When it comes to cooking, using a “pinch” of this or a “dash” of that is not only acceptable, it’s actually admired – kind of like the calling card of a confident and experienced cook.
In baking, however, it’s all about precision. While there is always some room for error – and improvisation – attention to detail is key. This can be off-putting to many, who (wrongly) assume that they “can’t bake”.
But if you learn what I call “the basics”, then you can bake almost any recipe you desire. And you’ll quickly start to appreciate the consistency of the results you get.
Let’s start with what, in my opinion, is the most important “basic” – proper measuring of ingredients.
How To Measure Ingredients 1 of 7
Precise measuring is actually very easy - once you understand a few simple rules!
Measuring Liquid Ingredients 2 of 7
Ingredients such as milk, juice or olive oil should be measured in a liquid measuring cup (typically glass or plastic, with graduated markings on the side).
Hold the cup up to eye level and pour in your ingredient till it reaches the desired line. Alternatively, you can place the cup on a flat, level surface and bend down till you are looking at the cup at eye level.
Smaller amounts of liquid can be poured into the appropriate measuring spoon.
Measuring Dry Ingredients 3 of 7
Measure dry ingredients like flour and sugar using the "scoop and level" technique. Dip your measuring cup into the sack or container and scoop out your ingredient. Don't shake or try to level the contents; simply use the edge of a knife to scrape off the excess across the top.
For smaller amounts (such as baking powder or spices), do the same with a measuring spoon. Dip it into the container and level off with a knife.
Measuring Chopped Ingredients 4 of 7
Recipes calling for chopped ingredients - such as nuts or dried fruits - can read one of two ways. This will affect how they are measured.
If the recipe calls for "1 cup nuts, chopped", measure the nuts whole, and then chop them.
If it reads" 1 cup chopped nuts", you'll chop the nuts first and then measure.
On Weighing Ingredients 5 of 7
My preferred method of measuring is to use a food scale. Weighing ingredients saves time, utensils and clean-up. It is also more precise and consistent particularly important when baking.
More and more recipes now include both types of measurements, but if you need to convert from volume to weight, here's how: turn on your scale, place your bowl on it and reset it to zero. Measure your ingredient and pour it into the bowl; note the weight (in grams or ounces) for future reference.
To add more ingredients just keep "zero-ing" out and making note of each new measurement.
Selecting a Kitchen Scale 6 of 7
There are many types of kitchen scales out there, in all price points. For me, the most important features are a digital display and measurements in both ounces and grams. Also nice, but not essential, are a pull-out display and a backlight - especially if you work with large bowls that may cast a shadow or cover the scale completely.
Now Get Baking! 7 of 7
Now that you know the "secrets" of measuring, why don't you bake up some cookies? These chocolate espresso cookies are a cinch to make, seriously delicious and impressive to boot. Get the recipe here!