Flour Measuring Method – It Makes a Difference

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If you don’t bake much, or even if you do, you might not have given flour-measuring methods much thought. I was talking to one of my aunts at my recent family reunion and she mentioned that she had tried a recipe from the blog and it hadn’t turned out like she had expected. We tried troubleshooting after-the-fact and I think we narrowed it down to her flour measuring. She scooped, I sprinkled.

How do you measure a cup of flour? Scoop and level, sprinkle and level or even packed? I have even seen recipes that specify that you pack the flour in the cup, in a book no less. That is part of a series. Granted, they are those mystery novels with recipes included, but it is a long series, in hardback. Not exactly cookbooks, but still. I must say I haven’t tried any of the recipes. I just can’t bring myself to pack the flour into the measuring cup.

You might be surprised at the difference in weight between a scooped cup of flour and a cup filled with sprinkling. It could be up to a quarter of a cup, or more, per recipe. And that can mean the difference between a dry, heavy brick and a luscious, moist cake. I’m not going into the packing thing. It is just wrong, in my opinion. Can you tell it offends me just a bit? Or a lot?

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Many bakers will insist that you can’t bake accurately and get consistent results without weighing the ingredients out on a kitchen scale. I have one, and I use it, but not nearly as much as I could. And I am not going to advocate that the occasional baker go out and buy a scale. I don’t use mine very often and I make some pretty killer baked goods, if I say so myself.

It all comes down to finding out how the recipe writer measured his or her flour. If he or she developed the recipe with scoop and level, you are going to have issues if you sprinkle and level. And vice versa. Check out the introduction to cookbooks – often they specify. Or send the author a query, if you are cooking from a blog.

I use the same method to measure all the flour I use in baking. I stir the flour in my canister and then use my flour scoop or a spoon to sprinkle the flour into the measuring cup until it is overflowing. Then I use the back of a table knife to level the top. I am a little less precise with bread recipes, since I know I will have to adjust the flour amount when I am kneading the dough anyway, but I make sure I am not so slapdash when I am baking cakes, cookies or muffins.

How do you measure your flour?

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8 thoughts on “Flour Measuring Method – It Makes a Difference

  1. admittedly, I’m a scooper. I’ve been toying with being more of a weigher though, as I’m going for more consistency and scalability of recipes. I have a scale, but have not taken it out of the box *hangs head* I’m wondering if others have had any difficulty in transposing from one form of measurement to the other? I’m thinking I should make a decision on this before I develop too many more recipes! lol!!

    • Thanks for following, and commenting!

      I really only use my scale when I am using a recipe that is already written for weights. It definitely helps to know what weight the recipe author uses for a cup of flour. If you don’t know, you could end up being just as far off as you could be with volume measurements. Sugar and other ingredients are usually a standard weight, since there is less leeway when measuring.

      I do like the scale when using recipes written overseas, where they are usually in grams. Easy as pie to change the mode on the scale and just use grams.

      Weigh your normal cup of scooped flour and see how heavy it is. Then you can develop recipes with that weight. For publication I would still give a volume measurement so you don’t alienate people who don’t have a scale.

  2. Being Dutch, I feel very comfortable going with grams. But when I use cups I also fluff my flour and sprinkle it into the cup and level it off with some type of straight edge.. PJH has hammered that into me ! LOL.

    • I started doing the sprinkle method when I started subscribing to Cooking Light in the 90s. They always talked about how that was their method. I have realized, though, that is why some of my childhood recipes don’t turn out like I remember – we were scoopers then. I have had to adjust a few of the old recipes. 🙂

  3. I weigh. But, you need to know if the recipe was written for 4.25, 4.5, or 5 ounce cups. Makes a huge difference. Weighing is so much easier!

    • That has been my thought. I love it when the recipe writer, or book, specifies how much a cup of flour weighs. I also need to weigh a few of my cups of flour and whole wheat flour to see how much my cup typically weighs so I can convert my own recipes for weighing.

  4. I weigh. My kitchen scale, with the bed bath and beyond coupon, was very inexpensive, and it’s so much easier/faster/more accurate to dump it in than fluff or scoop or spoon or whatever. I know I’m getting consistent results when I weigh.
    I go with King Arthur Flour’s master chart, and use 4 ounces for whole wheat and 4.25 for all purpose and bread flours (1 cup each).
    I guess I don’t use cake enough to have that measurement memorized.
    Great post, Sarah!

    • Thanks, Kirsten! I got mine on Amazon. My first one was from Target and bit the dust after a few years. I “splurged” and actually spent $30 on the second one (free shipping). I bought one of those shelves that hangs from the underside of a cabinet shelf so I could store the scale without it taking up a lot of shelf space, and to protect it. Works beautifully.

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