Baking authority Dorie Greenspan has co-authored baking books with the likes of Julia Child and France's Pierre Hermé. But my favorite is Greenspan's very own book, Baking: From My Home to Yours. She explains how to measure wet and dry ingredients for baking.
Lynne Rossetto Kasper: When it comes to measuring cups and spoons, what for you are the absolute necessities? What do you have to know about them?
Dorie Greenspan: You have to know that there are measuring cups and spoons for dry measuring -- ingredients such as flour and sugar -- and there are measuring cups for liquid ingredients, and they're not the same.
LRK: They're not interchangeable.
DG: No, they're not. For dry measuring, you need cups and spoons. There are great, heavy, plastic ones, and they come on rings. I never keep any of these things on rings, I always separate them. I always buy two sets, because when you're in the middle of working, there's often a time when you need to measure half a cup of something twice. It's always good to have a double set.
Use the dry measuring cups, fill the cup to overflowing, then take the back of a knife and level it. The same with measuring spoons: Fill them so that they're rounded, and then just sweep something across the top and level them.
LRK: I know from disastrous experience that you can get into a 1-cup measuring cup anything from 3 ounces to 6 ounces of flour, depending on how you actually measure. What are different ways that you measure with those dry measuring cups?
DG: There are two schools of dry measuring. School one is the spoon-and-sweep method. That's where you use a spoon to take out the flour and put it into the measuring cup. You lightly spoon it into the measuring cup until it's overflowing, and then you sweep it.
Then there's the scoop-and-sweep school. That was Julia's school, and that's the school that I belong to. I have a big bin of flour and I aerate it -- I stir it around with a knife or a whisk before I start measuring. Then I scoop my measuring cup into the flour bin, get it until it's overflowing and then sweep it.
There is a difference. It's not the difference between 3 ounces and 6 ounces, but it can be about a quarter of an ounce difference between spoon-and-sweep and scoop-and-sweep. I always advise people, if they're following a recipe in a cookbook, to read the cookbook. The author will normally tell you how he or she measured the flour when he or she was testing.
LRK: What about liquid measures -- the clear glass ones?
DG: Measuring liquid is an exercise in deep-knee bending. You need to have a see-through measuring cup -- I like to use glass. You pour in the liquid, then don't lift the measuring cup up to eye level, but do that deep-knee bend. Bend down so that you're at eye level with the measurement and see that you're on the line, that you've got the 1 cup that you want.
Oxo -- and a few other manufacturers, but I think Oxo was the first -- has done a very ingenious liquid measuring cup. Instead of bending down, you can look down because there's an angled measure within the measuring cup. You're pouring liquid in and you can see the measurement right there.
Don't measure your liquids in your dry measures. You're not going to get an accurate measure.