amount of flour and/or other dry ingredients you use. I know... you THINK you are using the same amount every time but you are probably being fooled.
Consider the following:
1. When you buy flour, even if you buy the same brand and variety from the same store, sometimes it will be packed more than other times. This means that one measured "cup" of flour one time may actually contain more flour than one measured "cup" of flour another time. We're not talking about minor differences either! It's actually quite common to have flour measurements vary by 50%, depending on how packed it is. In fact, if the flour is really packed, you can actually end up doubling the amount without knowing it.
2. Here's another issue. Do you spoon your flour out of the flour bag and then drop this into a measuring cup? Perhaps you dip your measuring cup right into the bag instead and then level it off to measure one cup of flour? The first way tends to put more air into the flour so one "cup" of flour will tend to have less flour than measuring it out the second way.
3. Do you buy your flour in bulk? If so, you probably use one of those big scoops they provide to pour your flour into the bag. This is going to add a lot of air to the flour and increase the volume too. So, if you use flour from a bag that has been transported by a truck, stored in a storeroom, and then placed on the shelf, you'll likely get denser packed flour than if you use flour scooped from a bulk bin container! When you measure out each with the exactly same measuring cup, you'll actually have two very different amounts (weights) of actual flour! Do you see how that works?
Let's move on to a slightly different, but related, issue.
If a recipe calls for: 1 cup flour, sifted Do you know that the placement of the comma means that you should first measure out the flour and THEN sift it? You have to pay close attention to the placement of the commas in a recipe. However, if your recipe was handed down from Grandma who hand wrote it for Mom and then she handed it down to your and hand wrote, there's a good chance, any original commas have been omitted. This could explain why you can't get your cake to turn out like your Grandma's cake used to, even if you are using her recipe. If you sift the flour first, and then measure it, you will end up with a very different amount of flour!What about when a recipe calls for: 1 cup brown sugar, lightly packed. What you consider "lightly packed" may not be what the writer of the recipe had in mind at all! You can see that even if you measure out everything exactly as written in a recipe using a measuring cup, you can still end up with a lot of variation from one time to the next. This is why one time your cake may turn out perfectly while another time it may sink in the middle! The good news is there is a easy way to fix this problem and use exactly the same amount of each ingredient each and every time you follow a recipe. The solution is to buy yourself a digital kitchen scale and WEIGH your ingredients instead of measuring them by volume with measuring cups, teaspoons, and tablespoons.One cup of bulk bin flour may be different than one cup of hard packed pre-packaged flour on sale at the supermarket (on sale because it's old and probably way more packed). However, if you weigh both out instead of measuring it with a measuring cup, you should be able to use precisely the same amount of flour from both sources. Digital kitchen scales used to be quite expensive but the prices have dropped considerably. You can get one now for only $20. Once you start weighing your baking ingredients instead of measuring them by volume, you'll never want to go back. You'll get far more consistent results with your baking!You may have noticed that most modern baking recipe books now list each ingredient in grams in addition to the old way of listing volume (like 1 cup or 2 teaspoons). Grams are used for the weight measurement because they are easier to work with. You can scale a recipe up or down very easily if you use grams instead of ounces. Therefore, it's best to get used to using grams when you weigh out your ingredients. This will also allow you to try out a lot more recipes online that are often in grams because they originate from professional chefs or from other countries where the metric system is commonly used.There is one snag but you can overcome it (see below). Most old American recipes don't include the grams for each ingredient. Therefore, you will need to convert your old recipes to grams. Below, you will find the conversions to grams for many popular baking ingredients:
Conversions To Grams:
0.5 cup of all-purpose flour = 65 grams1.0 cup of all-purpose flour = 130 grams
0.5 cup of cake flour = 60 grams1.0 cup of cake flour = 120 grams
0.5 cup of whole wheat flour = 65 grams1.0 cup of whole wheat flour = 130 grams
0.5 cup of almond flour = 45 grams1.0 cup of almond flour = 90 grams
0.5 cup of cornmeal = 60 grams1.0 cup of cornmeal = 120 grams
0.5 cup of granulated white sugar = 100 grams1.0 cup of granulated white sugar = 200 grams
0.5 cup of powered sugar = 60 grams1.0 cup of powered sugar = 120 grams
0.5 cup of lightly packed brown sugar = 105 grams1.0 cup of lightly packed brown sugar = 210 grams
0.5 cup of cocoa powder (any type) = 50 grams1.0 cup of cocoa powder (any type) = 100 grams
1 tablespoon of cocoa powder (any type) = 6 grams
0.5 cup of butter = 113 grams1.0 cup of butter = 226 grams
0.5 cup of graham cracker crumbs = 50 grams1.0 cup of graham cracker crumbs = 100 grams
0.5 cup of rolled oats = 47.5 grams1.0 cup of rolled oats = 95 grams
You may also need to convert U.S. weights to their metric equivalents. Below are two formulas and a chart to help you do that:
Two Formulas To Convert U.S. Weights To Metric Equivalents
1. To convert ounces to grams:number of ounces x 28.35 = the number of grams
2. To convert pounds to kilograms:number of pounds x 0.454 = the number of kilograms
More U.S. Measurements To Metric Equivalents
0.25 (1/4) teaspoon = 1.23 ml (milliliters)0.50 (1/2) teaspoon = 2.5 ml0.75 (3/4) teaspoon = 3.7 ml1 teaspoon = 4.9 ml1 tablespoon = 15 ml
1 cup = 240 ml1 pint = 480 ml1 quart = 960 ml1 gallon = 3.8 l (liters)
0.50 (1/2) ounce = 14 grams1 ounce = 29 grams16 ounces = 1 pound = 454 grams32 ounces = 907 grams64 ounces = 1.8 kilograms
Finally, you may need to first convert between U.S. measurements too. Here is a chart to help with that:
Common U.S. Baking Equivalents:
1 cup = 8 ounces = 16 tablespoons
2 cups = 1 pint = 16 ounces
4 cups = 2 pints = 1 quart = 32 ounces
16 cups = 8 pints = 4 quarts = 1 gallon = 128 ounces
2 tablespoons = 1/8 cup = 1 ounce
3 teaspoons = 1 tablespoon
4 tablespoons = 1/4 cup
5 tablespoons + 1 teaspoon = 1/3 cup
Now, you're all set to convert your recipes and start weighing your ingredients for a more accurate and consistent baking result. You may feel like a mad scientist at first but you'll quickly get the hang of it. Another exciting advantage to weighing is you can weight all your dry ingredients in the same bowl if you "zero" the scale in between! This makes baking much faster and much simpler and you'll be baking like the pros!