Professional recipes are different from the ones in your favorite cookbook. For one thing they tend to be a lot larger. More importantly professional recipes give the ingredients by weight, rather than in volume measures like cups. That's because professionals need to produce a consistent result every time and scales are more accurate. Using a scale at home can improve your baking, too.
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An Alternative to Measuring Cups
The problem with cups is that they're only precise with ingredients such as liquids, which always take up the same amount of space. Dry ingredients aren't as reliable. Consider brown sugar as an example. Your recipe might call for it to be loosely packed or firmly packed but neither of those is a precise description. There's no way to know how much sugar the author really wanted you to use. When the recipe gives a weight instead there's no doubt about the correct amount.
Where to Find a Kitchen Scale
It's not hard to find a kitchen scale. Department and kitchenware stores often have basic models for less than $10. Simple models usually only have two or three buttons. There's a power button, a second for selecting your unit of measure and a third for zeroing or “taring” the scale. That's how the scale compensates for the weight of your bowl or measuring cup. To use it, place your bowl on the scale and wait for the weight reading to stabilize. Push the tare button, usually labeled Z/T. The scale will reset to zero.
Once your scale is tared you're ready weigh ingredients. Let's say you're baking a cake and you need to make up a bowl with all the dry ingredients. Start by scooping flour into the bowl. Once you have as much flour as you need zero the scale again and add the next ingredient. Continue until the bowl contains all your dry ingredients. It's a lot easier than changing from cups to spoons or organizing each ingredient in a separate cup like a Food Network chef. Fewer dishes afterwards is a nice bonus.
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Start With Recipes That Use Weight
For best results, use recipes that started out measuring their ingredients by weight. They're easy to find on the internet because home bakers in most countries use scales. If you want to convert your favorite recipe to weight measures there are two ways to do it. One is to find a conversion table that provides approximate equivalents. There are several on the internet and in cookbooks such as Rose Levy Berenbaum's “The Cake Bible.” The second is to make the recipe the way you normally would but weigh each ingredient before it goes into the mixing bowl.
Try This Experiment
How much difference does weighing make? Try this experiment. Take two identical cups and zero your scale with one of them on the platform. Now take the first cup and scoop it full of flour. Dig right into the corner of the bag to fill it up. Tap on the side of the cup a few times to settle the flour and slide the flat of a knife across the top to level it. Weigh this cup and write down how much flour it contained. Next, take the second cup and spoon flour into it from the bag. Once it's full, slide the flat of a knife across to level it but don't shake it down. Weigh this cup as well and write down how much flour there was. Were you surprised? One cup can easily hold 40 percent more than the other.
That's why professionals use scales. A kitchen scale won't magically make you a great baker overnight but it will make you a better baker regardless of your skill level. Summary: Tired of inconsistent results in your baking? Switch from measuring cups to a kitchen scale for accurate measurements. Written for bakers of all skill levels.