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Holiday Cookie Baking 101: Use a Food Scale! I Am Showing You Why.
Submitted by Pam on Thu, 11/21/2013 - 21:32
The one cookie baking tool that should not be missing from your kitchen - a scale to weigh your flour!! I got away without one for years - but once I started weighing my flour it made a big difference in my cookies and I am going to show you why! It is my hope that by so doing, I will convince you - especially new to baking cooks - to acquire - and use - a kitchen scale!
Scales today are very easy to use. Turn it on! Then set an ingredient bowl on the plate. This bowl happens to weigh 15 3/4 oz.
By pushing the "on" button again, the scale will zero out - which means that the weight of the bowl is no longer a factor! Magic!
Add one cup of flour. In this particular case - on this day, with this flour (King Arthur all purpose flour of course!) - a full cup of flour weighed 4 7/8 oz.
You will be amazed to find that on different days and using different flour brands (or even the same one), you can get different weights for one cup of flour! And just so you know - in this case, I did not fluff the flour before measuring, I simply scooped a cup right out of the bag and leveled it off.
If you prefer, use the more accurate gram scale (see the button to change ounces to grams on the left of the scale). Note that the scale reads 138 grams.
But according to King Arthur Flour, when using their recipes, one cup of flour should weigh 4 1/4 oz or 120 grams. So, to arrive at that weight, begin scooping out flour, spoonful by spoonful until the scale reads 120 grams (4 1/4 oz).
Look at this! Over 1/8 cup of flour was removed to arrive at 120 grams!
Now this might not seem to be a big deal - but when you are baking cookies believe me it can be a very big deal and the difference between tough hard cookies and tender melt in the mouth cookies.
Think about it - in a recipe calling for 3 cups of flour (about average) an extra 1/8+ flour per cup would translate to 3/8 to 1/2 cup more flour than is actually needed!
Recently, I had a nice chat with one of the lovely and gracious bakers at King Arthur Flour on this very topic. And the most important tip she shared with me was that when baking cookies (or cakes for that matter) from a cookbook, check to see if a weight value for one cup of flour is offered. If so, use that weight value when baking recipes from that book.
King Arthur Flour Cookbooks (Cookie Companion cookbook being my favorite) states that one cup of flour weighs 4 1/4 oz. (120 grams). However, another of my most trusted cookbooks - America's Test Kitchen Family Cookbook lists the weight of one cup of all purpose flour as 5 oz (142 grams).
That is a big difference and is mostly due to the "cup filling method" used! I am not going into that here because, no matter what method is used to fill your measuring cup, none is as accurate as using a scale. And just so you know, when using a recipe from the internet where no weight value is given, I usually use this: 1 cup = 4 1/4 oz and if a little more flour seems to be needed, I add it - like a tablespoon or two. But usually using this weight for 1 cup of all purpose flour works beautifully.
If you do not yet own a scale and you are baking cookies, the most important thing I can say is this: DO NOT PACK your flour into the cup. DO NOT TAP the measuring cup on the counter to level. Instead use this tried and true King Arthur Flour method for measuring flour: lightly fluff up your flour with a spoon, then gently and lightly spoon your flour into the measuring cup, and swipe off excess flour using the flat edge of a knife or spoon handle.
And right this minute put a kitchen scale on your Christmas list!!!