Volume vs. Weight in Baking: Why you should weigh your ingredients
I grew up learning how to measure dry ingredients the way I’m sure just about everyone else did – scoop and level. Scoop the measuring cup into the flour, then take the straight edge of a butter knife and level off the top. Seems easy enough, right? Well, it might be easy but it is certainly not always accurate. For the most part, precise measurements are not necessary in cooking, but are a critical part of baking success. In fact, incorrect measuring is one of the biggest reasons that most baking endeavors fail. A bit of extra flour can lead to rock-hard cookies, tough bread, and less-than fluffy cakes. Too much granulated sugar and your cookies will be crispy when you wanted them soft and chewy. It’s been a little over a year since I embraced the joy of measuring by weight, and I just realized that I had never talked about weighing ingredients here on the blog. Continue reading to find out about my little experiment, kitchen scale recommendations, and a list of resources.
A few cookbooks in my collection give ingredient quantities in both volume and weight, but I didn’t pay much attention until I made the Thick & Chewy Chocolate Chip Cookies from Baking Illustrated. Curious as to how much of a difference there could actually be between scooping ingredients into measuring cups and weighing them, I conducted an experiment. I measured flour into a cup the way I normally would and then put that scoop on the kitchen scale. Amazingly, there was almost an entire ounce of difference. The scooped flour measured into the cup was almost a full ounce heavier than the recipe stated a cup of all-purpose flour should be. Yikes! That could be a recipe (no pun intended) for disaster. At that point I decided to start weight everything.
The easiest way to get precise measurements of ingredients is to invest in a kitchen scale. There are many on the market and range from inexpensive spring-loaded models to higher-end digital scales. For anyone that bakes on a regular basis, I would recommend a digital scale that measures in both ounces and grams, and that does volume conversions. I personally use an Escali Pana scale (purchased from King Arthur Flour for about $65) that offers ounces, grams, and volume-to-weight conversions that I would highly recommend. However, don’t break the bank just to get a scale into your hands. There are many economy models that will do the job just as well. Below is a quick overview of those rated as recommended by Cook’s Illustrated (incidentally, they rated my scale Recommended with Reservations because they said the buttons felt cheap):
OXO Food Scale ($49.95)
Soehnle 65055 Digital Scale ($34.04)
Do you have a scale you use that you would like to recommend? Let us know in the comments section!
To kick-start your measuring-by-weighing journey, below are some volume-to-weight conversions for common baking ingredients:
♦ All-purpose flour 1 cup = 4.25 ounces
♦ Bread flour 1 cup = 4.5 ounces
♦ Cake flour 1 cup = 4.0 ounces
♦ Sugar (both granulated and brown) 1 cup = 7.0 ounces
For a comprehensive list of ingredients by weight, visit King Arthur Flour’s Master Weight Chart.
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