Unlike cooking where you can get away with just eyeing up the ingredients, adding a spoonful here and a half of cup there, proper measuring is a vital part of successful baking. Baking is somewhat of an art. I’m sure you’ve witnessed some of the amazing cakes and pastries shown on popular cooking shows. That alone shows you that with the right ingredients, an ordinary piece of dough can be transformed into a magical masterpiece, leaving you in awe.
When it comes to measuring wet and dry ingredients for baking, people are often unsure of the exact method to utilize. Baking is chemistry and requires precision if you add too much of one ingredient it’ll come out dry. Not enough, and your cake can end up flat as a pancake. In this article, you’ll learn the precise methods for measuring both wet and dry ingredients for baking. You’ll learn about the proper tools required for measuring each type of ingredient, and why you should consider buying a quality digital scale. Once you’ve concluded this in-depth piece, you’ll be able to create a masterpiece of your own right in the kitchen, using all the right ingredients.
Measuring Ingredients by Volume
When we talk about volume, we are talking about the amount of space something takes up. Baking ingredients are standardly measured by volume and there are several different units of volume used for baking. The most common units of volume you’ll find include fluid ounces, teaspoons and tablespoons, cups, quarts, pints, and gallons.
When baking, it’s vital you include the appropriate set of measuring tools. Some people are under the misconception of a cup representing just any type of cup. For instance, they’ll take out a coffee cup to measure out their cup of flour, and the measurements are completely off. When you’re baking using volume measurements, you require a few different measuring tools. You’ll require an accurate set of dry measuring cups, wet measuring cups, and a quality set of measuring spoons.
Wet vs. Dry Ingredients Using Volume
It can feel somewhat complicated when first learning to measure by volume using wet and dry ingredients. In certain cases, some wet ingredients like eggs, water, and milk can be used in both wet and dry measures. This is where your digital scale comes in handy. One dry cup of milk, eggs, or water should weigh the exact same as one wet cup. However, using dry measuring cups for measuring liquids is somewhat impractical because in order for the measurement to be practical it has to be filled to the rim. You can also use a liquid measuring cup to measure dry ingredients, but it’s hard to do accurately and is better off to just using the proper type of measuring cup for each ingredient.
Measuring Liquids by Volume
To measure liquids, you first place the proper measuring cup on a flat surface. Determine the line on the measuring cup that matches the number of liquid ingredients you need and then pour the liquid until it’s just under the line. A common misconception is that you are to match the liquid with the line, but you actually want to go just under for precise measuring. Once the liquid is in the measuring cup, the top will climb up the walls, which creates an irregular surface. When the liquid is condensed in a compact area, it causes tension which is called meniscus, but it doesn’t affect the actual measurement.
Wet measuring cups are larger than dry cups, thus it’s important to note that you can use a wet measuring cup when you need to measure out dry ingredients. You can double the dry ingredients by filling the wet measuring cup once rather than having to fill a dry cup twice. This technique simply cuts down on time and makes the process of adding ingredients quicker because you don’t have to change tools as often.
Measuring Dry Ingredients by Volume
As mentioned, when working with dry ingredients like sugar and flour, they are best measured in dry measuring cups. However, when filling a dry measuring cup, there are a few different methods used. It’s not always as simple as just adding the dry ingredients into the cup. When a recipe calls for a certain form of filling such as sifting, scooping, or spooning, it is important that the directions are followed because it truly does make a huge difference in the mess of ingredients in the cup.
It is probably the easiest way to add your ingredients into the measuring cup. Hence the name, you simply dip the cup into the bag or container and lift it out. The ingredient you fill the cup with will be overflowing from the top. You’ll then use a flat tool like a butter knife to sweep over the top of the cup until the ingredients are even with the brim. It’s especially important that that flour is always measured with a completely flat top. It’s such an important ingredient that a little excess can make a huge difference in the outcome.
The difference between scooping and dipping flour is that spooned flour is less dense. There are different methods of scooping. You can light scoop or heavy scoop. In fact, the same size scoop using a light or heavy hand can actually be as much as 50% different in total mass. The method you use is dependent on the amount you need. For example, a light scoop will weigh around 4.4oz while a heavy scoop will weigh 5.8oz. Knowing the difference between the type of scoop you use is one of the key factors to making or breaking a recipe.
While it’s harder to measure dry ingredients by volume, the more you practice the better you’ll get at it. A good technique is to scoop a cup of flour and then weight it. Try to then scoop the same amount of flour several different times until you become familiar with the amount of flour you’ll get with your particular scooping method.
The Difference Between Ounces and Fluid Ounces
You may be thinking, wait but aren’t they the same thing? This is actually one of the most commonly confused issues when it comes to baking and measuring out ingredients. When we talk about ounces, we are talking about a unit of weight. However, fluid ounces are a unit of volume. When measuring simple ingredients like water, measuring using fluid ounces for an ounce won’t make much of a difference, but ingredients like flour, starch, or tarter can alter the recipe completely if not measured using the proper ounce.
When it comes to measuring ounces and fluid ounces, there’s an easy trick. All wet ingredients are measured using fluid ounces. This makes sense because wet ingredients take up volume, while dry ingredients are measured using weight. When measuring dry ingredients for a recipe, you’ll always use ounces. Ingredients like pasta, oats, or chocolate chips are all measured using ounces to make weight. The only exception to this rule is when a recipe clearly calls for items by weight instead of volume. Then you would also measure wet ingredients using the ounce measuring rather than fluid ounces.
Measuring by Weight
If you’re interested in becoming a serious baker and want projects to come out consistent from batch to batch, and then you need to learn how to measure from weight. Measuring by weight is less time consuming, and you don’t have to wash a ton of different tools after you add all of your ingredients into the recipe. Your digital scale will be your best friend when measuring by weight when measuring both wet and dry ingredients.
One reason a lot of bakers choose to measure by weight rather than volume is that it’s more accurate. When measuring weight, there are no guessing games. 3oz of flour will always be 3oz of flour no matter which way you look at it. The weight isn’t going to change during transfer, and you’ll guarantee an exact ratio of ingredients every time. Measuring by weight is also less messy which a lot of people prefer when baking. Baking is messy enough without all the complication of measuring by volume. Instead of breaking out all of your different measuring tools, all you’ll need for the entire job is a mixing bowl for your wet ingredients, one for your dry ingredients and a digital scale.
When measuring by weight, the process is simple. You simply add your ingredients to the mixing bowl and measure them out. You can even add all of your ingredients into the same bowl without removing any by tracking the weight by adding to the current weight of ingredients.
Baking is a fun process and it is enjoyed by many people around the world. When you learn how to bake using the proper measurements and the method that’s suited for your needs, baking will be an even more enjoyable experience to pass down for generations.