Setting standards: A quick note on measurements

by piecurious

When I first started writing piecurious and publishing recipes, I always attempted to provide the volume measurements in addition to the weight measurements.  The reason behind this was that I wanted to reach out to home bakers who did not have or wish to use a digital scale.  Not only was this process time consuming, since it required me to measure everything twice, the very act of doing so revealed just how problematic volume measurements can be.  Given that I make multiple versions of each recipe I post, I was quick to discover first hand what many bakers have probably already told you: if you weigh by volume the measurements will inevitably vary.

Now, one of the things I learned working in a professional bakery is that with many baked goods, such as bread, quick breads, muffins, etc. exact adherence to weight measurements isn’t always necessary for success.  In fact, what you’ll find (and what is encouraged in many bread books) is that skilled bread bakers often adjust the water and flour based on sight and touch.  That isn’t to say that there aren’t desserts and pastries, not to mention particular ingredients, that require exact adherence to measurements–absolutely there are.  But adding a 1/4 oz of extra flour to a quick bread recipe doesn’t mean your quick bread will be a quick brick.

So why scale out ingredients?

I have three reasons.

First, it’s easier. Not only do you require fewer tools (which means fewer dishes), it erases the uncertainty of determining less obvious ingredient measurements, like what “3-4 medium-sized bananas” amounts to.

Second, it will make you a better baker.  Why?  Because once you start thinking in weights and, as I do, percentages, you will learn how to quickly and successfully make adjustments to a recipe.

Third, it ensures the final product will come as close to the vision the recipe writer intended.  I spoke about vision in my last post.  I choose the ingredients, and the measurements of those ingredients, for each of my recipes in order to support a vision I have.  I share the recipe with you because I want you to experience it as I intended.  That doesn’t mean I discourage you from experimenting and making your own adjustments.  By all means.  But if you look back to reason two, you’ll see that by enforcing my vision, I’m also providing the tools to reframe that vision.

Long story short, my recipes from this point forward will only include weight measurements (except where it is inappropriate to do so (e.g. 3/8th oz of baking soda).