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Volume vs. Weight in Baking: How do you measure flour?

Do you ever have a recipe inexplicably fail? Or do you notice variations in how recipes turn out? Your method of measuring ingredients may be the reason.

How do you measure flour?

Baking is both science and art. Unlike hot food, we can't willy-nilly throw ingredients into our recipes. It's important to measure flour and other ingredients with precision.

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So I did a little test. I wanted to see how different measuring methods affected the amount of flour in our baked goods.

The Experiment

I measured 1 cup of flour or sugar using different methods, and recorded the weight. The methods below are a sampling of those commonly used by home bakers. For each method, I sampled and weighed 6 times.

Method #1 : Scoop flour from bin and level with knife.

Method #2 : Scoop flour from bin and shake gently back and forth to level.

Method #3 : Spoon flour into the cup and level with knife.

Method #4 : Sift flour into cup and level with knife.

I was always a scoop and shake girl (due to laziness). I know Deb from Smitten Kitchen is a spooner. I don't think Ina Garten even attempts to level her measuring cups. What about you what method do you swear by?

The Results

I'm nomathematician. But the flour test results showed a 40 gram (1.5 ounce) difference depending on the method. Our most consistent method was spooning and leveling. This is a BIG difference and probably will affect more sensitive recipes.

For sugar, the method mattered less. This makes sense: flour is easier to compress or aerate. Our results showed a difference of 19 grams (0.67 ounces). The most consistent method was again spooning and leveling.

Note : I don't pretend that my tests are truly scientific. But they are consistent with my experience. Feel free to disagree or prove me wrong!

Conclusions

If you can, use a food scale to measure ingredients. Barring that, be sure you know what method the baker used when following their recipe.

I'd also recommend you start converting your recipes to weight measurements. It makes doubling recipes easier. You can also use less measuring cups and dishes. It's actually a big time saver.

Food scale recommendation s -

For most ingredients, use any good-quality food scale, like:

Ozeri Pronto Kitchen Scale

For smaller amounts (less than 1 gram to 100 grams), get a special scale. I like this one:

American Weigh Digital Pocket Scale

Bakers are a superstitious lot. We have our little ways to help recipes turn out just right. Using a food scale eliminates some of the mysticism of baking and is an important step if you are looking to turn semi-pro or professional.

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