Baking Essentials: Weight vs. Volume

Measuring tools

Welcome to my first Baking Essentials post!  I’m taking on a new project to learn more about baking, and I’m bringing you along for the ride. Hopefully we’ll all come out on the other side better bakers.

Before I dig into ingredients and baking methods, I wanted to explain that going forward I’ll be changing the way I provide recipes. I’ll now include weight measurements in addition to volume (cups, teaspoons, etc.) in my list of ingredients.

My reasoning for this is that the first lesson in baking is accuracy. It’s a lesson I learned in culinary school, but I got lazy. Too much or too little of a single ingredient can completely change the final product. And measuring by volume increases the chance of inaccuracy. For one thing, many ingredients, such as flour, are compressible. So when you dig your measuring cup into a bag of flour, it’s likely you’re getting more flour in that cup than you want. It’s best to aerate your flour by sifting it before you measure it (see how I measure flour by volume), or take the guessing work out and use a scale.

Leveling it off

Another reason to measure by weight is that the size of the objects you’re measuring affects the volume. Whole nuts, roughly chopped nuts, and finely chopped nuts will fill your measuring cup differently. It’s almost impossible to get a consistent result that way. You’d be much better weighing them.

So, in the name of becoming a better baker I will now be weighing all of my ingredients. And because metric measurements are more universal and easier to work with, I’ll be weighing in grams and other metric units where applicable. Ounces and pounds can be hard to divide and multiply, and I’m not so good at math.

If you don’t already own a digital scale, I highly recommend you get one. Not only will they help you be more accurate with your ingredients, but they are very helpful in other ways. For example, most digital scales come with a “tare” function which allows you to zero out the scale. So you can place your mixing bowl on the scale, zero it out and then weigh each ingredient as you add it, zeroing it out after each one.

Anyone else up for the challenge of using weight instead of volume? It’s smarter, not as hard as you may think, and no measuring cups and spoons means less mess to clean up!

Weighing the rolls

References:

“I’m Just Here for More Food” by Alton Brown

“On Baking” by Sarah Labensky, Eddy Van Damme, Priscilla Martel, and Klaus Tenbergen