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Weighing v measuring in baking

r
rainey Apr 4, 2010 10:50 AM

I just heard Nick Malgieri say yesterday that there's no magic to weighing ingredients. He actually said it was a great fallacy that it's more accurate. He said that properly measured flour (spoon-into-measuring-cup-and-level) can be simpler, more convenient and completely reliable. He finished with the reason that commercial bakers weigh is because they work in huge quantities and aren't going to sit there and level off 100 cups of flour.

What do you think?

I have a scale and do both. It can be so convenient to keep taring out and adding to a bowl (I use a liquid beaker with universal measurements for the same reason). When it comes to things like peanut butter and honey a scale eliminates the messiness and HOORAY for that! But -- I'll tell you the truth here -- my great aunt from whom I learned to bake dipped into her flour bin and I do that too. I'm not the least adverse to close-enough-and-then-adjust-the-texture in any of my baking. And what Malgieri said about that is that in cooking school someone would cross the room to slap my hand! ;>

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  1. amyzan RE: rainey Apr 4, 2010 10:59 AM

    Well, I'm sorry, but he's wrong. I'll take that stand. Measuring with cups can vary widely. Perhaps he's just trying to reassure measuring bakers comfort? I use a scale, which yeah, will vary but not by near as much as with measuring. The difference can make or break the basic chemistry that results in good texture.

    5 Replies
    1. re: amyzan
      mrbigshotno.1 RE: amyzan Apr 4, 2010 11:07 AM

      He is full of ca ca. You can get by ok in the home kitchen as long as you measure exact. As far as large scale bakery items and bread "If you don't weigh, you will pay"! Amyzan, your last sentence is right on the money! Weighing is always the best and dought free way to go.

      1. re: amyzan
        b
        BangorDin RE: amyzan Apr 4, 2010 11:43 AM

        If flour is packed down, or has been stirred up so that it's full of air, it *will* affect the weight. But I think that most home cooks have bags of flour from a grocery, sacks that have been handled in much the same way all over the country they're in, and are somewhere in between packed and aerated. The cooks who weigh--they could measure too and report here. I can't help but think that measuring is OK or they would not continue to publish thousands of cookbooks to join the thousands of books already out there that use that method.

        1. re: amyzan
          r
          rainey RE: amyzan Apr 4, 2010 12:05 PM

          I think a commercial baker who didn't weigh would be taking the consistency of their product and their whole reputation and putting it at risk. But I just don't feel that way about home baking.

          There's no doubt that the proportions are a lot more critical than in cooking but I'm all in favor of taking the preciousness out of baking. Of course I learned from my aunt who may not even have used standard measuring cups. That was the 50s. She was already in her 50s. She probably learned to bake around the turn of the century and used teacups, her eyeballs and her hands. What came out of her kitchen was sometimes a little on the heavy side but it was NEVER less than delicious and memorable.

          Perhaps keeping that memory freed me a looooong time ago from the idea that I can't do whatever works. That's the approach I'm in favor of and I think more people would bake with real eggs, butter and sugar (even bakeries aren't producing the authentic stuff anymore!) if they were freed of all the *rules* and demands for precision in baking.

          1. re: rainey
            amyzan RE: rainey Apr 5, 2010 01:57 PM

            Rainey, I've got to say that I do agree with you "in spirit" about removing the intimidation factor in home baking. BUT, because using a scale is so easy, and actually much less work and clean up, I don't really equate weighing with "preciousness." Yeah, it's more exact, but it's not exactly a PITA, either. Now, if the budget is a factor, yes, measuring cups are much less expensive than a good scale, as one worth the investment is usually at least $30, often $50-60 if you bake in larger quantity. I'm also all for using eye and experience because I don't account for all variables. All of this doesn't make up for the simple truth that weighing is much more successful a method, and just plain worth the expense of a scale if one can be afforded.

            1. re: amyzan
              r
              rainey RE: amyzan Apr 5, 2010 04:04 PM

              Rest assured I also agree with you. As I've said elsewhere I also have and use a scale. But I use measuring cups and my third eye just about as often.

        2. todao RE: rainey Apr 4, 2010 11:58 AM

          Well, up until today, I had never heard of Nick Malgieri. If that's what he teaches I don't care if I learn any more about him. If you're baking a cake and sifting the flour, weighing it isn't critical because you typically sift the flour into the measuring cup, level it off and use that sifted amount as an ingredient. But if you're making bread with 500 grams of flour (something close to four cups) and don't have a lot of experience in "reading" the dough you may end up with a crumb that you didn't want. A tablespoon of water can have a meaningful influence on the overall hydration level of bread dough (as can the humidity in teh kitchen) and measuring water in a measuring cup instead of weighing it can easily result in a 1 tablespoon error per cup.
          Like your aunt, my grandmother dipped into her flour bin. She could read bread dough from the fermentation stages through final proofing like she read the bible. If I'm working with a slack dough I can do that fairly well myself. But if it's a firmer crumb results I'm looking for I weight the ingredients. So should Mr. Malgieri.

          1. ipsedixit RE: rainey Apr 4, 2010 12:09 PM

            I'm usually, actually I'm never a stickler for exact measurements be it by weight or volume. I'm more of a pinch of that, a dash of this and a quick taste to see if enough stuff has been added.

            That said, when it comes to baking I'm the exact opposite ... and become almost unbearably anal when it comes to measuring and weighing.

            So, yeah, I would say the guy is wrong.

            1 Reply
            1. re: ipsedixit
              bagelman01 RE: ipsedixit Apr 5, 2010 02:21 PM

              Couldn't agree more.............
              My first job after college was as the purchasing agent for a large commercial bakery.

              I was taught everything gets weighed, both dry and wet.

              The European master bakers explained:
              Cooking is an art, Baking is a SCIENCE. The bakers allowed the decorators to put the artistic finish on the sweet goods.

              My wife didn't believe me, but when one of her cheesecakes was not up to snuff, I was able to show her that 8oz weight and 8 oz liquid measure (that fill the same measuring cup) are NOT always equal.

              As it says on the side of the cookie box-->Sold by weight, not by volume.

            2. h
              Harters RE: rainey Apr 4, 2010 02:06 PM

              Here in the UK, baking recipes are always by weight. I've always assumed that the cup measurement is a purely north American practice. Is there a history to why Americans measure and not weigh?

              4 Replies
              1. re: Harters
                todao RE: Harters Apr 4, 2010 03:09 PM

                I'm not aware of the history of the American practice of bulk measure, perhaps it had something to do with breaking away from the British rule. But in abandoning the metric system and the practice of weighing ingredients in preparing foods we lost something that we should have held on to. I always found math difficult in school. In college I found science and electronics, where the metric system was tightly locked in, and I suddenly discovered that it wasn't mathematics itself that was difficult but the inane system of measurement that our American forefathers elected to adopt.
                Three cheers for metrics ....

                1. re: todao
                  h
                  Harters RE: todao Apr 4, 2010 03:27 PM

                  Must admit it's taken me quite a while to start to think in metric. I'm OK with weights and what I guess I'd call home-based lengths (recipes & shop quantities are metric) but road distances and speed limits are still in miles and that's how I still think of them.

                  The silly thing is that most people will still ask in, say, a butchers, for a pound of sausages. But the butcher's scales are in metric so he has to know how to convert back (what most do is weigh 500gr and ask the customer if they mind it being a "bit over".

                  1. re: todao
                    Caitlin McGrath RE: todao Apr 4, 2010 03:35 PM

                    To be fair, North Americans didn't "abandon" the metric system in adopting volume measures for recipes, as at the time that recipes became more systemized (around the turn of the 20th century), metric wasn't standard in Britain either - they also used ounces and pounds until after mid-century. The US is simply an exception in not adopting metric for everyday life (vs. scientific application).

                  2. re: Harters
                    t
                    taiwanesesmalleats RE: Harters Apr 5, 2010 10:04 AM

                    I think part of it is attributed to the colonial roots of America. While there were some ideas for measurements of weights, there wasn't much in the way of fine precision scales when a colony is just starting. Since I'm sure food making and baking still went on, colonial cooks just reached for whatever was available, usually volume measurements like tea cups or what not. Just a theory.

                    The metric system was first adopted by the French in 1791 if you believe Wikipedia.

                  3. alanbarnes RE: rainey Apr 4, 2010 03:56 PM

                    Nonsense. A pound of flour is a pound of flour, period. A cup of flour is anywhere between four and six ounces, depending on fineness of grind, moisture content, handling, and measuring technique. You can get fairly accurate quantities with the sift/sift/scrape method (sift once, then sift again into a measuring cup, then scrape off the excess with a straight edge), but it's easier and more accurate just to weigh the stuff.

                    1. greygarious RE: rainey Apr 4, 2010 05:16 PM

                      Kitchen scales may be standard equipment for readers of this board, but they are not for American kitchens in general. When I was learning to cook, 40+ years ago, it was a given that recipes called for sifted flour. I'm not sure when the dip-and-sweep method overtook sifting, but I'll wager it is here to stay. People who only bake once a month, or less, are not likely to invest in scales, or to be willing to do metric conversion.

                      2 Replies
                      1. re: greygarious
                        c oliver RE: greygarious Apr 4, 2010 06:15 PM

                        I rarely bake but use my scale for all sorts of other things and it's a push-button literally to metric.

                        1. re: c oliver
                          r
                          rainey RE: c oliver Apr 4, 2010 06:20 PM

                          I agree that switching a scale to metric makes converting European recipes unnecessary. That liquid beaker I have with universal measurements, likewise, makes carrying on without even bothering with conversions a snap.

                          The only conversion I do is from C to F.

                      2. r
                        rainey RE: rainey Apr 4, 2010 05:26 PM

                        I threw this out because I had a good idea what the going wisdom on the subject was. Given what it is, I'll admit I was surprised to hear what Malgieri said on the record (one of the Sat PBS cooking shows) even if it's more in line with my own easy going approach. I have my own opinion and I certainly respect the fact that you all have yours. But I can't tell you how amusing I find it how comfortable many of you are in dismissing Malgieri's.

                        While you're assessing him as flat out wrong or nutz, you *do* know what his qualifications to express an opinion are, no? http://www.nickmalgieri.com/about.html

                        19 Replies
                        1. re: rainey
                          buttertart RE: rainey Apr 5, 2010 10:13 AM

                          It is very amusing. Nick Malgieri is one of my heroes - his recipes are enticing, clearly written, and I've never once had a bad product out of them. The instructions in his books are to spoon dry ingredients into dry ingerdient cups gently and level the tops off with a straight-edged implement. I've done this for years and his recipes work perfectly (ps, his Supernatural Brownies recipe is the nec plus ultra).
                          I usually only bake by weight when using European recipes. As other posters indicate, it's consistency that counts - my mother never had a set of dry cup meaures, she used to measure everything in her 2 cup Pyrex measuring cup, and she could bake the socks off just about anyone.

                          1. re: buttertart
                            Sooeygun RE: buttertart Apr 6, 2010 09:07 AM

                            I'm like you. I bake by weight if the recipe is by weight and by volume if the recipe is by volume. Most of the recipes I have and use most frequently are by volume. I find, that while by volume may not be as accurate, it is accurate enough. Yes, baking involves science, but it is not so inflexible that being off by a smidge here or there is going to ruin it. I look at some really, really old recipes my friend has from her grandmother and it has amounts like 'butter about the size of an egg' and granny managed to make the recipes just fine. Even using a scale, is everyone 100% sure it is calibrated properly? Then you could be off by a smidge here or there.

                            While professional pastry kitchens may have recipes by weight, it doesn't mean that the ones using them are being very careful about weighing. The pastry chefs I worked with often had a 'close enough' approach and produced wonderful stuff that didn't fail.

                            1. re: Sooeygun
                              buttertart RE: Sooeygun Apr 6, 2010 09:50 AM

                              I'm definitely not of the strictest "baking is a science" camp. I bake by feel as well as by recipe, eyeball small quantities of ingredients, weigh or measure depending. No you don't want to substitute baking soda for baking powder or other such follies, but a tablespoon less or more of flour isn't going to kill a household-sized recipe. Weighing of course makes sense in industrial applications. Nick Malgieri knows his stuff and his audience.

                              1. re: buttertart
                                alanbarnes RE: buttertart Apr 6, 2010 10:31 AM

                                >>"a tablespoon less or more of flour isn't going to kill a household-sized recipe"<<

                                You're right, of course. But if one of your goals is consistency (whether it's because you're running a commercial operation or just trying to duplicate someone else's results), accuracy is important.

                                There are many very talented bakers who don't need to measure ingredients at all. Volume? Bah. Weight? Surely you jest. Others can approximate those results the first time out, and duplicate them through trial and error. But to get the same result over and over again, you can't be using cups of flour that weigh 4.5oz on Monday and a 5oz on Tuesday.

                                That's not to say that absolute consistency should be anybody's goal. Frankly, it can be a little boring. To the extent that consistency is important, though, accurate measurements are critical.

                                1. re: alanbarnes
                                  buttertart RE: alanbarnes Apr 6, 2010 10:52 AM

                                  You have your opinion on the matter, I have mine. I have never noticed any difference in recipes I make over and over again even with my somewhat slipshod measuring methods. I have been baking since I was six so have a lot of experience under my belt and am probably measuring within a small margin of error just by practice. I would not ever counsel a beginning baker to be as loosey-goosey (within reason) as I am.

                                  1. re: buttertart
                                    Karl S RE: buttertart Apr 6, 2010 10:58 AM

                                    I know I've had very discernible differences when not using weight-measured flour, not only for cakes but also for certain breads that are not what might be called standard (I know the feel of a properly hydrated standard bread from experience, but also know that weight is a better measure for other types of bread from experience).

                                    1. re: Karl S
                                      buttertart RE: Karl S Apr 6, 2010 11:26 AM

                                      I weigh flour for bread (it's easier) but I hydrate to feel. I don't generally make teriffically high hydration breads.

                                    2. re: buttertart
                                      alanbarnes RE: buttertart Apr 6, 2010 12:14 PM

                                      It's not an opinion, it's a fact. Changing the amount of flour in a recipe by 3-6% (a tablespoon in a family-sized recipe) will alter the results. One end product may be just as good as the other. You may not care that the results are different. But there **will** be a difference.

                                      1. re: alanbarnes
                                        buttertart RE: alanbarnes Apr 6, 2010 12:20 PM

                                        Maybe I'm not as refined in my tastes as you are, but I venture to say that if I were deliberately to make the same recipe twice at the same time (say for brownies or cookies or a cake, a family-type recipe, not a génoise or something fancy) and add a tb of flour to one batch, neither I nor any of my family members would be able to tell the difference. A tb of flour over an entire batch with 2-3 cups of flour in it is a smidgen per portion.

                                        1. re: buttertart
                                          chowser RE: buttertart Apr 6, 2010 12:27 PM

                                          Can you tell the difference between using cake flour or AP flour when you bake? The difference is only a couple of tablespoons per cup. I alter by a tablespoon often, eg. if I'm adding toffee chips to chocolate chip cookies, the added fat makes them spread more than I want so I add a tablespoon more of flour and it doesn't.

                                          1. re: chowser
                                            buttertart RE: chowser Apr 6, 2010 12:42 PM

                                            Yes, the texure is different from the nature of the flour itself (less gluten). It's a couple of tablespoons different per cup, not one. As I said I am not in quest of the holy grail of baking perfection in most of my baking (fancy tortes and egg foam lightened cakes / madeleines aside). As long as there is cake on the table and cookies in the cupboard, and they're delicious, which they always are, my family is happy. As am I. I see no reason I should change my successful habits of many years' standing.

                                            1. re: buttertart
                                              chowser RE: buttertart Apr 6, 2010 01:57 PM

                                              Have you ever weighed your cup to see how consistent you are with your measuring? I did it and was surprised at how accurate (and consistent) my measuring was when I weighed what my cups were. I don't think measuring is wrong at all. I just see why weighing, when in a recipe for a mass market, can cut down on inaccurate measurement, not in a tablespoon for you, but in the big difference between a heaping cup of packed flour and the way someone is supposed to do it. I don't think of someone like you, who has baked your whole life, as the audience for Nick Maglieri's recipe. I think he is writing for the common denominator.

                                              1. re: chowser
                                                Caitlin McGrath RE: chowser Apr 6, 2010 02:08 PM

                                                Going solely by what rainey related in her OP, Malgieri was specifically saying that home bakers can get reliable results by measuring if they measure the correct way: "He said that properly measured flour (spoon-into-measuring-cup-and-level)..." In other words, he is specifying to his audience *how* flour must be measured to achieve those results.

                                                1. re: Caitlin McGrath
                                                  chowser RE: Caitlin McGrath Apr 6, 2010 02:19 PM

                                                  Sorry, thanks--there were so many posts that I forgot what was in the OP.

                                                2. re: chowser
                                                  buttertart RE: chowser Apr 6, 2010 02:13 PM

                                                  I haven't weighed the cups as you suggest, but it's not a bad idea at all. I expect you get an internally consistent "hand" for measuring things. I just think that whatever can be done to encourage people to bake is a good thing (pace Martha). And if they're baking Nick Malgieri's recipes, all the better!

                                                  1. re: buttertart
                                                    chowser RE: buttertart Apr 6, 2010 02:22 PM

                                                    Agreed. I don't see a difference in my results, with measuring or weighing, and I'd guess it's the same for you, too. Over time, we become creatures of habit. I'll use one cup measuring cup for half a cup of flour or sugar and it still turns out. But, when I have weighed what I eyeball, it's still pretty close. I think over time you just get a feel for what's "right". I weigh or measure, depending on which is handiest. FWIW, when I've taken baking classes, we've only measured but were taught how to do it.

                                                3. re: buttertart
                                                  alanbarnes RE: buttertart Apr 6, 2010 02:20 PM

                                                  >>"I see no reason I should change my successful habits of many years' standing."<<

                                                  I think we're in vehement agreement. Nobody's saying you should change your baking methods. If you get great results measuring by volume, then by all means continue to do so. Plus, you're absolutely correct that a small variation in the amount of flour in a batch of cookies would probably be completely unnoticeable.

                                                  My point was more academic. If you change the amount of flour in a recipe, you'll change the result. Maybe imperceptibly. Maybe immaterially. But the result will be different.

                                                  Does that matter? When you're baking brownies at home, probably not. But some recipes are a little trickier, and adjusting the amounts of ingredients is an invitation to disaster. By the same token, if you've become famous for a particular product and are marketing it commercially, consistency is very important.

                                                  Long and short, consistency is an objective thing. It doesn't necessarily have anything to do with tastiness, which is completley subjective.

                                                  1. re: alanbarnes
                                                    buttertart RE: alanbarnes Apr 7, 2010 06:11 AM

                                                    Of course agreed, there would be a measurable difference if only in weight, etc. And I do weigh when it's critical (have owned a scale since I got married). The vehemence with which some posters argued that Mr Malgieri was obviously completely wrong struck me as off base. It could be offputting to beginning bakers, those who do not have funds for or room for a scale, etc. to say that one must weigh when baking. Better not to make the best the enemy of the good.

                                      2. re: buttertart
                                        chowser RE: buttertart Apr 6, 2010 10:50 AM

                                        Weighing is easier to describe when you're talking to the masses. When people learned at home, they just threw in handfuls but that doesn't translate well in books. I know I'm just stating the obvious but measuring by cups was more accurate than by handfuls and weighing is more accurate than using cups. For people who have baked for a long time, all will work fine. But, these cookbooks are often made for people who don't know to scoop loose flour and scrape. In that sense, Nick Malgieri doesn't know his audience. A tablespoon of flour can make a difference in the final product--not better or worst, necessarily, but different. Just think of the difference cake flour vs AP flour makes in a baked good and that's just replacing a couple tablespoons of flour w/ cornstarch, or leaving it out altogether.

                                2. Channa RE: rainey Apr 5, 2010 09:25 AM

                                  I should think a cookbook author would want his recipes to be foolproof. Weighing overcomes variations in measuring, and results should be similar for everyone.

                                  4 Replies
                                  1. re: Channa
                                    ipsedixit RE: Channa Apr 5, 2010 09:43 AM

                                    A cookbook author would also want his recipes (and book) to be accessible. Not every person -- esp. the casual baker -- will have the necessary gadgets at home to weigh ingredients.

                                    Requiring weights to make a recipe would severely limit his potential audience. If this wasn't something he decided on, it was probably done on the publishing end.

                                    At the end of the day, when you write a bood -- no matter what kind of book -- the goal is to sell as many copies of that book as possible.

                                    1. re: Channa
                                      chowser RE: Channa Apr 5, 2010 09:43 AM

                                      I think this hits the nail on the head. People don't use the fluff and scoop, smooth w/ knife (or whatever utensil) the same way, or properly. But, if someone were doing the same method all the time, he/she could get the same results as weighing. Out of curiosity, I've played with the weight of my cup for various ingredients and was surprised at how accurate it was. That said, it is easier to weigh, especially with multiple ingredients in a row.

                                      1. re: Channa
                                        greygarious RE: Channa Apr 5, 2010 09:57 AM

                                        One would think so, but apparently not. I was surprised to learn that many recipes are not tested before publishing, particularly those that are scaled down from larger-quantity restaurant amounts. It is a cost concern. This omission is mentioned in the Julie & Julia movie, where the Irma Rombauer character admits that she hasn't tested those in Joy of Cooking.

                                        1. re: greygarious
                                          todao RE: greygarious Apr 5, 2010 10:12 AM

                                          You've made some extremely valid points in your contributions to this discussion. I was particularly influenced by your mention of the fact that it is not common for the average cook to have a good kitchen scale (although I believe its imperative) and that cookbook authors need to produce a book that appeals to the broader base of cooking/baking enthusiasts.
                                          Even though I continue to disagree with his perspective, I think your comments may have softened my sense of rejection of the measuring techniques he reportedly promotes.
                                          I would only hope that his work goes into great detail concerning the tried and true methods for getting dip/level/pour bulk measurements as consistently accurate as possible.

                                      2. jmckee RE: rainey Apr 5, 2010 10:07 AM

                                        I have been baking for more than 20 years. I have never weighed anything. And I have never had anything but rave reviews.

                                        The last thing I need is yet another gadget in my kitchen to store or to keep clean. Measuring give perfectly good results, as long as you scoop and level the item being measured.

                                        Nick Malgieri is an astoundingly accomplished baker and cookbook author; I've never used one of his recipes without being thoroughly delighted with the results.

                                        There seems, at some times on this site, a sort of "equipment snobbery" that breaks out: "You can't possibly be a serious cook if you don't have item X,y, or z."

                                        3 Replies
                                        1. re: jmckee
                                          amyzan RE: jmckee Apr 5, 2010 02:09 PM

                                          I don't think it's fair to accuse hounds of snobbery for recommending a piece of equipment. It's not like a scale is a useless one tasker of household tool. I weigh packages and buy postage at home, for example. I don't see anyone here being particularly contentious about the issue, and most are saying that measuring works as long as the baker is experienced enough to make adjustments based on perception.

                                          I have to take exception with the idea that a kitchen scale is a "gadget." A mango pitter is a gadget. Cherry pitter, gadget. In fact, I'd dare say few kitchen tools are gadgets if they're used often enough. I use my kitchen scale nearly every day. It's simply easier, especially in a kitchen without a dishwasher I can throw all those dirty cups and spoons into at the end of the day. I just wipe the top clean.

                                          1. re: amyzan
                                            c oliver RE: amyzan Apr 5, 2010 04:56 PM

                                            I almost never bake and make pasta very occasionally. But I use my scale all the time. I make my own sausage and weigh the meat components. Just one example.

                                          2. re: jmckee
                                            greedygirl RE: jmckee Apr 5, 2010 08:52 PM

                                            A scale is an essential piece of equipment in every British kitchen - everyone who cooks has one, and I find it strange that it's not the case in America.

                                          3. m
                                            maxie RE: rainey Apr 5, 2010 03:27 PM

                                            An ounce is an ounce is an ounce. I think it is not a fallacy to say that weighing is more accurate because so many people don’t measure accurately or consistently. Other than the odious task of measuring out 100 cups, that is why professional bakers use weight. If my cup is different that my co-bakers cup, there is an inconsistency in product. In professional baking it’s all about consistency. In his defense, Malgieri says “properly measured”. I use both methods and don’t have a problem with either. Sometimes it’s easier to measure, sometimes to weigh. If you bake a lot, you probably can use either method successfully. If you don’t and you’re a little loosey goosey, you will get better results weighing, but either way your result will probably be fine. Measuring cups keep baking accessible. My grandmother was an excellent baker. Her measuring cups were a couple different sized juice cups, a shot glass, and a coffee cup. In large quantity baking she used a scale. She understood the ratios – the actual measure of each of her cups was a mystery to everyone else.

                                            6 Replies
                                            1. re: maxie
                                              r
                                              rainey RE: maxie Apr 5, 2010 04:14 PM

                                              "In his defense, Malgieri says “properly measured”. I use both methods and don’t have a problem with either. Sometimes it’s easier to measure, sometimes to weigh."

                                              Yes, he *certainly* did specify "properly measured".

                                              I so agree with the concept that "sometimes it's easier to measure, sometimes to weigh." I think it often depends on what you've got for determining the equivalent weight and measure. My scale came with a chart of several pages. Often whether I weigh or not depends on whether I can find the right item by flipping a page or two or grab a measuring cup faster.

                                              I have long wished for a comprehensive, one-page chart I could pin up on the inside of a cabinet door.

                                              1. re: rainey
                                                todao RE: rainey Apr 5, 2010 09:14 PM

                                                Well, rainey, you've scored a "bull's eye". I interpret your "wish" as a one page chart that converts cups and other bulk measure to weight. That's where the trouble starts. If you look at a variety of packages of flour (for example) you will find that their total weight divided by the number of cups they indicate the package will contain varies to some degree. A "cup" can be 4.5 ounces, or it can be 5 ounces. When a baker measures a cup of flour that averages 4.5 ounces and writes a recipe, the baker who uses the recipe and dips a cup of flour that weights 5 ounces (which can happen even if they use the same flour) ends up with a different result. And some who bake don't understand that there's a difference between a liquid measuring cup and a dry ingredient measuring cup. It's not a problem that plagues everyone, but I've taught people who were so frustrated with inconsistent results that they had abandoned any attempts to successfully bake good breads and other items, by helping them find a flour that they can use for a given specialty (e.g. bread flour) with predictable results and they've renewed their interest in baking for their families. My goal, when I'm teaching, is to send a student home with skills that will enable him or her to be proud of their finished baked goods. In time, I am sure, they develop enough "feel" for the dough and/or batter that they no longer need to weigh ingredients; kinda like my grandmother. But I let natural adaptation do that work over the long term.

                                                1. re: todao
                                                  r
                                                  rainey RE: todao Apr 6, 2010 07:42 AM

                                                  Not to mention how many different kinds of flour there are -- all, I'm sure, having different weights.

                                                  I often wish manufacturers would put the weight of a cup of their product on their packaging. That way, if I decide to substitute a Splenda Blend product for sugar or part brown sugar for granulated sugar I could do it with confidence.

                                                  1. re: rainey
                                                    Karl S RE: rainey Apr 6, 2010 09:56 AM

                                                    They do, in fact. If you look on the nutritional information, you will see the weight in grams (perhaps ounces) of a volumetric serving (typically, 1/4 cup, so multiply the weight by 4 to get the equivalent for 1 cup).... I've had to rely on this when standardizing certain recipes.

                                                  2. re: todao
                                                    paulj RE: todao Apr 6, 2010 09:53 AM

                                                    What's the difference between a liquid measuring cup and a dry one - other than the obvious one that the liquid ones has 'freeboard'? That difference is significant when measuring items like flour, since you can't scoop and level with a 'wet' cup. But for things like sugar which don't pack I don't think it matters.

                                                    1. re: paulj
                                                      alanbarnes RE: paulj Apr 6, 2010 11:03 AM

                                                      Technically, liquid should be measured from the top of a convex meniscus (or the bottom of a concave meniscus). The meniscus is the curve in the top of a liquid caused by contact with the edge of the measuring vessel.

                                                      If you were to fill a dry measuring cup to the brim with water (which has a convex meniscus), you'd have more than a cup because surface tension allows the center of the water to stand above the rim of the cup. A liquid measuring cup accounts for this and has a mark where the top of the water should be.

                                                      But that's really splitting hairs. The real reason for using liquid measuring cups is because they have the "freeboard" you mentioned, so it's less likely they'll spill on the way to the mixing bowl.

                                              2. Karl S RE: rainey Apr 6, 2010 08:09 AM

                                                When it comes to flour (or any ingredient that can vary significantly due to compaction and aeration), weigh weigh weigh. Period. Malgieri is not only wrong (about volume measures being *more* accurate than weighing) but outright unhelpful.

                                                1 Reply
                                                1. re: Karl S
                                                  r
                                                  rainey RE: Karl S Apr 6, 2010 03:05 PM

                                                  He didn't say "more" accurate. I can't quote him but the sense was equally or just as reliably accurate.

                                                2. paulj RE: rainey Apr 6, 2010 10:04 AM

                                                  Which method handles variations in the moisture content of flour better? My gut sense is that moisture would affect the weight of flour more than its volume.

                                                  Also, does the type of baking make a difference? Cakes can be quite sensitive to proportions, quick breads and muffins less so. Bread dough picks up a variable amount of flour during the kneading process. Pie crust recipes often call for adding just enough liquid to form the dough.

                                                  1. buttertart RE: rainey Apr 6, 2010 02:14 PM

                                                    Hi rainey, where did you hear him say this? In a baking class? Me jealous if so.

                                                    2 Replies
                                                    1. re: buttertart
                                                      r
                                                      rainey RE: buttertart Apr 6, 2010 03:08 PM

                                                      It was on one of the Sat AM cooking shows on PBS.

                                                      I have taken a class with him tho. At a grocery store in Los Angeles that no longer does classes. It was so much fun. He's a lovely man!

                                                      It was a number of years ago. I'm trying now to remember if he measured or weighed. I suspect he measured because I don't believe I had a scale at the time and don't remember being dismayed about how to make the conversion. He did a couple kinds of cookies, brownies and his chocolate pecan pie with a chocolate pastry. And, wonder of wonders to me at the time, he turned his pie upside down to slice it from the bottom and turn the whole thing back into the pie tin. It was a revelation!

                                                      1. re: rainey
                                                        buttertart RE: rainey Apr 7, 2010 06:06 AM

                                                        I bet. I've heard that his classes are really terrific. His books certainly are. Maybe I'll ask the birthday fairy for some...

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