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Weigh to Bake

Oct 27, 2005 | From the kitchen of Rose

i can't imagine life without a counter-top scale to weigh ingredients!. if i wrote books or recipes just for myself i wouldn't even include cup measurements. while I'm going out on a limb i might as well admit that given my druthers i would use only the metric system. it's so much easier, faster, and more reliable. can you imagine how crazy-making it is to create and proof all those charts in my books that list each ingredient in volume, ounces and grams! but i've got to cater to those resistant to weighing because as far as i'm concerned, it's better to bake by volume than not to bake at all. and baking makes me happy so i want to share it with everyone.

bakers are born, not made. we are exacting people who delight in submitting ourselves to rules and formulas if it means achieving repeatable perfection. the rewards of this discipline go beyond providing absolute sensory pleasure. there is also a feeling of magic and alchemy that comes from starting with ingredients that don't remotely resemble the delicious magnificence of the final result.


i've been championing the use of scales for baking for years but now i have a new and persuasive argument that just might tip the balance! two of the most important ingredients used in baking have changed in their packaging over the past few years, impairing accuracy of baking results. at first i thought it was a fluke but when i mentioned it to other bakers and chefs they also were puzzled and aware of it.

i've been finding more and more often that when i unwrap a stick of butter and weigh it, instead of getting the 4 ounces listed on the label, it weighs only around 3.87 ounces. I just don't get it. there used to be laws and fines that encouraged manufacturers to go a little over the mark rather than risk going under (in more ways than one)!

the unnatural change in egg yolks, however, presents a real mystery of nature. i first noticed something weird when i was baking at a friend's house in the french countryside. i was making a lemon custard tart and instead of the 6 yolks i would normally use i had to use about 10 to equal the same weight. each "large‿ egg in the shell weighed the standard 2 ounces or 56 grams but the yolk inside was tiny. happily most french households have kitchen scales so it was no problem. several years later i noticed the same thing happening in the u.s.! now as you know, the yolk is the living embryonic organism and the white is it's food. could this new imbalance be a metaphor for the trend toward excessive food starting even this early in the development of life? I remember thinking at the time "poor little yolk--what happened to you?‿ and then yolk after yolk appeared in the same sad size.

another curious thing i've learned about eggs is that the law dictates that a dozen large eggs weigh in at a total of 24 ounces, but there can be significant variance in the weight of each individual egg as long as the total adds up.

before you start thinking that the problem is me, i should add that my three scales (are very high caliber laboratory scales that i calibrate on a regular basis.

recipes may not suffer greatly if the variations are minor but they won't be perfect either. of course not everyone's goal is to be a perfect baker but if you're on this blog site i'll bet you're interested in investigating the possibilities of perfecting your baking. so here are some more of my pro-scale arguments:

any lover of baking ultimately will adore using scales once past the fear of what sometimes, at first, is perceived as a foreign object. weighing ingredients is not only reassuring, it is much faster than measuring and results in far less cleanup. consider how much easier it is to scoop cocoa or powdered sugar, with the inevitable lumps, into a bowl for weighing, rather than to try to measure out a level cup, lightly spooned. and i wouldn't dream of trying to figure out how tightly to pack brown sugar into a cup when i can weigh it in a flash. also think how much more pleasant it is to weigh a greasy substance like vegetable shortening, rather than to smear it into a measuring cup or to weigh sticky corn syrup or honey. and if a recipe calls for a number of ounces of bittersweet chocolate that is not the exact weight of a chocolate bar, isn't it nice let the scale determine the exact amount.

scales that have the ability to eliminate (tare) the weight of the bowl also make it possible to add the dry ingredients to the mixing bowl, one after the other, rather than having to use separate bowls for each. they can then be mixed together, eliminating the need either to sift the flour or to sift the dry ingredients together.

another benefit of weighing is the ease of decreasing or increasing recipes. and once in a great while, i have completed a batter or dough and suddenly wondered if i remembered to add an ingredient. when there is the slightest doubt, all i need to do is weigh the final unbaked product. if it is less than the total weight of the recipe, my suspicions are confirmed and i can add the missing ingredient.

not convinced yet? then think about all the money you'll save on postage by not having to add more than necessary!

Comments

KB thank you for this information that jives perfectly with what I've learned from industry professionals. Also chlorine bleach offers a 'sweeter' or more floral-like quality.

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Actually, unless you are buying actual cake flour or White Lily Regular AP flour, you're not getting bleached-with-chlorine flour anyway. There may be some other brand of flour out there that is also bleached with chlorine, but those are the only ones I've found so far.

Gold Medal, Pillsbury, and the bulk flours available at Costco and Sam's clubs are all bleached with benzoyl peroxide, which does not have the additional maturing effect of chlorine. Chlorine is both a bleaching and a maturing agent, whitening the flour and breaking starches down so they will absorb more moisture.

So if you're trying to bake cakes with Pillsbury or GM (and probably most brands of AP flour other than some of the southern brands), microwaving your flour is still a viable option.

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that is fascinating and i deeply appreciate the correction so that i don't continue to pass on misinformation though it sure was a neat metaphore!

i asked joe menegus, where i get my free range eggs in hope, nj, about the yolks and his explanation is that they come from younger hens.

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Loy Nunn, BS
Loy Nunn, BS
11/ 7/2008 04:39 AM

Sorry if someone has already noted this, but the white is not the nutrient for the embryo; the yolk is. The yolk is not the embryo, but is taken into the abdomen by the chick just before hatching. You might say the embryo sort of grows around the yolk. The white? Its major function is to physically protect the important contents of the egg, like amniotic fluid protects a mammalian embryo in the womb. It is absorbed just before hatching, to prevent drowning? It turns out, apparently, that the albumen, the protein in the white, is too small a molecule for the kidneys to retain in the blood, so it is eliminated, taking some of the nutrient, biotin, with it. Again apparently, the cholesterol in the yolk, much as in fish and shellfish, does not pose an appreciable threat to cardiovascular health. Better you watch your hard fats.

I have also noted the trend to smaller yolks with some frustration and have been trying to research the subject, which is how I got here. If I find anything helpful, I'll post it here

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please see patrincia's comment below. all my books and recipes including on this blog have weights as well as measure.

if you use other people's recipes that don't have weights, be sure to look in their ingredient section. serious baker/writers always say how they measure the flour and then you can compare this method to the weights in my chart or just establish the weights on your own.

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Dear Rose:
Love to cook and bake. Decided to take a baking class and I love it. Every weekend I try and make something using my new method of baking which is by weight. So much easier. I even asked for a scale for christmas. I did research and I decided on the I5000 series it got a good wrtie up.( I hope its good). My question is were do I get recipes that come by weight? Everything is in cups.

Thanks

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Evelyn - you may find The Cake Bible helpful. It contains a chart entitled "percentages of major ingredients in basic cake types" (pg 470). Sound like that chart would help you quite a bit.

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Evelyn - you may find The Cake Bible helpful. It contains a chart entitled "percentages of major ingredients in basic cake types" (pg 470). Sound like that chart would help you quite a bit.

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I would like to know how can I determine a recipe when said for example, 14 cups of batter.
How many eggs will be?
How much flour will be?
How I'm suppose to convert the recipe to get the 14 cups?

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Thanks Thomas and Rose...I have ordered and look forward to using my new My Weigh scale!

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thanks thomas. just wanted to mention that the soehlne ultra is the tiny one for measuring very small amounts of say baking powder or yeast. but my weigh also has one for weighing in small amounts and that would be my first choice.

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Sherry,

Check out this post for lots of discussion on the different My Weigh models:
http://www.realbakingwithrose.com/2006/02/weigh_to_bake_revisitedthe_per.html

The My Weigh site also has a good article on choosing a model:
http://www.myweigh.com/how_to_choose_the_best_digital_kitchen_scale.html

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Dear Rose,

You mentioned the My Weigh scale and there are several. Is one as good as the other? You also mentioned the Soehlne Ultra Scale...is that the ultra thin one? I definitely want to purchase one, but don't want to get the wrong one! Are you familiar with the Topline Eps Series?

Thanks!

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1) you are right!
2) my advice was to get the my weigh scale. i can't speak to the accuracy of the salter but if you want to be sure you need to use callibration weights.
3) microwaving flour is for people outside of the us who don't have access to our wonderful bleached flour.

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I just recently got a kitchen scale, and quickly became addicted to it. Having to carefully measure out dry ingredients was always my least favorite part of baking. Now, I just spoon stuff onto the scale; it is not only faster, but more accurate. I have two questions, though, about the practice. 1) Am I correct in assumning that it doesn't matter what "state" the flour is in - packed down, stirred with a fork, sifted, etc etc before I put some on the scale -- since, after all, 100 grams (or whatever) of flour ought to be 100 grams no matter how dense or loose the flour is (something that wouldn't be true for volume, of course.) 2) I bought a $50 Salter, and while I have been quite happy with it, I was wondering if I have anything to worry about in terms of its margin of error, or the extent to which it might get less accurate in time. Any advice will be greatly appreciated. Oh, and one more question: I read the many quite interesting threads here on microwaving flour, but was unclear if the technique was of any interest to US residents, since it seems to be undertaken to recreate what Americans can buy on their shelves quite easily.
tx

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Hi everyone. I've been "weighing" for some time, and I'd rather not even attempt a baking recipe that doesn't give weights. I find as I get older and more distracted (and too much multitasking), I often don't remember how much flour, etc. I've already measured in. With weighing, I just "tare" after each item, and I know that I haven't forgotten that extra 1/3 cup or whatever.

Beth

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peter, i'm glad to hear that julia and my weights agree bc i admire her most of all food writers who have ever lived--both her work and her spirit. she was so supportive of the food community and so down to earth.
what you mention is exactly what i dislike most about volume--it is virtually impossible to standardize. people have different ways of measuring which accounts for the different results. it helps when they tell you what the method is. at least these days most recipes specify the type of flour, i.e. all purpose, vs. cake, vs bread but many still don't mention whether the all purpose flour is bleached or not.
if you use recipes without weights you will have to judge the results for yourself, not the weight, and after you perfect them you can then switch over to weighing and increase or decrease them far more accurately.
as far as reputable sources go, for years, and even still, some rice companies had the consumer put so much water in the rice it became rice pudding rather than fluffy separate grains! you wouldn't think they'd want to kill their own product....on the other hand, i am sometimes criticized for being to exacting. some people evidently prefer a more casual approach and in the old days when ppl cooked the same few things and on a regular basis they could get away with judging by eye.

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Hello Rose,

I've been a fan of yours for a long time. I really enjoyed reading this thread on weighing ingredients. From my experience, once you start weighing ingredients, you never go back.
Rose, I have a point of interest that I would appreciate your comment on. I regularly come across recipes or equivalency tables that state that 1 cup of ap flour weighs 4, 4.5, or 5 oz. That is approx 1/4 cup difference (1oz.= 0.2-0.25 cup). This is a huge difference in a small recipe. I have seen the same differences for bread and cake flour also. What's curious is that my sources seem very reputable including professional baking text books,good cook books, flour companies (printed on bags) etc. In the case of ap flour, I go with 5oz (yourself and Julia) and sometimes a little lighter 4.75oz.
This all becomes a problem when a recipe that I want to try indicates "1 cup flour(4.5oz)". I am usually left to experiment a little and write down the results.
Why such a great difference among reputable sources on such a basic (and important) thing as the weight of flour?

With Much Respect and Thanks,
Peter

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i don't think a scale will help in respect to #2. i keep flour in airtight plastic containers and even without air conditioning i don't notice a difference but in a very humid tropical environment i'm sure there would be.

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Randy Kramer
Randy Kramer
09/14/2007 08:25 AM

Two Comments:

1. Until now, I bake by volume--I suppose it's a well known trick, but in regularly used bread recipes that call for an egg, I developed a "standard" for the total of the liquid including the egg and water or whatever. I crack the egg(s) into a measuring cup, and then the other liquids to get the required volume.

2. When I saw the title of this article, I thought that the primary advantage of the scale would be to deal with the varying moisture content of flour depending on the time of year. Does weighing the flour help in that respect?

REPLY

elicia, i thank you from the bottom of my baker's heart(h) for this important posting. so important i'm going to post it as a new posting so even more people will be likely to see it.
now that eggs vary so very much and even with the proper size eggs the yolk ratio to white--it is essential to check the weight or volume.

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Hi Rose, I just want to report my recent endeavour with the Perfect Pound Cake and the Butter Cream Cake.

I've always gotten away with not weighing eggs with it comes to baking cakes (I wld weigh them for buttercream, pastry cream, curd etc only). Usually, I wld weigh all my eggs in their shells and store them according to weight category, eg 60 - 65g, 66 - 70g etc. However, when I made the above 2 cakes recently, for the first time - I experienced some pasty spots in the crumb (not detectable by pricking - the tester comes out clean) - it is baked and not hard but quite unsightly! I initially was a bit stubborn, blaming the flour - but today - I decided to weigh my eggs and milk (I usually just measure the liquid with tsp/tbsp or cup measure) - the pound cake was just perfect!!

I now can conclude that weighing EVERYTHING is very important for cakes with high content of butter or using a formula close to the classic 4 quart/pound cake! Also, I noticed that the batter didn't curdle slightly as before (I was also very precise with the butter temp). Ironically, I've never faced this problem with genoises, biscuits and the layer cakes requiring less butter. Eg I've made the Golden Luxury Butter Cake about 6 times already (in different shapes and sizes) and it's perfect every time! But I also believe the white choc has a role in stabilising the emulsion of the batter, which I now believe is the cause of those pasty spots.

I will value my electronic scale even more now!

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Diana O'Niell
Diana O'Niell
08/ 2/2007 03:04 PM

I'm going to buy an Edlund scale. The E-160 weighs 10 lb. X 0.1 oz. But the E-818 features 5 lb. X 1/8 oz. "fractional" graduation instead of decimal.
Not sure what this means, but should I stick with the E-160?

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dan, i think you're referring to the escali scale that is preprogrammed with the weights for specific items by volume. i have not experimented with it yet and want to see if the volume weight correlation they offer is the same as my values.
i this could be a very handy scale for someone who want to convert recipes that offer only volume.
in the meantime, if you are using my recipes, just use the weights i have given for them as i'm sure the scale functions in that way too.
re the water density: the metric system is based on 1 cup of water weighing 236.35 grams/mll or 8.3 ounces. the same volume of other liquids will vary.

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After reading this blog, I purchased an Escali scale. It seems to be the only brand available around here. It cost $40.00 and it is wonderful. The scale is accurate to 1 gram. I thought that would be inadequate, but it works for everything except yeast. It is just excellent. Now, I weigh everything that I bake. It has a large display (easy to read), auto shutoff, good to eleven pounds, weighs quickly, and it seems pretty tough. I have already dropped a large can of beans on it. It has an option of weighing liquids whose density is other that that of water, and I do not know whether to use it or not. Are recipes published with the assumption that we calculate the density of olive oil? Thanks, Dan

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Butter weighs about 227 grams per cup.

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Hi
I would like to know 1 cup of butter how many grams weigh?
Thanks

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a large egg should weigh 50 grams out of the shell. 18.6 grams for egg yolk and the rest is white.

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Mary Argiris
Mary Argiris
11/18/2006 08:19 AM

Most recipes call for large eggs.Here in Greece they buy eggs 1 by 1 and are not labeled by size.My problem is how much should a large egg weigh,and how to make up the differance.Just egg white,yolk, or the 2 beaten together?

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you're right. and that's one of the many joys of weighing--no need to sift. the one time you need to sift is for sponge type cakes such as biscuit or genoise when you want the flour to sit as lightly as possible on the egg foam before folding it in.

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When weighing cake flour and the recipe asks for sifted cake flour, such as in your white butter cake, do you still need to sift if you weigh out the 600 grams as in the recipe? I think not but I just want to double check.

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i'm glad you called this to everyone's attention bc the new ruling on eggs is that 12 "large"eggs have to add up to a minimum of 24 ounces but there can be variance in each one.

i personally use only 50 grams per egg and freeze the left over white which keeps in the freezer for many many months. if you add it to the cake you will change both volume and texture. you can feel free to experiment--a small amount won't be noticeable. but there is really nothing equivalent to an egg--the yolk contains fat and emulsifiers, the white protein and water. simply decreasing the amount of liquid may give the cake more structure and be less tender.

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Hi Rose,

The egg yolks that I use are equal in weight to the egg yolks in your recipes but it seems that the weight of the whole shelled egg is always more than 50 grams (the weight of the eggs that you use). Sometimes I get 54grams. Sometimes I get 55grams.

Instead of using the excess white to cook something else, which is usually the case with me, I was wondering if I could use the excess white in the batter and adjust the recipe to compensate for the difference instead.

Can you give me some advice?

Thanks.

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dianne, soehnle promised to bring in their "ultra scale" which is the only one (other than the very high priced commercial scales) that i found to be trust-worthy for minute amounts. otherwise it's safer to use teaspoons!
contact: www.scalesexpress.com or www.leifheitusa.com or 866-695-3434 for nearest retailer

lynn, the soehlne futura for the home baking market--only available battery operated, the mettler toledo: PB3002-S at the high end 800/786-0038 (plugs in so no auto shut-off!

gerry, agreed! but of course if you're using someone else's recipe best to go by the weights they give though sadly not many GIVE weights!
here is what i have established by constant reweighing at all times of the year:
PLEASE NOTE i did not stir up the flour before measuring by dip and sweep and now recommend doing so because it settles down in time. i plan to reestablish these values in the future.
1 cup sifted cake flour: 100 grams
1 cup cake flour, measured by dip and sweep: 145 grams
1 cup cake flour, lightly spooned: 114 grans
1 cup bleached all-purpose flour, sifted: 114 grams
1 cup bleached ap flour, lightly spooned: 121g
1 cup bleached all-purpose flour, dip and sweep 145 g
1 cup unbleached ap flour dip and sweep 148 g
1 cup unbleached ap flour lightly spooned 130 g
1 cup bread flour dip and sweep 157
1 cup bread flour lightly spooned 130

REPLY

gerry horan
gerry horan
11/16/2005 09:24 AM

what are the equivalents for converting cups, particularly flour, to grams, the flour packages and cookbooks seem to have differing figures?

REPLY

Can you recommend scales at various price points?

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Dianne Poteat
Dianne Poteat
11/15/2005 06:15 PM

Where can I get a scale for minute amounts, like yeast and salt? My scale doesn't compute small amounts and I haven't been able to find one.

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Susan Brickell
Susan Brickell
11/11/2005 09:25 AM

Rose, I am SO with you on this!

I learned to cook and bake in U.K., where all recipes call for ingredients to be weighed--it's a great system, far more precise and much easier than diddling around with various cup measures.

Sigh.

Shall we start a crusade?

REPLY

this is fascinating. i've thought about buying a scale for the kitchen, but always dismissed is as "one more gadget" that would probably just take up counter space. clearly, i'm wrong!

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