A weighty situation

 kitchen scale

Over the last several years, there has been a subtle but important shift in baking books in the USA. No, it isn't a move to beautiful, moody overhead photography (although that has also been trending), it's about the use of weights in baking books. Cookbook author and food writer Christine Burns Rudalevige explains the reasons for this change.

The story quotes our very own Jenny Hartin, who has noticed the trend toward weight measures. She notes that of 20 recent baking books published iin the USA, 15 included both weight and volume measurements, and only 5 relied on volume measurements alone. The reasons for this shift basically boil down to accuracy. Everyone puts flour, sugar, and other ingredients into measuring cups differently.

Even the same person won't be able to achieve consistent results. Christine tested this by taking a known weight of flour and measured using the same process - fluffing with a fork, spooning into a measuring cup, and leveling with a knife. She was never able to get the same weight of flour. 

Some American authors were early adopters to weight measurements. Rose Levy Beranbaum provided weights (both metric and avoirdupois), along with traditional cup measurements, in her 1988 masterpiece The Cake Bible. Alice Medrich also provided weight measurements in 1990's Cocolat, offering another reason besides accuracy. "Scales save time and steps, and they decrease the number of bowls and measuring cups that need washing," she noted.

Another proponent of weighing was the late Flo Braker, who listed a scale as "indispensable" to making the recipes in Sweet Miniatures. Bread gurus like Peter Reinhart also prefer weight measurements, which allow you to more easily scale the recipe (especially if you use the metric system). 

More recently, pioneering bakers like Stella Parks have championed the cause of weighing ingredients. In BraveTart  (don't forget to enter the contest for this book!) Parks says that a scale "lets you see the matrix." She thinks that using weight measurements instead of volumes allows you to understand the recipe better by providing you with better insight on the relative proportions of ingredients. 

2 Comments

  • FJT  on  9/19/2017 at 6:51 AM

    Growing up in Europe every kitchen had a scale and so we always baked by weight. I'm delighted that American authors are starting to use weight measurements too (I guess it gives them a wider audience for their books), but frustrated by recipes that have weight measures for some things but then say 'a stick of butter' or '4 tbsp butter'!

  • annmartina  on  9/19/2017 at 8:54 AM

    Finally. I've been weighing ingredients for at least 15 years. I could never understand why people would tell me it was too much work when it relieves you of the guesswork.

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