I have a very well-used copy of Rose Levy Beranbaum’s The Cake Bible, and also another bible of hers, The Bread Bible and they totally changed how I bake. If you haven’t baked by weight, you probably have avoided it because it seems like too much hassle. But you’re wrong. Or you don’t have a food scale? Who does, right? Well… I DO! They cost like $15, and they save like 11ty dishes. Seriously. I abhor washing dishes. Unless it NEEDS to be hand-washed (my nice knives and cast iron are pretty much it), everything I own goes in the dishwasher.
But why is baking by weight so useful?
Sticky shit. I detest sticky shit. Measuring molasses? Gross. No thank you. How about corn syrup, honey, or maple syrup? Same thing. You have the measuring cup, the spatula, invariably your hand, and if you’re smart, you sprayed the inside of the measuring cup with nonstick spray, which you almost certainly oversprayed on the counter/floor/mixer/glassware.
Semisolids. You ever try to measure semisolid fat that’s not neatly packed into a cube with nice hash marks dividing it into tablespoons? The “smart” way to do this is to fill a pyrex measuring cup with a predetermined volume of water and then drop bits of fat into it until your water level increases by the amount of fat you need in the recipe. Great idea, except you will invariably get smears all over the inside of the measuring cup, necessitating it either being hand washed or going in the dishwasher (thus taking up valuable real estate). Plus, then you have wet fat, which is not great when you’re making something like a pie crust where the balance can easily be thrown off by the extra teaspoon of water that’s clinging in the nooks and crannies of your grease.
Stuff that’s variably dense. Stuff like grated cheese, kosher salt, chocolate chips (some are larger than others, affecting density), even(or especially) flour. It makes a difference.
It’s easier! What’s simpler than throwing your bowl on a scale, then just scooping flour into the bowl til you hit a certain number, zeroing, then adding water, sugar, fat, cheese, or whatever in. That shit’s amazing. You can just shake or scoop whatever ingredient you’re adding into the bowl. No need to dirty a measuring cup! Plus there’s no question about exactly duplicating something if you weigh it. This is my favorite way to cook breakfast. Waffles at 6am? No fussing with finding the right measuring cup before your contacts are in. Just dump ingredients in til the number is correct.
How do you go about converting a recipe to weights? That’s fairly simple. If you’re using a recipe from the internet, you have 2 options. You can either copy & paste it into a document stored on “the cloud” (I like using OneNote on MS’s Skydrive)/start a blog that you can search, or you can print/copy down the recipe onto paper. Personally, I’m always trying to add more shit to my recipe file, because invariably I’ll be unable to track something down online when I most need the recipe, but different strokes… Regardless, have your recipe open/in front of you as you are cooking (as you would normally), and just set your bowl/measuring cup on the scale before adding ingredients. Need 2 cups of beer? Get your 2 cup measuring cup, put it on the scale, zero it out, then add beer til you hit 2 cups. Then take down the number shown on the scale (I’ve recently begun writing down both oz and grams, but I prefer using grams.. they feel more precise) next to the ingredient name. For beer it would be something like “2 cups stout – 236g, 8oz” If you do this with all of the elements of the recipe, the next time you make it, all you have to do is put your bowl on the scale, dump in your 236g of beer, then hit zero/tare to reset the counter, and add your next ingredient.
I don’t measure small amounts of things by weight. By small amounts, I generally mean something that would normally be measured in teaspoons or tablespoons. My scale is accurate enough for larger volumes of stuff, but is not sensitive enough to read in tenths of grams, and that’s the type of accuracy you need for stuff like baking soda or nutmeg.
I’ve changed my mind on this. Small amounts of stuff are just as easy to measure by weight. I bought a cheap pocket scale that reads in tenths of grams that I love using.