Getting measure of food correct

Burning Questions

March 22, 2006|By ERICA MARCUS | ERICA MARCUS,NEWSDAY

I have a recipe from an Italian cookbook for sugar cookies from Burano. It calls for 10 ounces of sugar and 16 ounces (1 pound) of flour. I converted the 10 ounces of sugar to 1 1/4 cups and the 16 ounces of flour to 2 cups. The cookies were delicious but much too crisp. They didn't resemble the ones we had in Burano. Could you please tell me what the correct measurements would be?

You've stumbled across one of the great home-baking debates: volume vs. weight. Liquids are always measured by volume, e.g. 1/2 cup white wine. Bulky solid foods are measured by weight, e.g. 2 pounds green beans.

In Europe, and among professional chefs in America, dry ingredients in baking recipes usually are measured by weight. Many common baking ingredients vary in volume because of how densely they are packed, and the level of moisture in the surrounding air.

Because of its granular nature, sugar volume is pretty consistent: 1 cup weighs about 7 ounces. But powdery ingredients such as flour, confectioners' sugar and cocoa are all over the map.

The Fannie Farmer Baking Book (Knopf) has a chart for converting volume to weight; it says that 1 cup of flour weighs 5 ounces. But when I weighed a cup of flour in my kitchen, it weighed 5 3/4 ounces, probably because it had been sitting around for a few months weighing upon itself.

By my admittedly imperfect calculations, you should have used about 1 3/8 cups of sugar and 3 1/2 cups of flour for your cookies. But if you regularly bake from European recipes, you probably should invest in a kitchen scale. It shouldn't set you back much more than $30.

Erica Marcus writes for Newsday. E-mail queries to burningquestions@newsday.com, or send them to Erica Marcus, Food/Part 2, Newsday, 235 Pinelawn Road, Melville, NY 11747-4250.

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