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Old 07-15-2005, 03:30 PM   #1
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Measuring Flour

I've been unsuccessful lately in making sourdough starter, so I referred back to Fleischmann's Yeast website to consult the "authority" on the subject. I halved their suggested recipe, using 1 3/4 cups AP flour, 1/2 pkg active dry yeast, and 1 cup warm water, mixed to a smooth cream.

Well, that got me a dought instead of a cream, so I had to add more water. Lots more. Which made me wonder about measuring flour.

I decided to check. Using my little electronic kitchen scale, I found that:

1 cup AP flour dredged directly out of the cannister weighed 5 oz.

1 cup AP flour spooned into the measuring cup weight 4.7 oz.

1 cup AP flour SIFTED into the measuring cup weighed a mere 3 oz.

All were carefully levelled off with a straight knife edge.

Now that's one heck of a spread!

So just what should one do when the recipe simply states "1 cup AP flour"? How much flour are they talking about????

A similar problem exists with, for example, salt. Is that teasp0onful of salt level, rounded, or heaped? It can make one helluva difference!

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Old 07-15-2005, 03:38 PM   #2
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I've struggled with that before, too, oldcoot!

From what I've read, the standard way to measure flour is to spoon the flour into a measuring cup (not placing the measuring cup directly into the flour) and then swiping across the top with a knife to level it.

For salt, baking powder/soda, etc., I've always used level spoonsful unless heaping or scant are called for.
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Old 07-15-2005, 03:57 PM   #3
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PA Baker has it right. No tapping down the flour in the measuring cup. Fill with a spoon and level. However, there's no guarantee that the person who wrote the recipe measured it that way.

Your dilemma supports the effort to measure flour (and other dry ingredients) by weight rather than volume.

All measuting spoons and cups are always a level measure unless otherwise specified.
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Old 07-15-2005, 04:39 PM   #4
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I always stir the flour before spooning it into the measuring cup. I think I read that in my Fine Cooking magazine. I think the only way to get it accurate is by weighing your flour on a scale, but not many recipes tell you how many ounces to use. Doing a search on the internet, you'd probably be able to find out.
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Old 07-15-2005, 06:11 PM   #5
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It's interesting to hear about the problems with differing weights of 'cups' of ingredients.

We never use 'cups' here - only ounces and pounds or grammes and kilos. I think it a more logical way to weigh! But, I suspect that is because of the way we learn as children - cups for you, scales for me!

I can almost tell the age of my recipes by whether I still use lb/oz or kilo/g
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Old 07-15-2005, 09:25 PM   #6
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From what I've read in several cookbooks that discuss it, and remembering the way my grandmothers and aunts did it ... the "standard" way to measure a cup of flour for baking is to use a spoon or scoop and "sprinkle" it into a "dry volume" measuring cup until overflowing and then level it off with a straight edge. No tapping the cup to level it off - that will just compact the flour and increase the actual volume and weight. From what I remember, and I wish the heck I could remember where it was, this became the de facto standard method when first detailed in America's first recipe book quantified in the format the recognize today - The Fanny Farmer Cookbook.

Another method that some people prefer, which should come out close to the same weight, is to shake their cannister of flour to aerate it before scooping out with a spoon.

1 cup of AP flour should run about 4.25 oz - depending on the flour.

It's not foolproof - but here's an easy way to figure out how much a cup of your AP flour should weigh ... look on the side of the bag where it gives the nutritional information. This will give you the serving size (usually 1/4 cup) and an approximate number of servings per bag (usually around 75). And the front of the bag will usually give you the weight in both pounds and ounces. So, for a 5-pound (80-oz) bag of flour with 75 1/4-cup servings ... Total bag OZ / servings = weight per serving. If serving is 1/4-cup then multiply that by 4 to get 1-cup weight:

80 / 75 = 1.06 (oz per 1/4 cup serving) x 4 = 4.26 oz per cup.

As for salt, etc. - unless it says "scant" or "heaping" or "rounded" - always assume a level measurement.
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Old 07-16-2005, 01:43 AM   #7
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Mike, as you mentioned, even the measurements on the bag of flour are approximations. A serving is 1/4 cup. But we aren't told how that flour is treated prior to measuring. And there are "about" 75 servings in a 5 lb bag. If one does not have a scale, it is of little use to know that means a cup should weigh 4+ oz.

It is impossible to know the actual amount of flour the person originating a recipe used (unless measured by weight). So we must understand that variations in results are "built in", no matter how precisely we follow a recipe.

Much is written about the effect of humidity on the flour/water ratio in bread making. I submit each individuals method of measuring the flour has much, much more to do with variations.
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Old 07-16-2005, 10:43 PM   #8
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Quote:
Originally Posted by oldcoot
...Much is written about the effect of humidity on the flour/water ratio in bread making. I submit each individuals method of measuring the flour has much, much more to do with variations.
Oldcoot:

I agree.

As far as the 1/4 cup serving size on a flour bag, the nutrition label will always have a metric weight measurement next to the volume measurement. For example, "Serving Size 1/4 cup (30 g)". This enables you to make a precise calculation every time.

This is true for the nutrition label on all foods.
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Old 07-17-2005, 12:31 AM   #9
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Before you guys break out the rope to hang me ... it's only an approximation that will get you within a ballpark figure. If the recipe you are using is in volume (and you don't know how it was measured) and you want to convert it to weight - it's a start. The only cookbook I've run across that specifically didn't use the Fanny Farmer method of measuring flour is Cookwise by Shirley Corriher.

Now, let's get to the other part of the problem - where did your flour come from, how was it stored before you got it, where was it stored, where do you live and how do you store it, etc ..... in short - what is the moisture content of your flour? Do all of the recipes that you use that go by weight always specify the moisture content of the flour? Do you take the time to determine the moisture content of your flour and make adjustments to the recipe accordingly? Do you know the moisture content of the flour used by the author of your recipe?

Hey - this isn't rocket science. Use the Fanny Farmer method for measuring by volume, assume 12% moisture content if working with weight. It might not be absolute ... but you're not going to be off by too much. And, if you are - make a note for the next time. For the home cook this is generally close enough.
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Old 07-17-2005, 12:37 PM   #10
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Mike, no one is ot to hang you. But you prove my point. There is no way to ensure results will match those of the recipe writer. Just too darned many variables. So I find it silly when a bread recipe calls for "2 cups plus 1 tablespoon plus 1 teaspoon of water"! Granted, I've seen only one that precise, but you get the idea.

So I gave up on bread recipes early in my feeble attempts at baking. I simply judge the texpure of the dough and adjust it depending upon the type of loaf I seek. Anyway, surely everyone has noticed that all white bread recipes are very nearly identical. Minor changes probably due to the very things we've been discussing here - including variations in moisture content.

B/W, my fabulous in-house cook, does much the same when making her great pie crust: strictly by the "feel" of her dough. And nobody - but nobody- makes a flakier AND more flavorful pie crust than does my wife!!! (She uses the Wesson Sir & Roll recipe - I've tried it and always get a fine quality cardboard!)
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