- Baking Fundamentals Lesson #5: How to Measure Everything for Baking
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How to Measure Everything for Baking Lesson Overview
Today in baking school I want to really go in depth about measuring ingredients and the common mistakes that can be made. Baking is an exact science and properly measuring ingredients is absolutely essential.
This lesson will review the difference in measuring by weight and by volume and how to properly do both. We are also going to review the nuances about how different ingredients should be measured. Let’s go!
Watch the Video Lesson
Measuring by Weight vs Measuring by Volume
It is important to understand what the exact difference is in measuring by weight and measuring by volume as both are commonly used in baking and can easily get confused.
Measuring by Weight
When you measure by weight you are measuring the exact weight of each ingredient using a scale. It is an extremely accurate way to measure and that’s why it is the preferred method for professional bakers and pastry chefs.
There are several different units of weight measurements (see the chart below), however grams is the preferred unit of measurement for baking because it is the smallest form of measurement and therefore the most accurate.[table id=19 /]
Measuring by Volume
When you measure by volume, you are measuring your ingredients with measuring cups instead of with a scale. The ingredient is measured by the amount of space it takes up rather than what it weighs.
This method of measuring is very common with home bakers, especially in the US, but is truly a less accurate way to measure. It is quite easy to accidentally pack too much of an ingredient into a measuring cup or possibly not fill it all the way to the top.
There are many different units of volume measurement as represented in the chart below.[table id=20 /]
Imperial and Metric Measurement Conversions
It is common to run into recipes that might be written using units of measurement that you aren’t familiar with. However, you can always convert recipes from Imperial to Metric or vice versa if needed. To assist in this process, I have created a chart for you for all of the common Imperial and Metric measurements you might run into and their proper conversions. I suggest also printing this chart out for easy reference. *Click here to download the Imperial & Metric Measurement Conversions chart
1 Cup is Not Always 8 Ounces
I once had an instructor tell a class I was taking that 1 cup is always equal to 8 oz. This is something that is really confusing in the baking world because ounces by weight and ounces by volume (fluid ounces) are two totally separate things.
We are all taught: 1 cup is 8 ounces, right? But it is important to understand that while 1 cup measures 8 fluid ounces (remember that fluid ounces are a measurement of volume) that does not mean that 1 cup of everything will weigh 8 ounces.
The reason this is confusing is because water, milk, cream, melted butter, and some other liquid ingredients do weigh the same amount by weight as they are by volume. 1 cup of water (8 fluid ounces) does actually weigh 8 ounces. But this is not true for almost all of the other ingredients you will bake with.
An example I like to use is to think about filling 1 measuring cup up with lead and another measuring cup up with feathers. Will they weigh the same? Absolutely not. They are filling up the same amount of space (aka volume) but they will not weigh the same.
How to Use a Digital Scale to Measure by Weight
When you measure by weight you want to use a digital scale to weigh your ingredients. Turn the scale on and then use the “unit” button to change the settings to your desired unit of measurement. Grams is the preferred unit of measurement for baking because it is the smallest and therefore the most accurate.
Once you have selected your unit of measurement, put a bowl on the scale and click the “tare” button. This button zeros out the scale so that the bowl will not be counted into the weight you are measuring. Then begin adding your ingredient into the bowl until you are at the desired weight.
Converting Volume Measurement to Weight Measurements
Many recipes are written only using volume measurements, however you can convert volume measurements to weight measurements using this downloadable chart for common baking ingredients. I have this saved on my phone so I can easily access it wherever I am, but you could also print it and hang it in your kitchen.*Click here to download the Weight Conversions for Common Baking Ingredients chart
How to Measure by Volume
When you measure by volume you will use a measuring cup or spoon to measure out your ingredient by the amount of space it takes up. To do this, you will need to have 3 different kinds of measuring tools: liquid measuring cups, dry measuring cups, and measuring spoons.
Liquid measuring cups are clear and have have a variety of volume measurements marked on the outside of the cup. They also have a pour spout. Liquid measuring cups should only be used to measure liquids because it is impossible to level off a dry ingredient in a liquid cup so that it is measured accurately.
Dry measuring cups come in varying sizes for each specific volume measurement. While a 1 cup dry measuring cup is the same size as a 1 cup liquid measuring cup, these two tools function best for their intended use. Dry ingredients are most accurately measured in a dry measuring cup.
Measuring spoons are used for measuring small quantities of ingredients by volume.
How to Measure Flour & Other Powdery Dry Ingredients
When measuring powdery dry ingredients such as flour, powdered sugar, and cocoa powder, you want to make sure you are using the proper technique. I call this technique the “spoon & level” method. Start by stirring the ingredient to fluff it up a bit as dry ingredients tend to settle and pack down with time. Then lightly spoon the ingredient in to the dry measuring cup, without packing it down at all, until it is overflowing. Then use a knife to level off the ingredient so that it is completely flush with the top of the cup.
This method is extremely important if you are going to be measuring by volume. A properly measured cup of flour should weigh 120 grams, however it is easy to pack 25-30% more flour into a cup if you do not use this technique. This can cause many issues in baking.
SIFTED VS NON-SIFTED DRY INGREDIENTS
If the dry ingredients will be sifted, most recipes call for the ingredient to be measured before it has been sifted and then will call for it to be sifted later. This is important to notice because sifted flour (and other sifted dry ingredients) weigh less by volume than when measured before sifted.
How to Measure Brown Sugar
Brown sugar is the one baking ingredient that you do want to lightly pack into the measuring cup before leveling it off.
How to Measure Liquids
When measuring liquid ingredients get down at eye level of the liquid measuring cup so that you can truly see if the liquid is at the proper line.
HOMEWORK FOR THIS LESSON
Your homework for this lesson is to practice measuring flour using the spoon and level technique and to check it on your scale (that means you’ll need a scale!) to see how accurate you are. 1 cup of flour should weigh 120 grams. How many tries did it take you to get there? If you are already completely committed to always measuring by weight, then you get a pass on this assignment and can share with the group why you prefer measuring by weight and how it has affected your baking!
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