The Fresh Loaf

News & Information for Amateur Bakers and Artisan Bread Enthusiasts

Measuring a cup

JeremyCherfas's picture
JeremyCherfas

Measuring a cup

I'm going to try and convert a volume based recipe to a weight based one. I've read the posts here about measuring out a cup and weighing it (makes sense to me) and to see whether the recipe author offers any suggestions for how to measure flour by volume.


The book I'm using does not.


So, should I pour from the flour into the cup, then level, or spoon from the bag then level, or sift from the bag, then level?


Thanks.


Jeremy

SourFlour's picture
SourFlour

Hi Jeremy,


The advice I've seen for trying volume measurements on flour is to pour into the cup and level.  This supposedly yields 4.25oz, although the type of flour you use will be affected by it.  Regardless, you don't know how the author did it, so you also might need to adjust the flour by a bit to get a consitancy you like.


Hope this helps.


Danny - Sour Flour
http://www.sourflour.org

Janknitz's picture
Janknitz

Their newly posted video shows a good standard way to measure flour by volume.  You may want to try to measure and weigh the flour several times to get an average weight per cup. 


I've seen various opinions ranging from 128 to 145 grams per cup for unbleached AP flour.  If you have had consistent results on a particular recipe measuring by volume, it makes sense to get an average of the flour as you measure it.  And I guess the range susggests it's not rocket science.  Somewhere in that range, plus or minus a few grams, will probably be OK. 


I hope someday everyone gets on the weight measurement band wagon.  I HATE when a formula calls for a volume of salt and you have no idea what kind of salt was used.  It wouldn't be an issue with weight.  (I default to table salt when the formula author doesn't otherwise specify, though I much prefer kosher salt). 


 

Yumarma's picture
Yumarma

I'd assume they are referring to your standard, garden variety table salt and go from there. And if that's the case then you know a teaspoon will weigh 6 grams. So you can then figure out how many grams they want and use coarse salt to that same weight.


As for flour, I asked Peter Reinhart about that and his "best guess on an average cup" was 4.5 oz or 127g. Hamelman's recipes generally equate 1 cup of bread flour to 4.6 - 4.8 oz (130 - 136g). He notes on page 90 of Bread that the cup measures have been rounded; this explains the range. 


Rose Levy Beranbaum tackles this issue head on, however and gets very detailed about volume to weight in flours. By her calculatons, a cup of flour will weigh as follows:


 



  • BREAD: Sifted: 121g,  Spooned: 130g,  Dip & Sweep: 157g

  • ALL PURPOSE: Sifted: 114g, Spooned: 121g, Dip & Sweep: 145g


 


She defines these techniques as follows:



Sifted means that the ingredient is sifted into a cup that is sitting on a counter. This cup is never touched or (perish the thought) shaken. Only the handle is held when the excess is swept off with a spatula or knife.


Lightly spooned into cup refers to spooning the ingredient into the cup and sweeping off the excess with a long, flat spatula or blade. This method yields less of the ingredient than the dip and sweep method.

The Dip and Sweep method of measuring refers to dipping the measuring cup into a bin containing the ingredient and sweeping off the excess with a long, flat spatula or knife. (Be sure to whisk the flour first as it settles on standing.)

Dry ingredients should be measured in a cup designed for solids.



So although she's extremely meticulous - and I believe she uses some super scientific atomic scale or some such - there's still a "range" to her measurements.


Me, I go with the simpler 4.5 oz. or 127g per cup of bread flour. Or avoid recipes that don't at least use ounces which I then convert to grams. I leave teaspoons and fractions thereof as is.

Yumarma's picture
Yumarma

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TKWACOrFYKU&feature=player_embedded


Sop according to King Arthur Flour, 1 cup of KAF AP is 4.25oz (120g). 


This agrees with RLB who says "spooned" AP is 121. She also says spooned bread flour is 130g which is just a hair over what Reinhart expects (127g) and agrees with Hamelman (130-136g).


So there we have four Big Wigs in the bread biz all pretty much saying 1 cup of Bread Flour is 130g (give or take a gram or two)

Paddyscake's picture
Paddyscake

that's great. But who is to say that the creator of the recipe didn't used packed cups of flour? How would we know ? That's why I say below that you will have to measure your volume and then weigh it to find consistacy to convert the recipe.


Betty

Paddyscake's picture
Paddyscake

from volume to weight, who knows what the original recipe weighed. You will have to measure your volume as you will, weigh it and then record the weights you've used. When you make any adjustments, record them. Hopefully, you will hit the magic weights, if not make your adjustments and keep your records until you find what you are looking for.


Betty

flournwater's picture
flournwater

When converting volumetric recipes to weight, I begin with 127 grams = 1 cup.  Then I work out my adjustments from there.


You can select any "standard" you'd like, but try to stick with the same standard with each recipe you convert and work you way to a suitable solution so you don't get lost in a maze of numbers by changing your approach from one recipe to another.  For example, if you start using 127 grams = 1 cup for a recipe and then, because that standard didn' work as well as you had hoped, change your standard for the next recipe,  you'll never find a foundation from which to make your adjustments.  That's because the "cup" in a recipe written by one author will not be the same as a "cup" in a recipe created by another.

Paddyscake's picture
Paddyscake

that's why I am not Phi Beta Kappa.


Betty

Mike Avery's picture
Mike Avery

The reason American bakers are moving towards scales is consistency.  Both from batch to batch and from baker to baker.   If I tell you 4 cups, you don't know if I mean 480 grams or 900.  So, the dough has to be adjusted.  A lot.


 


I weigh out enough flour into a bowl so I am sure I have at least half again the amount of flour the recipe will call for.  If it calls for 4 cups, I'll measure out 1,400 or so grams.  I also get the total weight of the bowl and flour.


 


Then I make the dough, using flour from the bowl.  When the dough is made, I re-weigh the bowl and subtract the new number from the old.  The difference is how much flour I used.  Thereafter, I adjust the recipe as needed in grams.


 


It rarely takes more than two or three tries to nail down a recipe so it comes out right.


Mike


 

JeremyCherfas's picture
JeremyCherfas

To calculate the amount of flour you actually used by subtraction. Very clever.


Part of the lrger problem is that with a volu7me recipe I don't really know what kind of hydration was being aimed at. I suppose if I make the bread, and it works, I'll know. As long as I've kept notes, which I do.


The KAF video is, er, interesting. Thanks everyone.


Jeremy

jcking's picture
jcking

On a TV program by Americas Test Kitchen; dry measuring cups, liquid measuring cups and measuring spoons from different manufactorers were compared. They found differences in each sample. Add that to how individuals use them.


Most recent bread book writers weigh their ingredients. When they reference cups they round off because it would frustrate a home baker to read 19/24ths of a cup. A lot of older recipies base them on a package of active dry yeast and go on from there.


To convert old cup recipies; I start with the water, a pint is a pound the world around, determine the hydration % of the type of bread, then using bakers math, flesh out the other ingredients. Then make small adjustments when mixing.


Jim

uncle goosehead's picture
uncle goosehead


To convert old cup recipies; I start with the water, a pint is a pound the world around, determine the hydration % of the type of bread, then using bakers math, flesh out the other ingredients. Then make small adjustments when mixing.


Jim



But a pint is not a pound the world over.  It differs, everywhere.


Wikipedia sayeth:



The imperial version is 20 imperial fluid ounces and is equivalent to about 568 mL, while the U.S. version is 16 U.S. fluid ounces and is equivalent to about 473 mL. Thus the traditional British pint of beer is approximately 20% larger than the American pint. One imperial pint is equal to 19.2152 US fluid ounces.




In French Canada, une pinte refers, by federal law, to the imperial quart whereas the imperial pint is called une chopine Confusingly, in some parts of France and French Canada, une pinte is used to describe a 500 mL glass of beer.



My Made in Canada measuring cup has a pint measuring 480 ml.  Worse, is the lack of standards in general, viz., http://www.onbeer.org/2011/01/size-matters/ :



On the other hand, here on the Canadian prairies, we have no such consistency. And that is what makes me mad. Order a pint here and you could get anything from 470 ml to 570 ml.



If the pint differs, then the weight will also differ.  I think this is why people like metric measurements.  -  This is just my 2¢, and given it is Canadian ¢, that would be 2.11¢ for Americans this morning.

jcking's picture
jcking

I remember that quote of pint=pound from Alton Brown, Food TV scientist/geek. If he read your remarks he would say "Oh Bother"  :)


Thanks for the worldly clarification.


Jim

Chuck's picture
Chuck

...a pint is a pound the world around...


My personal preference is -even though it still won't be exactly right the very first time- to go for a little more accuracy than the old "a pint is a pound". For a cup of water, I use 239 grams. For a cup of flour, depending on the cookbook and the type of flour, I use anywhere from 120 grams to 150 grams.

Chuck's picture
Chuck

I'm going to try and convert a volume based recipe to a weight based one.


I've done this quite a bit, and my experience is that no matter what you do, it won't come out exactly right the very first time. Although conversion is a pain, the advantage is once it's done, it's easy to replicate the exact recipe every time, or to pass on the recipe to someone else and be confident it will turn out the same.


I've now resigned myself to every "conversion" of a recipe from volume to weight measures taking three bakes before it's exactly right. Take your best guess and bake it. Then "tweak" it and bake it again. Then "tweak" it again and bake it a third time.


Writing down (in pencil for the interim bakes of course) exactly what measures you used is important. Because the process takes a non-trivial amount of work and will be a little different every time, writing down the final result (so you don't lose it) is important. When I've got a recipe "converted" the way I want it, I write the measures down right in the cookbook so I'll always have it next time.


 


So, should I pour from the flour into the cup, then level, or spoon from the bag then level, or sift from the bag, then level?


Hopefully recipe books will give you a "hint" about how they measure a cup. But if not, just pick a middling number to start with and begin experimenting. The middling number can be your "cup" (as opposed to the recipe author's "cup"), the average of a bunch of those conversion websites, taken from the flour sack itself, a wild guess, etc. It doesn't really matter; it will almost certainly be "not quite right" no matter what you do.


 

jcking's picture
jcking

For example; say a recipe works out to 1 Cup = 4.25oz = 120g. Yet you don't have a scale so how much does your cup way?


Start with a new 5lb bag of flour and a bowl large enough to hold the 5lbs. An average recipe calls for 5 cups of flour. Take 4 whole cups and 2 half cups and put them in the bowl. You can throw in some 1/4 cups if you like, just keep track. Lift the bag of flour an inch on two and allow to drop down (close bag before doing this). This will account for settlement that would normally occur when moving the flour in and out of the pantry. Continue measuring and droping the flour keeping track of how many cups it takes to empty the bag. Scoop your flour as you normally do sift/spoon/dip and sweep.


5lbs of flour = 80oz = 2268g. Using your calculator divide 80 for oz or 2268 for grams, by the total number of cups you have measured.


Example; You came up with 19 cups, divide 80(oz) by 19(number of cups) = 4.21 oz. Which is very close to 4 1/4. So your cup = 4 1/4 oz or 119.3 grams.


A Bread flour and a whole wheat flour will differ. So you may want to do this test with different flour types.


Jim