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When it comes to making cookies, biscuits and other pastries, the method of a “pinch of this” and “handful of that” is not the best way to be measuring baking ingredients. There’s a bit of science involved in baking, and just like you learned in high school Chemistry class, exact measurements are necessary for the best results.
Part of measuring accurately means using the right tools for the job. You wouldn’t use an espresso cup to measure out a dose of Nyquil or Milk of Magnesia nor should you use it to measure out a cup of flour.
Here is the right way to accurately measure shortening, flour, baking soda and all those other ingredients for the best baking results:
Dry ingredients such as brown sugar, flour, oats, and other grains should be measured with a measuring cup. Measuring cups are usually made of plastic or metal, have a short handle, and come in in sets of four nesting cups sized at 1/4 cup, 2/3 cup, 1/2 cup, and 1 cup. To measure accurately with a measuring cup, full up the cup with flour or sugar so that it’s overflowing, and then level it off with the back edge of a knife.
Liquid ingredients should always be measured in a glass or clear plastic measuring cup that has the graduated markings on the side. To measure, fill up the measuring cup to the correct markings and then double check the amount at eye level. This means bringing your eyes down to the level of the line to make sure it’s on the right mark.
So why won’t a plastic measuring cup work? The surface tension of the liquid throws off the measurement, meaning that you will be adding too much liquid to the recipe.
Shortening is best measured using the displacement method. Displacing means that when shortening is submerged in a liquid, the amount of liquid displaced is equal to the amount of shortening.
For example, to measure a half-cup of shortening, first fill a quart measuring glass to the two cup level. Add a large spoonful of shortening to the water. Push the shortening under the level of the water and take a reading of the water level. Once the shortening has displaced a half-cup of water (meaning the water level now reads 2 1/2 cups) then you will have exactly a half-cup of shortening for your recipe.
When it comes to leavening agents and seasonings, a little bit goes a long way. For these smaller measurements, it’s best to measure with a measuring spoon. Measuring spoons also come in sets of four, and are typically marked 1/4 tsp, 1/2 tsp, 1 tsp, and 1 Tablespoon. It’s recommended that you use the measuring spoon closest to the amount needed for your recipe for the most accurate reading. And just like measuring flour, it’s best to overfill the spoon first and then level it off with the back of a table knife.
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