When dough or batter is baking in the oven, the heat causes a chemical reaction with the ingredients, and the results can be either magical or disastrous. Paul Hollywood from The Great British Baking Show would certainly agree: a successful bake all comes down to accuracy, which is why measuring ingredients correctly is an essential baking skill that shouldn’t be overlooked. Unlike cooking, which allows for some leeway in recipes, baking is very scientific, especially when it comes to the ratio of ingredients. Follow these measuring tips from the baking experts at Ne-Mo’s and you’ll always bake your treats to perfection.
Use the Correct Measuring Tools
Keep a set of dry measuring cups in your baking arsenal, which comes in 1 cup, 1/2 cup, 1/3 cup, and 1/4 cup measurements. Use these for your dry ingredients like flour, cocoa powder, and leavening agents.
For liquid ingredients like eggs, butter, and vanilla extract, always use a liquid measuring cup, which looks like a small pitcher with a handle and spout. This specific type of measuring cup is made with glass and is printed with measurement markings that range from 1/4 cup to 2 and 1/2 cups. The glass design and pitcher shape allow for liquids to easily drip off the surface, giving you an easy and seamless transfer of ingredients from the measuring cup to the mixing bowl.
For ingredients like flour, pasta, and grains, use a kitchen scale to get the most precise measurements. Weighing out your ingredients also comes in handy when your pasta or flour doesn’t fit into measuring cups. For short dry pasta like elbows and orzo, dry measuring cups do the job but keep a kitchen scale handy for long strand pasta like spaghetti and fettuccine.
A set of measuring spoons are another must-have for the home baker, especially when the ingredients in a recipe are listed by the amount instead of weight, such as teaspoons or tablespoons. A standard measuring set should include 1/4 teaspoon, 1/2 teaspoon, 1 teaspoon, and 1 tablespoon. For even more precision, look for larger sets that also include 1/8 teaspoon, 1/3 teaspoon, and 1/2 tablespoon. The extra measuring spoons are especially helpful because it saves you from doing guesswork when making recipes that require exact measurements.
How to Measure Dry Ingredients
For dry ingredients like flour, sugar, baking powder, or salt, place your measuring cup over the canister, sink, or sheet of parchment paper to avoid spills. Then, lightly spoon in the ingredient until it overflows in the cup. Next, level it by sliding the back of a butter knife or spatula over the top rim of the measuring cup. When measuring solid ingredients like yogurt, peanut butter, or coconut oil, level off the ingredients in a similar way while also making sure there aren’t any air pockets inside the cup.
Some recipes call for ‘heaping’ measurements, which shouldn’t be leveled but filled to the top just before overflowing. Other recipes might call for ‘rounded’ measurements, which should be scooped out until it forms a small pile in the measuring spoon or cup. For ‘scant’ measurements, you should measure slightly less than the given measurement.
When measuring brown sugar, always check the recipe, which will usually call for ‘loosely packed,’ ‘lightly packed,’ or ‘firmly packed’ measurements. Brown sugar has an airy and sticky texture, which means that you can pack quite a lot of this ingredient into a single measuring cup. This is why a loosely packed cup of brown sugar will have a considerably less amount than a firmly packed measurement.
How to Measure Liquid Ingredients
When you pour ingredients into a measuring cup, make sure your eyes stay level with the top of the liquid. If you look down from above, you can easily misread the measurement. When you’re measuring liquids in tablespoons or teaspoons, make sure you hold the measuring spoon level for the most precise measurement. When measuring sticky ingredients like honey or molasses, we recommend spraying the measuring spoon with cooking oil; after measuring, the honey will slide easily out of the spoon and into your mixing bowl without leaving an extra coating.
How to Measure Butter
In the U.S., butter is typically sold in 1/2-pound or 1-pound packages with 2-4 sticks. Each stick of butter equals 1/4 cup and since most recipes usually call for either cups or sticks, this essential baking ingredient can be easily measured. For smaller measurements, most sticks of butter are also packaged with wrapping that indicates increments of 8 tablespoons; cut with a butter knife for the most accurate measurement.
If you don’t have time for baking, you can still enjoy the satisfying taste of made-from-scratch baked goods with Ne-Mo’s cake squares, which are made with quality ingredients and classic family recipes. Stay tuned for more expert baking tips from our baking blog series. In the meantime, here’s to ‘baking’ the world a little sweeter every day!