Converting Volume Measurements to Weight Measurements for Baking

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Converting Volume Measurements to Weight Measurements for Baking
I have been totally frustrated with recipes that use volume measurements instead of weight measurements.  Not only are they difficult to replicate, but they are inaccurate as everyone uses different methods to fill their measuring cups, yielding wild swings in weight measures of the same cup of flour.  

Case in point: the King Arthur Flour site tends to avoid providing weight measurements for their bread recipes and instead provides a tutorial on how to measure flour.  They preach the virtues of their "sift, spoon and sweep" method, as opposed to the faster and certainly less messy "dip and sweep" method.  The fact they have actually named these methods is almost as absurd as the video they produced to demonstrate their method of measuring flour, that they believe consistently results in 4 1/4 oz per cup by weight.  Clearly, the discrepancy between different techniques for loading a cup with flour will create very different weight measurements.  I am pleased, however, to see that the King Arthur site now provides three options for many of their bread recipes: volume, oz or grams.

I have found a site produced by Jenna Huntsberger called the Modern Domestic who created a handy chart that converts common baking ingredients from volume to weights based on research she did from 4 separate books, three of which were written by Rose Levy Beranbaum (The Cake Bible, The Bread Bible and Rose's Heavenly Cakes) as the other written by Francis T. Lynch - The Book of Yields.  You can find the posting here and a pdf version of the chart here.

I did go back and try the spoon and sweep (very messy) method with my bread flour and came up with 138 grams, which is 8 grams over the 130 grams listed in the chart.  I do know that I have weighed a cup of my bread flour in the past using the dip and sweep method and have come up with anywhere between 170 and 180 grams, which is way over the 157 grams listed in the chart.

The only thing I can conclude from this review is that once you find a recipe that works for you when baking, make sure you keep notes of the  the weights you use so you can replicate it in the future as cup measurements are totally unreliable.  This is extremely critical when working with sourdoughs as I have found that slight variations in hydration rates can really impact the rise, crust and crumb of the final product.

Hope you find the chart helpful.

Elliot

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Elliot

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Only in the USA is this a problem, the rest of the world uses the metric system.  

We need a grassroots metric movement!  It's about time America converted.
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In all cooking, and especially for baking you must use measurements by weight for everything if you want to produce repeatable consistent results. One cup of flour can differ in weight by up 50% depending on the current ambient conditions in your kitchen. However, as the old saying goes, a pound is a pound is a pound. Aside from your knife, an accurate kitchen scale is probably the most important tool to have.

The only thing you can reliably interchange volume and weight with is water because it is practically impossible to compress.
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... specifically it is humidity that seems to cause the greatest difference in flour weight per volume.

For most baking I either seek out recipes with weight rather than volume, or have done my own conversions based on experience.  (Most of my books are liberally annotated with pencil!)  For bread, however, I don't worry as much as with other baked products.  Bread is a lot more forgiving and (I believe) is easily corrected based on observation and dough behavior.

The best equipment buy I've made in the past few years was to replace my old scale with a digital scale that quickly switches between metric and "normal", and has a tare feature.  My old scale was quite archaic and worked, but not without giving lots of grief in the process.
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p.s.  I've seen either that chart, or one derived from it, or one similar to it.  Very useful.  Thanks for sharing the PDF version!

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...or you could go to the Gourmet Sleuth Cooking Conversion Calculator
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Great post, I went through a similar headache about a month ago when one of my friends got this supposed great pizza dough recipe from a place that he knows and bla bla family secret....don't care, whatever.

First off, the recipe that he got was for a 50 lb bag of flour, yet all of the rest of the measurements were volume!  I tried to get it in range, i was literally weighing cups of olive oil, i found the water weight conversions online somewhere....what a damn nightmare.

This should help, but it really is absolutely disgraceful, especially from such an amazing resource as king arthur. Everything else about them is taken sooo seriously, and how they're at the vanguard of baking education and meh meh, yet they still use volume measurements?? Absurd.

Sorry to nerd out, I'm with limey though. The imperial measurement system really hasn't had a place for a very long time, and when dealing with this stuff, its shortcomings are so easily exposed. Good luck doing the baker's percentage calcs in your head with 12s, 8s, 16s, all mixed. Way easier with metric.
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@Elliot, as my eyes were recently opened by you all I've been converting to weight in grams and have had some of the same frustrations as you.  The solution that I've found works for me is to just weight out ingredients I used to volume measure.  Since I'm converting by measuring my scoops I get an accurate reproduction.  Thanks for sharing the chart.

@Limey, AMEN!!  The metric system has so many advantages over SAE.  I've always thought there are 2 primary reasons we haven’t made the change.

1. Americna's just dont like change very much, especially when it comes to conforming to international methods.
2. Significant loss of revenue in the tool industry.  Everyone that does anything mechanical in America has to have 2 sets of tools.  Personally I think this is the biggest obstacle.

@Brian, very interesting, I never thought about the affect of humidity on flour!  So a cup of flour in a humid environment will weigh more than in a dry environment.  But the difference in weight isn't flour, it's hydration.  So I would think weight would be less accurate than by volume.  ie: 1 cup of dry flour = 145g but 1 cup of moister flour = 150 ish (guessing).  But both are 1 cup in volume.  How does one adjust for this???
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kc0kdh: For bread we use the baker's percentage as a baseline for measurements as well as producing and predictably recreating the same product. If we're following a recipe that calls for 5 cups of flour it could be 1kg of flour in there or 1.5 kgs depending on the day and relative humidity. But if we use weight, we are more likely to be within the proper range to reproduce the recipe accurately. It's true that on humid summer days we may need to use less water, and in the dry winter months we may need to add more water, but that is something you learn through time and experience with dough. How it feels when you knead it, how elastic it is, etc. This is however, only for dough that we're talking about. The reason cooking in general should be by weight is because of consistency.

The easiest example of this would be salt. Say a recipe calls for 2 tbls of salt. You have rock salt, kosher salt, and table salt. If you use 2 tbls of any of those they will all be differing amounts of salt. However, if you use 10 grams of any of them, it's all the same thing. While the volume may change the weight of the salt does not.
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Zalbar, thanks for the explanation.  That makes perfect sense.
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Zalbar made the clarification I was going to make... only better written.  Playing it "fast and loose" only really works for bread dough.

One interesting fact to add to the discussion is regarding kosher salt.  The two major brands of kosher salt are VERY different in terms of weight/volume.  When my wife does the grocery shopping she thinks I'm a kook when I keep repeating "get the blue box of kosher salt, not the red box... the blue box... it has to be the kosher salt in the blue box."  She can't figure out if I'm senile, or manic-depressive and on a real manic high.  Its not that there is any problem with the red box salt... its just that I'm already calibrated to blue box salt.
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It is still a good idea to double-check any conversion chart with an accurate scale. For example, many websites list 1 tablespoon of table salt as 18-21 grams. One put that figure over 30 grams. When I measured 1 tablespoon of table salt on a scale, it was closer to the 30 grams of Wolframalpha.com. Oh bother! :(

18 grams:
 
20.1 grams:
 
20.1 grams:
 
31.9 grams:
Wisconsin Limey
I find it best to add salt to taste, not volume or weight!  :)
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Good point... :) !

However, it’s nice to be able to rely on published data for guidelines. My point is that in many cases you can’t... whether it’s for baking (always measure by weight) or brining proteins.

BTW, the forum page for brining is:
http://www.stellaculinary.com/forum/podcast-questions-and-comments/stell...
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