• Welcome to the eG Forums, a service of the eGullet Society for Culinary Arts & Letters. The Society is a 501(c)3 not-for-profit organization dedicated to the advancement of the culinary arts. These advertising-free forums are provided free of charge through donations from Society members. Anyone may read the forums, but to post you must create an account.

  • product-image-quickten.png.a40203b506711f7664fc62024e54a584.pngDid you know that these all-volunteer forums are operated by the 501(c)3 not-for-profit Society for Culinary Arts & Letters? This holiday season, consider a tax-deductible Quick Ten Bucks to support the eG Forums and help us remain completely advertising-free. Thanks to all those who have donated so far!

Shel_B

Measuring Flour

34 posts in this topic

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

"... ya can't please everyone, so ya got to please yourself "

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

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.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

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


~Martin

Unsupervised rebellious radical agrarian experimenter, minimalist penny-pincher, self-reliant homesteader and adventurous cook. Crotchety cantankerous terse curmudgeon, nonconformist, contrarian and natural born skeptic who questions everything!

The best thing about a vegetable garden is all the meat you can hunt and trap out of it! 

 

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

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

"... ya can't please everyone, so ya got to please yourself "

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

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

"... ya can't please everyone, so ya got to please yourself "

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

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.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

[...] 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

"... ya can't please everyone, so ya got to please yourself "

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

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.egullet.org/topic/85172-the-kitchen-scale-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.

1 person likes this

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

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.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

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


~Martin

Unsupervised rebellious radical agrarian experimenter, minimalist penny-pincher, self-reliant homesteader and adventurous cook. Crotchety cantankerous terse curmudgeon, nonconformist, contrarian and natural born skeptic who questions everything!

The best thing about a vegetable garden is all the meat you can hunt and trap out of it! 

 

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

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:

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

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.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

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.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

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

"... ya can't please everyone, so ya got to please yourself "

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

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.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

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.com/Baking-Illustrated-Cooks-Magazine-Editors/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.egullet.org/topic/129181-the-kitchen-scale-manifesto/?hl=+kitchen%20+scale%20+manifesto

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

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

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 (log)
3 people like this

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

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........

1 person likes this

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

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. 

1 person likes this

 ... Shel

"... ya can't please everyone, so ya got to please yourself "

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

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 (log)
1 person likes this

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

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

2 people like this

Nick Reynolds, aka "nickrey"

"My doctor told me to stop having intimate dinners for four.
Unless there are three other people." Orson Welles
My eG Foodblog

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

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

"... ya can't please everyone, so ya got to please yourself "

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

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.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

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.


Mitch Weinstein aka "weinoo"

mweinstein@eGstaff.org

Tasty Travails - My Blog

My eGullet FoodBog - A Tale of Two Boroughs

Was it you baby...or just a Brilliant Disguise?

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

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..


Ruth Dondanville aka "ruthcooks"

“Are you making a statement, or are you making dinner?” Mario Batali

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

  • Recently Browsing   0 members

    No registered users viewing this page.