~ How do you measure up? Dry vs. Liquid Measure ~
'Tis the season for making and baking candies, cookies, cakes and all sorts of sweet treats. Great cooks know that in order to achieve confection perfection, it's imperative to weigh and measure all ingredients precisely -- and this means using the right tools the right way. How many of us have tried to duplicate one of grandma's vintage recipes only to be met with disappointment in the end because grandma measured using "a handful of this" and "a pinch of that". If this was how grandma measured, grandma wasn't a great cook and I don't care how good her food tasted. Thankfully I had a grandmother who bought me my first set of measuring cups and spoons -- I was five and I got a pretty blue apron for my birthday that year too!
Meet Mel's "things that measure things" drawer:
(a kitchen drawer dedicated solely to liquid & dry measures)
Whether you are a professional pastry chef or a home baker, because of the chemistry involved in baking, the correct ratio of dry to wet ingredients is the only way to produce the proper consistency, density and texture of whatever you are making or baking. If you're a novice, don't be fooled by encounters with TV chefs who appear as though they are not measuring their ingredients. In reality, they are -- with the exception of ridiculously stupid game-show-type cooking shows, these practiced professionals measure all of their ingredients beforehand.
What's the difference between dry and liquid measuring cups?
While the volume measured in both of them is the same (1 cup liquid = 1 cup dry), the two look and are designed differently, for good reason. Liquid measuring cups, which do come in different sizes, are typically see through and graduated with easy-to-read markings on the side which make it simple to fill to the desired level (1/4-, 1/2-, 3/4-cup, etc.). They have a spout too, which ensures an even pour without spills or drips. Dry measuring cups are typically not see through and come in a graduated set (1/4- 1/2- 3/4-cup, etc.), with each piece meant to be filled to the brim, then leveled with a knife or a straight-edge -- this is called the "scoop and level" technique. You can't level dry ingredients precisely in a liquid measuring cup, and, you can't fill a dry measuring cup to the tippy-top with liquid (well, actually you can) and expect to succeed 100% of the time at tranferring all of it successfully to its destination without spilling.
What about measuring spoons? They all look the same!
With rare exception, all measuring spoons look the same, they are not see through and are meant to be used to measure both dry and liquid ingredients. Once again, the volume is the same (1 teaspoon liquid = 1 teaspoon dry). Like dry measuring cups, they are sold in graduated sets (4-7 pieces) for measuring various fractions of tablespoons and teaspoons. I recommend purchasing the largest set possible. Because of their small size, dry ingredients are easily leveled off, and, by slowly adding wet ingredients to the spoon to the point just before they would spill over the sides, they are easy to maneuver and deliver to the intended destination. That said, I did purchase a small, clear glass mini-measure (pictured above) which is graduated and measures up to 6 tablespoons, which I find very convenient and make use of often.
Recipe says: "8 ounces". Does this mean use a liquid measure?
No it does not. When a recipes says to use 8 ounces of any liquid, yes, always use a liquid measuring cup, in which case 8 ounces is always = to 1 cup. But, when a recipe says to use 8 ounces of any dry ingredient, they are speaking a different language, and it always means: use a kithen scale. Why? There's a distinct difference between liquid volume and dry weight.
For example: In the photo above, I have placed 1 cup of sugar + about 1 extra teaspoon. I've got 8 ounces of sugar. In the photo below, I have placed 1 cup of flour. I've got 5 ounces of flour. While 1 cup of sugar weighs approximately 8 ounces, 1 cup of flour does not even come close to weighing 8 ounces. There's more: The weight of a dry ingredient also depends on the type and the manufacturer. Confectioners' sugar does not weigh the same as brown sugar or granulated sugar. Whole wheat flour does not weigh the same as rye flour or all-purpose flour.
How do You Measure up? Dry vs. Liquid Measure: Recipe explains the difference between dry and liquid measuring cups, and, the difference between liquid volume and dry weight.
Special Equipment List: dry measuring cups; wet measuring cups; measuring spoons; kitchen scale
Cook's Note: There is no time like the present to get ready for the holiday baking season. For another one of my "information only" posts that might come in handy, click into Categories 5, 6, 7, 15 or 16 to read: ~ Flour Facts: All-Purpose, Bread, Cake and Pastry ~!
"We are all in this food world together." ~ Melanie Preschutti
(Recipe, Commentary and Photos courtesy of Melanie's Kitchen/Copyright 2014)