Since the current special deal on my cooking classes includes a free digital kitchen scale, I wanted to take a few minutes to write a post on why a digital kitchen scale is needed for gluten free baking. I’ve written about why you should weigh your ingredients before, but measuring cups are so ingrained in American cooking, that it does not hurt to revisit the topic. Here then are 5 myths and misconceptions about measuring flour.
Myth #1: That there is a “correct” way to measure with measuring cups. Gourmet magazines and cookbooks try to tell us that there is one correct way to measure flour and that is by spooning flour into a measuring cup and then leveling the flour with a flat edge. They are pandering to you. The only accurate way to measure flour is to weigh it.
When you are following a recipe that is written with volume measurements, i.e. cups, you often have no idea as to how the recipe creator measured their flour. For all you know they scooped it out of a bag, which packs a lot more flour into the measuring cup. And even if a particular cookbook tells you in the introduction that they used the spoon method, are you really likely to remember that 6 months later when you pull the cookbook out to get a cake recipe? No! You’re going to do whatever is practical at the moment.
The goal with measuring flour is to use the same amount of flour as the recipe creator so that you can get the same results. The only accurate and clear weight to convey that amount of flour is to express it by weight.
Myth #2: 1 cup of flour = 8 oz. We Americans cling tightly to our system of cups and ounces, but many of us do not fully understand it. For example, we get it into our heads that 1 cup equals 8 oz and we then apply that to everything. The problem is that Americans use ounces to measure volume and weight. If you look at a liquid cup measure it will have cups and ounces. That works reasonably well for measuring liquids, because 1 cup of water is 8 oz by weight. However 1 cup of flour usually weighs somewhere between 4 – 6 oz, depending on which flour you are using and how you use your measuring cup.
Myth #3: Every type of flour weighs the same amount You won’t see this discussed outside of gluten free circles, because we’re the only ones that frequently use a variety of different kinds of flours. Here’s the deal – flours differ in their density. Rice flour is more dense than cornstarch, so 1 cup by volume of rice flour will weigh more than 1 cup by volume of cornstarch.
Myth #4: Using a scale makes weighing flour more complicated than it has to be. I am not being all hoity-toity and fancy when I use my kitchen scale. I’m being practical. Pouring flour into a bowl until the scale reaches a certain measurement is easier than scooping flour out of a bag. Not having measuring cups to wash and dry is easier. Looking at the scale is easier than trying to remember exactly how many cups of flour I’ve already added to the bowl once I’ve lost my train of thought. Knowing that you are following a recipe exactly is easier than wondering if you’ve measured correctly.
Myth #5: A measuring cup is a measuring cup. Liquid measuring cups and dry measuring cups are not interchangeable. They do not measure out the same volume Did you know this? Not everyone does.
Not all measuring cups measure out the same volume of ingredients. You know that measuring cup that you left near the stove and that is slightly melted on one side? It doesn’t measure the same as it used to.
Not all measuring spoons measure out the same volume of ingredients. Different sizes and shapes of spoons measure differently. It does’t matter all that much when you’re measuring vanilla extract, but a small amount of xanthan gum is pretty powerful stuff. It’s better to be exact with that.
Are You Ready to Throw Out Your Measuring Cups?
The only measuring cup that we still have is the 1/4 c. that we use as a scoop for our coffee. I’m curious though…are you convinced that measuring by weigh is better? Have you already switched? Or, are you still committed to using measuring cups. Regardless of where you stand, I’d love to know why you feel the way you do on this topic. Please leave a comment and let me know!