Friday, November 11, 2016

Are You a Cup or Scale Kind of Gal?

The original title of this post was "Why do people still use cups and spoons to measure?" but I didn't want to antagonize anyone because you know, people can be sensitive.

Before I dive into the post, I just want to say something about how I sew. I was born and bred in Singapore and we use the metric system, as in m, cm, kg, g, km, m. But I sew in inches. You want to know why? When I first started learning to make pouches and bags, I used tutorials written by bloggers who sewed in inches. Here in Singapore, our rulers and measuring tapes have both cm and inches. I could easily have converted inches to cm and go from there but I got used to sewing in inches. But mostly what I liked about an inch is it is cleverly divided into eighths. I could eyeball 1/8th of an inch, 1/4 of an inch, 1/2 an inch and one inch. The eye understands it. Now for the metric system. One inch is about 2.5cm. Each cm is divided into 10 units. I can't for the life of me eyeball 0.1cm. Not that I ever need to. A seam allowance is usually 1cm. I could eyeball that but 1/4 of an inch is roughly 0.6cm. Now that I simply cannot "see". I'm now far too gone to ever go back to sewing in cm.

So why am I telling you all these? What I'm trying to say is I'm not a metric snob and I can be pretty flexible. But when it comes to baking...

When I first started baking many years ago after I had my kids, I used recipes from cook books or the internet. Almost all of these recipes have measurements in cups and teaspoons and tablespoons. I won't even go into "sticks" and other funny terms. Anyway, I attribute my failure in baking in those early years to these (in my opinion) inaccurate way of measurement.

Not only are there different types of cups (I discovered later), there are different ways to measure a cup. Do you bang on the cup, do you get a compact amount, do you use a knife to level the cup? Same goes for teaspoon and tablespoon. And sometimes the instructions say to sift the flour TWICE.

As you know I attended baking school since October and what I learnt at the school has forever changed the way I bake. The most important thing I learnt is how to measure your ingredients. Everything is weighed. I mean everything. Even 1 gram.

We use an electronic weighing scale. The one we use at the school is a heavy weight one and could weigh up to a few kilos. How the scale works is you first set the scale to zero. Next you put a bowl on the scale and you press "Tare" which means to zero off the weight of the bowl. So convenient right?

At home I use a small electronic kitchen scale. Originally I used it to weigh my packages when I used to sell my bags and pouches.

With weighing scales, there is no need to sift flour more than once because a once, twice or thrice sifted flour weighs exactly the same. And what a relief there's no need to scoop flour in any specific manner. You also don't need to know how much a stick of butter is. Everything is precise.

I believe many home bakers use cup/tablespoon/teaspoon successfully and I'm not trying to convert anyone into switching to scales. In fact I do believe there are many, many bakers who would never entertain the idea of using scales. I respect that. I just want to share that for me at least, my baking improved tremendously after I switched to scales. Nowadays when I use any recipe that uses cups, I actually convert it to grams because you know, as far as baking is concerned, I'm a scale snob. Sometimes I refer to this to do my conversion. There are different conversion rates in the internet so it's pretty confusing. If only there's a fixed standard, how much lovelier the world will be.


Jane McLellan said...

I think accurate measuring is more important for some baking than others. But yes, cups are a bit vague, and a stick of butter has me completely baffled!

Projects By Jane said...

Jane, I agree with you. Yes, a stick of butter is still a mystery to me altho' I could google it but will forget it right away. Once my daughter wanted to bake cookies and while putting the ingredients together, she suddenly asked me what a stick of butter was. I told her the the whole bar of butter "looks" like a stick to me. I think I was wrong.

Tammy said...

I am wondering how sticks of butter are divided up in your stores. I can buy 1 lb. of butter & it comes in 4 sticks, each one is 1/2 cup.

For baking, I use scales sometimes, especially if I am doing baking for others and want things perfect. Or I just buy packages that are the exact weight I need so I don't have to figure it out. Otherwise I just scoop flour lightly to make sure I'm not packing it in to much. That looks like a nice scale you have. I've used a little "diet" scale for all my packages and when I need to, for baking, too.

Thanks for that conversion link - I wish I had learned cm & ml measures and weights, sometimes I come across things that make no sense to me. Temperature is another one that I always have to "google" to figure out the difference between C & F.

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