Holiday baking is a treasured tradition that many anticipate each year. Grandmothers, mothers, daughters, and granddaughters gather in the kitchen to simultaneously create sweet pastries and even sweeter memories.
Baking, unlike cooking, is dependent on the accurate measurement of ingredients. Many pastries contain the same ingredients. However, the amount of each ingredient is what creates the different pastries. For example, a scone contains flour, milk, baking powder and salt. A biscuit contains those same ingredients but has an increased amount of milk to make it tenderer than a scone.
When baking, it is important to follow the recipe not only for ingredients, but also for measurements. Accurate measurements will ensure proper ratios of ingredients in baked goods and increase the chances of success.
The first point to remember when properly measuring ingredients is to use the correct tools. There are two types of measuring cups; those for dry ingredients and those for liquid ingredients. Measuring cups for dry ingredients come in a set that include the ¼ cup, 1/3 cup, ½ cup, and 1 cup measurements. A measuring cup for liquid ingredients is usually one cup that has graduated marks on the cup for different measurements. It may seem as though they would all measure the same, but they do measure slightly different and it is important for recipe accuracy to use the proper the tools. Measuring spoons are used for both liquid and dry ingredients.
Recipes often use terms such as “packed” and “sifted”. These terms often refer to brown sugar and flour respectfully. To correctly pack brown sugar, fill the desired measuring cup with brown sugar, then using the back of a spoon press down on the brown sugar to create more room in the cup. A properly packed cup of brown sugar should retain the shape of the measuring cup when the brown sugar is turned upside down out of the cup.
Most all-purpose flours today come pre-sifted. It is important to never pack flour. To correctly measure flour, lightly fluff the flour with a spoon and gently place the flour in the measuring cup. It is important not to shake the cup back and forth as this will cause the flour to pack down. After gently filling the measuring cup with flour, use the handle of the spoon to slide across the top of the cup and remove the excess flour.
Measuring spoon measurements are intended to be level for both dry and liquid ingredients unless the recipe calls for a “heaping” measurement.
This holiday baking season, pass on not only the family cookie recipe but also proper technique. Maybe one day your daughter will be able to create her own family cookie recipe.