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bethCookies (and other weighty subjects)

bethCookies

How much does a cup of flour weigh? Seems like a simple question, but it is actually anything but:

  • What kind of flour: all-purpose, cake, bread, pastry? (Whole grains just complicate this equation so we are not going there…not today anyway.)
  • Sifted: before measuring, after, or not at all?
  • Scooped from a container or spooned into the measuring cup?
  • Measured while hopping on your left foot or right?

(Okay, I made the last one up, but you know what? It might actually make a difference because the shaking would make the flour settle…in which case, more would fit in your cup! Determining this, however, would require a complex equation taking into account your weight, the structural integrity of your kitchen floor, and how often heavy trucks drive by and shake the flour before measuring. Too much work.)

In any case, depending on who you ask, and how they measure, a cup of flour can range from about 3 ounces to about 6! Even the mid-range is 4 1/4 – 5 1/2, which is a huge difference when you are baking. One article I came across said: "I can make a cup weigh almost anything I want."  Now, isn't that helpful?

I must admit that as I write this, I am amazed, in a "we can put a man on the moon but we can't…" sort of way. It's a cup of flour, after all, not rocket surgery!

I care about this for two reasons.

First, it really bothers me that people blame themselves when a new recipe fails. Measuring a cup of flour is dirt simple stuff, yet the experts can't even agree amongst themselves. This is a rant for another time, but for now I must say this:

If you bake something and it doesn't come out quite right—heck, even if it is a total failure—don't blame yourself. All books have typos, the rigor of recipe testing varies from book to book, environmental factors matter (there are a number of baked items that you shouldn't bother to make on rainy days), and nobody knows how much a cup of flour weighs!

Second, and more pertinent even if less important, see those cookies at the top of this article?

Studded with chocolate chips and macadamias, laced with coconut, with a generous helping of oatmeal; the whole blending into a chewy cookie with a hint of caramel/molasses that uses enough flour to hold everything together but only just. Those are my signature cookies: bethCookies.

They totally rock. I have been making them for two decades. They are simple to make, relatively hard to screw up, and I can recite the recipe in my sleep.

And then there are these. Those are what I made when I was verifying the measurements prior to writing this article. You see, I always weigh ingredients when I bake. Because, well, even I know how much 7 ounces of flour weighs, even if I don't know how many cups it is. bad bethCookies When writing recipes, however, one must use volume measurements for the American audience, or so says The Recipe Writer's Handbook.

So I converted the weight to cups using my standard ratio of 4 1/2 ounces to 1 cup. Apparently that is just plain wrong. At least when measured by scooping flour into a black measuring cup in the northern hemisphere of planet earth on a Tuesday while standing still except for the cat nudging my ankles.

The genuine bethCookies have 7 ounces of flour. Those others—the imposters—well, they have a smidge over 1 1/2 cups, which could be anywhere between 4 1/2 and 9 ounces. (It was actually about 8 1/2.)

Excuse me while I scream!

Frustrating though this is, I even know exactly how I got here. When I bought a kitchen scale a few years ago, it was because weighing 6-7 cups of flour every time I baked bread was tedious, not to mention of questionable accuracy. Just how questionbethCookiesable would become apparent later: last Tuesday to be exact.

When I got the scale, I was doing a lot of bread baking from books by Peter Rei nhart, and he uses 4.5 ounces for a cup of flour. Bread recipes, both Reinhart's and others, worked within reasonable tolerances—and what bread recipe ever used exactly the specified amount of flour? 

So, in my kitchen a cup was 4 1/2 ounces. I labeled all the flour containers so I wouldn't have to remember. Some cookbooks have both volume and weights, which saved me the conversion hassle, while others have collected scribbled weights in their margins as I have used them. Still, a cup of flour has been 4 1/2 ounces, unless otherwise specified.

Case closed.

…claps hands together to dust flour off of them…

Or maybe not.

bethCookies

bethCookies
These are my signature cookies. Studded with chocolate chips and macadamias, laced with coconut, with a generous helping of oatmeal; the whole blending into a chewy cookie with a hint of caramel/molasses that uses enough flour to hold everything together but only just.

makes 4 1/2 dozen
Prep Time

Cook Time

Total Time

Ingredients:

butter, 1 cup, (8 oz / 224 gr)
sugar, 1/2 cup, (3 1/2 oz / 98 gr)
brown sugar, 1 cup, (7 1/4 oz / 200 gr)
eggs, 2 large
vanilla extract, 1 teaspoon, (5 gr)
all-purpose flour, 1 1/2 cups, (7 ounces / 196 gr) see note
salt, 1/2 teaspoon
baking soda, 1 teaspoon
chocolate chips, 2 cups, (12 oz / 336 gr)
rolled oats, 2 cups, (7 1/4 oz / 203 gr)
coconut flakes, 1 cup, (4 1/4 oz / 119 gr)
macadamia nuts, chopped, 1 cup, (4 1/2 oz / 126 gr)

Directions:

Preheat oven to 375°. Have all ingredients at room temperature.

1. Cream the butter and sugars until combined.

2. Add eggs and vanilla and beat for one minute until well blended, stirring down sides of bowl once.

3. Combine flour, baking soda, and salt. Add to butter mixture and beat on medium until the flour is mostly incorporated.

4. Add oatmeal, chocolate chips, coconut, and nuts and continue mixing until they are well distributed.

5. Drop heaping, rounded teaspoonfuls of dough on parchment-lined (or greased) cookie sheet. I use my 1 1/4 ounce scoop making equal size cookies fast and easy. The cookies bake at the same speed and, as an added bonus, you can avoid the trauma of a sibling getting a larger cookie.

6. Bake for 12-15 minutes, until they are sort of spread out and golden brown. Try to let them cool enough that the chocolate doesn't scorch the roof of your mouth (about 90 seconds—not that I was counting).

recipe source     Published     By

If you want to improve your baking skills, you really should get a digital scale. For about $25us, you can get any of a number of very cool scales. When you get your scale, weigh some flour for yourself and decide what your cup of flour weighs. Make notes in your cookbooks. The effort you put into baking will have more reliable results, you will come to enjoy it more, and probably do it more often. Not so bad for a few dollar investment.

 

This recipe appears in my cookbook, Picture Yourself Cooking With Your Kids.

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