When it comes to baking , weights and measurements are critical and scales are the key to accuracy. In cooking, it is easier to correct mistakes than in baking. Recently, a reader made my Angel Food cake and wrote to tell me it didn't rise as she expected. Could I tell her what she might have done wrong, she asked. My first guess was she incorrectly weighed the flour. I suggested she use a scale if possible, she did on the next one and happily it came out perfectly for her. This is the best case I can make for scales. Anyone who knows me, knows this has been my mantra in baking for years - scales, scales, scales.
Mine goes up to 10 pounds but it should go up to at least 5 pounds. When you get your scale home, test it for accuracy by weighing a pound of butter. Take the butter out of its carton first, turn on the scale and weigh it. It should be 16 ounces or 454 grams. We tested all of our scales at the shop this way.
Ounces by weight and ounces by volume are not interchangeable. A pound of all purpose flour (16 ounces or 454 grams) weighed on a scale equals 3 ½ cups of flour by volume. However, 3 ½ cups of flour may not weigh a pound if measured by volume. Flour is particularly difficult to measure without a scale. It depends upon how it is put into the cup. Because flour packs down in shipping and stacking on the grocer's shelf, if it is not weighed, it needs to be lightly stirred in its container first then spooned into a dry measuring cup to overflowing. The excess should be removed by sweeping it off with the back of a knife or any flat utensil.
Making things more complicated it depends upon which flour you are weighting and how it is to be weighed. For baking purposes here are the weights I use. Also, note there are differences between sifted and unsifted. If the recipe reads 1 cup sifted flour, the flour has to be sifted into the cup to be measured. If the recipe reads 1 cup flour, sifted, then measure the flour and sift it afterwards. If it doesn't say, assume it is unsifted.
Type of flour Cup, sifted Cup, unsifted_
All purpose flour 115 grams or 4 oz. 140 grams or 5 oz.
Bread Flour 115 grams or 4 oz. 140 grams or 5 oz.
Cake Flour 100 grams or 3 ½ oz. 114 grams or 4 oz.
Pastry Flour 115 grams or 4 oz. 125 grams or 4 ⅓ oz.
You will need measuring spoons for small amounts of ingredients. I like metal spoons rather than plastic which can distorted in the dishwasher. Also, the shape of the spoon doesn't matter. They come in all shapes.While timers for baking may not be thought of as a measuring device, they are. I have extra timers in addition to the oven and microwave timer so I can take the timer with me if I am going out of the kitchen. I prefer a timer that has minutes and seconds on it.
Thermometers are yet another measuring device. An oven thermometer is very helpful for baking. Ovens can change their temperature from time to time and it is good to know what the current temperature is and adjust up or down. I also have thermometers in my refrigerator and freezer as well as an instant read, candy and meat thermometer.With the tools above, measuring ingredients, time or temperature will be assured for your baking.