How to Measure Your Ingredients Properly
Can’t seem to figure out why your cakes aren’t tasting moist and looking fluffy? Or why your cookies are spreading and not coming out right? Are you measuring your ingredients properly?
You’re properly thinking “What’s the big deal? Take a scoop of flour, take some eggs and sugar and that’s that.” Not quite. Baking is a science, and there’s a little more to it than that. Try some of these tips below and you’ll see the difference in your baked goods.
Measuring Dry and Liquid Ingredients
For liquids like oil or milk, measure at eye level to ensure you have an exact measurement. Put these in a liquid measuring cup. If you put them in a dry measuring cup, you won’t get an accurate measurement. When measuring dry ingredients, always make sure you level off the top of the measuring cup with a knife or the handle of your utensil. It helps you get an accurate measurement.
The most important thing about your flour is to make sure you DO NOT pack it. Packing your flour means you take your measuring cup, stick it in the flour and shake off the excess.
What happens if you pack flour into your measuring cup? This ends up adding a significant amount of flour to your dough or batter than you would like. Adding more flour to your dough or batter will cause it to turn out dry and crumbly.
Using your measuring cup, stir the flour slightly. Then, using a spoon, spoon in the flour into the measuring cup. With a knife, gently scrape off the excess of the flour. This goes for all types of flour, including gluten-free.
If a recipe calls for 1 cup of flour, spoon in 1 cup of flour into a measuring cup until slightly overflowing, and level off the excess with a knife. If a recipe calls for 1 cup of flour sifted, be sure to spoon and level the flour, and then sift it.
With cocoa powder, it’s best to stir it before using it since it tends to clump up. Because of that I always recommend sifting it to get rid of all the unwanted clumps.
White Granulated Sugar
White granulated sugar is simple. If a recipe calls for 1 cup of white sugar, all you need to do is take your measuring cup and scoop up the cup of sugar. It’s different than other ingredients. Since it’s fairly heavier, it’s not likely that you would add more sugar per measuring cup.
Light and dark brown sugar works the same way. But first things first – what’s the difference between light and dark brown sugar? Both light and dark brown sugars contain molasses. Dark brown sugar has a little more molasses than light brown sugar, and it also has a darker color and a bit of a stronger flavor. Brown sugar is perfect for chocolate-based desserts.
Packed brown sugar means to scoop the brown sugar into the measuring cup and using a spoon, squish it in there. When the brown sugar comes out of the measuring cup, it will hold its shape.
Lightly packed brown sugar means to scoop up the brown sugar but don’t pack it in and level off the excess.
Baking Soda and Baking Powder
Baking soda and powder help your baked treats rise. Note: Baking soda and baking powder are not the same. It’s important to read the recipe carefully and make sure you use what the recipe calls for. Baking soda requires a liquid and an acid (such as chocolate, lemon juice, brown sugar) to activate, whereas baking powder only needs a liquid to activate.
Baking soda and baking powder can end up getting packed down over time. It’s best to stir or shake the container before measuring.
Powdered Sugar (Confectioners’ Sugar)
Confectioners’ sugar clumps up. When using it for recipes, it’s best to use the spoon and level method as you would flour, otherwise, you’ll end up with extra clumps in your batter. Because powdered sugar clumps, it’s best to make sure you sift it before adding it to your batter, especially if the recipe calls for it.
It’s best to use room-temperature eggs when the recipe calls for them. Generally speaking, if you need to whip up eggs to make meringues or fluff up your cake, you need to make sure they are at room temperature. Cold eggs won’t whip up as well, and you’ll be left with a dense cake instead of a light and fluffy one.
If the recipe calls for your eggs to be separated, you’ll want to separate them while they’re still cold. Cold eggs separate better while room-temperature eggs tend to mold together, and it’ll be harder to separate them.
Butter and margarine work the same way. Make sure they’re always softened to room temperature before beginning to bake. If you use butter or margarine for your recipes straight out of the fridge, then it will be tough to mix them smoothly. Instead, you’ll end with clumps of butter/margarine in your dish, and no one wants to eat a spoonful of butter in their smooth buttercream. Make sure if the recipe calls for unsalted butter to use unsalted butter. If you use salted butter, then forgo the salt in the recipe. I prefer to use unsalted in all my recipes because I can control the amount of salt added.
If a recipe calls for oil, always know to use neutral-flavored oil. I usually like to use vegetable oil or canola oil, but use whichever neutral oil you have in your pantry. If you’re substituting oil for butter, use 3/4 cup of oil per 1 cup of butter.
Extracts and Flavoring
There are a few different flavors of extracts to add a hint of extra flavor to your desserts. The most popular one is vanilla, but some recipes call for something else like almond extract, peppermint, even lemon, and raspberry.
I sometimes like to switch things up with my desserts and add a different type of alcohol. Red wine or spiced rum adds a kick and is perfect for chocolate-based desserts. Because the alcohol cooks out in the oven, it will be safe to eat for kids.
Whether you’re using chocolate chips, peanut butter chips, or white chocolate chips, there is no right or wrong way to measure them. It’s always best to use a dry measuring cup over a wet measuring cup, but I usually like to eyeball it. If I get more chocolate chips in my cookies than the recipe calls for, is that so bad?