By Contributor Gretchen Brown, RD, kumquat
Early cookbooks called for ingredients in measurements of “fistfuls,” “dollops” and “butter the size of an egg.” In 1896, Fannie Farmer brought us standardized measurements and the cups and spoons that are found in many American kitchens today. Our mothers and grandmothers taught many of us home-cooks to cook and bake using those cups and spoons, but there’s a much easier and more accurate way.
A good digital kitchen scale is one of the most important and useful tools in the kitchen. Many people have considered the scale only appropriate for weighing foods when dieting. Scales actually provide the most accurate measurements for most ingredients, especially those used in baking, and makes putting those ingredients together a cinch.
Flours, whether wheat or an array of gluten-free options, all weigh different amounts. The method used to scoop, stir or spoon the flour will also result in varied weights. Therefore weighing ingredients, such as flour, is the only way to ensure exact amounts in hopes of consistent end results.
Digital scales are almost mandatory in gluten-free baking. Those gluten-free flours don’t allow for cup to cup exchanges, but measuring by weight does make substituting gluten-free flours for wheat flour a much more successful task in most cases. If you know that one cup of wheat flour equals approximately 140 grams (or 5 ounces), then weigh out gluten-free flours to that amount for an even substitute.
Using a scale also saves you mountains of measuring cups to clean and collect. Merely place the empty bowl on the scale and push the tare or zero button to zero out the weight of the bowl. Then begin to weigh each amount of needed ingredients one at a time, zeroing out the scale between ingredients and you’re ready to go. A variety of ingredients are most easily measured with the scale... from flours to liquids, from sugar to shortening. Some small measurements of ingredients such as baking powder/soda, herbs, spices and yeast are best measured with tablespoons and teaspoons.
When choosing a digital scale be sure it can weigh food up to 5 pounds, measure in both grams and ounces, and has a zeroing or tare button.