Do You Scoop and Swoop…or are You a Spooner? How You Measure Flour Affects Your Baking Success

On February 15, 2014, by Glenda Embree- BusyAtHome
Share Button

This post is all about sharing a secret that every successful baker must understand.  Armed with this knowledge, you will be well on your way to becoming a baking GIANT!  (or moderately sized with a GIANT baking heart, if you prefer.)  At least in your own kitchen.  :) It IS true that cooking a great savory […]

Share Button

This post is all about sharing a secret that every successful baker must understand.  Armed with this knowledge, you will be well on your way to becoming a baking GIANT!  (or moderately sized with a GIANT baking heart, if you prefer.)  At least in your own kitchen.  :)

homemade baguettes

Mastering the “baking basic” that I’m sharing, today, will have you tackling recipes without fear and winning! In a few weeks, I’m going to show you how to make these totally delish, crisp and chewy on the outside, soft and tender on the inside, baguettes. You can DEFINITELY do it!

It IS true that cooking a great savory dish leaves a little more wiggle room for experimentation and creating a smashing success with just about whatever happens to be in your pantry.  A little of this, a dash of that and maybe even some of that leftover chicken from last night’s dinner and you can whip up a culinary masterpiece, with ease.

The chemistry of baking, on the other hand, is a little more particular, and requires precise measuring to create the necessary reactions when specific ingredients, in specific amounts, are combined.  Intimidating?  It doesn’t have to be.  As a matter of fact with just a little knowledge and a collection of basic formulas for the baked goods you love most, you can be comfortable baking every day.  AND, the more you practice, the more comfortable you will be to use what you know to experiment and get creative with baking, just the way you do when you’re cooking.

That’s the basis for a whole new category of posts I want to share with you in 2014 — Baking Basics. You’ll see it in the menu tabs above, and I’m hoping it will fill up quickly with posts you can reference, when you have questions. Identifying yourself as a scoop and swooper or a spooner is the first important baking basic I want you to think about, as it has a tremendous impact on your success when you’re baking.

WonderMill Flour Mill

My new WonderMill. I LOVE being able to use my own freshly-milled flour in our baked goods!

So, what’s the verdict? Are you a “scoop and swooper” or a “spoon and leveler”?  What about the recipes you use?  Were their authors scoopers or spooners?  It may not seem like a big deal, but I promise, understanding the difference will help you achieve much more consistent results when you bake.  Until I started baking large batches of breads, cakes or cookies for freezer cooking, I didn’t realize how significantly the way I measured flour would affect my final product.  After some time experimenting, I’m convinced that some of my friends who say they love to cook, but can’t bake, may find that this simple knowledge can change their minds.

measuring flour

The WAY you measure flour can make a huge difference in your finished baked goods. Do you scoop your flour or spoon it into the cup before leveling?  Neither is necessarily wrong, but they each result in vastly different outcomes.  Even baking experts don’t agree which is best, though they DO agree the difference is important.

The scoop and swoop method is exactly what it sounds like.  You dip your measuring cup into the canister to fill it and use a finger to swoop the little mound off, making the flour level with the top of the measuring cup.  Spooners add flour to their measuring cup, a little at a time, and then using the flat edge of a table knife or some other straight edge, level the top with great precision.  Each method incorporates a different amount of air into the flour and affects how much flour is actually in the cup.  Scooping and swooping adds more flour (by weight) to your recipe — as much as 20% more, depending on how vigorous a scooper you are.  :)  If you’re baking a recipe that calls for 4 cups of flour and the recipe’s author was a spooner, but you scooped, you would end up adding almost a whole cup more flour than the original author used in her recipe.  And when you are baking multiple loaves of bread, where 12 – 15 cups of flour may be used at one time, that difference becomes even more significant, using 3 or more extra cups of flour, compared to the original recipe’s author.  Holy bread brick, Batman!

No wonder so many people think they can’t bake.  This is quite a dilemma, since I don’t think I have EVER seen a recipe that stated whether the author scooped and swooped or spooned and leveled.  What’s a perfectionistic, wanna-be GIANT supposed to do?  Ideally, I would convince all of you to measure your flour by weight  and every recipe would be written with weight measurements.   The reality is, that’s probably not going to happen.  Oh, I’m definitely going to get some of you weighing your flour, but those of you who don’t have access to a scale, can still be great bakers.  You just have to keep certain facts in mind.

Finesseur Digital Scale

This Finesseur scale is the one I use. It’s a little pricey and you can definitely find cheaper models, but I was investing for long term use and I specifically wanted the tare feature that allows me to zero out the weight when I set an empty bowl or cup onto it, to measure ingredients into. I can quickly convert from pounds to ounces to grams, with the touch of a button. I really like this model. Whichever one you end up selecting, be sure you get digital, that can measure precisely in even small fractions of an ounce.

  1. If you don’t personally know the recipe’s author and how the flour was measured, your first attempt at making the recipe is ALWAYS going to be a trial run.  Don’t give up if a recipe doesn’t turn out the first time.  It may be as simple as adjusting the way you measured the flour, so always keep track of what method you used and try, again, using the other method.
  2. If the recipe gives weight measurements (oz or gm), in addition to volume (cups), then weigh your flour to get results consistent with the author’s.
  3. If you have a kitchen scale, you can update the recipes you use most often, and new ones that you try, by measuring out the flour in cups and then weighing the total amount.  Note the ounces and grams measurement on the recipe, so anyone using the recipe after you, will have access to the most accurate measurements and you won’t have to rely on memory when baking it, in the future.
  4. Be consistent in the method you use for measuring flour when you create your own recipes.  You’ll want to share with others who use it, what method you use, so they can come as close to duplicating your method, as possible.

    weighing flour on a digital kitchen scale

    I am a scoop and swooper, by nature, and I found that measuring in this way was yielding me, on average, 5 ounces of flour in each cup, when measuring finely ground, whole wheat flour. (Yes, the coarseness and type of flour you’re using can affect the volume, too.) Even more reason that weighing is a more trustworthy method of measuring every type of flour.

  5. If you can afford it, buy a kitchen scale.  Successful bakers and chefs rely on this method to achieve consistent results every time they bake.  5 ounces of flour is 5 ounces of flour whether you scoop it up in a cup or you spoon it delicately into the bowl.  It is the most accurate way to measure and to help ensure baking success.

    weighing flour

    When I spooned and leveled a cup of flour, the average weight ended up being 4.4 ounces. That doesn’t seem like a huge difference between the two methods — only .6 oz per cup. But what if a recipe called for 4 cups of flour. The difference then would be more than 1/8 cup for the total recipe. And for mixing up multiple loaves of bread, as I do, it would be more than a one cup difference. Baked goods with too much flour become dry, hard and crumbly. With too little flour, they can be doughy, not hold their form or spread too much. Are you starting to see why weighing flour can be the difference between success and failure when baking.

To give you one final illustration of the differences between volume measurement and weight measurement when it comes to flour, and why weighing is far superior, let me show you two bags of flour I recently milled.  One was milled from hard white wheat berries, the other from Einkorn wheat berries (an ancient variety, without all the modern-day modifications).  In a recipe, if I were using volume measurements, I would need almost twice as many cups of Einkorn flour to achieve the results I had with hard white.  Someone creating a recipe that says use x amount of cups of either one, would have to note what specific wheat their flour was milled from to get the same results for anyone else who used the recipe.  However, if they gave weight measurements, the recipe, as written, would work with either flour.

two bags of home ground flour

The difference in volume, between the two varieties is significant, but within .2 oz, for the entire bag, their weight is identical.

Have I convinced you, yet?  Are you already in the car on the way to Walmart to buy a kitchen scale?  :)  There are other factors that can affect the favorable results of your final baked products, but accurately measuring flour is at the top of the list.   From now on, recipes I publish, here, at Busy-at-Home will give both volume and weight measurements and if you don’t have access to a scale, you’ll know I scooped and swooped for the results I got, so you should, too.  :)

How do you measure flour?  Have you ever been frustrated to follow a recipe exactly and still not have it turn out?  What’s your greatest baking fear?  Success?  What puzzles you about baking or what questions would you love to have answered about baking?  I’m anxious to show you that you can be an extraordinary baker and I’ll help with all I can.

Now, go bake something amazing!  You can do it!

My Kitchen Wish List: a Kitchen Scale & a Food Processor @MyCuisinart @KitchenAidUSA @BrevilleUSA @BoschAppliances

On July 23, 2011, by Glenda Embree- BusyAtHome
Share Button

There are always kitchen gadgets and gizmos that I think would be SO cool to have, but at the moment, there are a couple of basics that I am interested in adding to my kitchen tool arsenal.  I have no idea where to start as far as brands, features, etc.  So, any help that you […]

Share Button

There are always kitchen gadgets and gizmos that I think would be SO cool to have, but at the moment, there are a couple of basics that I am interested in adding to my kitchen tool arsenal.  I have no idea where to start as far as brands, features, etc.  So, any help that you all can offer would be truly, truly appreciated.

  1. kitchen scaleI would really like to have a good digital kitchen scale for baking.  There are some recipes where measuring by weight is so much more accurate than volume.  Don’t believe me?  Measure one cup of flour, then have your neighbor measure one cup of flour.  Now, weigh each cup on a kitchen scale.  The fluctuation can be profound!  It’s because some people are “scoop” measurers (which packs the flour into your cup) and others are “sprinkle and level” measurers (the cooking school “correct” method, by the way, for accuracy in most recipes).  The variance in these methods can be critical in some recipes, especially if you don’t know the kind of measurer the author was.  Weighing out flour in grams, insures you get the same amount every time and the same result from your favorite recipes.  It would have to be  large capacity and have a good tare function and consistent accuracy.  Yup, I really do need a good kitchen scale.
  2. food processorI’ve been a hold out on buying a food processor for years, and until recently, didn’t feel the need for one.  I have an amazing blender attachment for my Bosch that I have used with good success.  750 watts of raw power has been more than adequate for anything I’ve done, to date.  However, I am finding that some of the recipes I have tried lately, just don’t work as well in the quantities I want to make and that the shape of the blender pitcher is not as handy or efficient as the bowl of a food processor would be.  Two things a food processor would have to have are: 1) a large capacity and 2) power.  I need plenty of space for larger recipes and I don’t want to worry about burning up the motor if I’m working on a stiffer product.

So, which brands do you use?  Do you love it?  Hate it?  What would you recommend?  I really need your input on this one.  Maybe I’ll find some to review.  Thanks so much for all your help!  You guys are awesome!!

wordpress themes