Sunday, April 20, 2014
Professional bakers and cooks generally weigh their ingredients in pounds, ounces or metrics rather than fumble around with measuring cups and spoons. But the United States is virtually the only country (besides Liberia and Burma) that hasn’t switched to the decimal system of weights and measures.
I thought of this recently while I was preparing a cake. The recipe called for 1 3/4 cups all-purpose flour for the batter. After filling the 1 cup measure with flour I had to mess with two other measuring cups, the 1/2 and the 1/4 cup measures respectively, to get the quantity called for. Had the recipe given the equivalents in ounces or grams I could have measured it very easily and quickly using my kitchen scale.
And what if I wanted to divide those measurements in half? Way too complicated beyond my off-the-cuff mathematical abilities. With metrics that are measured on a simple kitchen scale, it’s a snap to figure it out if you knew the gram or ounce equivalents.
For the record in ounces or grams 1 3/4 cups flour is equal to 7 3/4 ounces (7.75 oz. on the scale) or 210 grams of unsifted all-purpose flour.
The essential kitchen gadget to have is a battery- or electric-operated kitchen scale with a digital readout. These, with the push of a button, can also convert to grams from ounces or kilograms from pounds. There’s also no need to pay more to have one with a measuring bowl that is attached to the scale. Merely put your own bowl on the flat weighing surface, set the read-out to zero and you’re set to go.
One pound of flour easily scooped from your flour container onto the scale--no muss or fuss measuring
But metrics or pounds and ounces are not limited to just baking. I use my scale all the time to measure any solid ingredient. I know that 1 ounce butter equals 2 tablespoons; relying on the scale of tablespoon measures found on most butter wrappers is not reliably accurate because of the way the butter is wrapped.
One of the most useful internet sites that I found for ingredient conversions involving baking and other weight conversions is www.pastryscoop.com, which was originally prepared by the French Culinary Institute in New York, now known as the International Culinary Center. Print it out and keep it handy in the kitchen. So that the next time you find a recipe calling for complicated weights, don’t fumble around measuring. Weigh it.
John Golden has written about food, dining and lifestyle subjects for Downeast magazine, the Boston Globe, Cottages and Gardens magazine, Gourmet magazine, Cuisine magazine, the New York Times and the New York Post.
In his highly opinionated blog, John reports on his experiences dining out all over Maine and his visits with food personalities, farmers and farmers’ markets throughout the state.