Truth. It matters how you measure flour.
I realize this sounds like a bit of non-subject. Everyone who has baked something in their life knows how to measure flour, right? I mean, most of us attempt to follow recipes to the letter. Unfortunately, a lot of recipes don’t specify how you measure the flour and it matters.
I’ve been reminded of this while baking various sugary treats this weekend for our now 2 year-old birthday princess. There’s been a frosted sugar cookie cake, mini doughnuts and chocolate cupcakes are still to come for a family party tomorrow. Lots of flour, lots of measuring. And I have to add that year 2 has definitely gone by faster than year 1. Why must time fly by so fast once you have a child?
Anyways, I feel compelled to talk to you about measuring because I want you to have the same results in your kitchen as I have in mine. I would be so disappointed if you baked my strawberry cupcakes, my angel biscuits or my chocolate banana bread and the end result was dry and dense.
If you’ve ever had these results when baking, it’s more likely than not that the flour was over-measured. Baking recipes are very different from cooking recipes. They are based on scientific formulas that balance fat, protein and liquid. Even a couple of extra tablespoons of flour can ruin this balance and you will end up with less than perfect results.
I think a lot of us (me included for a long time) measure flour by scooping our cup into the bag then leveling it off with a finger. It’s very easy to scoop out too much since the flour is measured while packed. Many recipes call for packed brown sugar, but I’ve yet to see one that calls for a cup of packed flour.
1 cup of flour should weigh 125 grams or 4 1/2 ounces. A packed cup of flour can weigh up to 170 grams or 6 ounces. That’s nearly 40% more! This is more than enough to ruin the baking proportions in the recipe. There should never be more than a 10% variance in your measurements when baking.
The hands down best way to measure flour is by using a digital scale. You are guaranteed to measure the correct amount every time. I will always give you weight measurements in all of my baking recipes so you get the best results. I purchased a relatively inexpensive Salter scale from Amazon. I’ve been using it for a few years now and it hasn’t let me down yet. I haven’t even had to change the battery and I use it A LOT.
Measuring ingredients by weight is very common in the UK where I live and most dry recipe measurements are specified in grams. However, this is not common in the USA where most of us use our trusty dry measuring cups.
If you don’t own a scale, the next best way to measure flour is to use the Spoon & Level method with your dry measuring cups. I convert weight measurements for my recipes in to cup measurements using this method. This is how you do it:
1. Lighten the flour by whisking it for about 15 seconds. Whisking the flour aerates it slightly so that it’s not measured while packed. I store my flour in a large container so it’s easy to measure.
2. Spoon the lightened flour into a measuring cup until it’s heaping full.
3. Level the top of a cup with the back of a knife.
There you have it, a perfectly measured cup of flour.
How do you usually measure flour? Try it this way and let me know if you see a difference.