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Measuring Flour


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#1 Shel_B

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Posted 25 April 2013 - 10:48 AM

I recently attempted to bake a poppy seed loaf, and the result was a disaster.  I think I used way too much flour as the batter was very thick and sticky.

 

The recipe called for 1 1/2 cups of flour, and in the past, when I made this recipe, it worked out acceptably well.

 

I just scooped the flour from the bag and sifted it into the bowl.  Upon reflection, it seems that the flour in the bag was compacted, and I scooped more than was required, even though I was careful to measure and use the amount called for in the recipe.

 

So, if a recipe calls for a measured amount of flour, not an amount by weight, what's the best way to scoop and measure the ingredient?  Should I measure a sifted amount of flour?  Is there, more or less, a standard weight for a cup of flour?  Thanks for any help ...


.... Shel


#2 HungryC

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Posted 25 April 2013 - 10:54 AM

How did the baked loaf turn out? Thick and sticky batter doesn't automatically mean a bad loaf. Thick and sticky can mean you overstirred the loaf after the flour was added.

RE measuring flour by volume, give the flour a good stir in the bag or canister. Sprinkle it into a measuring cup and level off the top. Don't scoop and press.

#3 DiggingDogFarm

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Posted 25 April 2013 - 10:57 AM

Don't scoop the flour, spoon it into the measuring cup and level off with the back of a butter knife or the like.

 

 

~Martin


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#4 Shel_B

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Posted 25 April 2013 - 11:01 AM

How did the baked loaf turn out? Thick and sticky batter doesn't automatically mean a bad loaf. Thick and sticky can mean you overstirred the loaf after the flour was added.

RE measuring flour by volume, give the flour a good stir in the bag or canister. Sprinkle it into a measuring cup and level off the top. Don't scoop and press.

 

The loaf was AWFUL ... dry, lacking flavor, crumbly ... after all your good advice I'm sure I measured the flour improperly.  I won't do that again!  Thanks!


.... Shel


#5 Shel_B

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Posted 25 April 2013 - 11:02 AM

Don't scoop the flour, spoon it into the measuring cup and level off with the back of a butter knife or the like.

 

 

~Martin

 

Thanks ... that's pretty much the advice I've received.


.... Shel


#6 Edward J

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Posted 25 April 2013 - 11:28 AM

Now take it to the next step.  After carefully measuring your cup of flour, dump into a bowl and weigh it.  That figure will never change. no mater how to scoop, or level, or add by the teaspoonful

 

Stop and think about it, you buy your flour by weight--not volume.  It makes an awful lot of sense to weigh it out instead of using volume measurements.



#7 Shel_B

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Posted 25 April 2013 - 11:32 AM

[...]  It makes an awful lot of sense to weigh it out instead of using volume measurements.

 

I'm convinced ... not going to make the same mistake twice .... thanks!


.... Shel


#8 Lisa Shock

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Posted 25 April 2013 - 11:39 AM

No matter what you do, you'll always have differing amounts of flour in your cup. And, your cup probably differs from the recipe author's cup.

Find a weight based formula. You should also read this site's Kitchen Scale Manifesto: http://forums.egulle...cale-manifesto/

On day one of my classes I have every student measure a cup of flour however they usually do, then weight it. Then, I have them do it again. No one ever gets the same weight twice. No one ever gets the same weight as anyone else. And, no one ever gets 8 ounces.

Sugar is more consistent, but, its crystals are more uniform, flow and pack well. -As long as you repeatedly use the same cup.

There is no national or state-level set of standards that home-user measuring devices have to pass to be sold. So, since the industry is unregulated, most measuring cups, measuring spoons, etc. have different volumes from manufacturer to manufacturer. Easy test: you can go to a kitchen store today and buy three types of cup measures and each of the three will hold slightly different amounts of water. Most professional measuring devices are pretty accurate because people making wholesale goods have to submit their goods to a state weights & measures authority. (a cookie labelled 3oz had better weigh 3oz)

A kitchen scale is the only way to bake with any sort of accuracy and be able to repeat results.

#9 DianaM

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Posted 25 April 2013 - 03:14 PM

Don't scoop the flour, spoon it into the measuring cup and level off with the back of a butter knife or the like.

 

 

~Martin

 

Thanks ... that's pretty much the advice I've received.

 

 

There is a problem with this approach: if the recipe was written and tested by the author using the "dip and level" technique, you will be in trouble. I speak from experience. I attempted a genoise from a book, and spooned the flour into the measuring cup, instead of dipping and levelling. When everything was mixed in, the batter was a disaster, there wasn't enough starch to balance the moisture of the recipe, and the result was simply unusable. This was years ago, but I still remember that I wasted 12 eggs and 2 vanilla beans in that recipe - ugh!! 

 

I also have a major issue with measuring spoons, because you use them to measure leavening, and using the wrong quantity can ruin your cake. 

 

And this is why I avoid like the plague all recipes that don't give weights. 

 

If I find a recipe that uses volume measurements, and I am dead set on making it, I test it first. And when I test it, I take note of the weights of all ingredients (ideally), or at least the dry ones (if I'm in a hurry). Some authors will be nice enough to include at the beginning or end of their book a section wherein they will specify how to measure, Martha Stewart's cookie book has one, for example. 

 

But I fully agree with Lisa, a scale is your best assurance of consistent results in baking. 



#10 DiggingDogFarm

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Posted 25 April 2013 - 04:19 PM

 

Don't scoop the flour, spoon it into the measuring cup and level off with the back of a butter knife or the like.

 

 

~Martin

 

Thanks ... that's pretty much the advice I've received.

 

 

There is a problem with this approach: if the recipe was written and tested by the author using the "dip and level" technique, you will be in trouble. I speak from experience. I attempted a genoise from a book, and spooned the flour into the measuring cup, instead of dipping and levelling. When everything was mixed in, the batter was a disaster, there wasn't enough starch to balance the moisture of the recipe, and the result was simply unusable. This was years ago, but I still remember that I wasted 12 eggs and 2 vanilla beans in that recipe - ugh!! 

 

I also have a major issue with measuring spoons, because you use them to measure leavening, and using the wrong quantity can ruin your cake. 

 

And this is why I avoid like the plague all recipes that don't give weights. 

 

If I find a recipe that uses volume measurements, and I am dead set on making it, I test it first. And when I test it, I take note of the weights of all ingredients (ideally), or at least the dry ones (if I'm in a hurry). Some authors will be nice enough to include at the beginning or end of their book a section wherein they will specify how to measure, Martha Stewart's cookie book has one, for example. 

 

But I fully agree with Lisa, a scale is your best assurance of consistent results in baking. 

 

I learned it from my grandmother and mother 35 years ago.

The technique served my grandmother well in her nearly 80 years of baking.

It it more predictably repeatable than scooping, obviously it's not going to work perfectly in every situation because, as you said, not everyone practices the same tecnique, not to mention the fact that flours are different.

I do agree that weighing is better, but that is also sometimes unpredicatalbe due the difference in flours.

No method is perfect in every situation.

 

~Martin


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#11 AnnieWilliams

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Posted 26 April 2013 - 03:59 AM

Weighing is definitely the way to go, especially if you need consistent results every time.  Here is a video on YouTube by Rose Levy Beranbaum.  She gives an alternate method of measuring flour if you don't have a scale:

 



#12 SylviaLovegren

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Posted 26 April 2013 - 04:22 AM

The old standard American cookbooks like Joy of Cooking and Betty Crocker tell you how they measure the dry ingredients. Some do it by sifting then scooping, others sift directly into a cup, some scoop and level, then sift and remeasure. By weight makes way more sense.

#13 spacefrog

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Posted 26 April 2013 - 09:00 AM

I recently attempted to bake a poppy seed loaf, and the result was a disaster.  I think I used way too much flour as the batter was very thick and sticky.

 

The recipe called for 1 1/2 cups of flour, and in the past, when I made this recipe, it worked out acceptably well.

 

I just scooped the flour from the bag and sifted it into the bowl.  Upon reflection, it seems that the flour in the bag was compacted, and I scooped more than was required, even though I was careful to measure and use the amount called for in the recipe.

 

So, if a recipe calls for a measured amount of flour, not an amount by weight, what's the best way to scoop and measure the ingredient?  Should I measure a sifted amount of flour?  Is there, more or less, a standard weight for a cup of flour?  Thanks for any help ...

 

I found it easier to measure flour by weight then by cup. 



#14 Shel_B

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Posted 26 April 2013 - 12:51 PM

Thank you all for your input. It's clear from what I've learned here, and at other sites on the web, that meauring by weight is preferred and more accurate. I've started looking for kitchen scales, and will pick one up when I move to my new place.

But for now, here's the problem: Many of my recipes call for measured amounts of ingredients, such as flour. Clearly there is more than one way to measure, and it's also clear that each method gives a different result. So, even if I use what's considered to be a more accurate method of measurement, there's no way of knowing if the recipe was written using that method, and as a result, the amounts I get may be off by a great enough margin from the original recipe that the final result will suffer. How would I correct for different measuring methods? How would I know which method was used? I can only think of using trial and error and keeping accurate records of the amounts used. What else can be done?

I hate to waste material and time trying to "get it right," and since I'm a novice baker, it's not always easy for me to know when a batter or a mixture is right.

Kind regards,

.... Shel


#15 AnnieWilliams

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Posted 26 April 2013 - 01:49 PM

Before I started using a scale, I would pour my flour into a bowl, aerate with a whisk, and use the dip and sweep method.  I never ever had a problem with any of my recipes!

 

By the way, You can find some really reasonably priced scales on Amazon.



#16 Lisa Shock

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Posted 26 April 2013 - 08:25 PM

Thank you all for your input. It's clear from what I've learned here, and at other sites on the web, that meauring by weight is preferred and more accurate. I've started looking for kitchen scales, and will pick one up when I move to my new place.

But for now, here's the problem: Many of my recipes call for measured amounts of ingredients, such as flour. Clearly there is more than one way to measure, and it's also clear that each method gives a different result. So, even if I use what's considered to be a more accurate method of measurement, there's no way of knowing if the recipe was written using that method, and as a result, the amounts I get may be off by a great enough margin from the original recipe that the final result will suffer. How would I correct for different measuring methods? How would I know which method was used? I can only think of using trial and error and keeping accurate records of the amounts used. What else can be done?

I hate to waste material and time trying to "get it right," and since I'm a novice baker, it's not always easy for me to know when a batter or a mixture is right.

Kind regards,

Most of those recipes simply aren't worth wasting your time on. Cut your losses (time wasted worrying about how to fill a measuring cup, money wasted on ingredients for things that won't turn out right, etc.) and get some decent recipes from reliable sources. You yourself say that you're a novice baker. Do you want to stay that way, following the lead of other novices and perpetuating their mistakes?

A decent home-baking starting book is Baking Illustrated by the Cook's Illustrated Magazine Editors.
http://www.amazon.co.../dp/0936184752/
They explain why you should do things, how the chemistry of baking works, and, they give weight-based formulas.

If you want to learn what beginning culinary students learn when they take basic baking, try Professional Baking by Wayne Gisslen.
www.amazon.com/Professional-Baking-Wayne-Gisslen/dp/1118083741/

And, you should check out this commentary thread on The Kitchen Scale Manifesto, since part of it covers how to shop for a scale: http://forums.egulle...cale manifesto

That said, my most used scale is a cheapo that I got at Ross (Dress for Less)for $17.99.

#17 PassionateAmateur

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Posted 31 May 2013 - 11:47 AM

Back to the original topic -- the other massive advantage to using a scale is how many fewer dishes you end up washing.  For most cake recipes you'll need your wet ingredient vessel and your mixing bowl, and that's it.  And things like carrot cake recipes -- when they call for "4 cups finely grated carrots" I just want to hit myself in the head with an f-ing brick.  How many carrots is that?  NOBODY KNOWS.  Nobody.  Are all carrots the same size?  Nope.  But if a recipe calls for "14 oz finely grated carrots" and I have 6 mismatched carrots threatening to lose their charm in the veggie drawer, it takes 2 seconds to drop them on the scale and know if I need to go to the market or not.  MEASURING CUPS ARE FOR CHUMPS.

 

I would like to take this opportunity to apologize for ranting.  In fact, I went back into this post to edit for just that very purpose.


Edited by PassionateAmateur, 31 May 2013 - 11:48 AM.

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#18 Edward J

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Posted 01 June 2013 - 10:14 AM

MEASURING CUPS ARE FOR CHUMPS.

 

 

YES!!!!!!!

 

Now how do we get the cooking mags and the the TV shows to figure this one out? 

 

Logic is a hard sell........ 


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#19 Shel_B

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Posted 06 June 2014 - 05:07 PM

Well, now that I've been baking a little while, and paying attention to recipes that give measurements by weight, I'm once again stymied by inconsistencies.  ATK and Cook's Illustrated seem to have a good reputation, and more than once it's been suggested that I pay attention to their recipes.  Likewise, KA flour has a good reputation and (as far as I know) is considered a good resource. 

 

However, today, while looking through some recipes to decide what to bake this weekend, I discovered that using ATK's and CI's recipes, a cup of AP flour came in with widely varying weights:  5 recipes gave the weight of a cup of flour at 4.25-oz, 5.5-oz, 4.5-oz, 4.16-oz, and 5.0-oz.  That's a pretty big variation of weight for a cup of flour.  And KA flour came in with two weights for a cup of their AP flour: 4.16-oz and 4.25-oz.

 

So, what's a guy to do with such widely varying measurements?  Use the weight given in the recipe I'm using, even though it's different than the weights in other, similar recipes by the same source, or should I just settle on what I want a cup of flour to weigh and use that across the board?  Or ....?

 

Why would one source have as many as five different weights for a cup of AP flour?  What are they doing wrong, or what am I missing?  This is frustrating. 


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.... Shel


#20 cyalexa

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Posted 06 June 2014 - 06:38 PM

I feel your pain as I had similar issues when I first started baking bread. If a new recipe uses volume measurements I use the weight per volume on the nutrition label of the ingredient. Sometimes I have to make an adjustment, usually not. Of course, bread is more forgiving and more intuitive than other types of baking but I have had reasonable results using this approach with all types of recipes. 


Edited by cyalexa, 06 June 2014 - 06:43 PM.

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#21 nickrey

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Posted 06 June 2014 - 06:40 PM

Seems that it's a further reflection of the inaccuracy of using cup measurements. No standards, no consistency.


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#22 Shel_B

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Posted 06 June 2014 - 08:22 PM

If a new recipe uses volume measurements I use the weight per volume on the nutrition label of the ingredient. Sometimes I have to make an adjustment, usually not. Of course, bread is more forgiving and more intuitive than other types of baking but I have had reasonable results using this approach with all types of recipes. 

 

That's a great idea.  Thanks!


.... Shel


#23 PassionateAmateur

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Posted 26 June 2014 - 04:41 PM

I just grab my scale and use 5oz for every cup of flour any recipe calls for (I put my usual method of measuring by volume through 10 attempts, and averaged the weights I got each time).  I call that close enough -- that way I'm always consistent, and if a dish turns out dry or wet I can adjust the recipe in a consistent way to fix it next time.



#24 weinoo

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Posted 27 June 2014 - 05:26 AM

I just grab my scale and use 5oz for every cup of flour any recipe calls for (I put my usual method of measuring by volume through 10 attempts, and averaged the weights I got each time).  I call that close enough -- that way I'm always consistent, and if a dish turns out dry or wet I can adjust the recipe in a consistent way to fix it next time.

I'm a fan of 4.75 oz. per cup.


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#25 ruthcooks

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Posted 27 June 2014 - 05:50 AM

I learned to cook in the 50s and 60s,  when a cup of flour weighed 4 ounces.  This was really easy to figure fractions of cups because each quarter cup weighed an ounce. Later, when people started coming  up with 4+ and even 5 ounce measurements, I was puzzled. Finally, I figured it out.  Back then the flour always needed to be sifted, as it was of a rougher texture.  More air got left in it, therefore it weighed less.

 

Nowadays, I still use the 4 oz. standard with my older recipes and cookbooks; with newer recipes, I add a little extra flour depending on the total quantity in the recipe.   I don't have any problems doing it that way.

 

Metric system and sou vide and I are not crossing paths in this lifetime.  Maybe the next one..


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#26 Lisa Shock

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Posted 28 June 2014 - 12:48 AM

The metric system rocks. You never have to calculate 7/5ths of 16. All the math flows easily in your head.


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#27 CatPoet

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Posted 28 June 2014 - 02:55 AM

Im metric, I  measure my flour by deciliters and liters and so far it works perfect for cakes, cookies and breads.  A  deciliter is 100 ml and it is a fixed point  not  like a cup that can be anything from 125 ml  up to 250 ml, depending from which country and era the recipe comes from. Butter how ever  comes in grams and so does yeast which makes sense,  trying to push butter into a cup isnt easy.


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#28 JohnT

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Posted 28 June 2014 - 03:39 AM

This is quite an interesting discussion, and I include the slight deviations off topic. Reading a recipe that has measurements in cups is actually quite difficult due to the different definitions of a cup in different locations around the world. For instance, a cup in America is defined as 8 fluid ounces, which is equal to 236ml (as close as necessary for this discussion). However, a metric cup is defined as 250ml. Then we had (still have?) the Imperial cup, which is defined as 284ml.

So, I have a recipe that I know comes from the US and thus I can figure out how to convert it to weight. I can also get an old recipe book and see that it originated in the UK, and be able to convert to weight.

But, we have this fantastic electronic system called the Internet, which is helping screw up recipes. Let me take an example. A food magazine hires a couple of "graphic artists", fresh out of collage. These kids are good in what they do and can manipulate and mockup great looking pages in a magazine, with a couple clicks of a mouse. So, I tell them that they need to get me two recipes each for chocolate cakes. And off they go and search the Internet and return with a couple recipes each, together with a bunch of shutterstock photographs. Does the magazine actually test all the recipes? Actually, most appear not to. They may do one or two to get some good photographs. Have the recipes been converted - I mean the recipes may have come from a French site using metric cups and the youngster (who may not even know how to boil an egg, never mind bake a cake), does not know that the size of an American cup is smaller than a metric cup. You then come along and think the recipe sounds great and bake the cake and it is a flop.

Shel_B state up thread:

However, today, while looking through some recipes to decide what to bake this weekend, I discovered that using ATK's and CI's recipes, a cup of AP flour came in with widely varying weights: 5 recipes gave the weight of a cup of flour at 4.25-oz, 5.5-oz, 4.5-oz, 4.16-oz, and 5.0-oz. That's a pretty big variation of weight for a cup of flour. And KA flour came in with two weights for a cup of their AP flour: 4.16-oz and 4.25-oz.

Maybe the difference in the weights in these recipes was due to the source of the recipes - some from the US, Canada, England, France, Australia, etc. and the writer of the recipe did the conversion using the known cup size used in that country and actually tested the recipes.

What I am rambling on about, is that the source of a recipe needs to be taken into consideration when converting a "cup" to weight.

Also, Lisa Shock's comment is spot on:

The metric system rocks. You never have to calculate 7/5ths of 16. All the math flows easily in your head.

It really is high time that all publications of recipes publish by weight, and preferably using the metric system. All publications I come across out of the US that are for the professional chef are in metric weight, and have been for as long as I can remember. A kitchen scale is, in this day and age, a necessity in every kitchen. Publishers, especially in the US, need to get "with it" and evolve with worldwide trends.

So, to get back to the topic heading, measuring flour, the quantity and thus the weight of a cup of flour depends on where the recipe originally comes from.

And just to add a bit of humour, I assisted in a "test kitchen" for a magazine once where I was presented with a recipe for a wonderful chocolate almond tort. I baked the tort and the centre sunk when it cooled. It was pretty bad, but the magazine had their photographer there and when I was going to dump the tort I was told to stand aside and let the presentation team take over. I still remember the photograph of the absolutely wonderfully smooth ganache covered cake appearing in the publication, knowing that the centre contained a wad of crumpled toilet paper to prevent the weight of the ganache covered cardboard disk from sinking. I later found the original recipe for the tort and did the correct conversions to weight and still use it today. It was originally in cups and the young lady who "converted" it used the incorrect cup sizes and thought almond flour weighed the same as cake flour.
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#29 CatPoet

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Posted 28 June 2014 - 04:39 AM

You forgot a older form of  cup,  which appear in the Nordic country which is about 150 ml.  So yeah, if you greatgrandmother's cake recipe is from Sweden and it says kopp it most likely only 150 ml.


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#30 Shel_B

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Posted 28 June 2014 - 06:34 AM

Maybe the difference in the weights in these recipes was due to the source of the recipes - some from the US, Canada, England, France, Australia, etc. and the writer of the recipe did the conversion using the known cup size used in that country and actually tested the recipes.

 

CI and ATK supposedly develop their own recipes.  In an article they wrote it was stated that they settled on a cup of AP flour to weigh five ounces, yet when checking the recipes I got widely different weights for a cup.  Strange!

 

At one time on this forum I was chastised for not using weights, yet many of the same people who were critical of my using measurements posted recipes using cups rather than weight.  I now have started converting my recipes to metric, and always weigh my flour.  I'm even starting to weigh my eggs having discovered that a large egg comes in widely different sizes and weights. Not all recipes need that precision, but some certainly benefit from it, and it makes me feel good being as precise as possible when necessary.  My kitchen scale weighs in grams and ounces, and I've not used ounces almost since the day I started using it.

 


Edited by Shel_B, 28 June 2014 - 06:39 AM.

.... Shel