The measured amount of each ingredient you put into a dish is directly related to the outcome of the dish. The reason we have measured recipes is because someone a long time ago discovered that so much of this and so much of that made a pleasing combination. They then wrote it down to share with their friends. In these recipes the amounts and combinations of ingredients have been carefully calculated to expose you to a wide range of pleasurable taste experiences. So, please don’t alter the measurements in a recipe until you’ve tried it once. Then the next time experiment. This way you’ll have a solid base from which to judge your likes and dislikes, and to make adjustments accordingly.
There are many ways to measure with measuring utensils. You can scoop, pile, measure scantily, or measure level. Throughout these recipes we use level measurements for all measurements unless otherwise specified. By level we mean filling the teaspoon, tablespoon or cup level with its rim.
SCOOP AND SCRAPE
Many people, especially those just learning to cook, don’t know how to measure accurately, so I’m going to go into a little more detail here via teaching examples.
Take a ruler. Measure something with it. What do you look at? The numbers and the lines between each number. You place the ruler on the item being measured -one end of the ruler at one end of the item, then you look at the opposite edge of the item and where the ruler lines up to it. You look at the number or the lines between two numbers to see how wide, deep, long, high it is. You don’t go beyond the line on the ruler, where the line and the item meet.
Take a thermometer for checking fevers – the oral kind. Take your temperature. Where does the mercury end? At a number or at a line between numbers. If the mercury and line meet at 99 degrees, that’s your temperature. You don’t say it’s 98 or 100 degrees. You measure accurately.
Take a 1 cup measuring cup. Measure 1 cup of water with it. You fill it to the top, right? You don’t under-fill it, and you can’t over-fill it, because it will spill over.
Take another 1 cup measuring cup. Measure 1 cup of flour with it. Do you under-fill it to 3/4 cup? You’re not supposed to if you want to measure 1 cup accurately. Do you over-fill it, so it looks rounded or looks like a hill in the cup? Many people do. If you over-fill a cup by scooping out a bunch from the flour jar, then you’re not measuring 1 cup. You’re measuring more than 1 cup.
Take a 1 teaspoon measuring spoon. Measure out 1 teaspoon of baking soda. If you don’t fill it, it’s not a teaspoonful, it’s less than that. If you scoop the baking soda out of the box, then you have more than 1 teaspoonful. You don’t really know how much you have, because you didn’t measure accurately.
Always scoop, then scrape off excess flush with the rim for accurate measurement. Using the flat side of a table knife produces the most accurate measurement flush with the rim. Many people think that takes too long and use their fingers to scrape instead. That’s okay as long as it’s a clean, sharp, even scrape.
USING YOUR MEASURING UTENSILS. Liquid measuring cups and dry measuring cups are equal in terms of measurement, or at least they’re supposed to be. Sometimes there are discrepancies depending on the manufacturer. Most often I use the dry measuring cup for liquids, simply because it takes longer with a liquid measuring cup, that I have to put on a flat surface at eye level to look for the line and then make adjustments. And often times I’ll use a large four cup liquid measuring cup if, for instance, I’m measuring out four cups of diced cabbage.
It’s probably a good idea to have two sets of measuring spoons and measuring cups for the sake of efficiency. If you use a one cup measure for liquid and then have to measure a dry ingredient, you won’t have to rinse and dry the cup before using it. Same goes for the spoons.
If you store your flours in containers, always fluff them up with a scoop to aerate them before measuring, so you don’t get a ‘packed’ effect.
3 teaspoons = 1 tablespoon
2 tablespoons = 1/8 cup
4 tablespoons = 1/4 cup
5-1/3 tablespoons (5 tablespoons plus 1 teaspoon) = 1/3 cup
8 tablespoons = 1/2 cup (which is what a stick of margarine contains)
10-2/3 tablespoons (10 tablespoons plus 2 teaspoons) = 2/3 cup
12 tablespoons = 3/4 cup
16 tablespoons = 1 cup
2 tablespoons = 1 liquid ounce
4 tablespoons = 2 liquid ounces
8 tablespoons = 4 liquid ounces
16 tablespoons or 1 cup = 8 liquid ounces or 1/2 liquid pint
2 cups = 1 liquid pint
4 cups = 2 liquid pints or 1 liquid quart
2 quarts = 1/2 liquid gallon
4 quarts = 1 liquid gallon
CONVERTING RECIPES TO METRIC MEASURES.
Volume Conversions: Normally used for liquids only
1 teaspoon 5 mL 1 tablespoon or 1/2 fluid ounce 15 mL 1 fluid ounce or 1/8 cup 30 mL 1/4 cup or 2 fluid ounces 60 mL 1/3 cup 80 mL 1/2 cup or 4 fluid ounces 120 mL 2/3 cup 160 mL 3/4 cup or 6 fluid ounces 180 mL 1 cup or 8 fluid ounces or half a pint 240 mL 1 1/2 cups or 12 fluid ounces 350 mL 2 cups or 1 pint or 16 fluid ounces 475 mL 3 cups or 1 1/2 pints 700 mL 4 cups or 2 pints or 1 quart 950 mL 4 quarts or 1 gallon 3.8 L Note: In cases where higher precision is not justified, itmay be convenient to round these conversions off as follows:1 cup = 250 mL1 pint = 500 mL1 quart = 1 L1 gallon = 4 L
Customary quantity Metric equivalent 1 ounce 28 g 4 ounces or 1/4 pound 113 g 1/3 pound 150 g 8 ounces or 1/2 pound 230 g 2/3 pound 300 g 12 ounces or 3/4 pound 340 g 1 pound or 16 ounces 450 g 2 pounds 900 g
For more information on converting to metric measures please visit: http://jsward.com/cooking/conversion.shtml
Altering recipes. There are two common temptations to alter a recipe. First: If we have a little bit extra of an ingredient we’ll add it to the dish rather than discard or store it. Please don’t add a little extra of anything no matter what the reason. Freeze it, store it, dump it. Do anything but upset the balance of the recipe. It’s not worth ruining a dish over, and an extra handful of some ingredients can do just that. If you feel strongly about throwing bits of food away, then store them in a covered container in your refrigerator throughout the week. At the end of the week challenge yourself by doing something creative with them.
The second temptation to alter a recipe is that we have preconceived notions of how much spice we’re going to allow ourselves to use in any given recipe, regardless of the recommendation. For instance, we’ll say to ourselves.”Oh, I don’t think I’ll like that much curry, so I’ll use just a dash”, instead of the recommended tablespoon. By doing this we deprive ourselves of new taste experiences, which is what cooking animal-free is all about. I understand that for some of you, trying something new will take a little or even a lot of courage. But accept the challenge and develop a sense of adventure by allowing yourself the freedom to try something different. You might just like it. Let your palate be the judge.
More importantly though, by changing the amount of spice in a recipe to suit what you think you’ll like or dislike, especially if you change it by a significant amount, you attempt to convert a spicy dish to a bland one (if you reduce the amount of spice), or a bland dish to a spicy one (if you increase the amount of spice). Frankly, this cannot be done successfully without altering the other ingredients in a recipe. Why is this so? Because a spicy dish is built around ingredients that support the spice, and a bland dish around ingredients that depend more upon the ingredients than the spice for flavor. So, it’s best to keep a bland dish bland, and a spicy dish spicy. Then you pick and choose those which you like.
Now, to get back to measurement of a different sort. It is a good idea to keep a ruler in the kitchen in case you forgot what 1/4, 1/2, or 1 inch looks like; and that’s pretty easy to do, especially when you get down to very small measurements.
Get accustomed to measurement, since this is my primary way of communicating with you.