Let me start by saying that I don’t like the imprecision of cups for much, including measurement standard for bras (why is it still so hard to find one that fits?), but that’s a discussion for another time, most likely over a glass of wine! Don’t get me wrong, I’m not a super fastidious person, especially when it comes to cooking. I love to sprinkle a bit of this, throw in a pinch of that, and drizzle like it’s going out of style. But while I’ve learned that’s a great idea for a stir-fry, it’s a sure path to disaster in baking.
I’m sure you’ve heard it said before, but baking is truly a science. It’s all about a combination of ingredients that have very specific jobs to do. If you’re at all imprecise about how you measure these ingredients, the chances are that you will throw off the delicate ratio that makes the desired end result possible, and you’ll end up with something you don’t want. Like a sad, flat, cake or a rock hard cookie.
Now for the good news!
If you want to bake with consistency and achieve the results you’re looking for, there is a very simple way: use weight instead of volume to measure your ingredients, or in other words, use a kitchen scale instead of measuring cups and spoons. Think about it – if you use a cup to measure your flour, even if you do your best to make it flat to the edge, chances are that if you did it and weighed it three times, it will be a different amount every single time. That’s because there are a lot of factors that determine the weight – including the amount, and the density (which changes with pressure) of what you’re putting in the cup. If you’ve sifted your flour it will have a different weight than if you press it into the cup with a spoon.
I’ve worked in several restaurant kitchens where consistency is key. To help them achieve results they need, with many different hands touching the process along the way, they often use recipes that are measured by weight. They can’t take the chance that you’ve come in for your favorite dessert only to have it taste off from the last time you had it. Imagine the Yelping! Instead, most professional kitchens employ scales to help them recreate consistently delicious dishes time and time again.
If you’re looking to take your baking game to the next level, it’s time to put down the cups and pick up a scale. Preferably Drop.