| Choosing a Scale
Digital and balance scales are preferred by professional bakers. Spring-loaded scales are not as precise, nor do they hold up well over time. Digital and balance scales can be recalibrated to maintain accuracy. That said, there are scales to suit every need. The more weight a scale can handle, and the greater its accuracy to within a gram, the more expensive it will be. For home cooks, there are inexpensive digital scales available that will hold up to 11 pounds and be accurate to within 1/4 ounce. These scales are fine to start with, and they also convert between grams and ounces.
Midsize bakeries have digital scales that handle more weight, so that chefs can place bowls onto the scale, tare the scale to zero, and scoop one ingredient after another into the bowl, taring the scale to zero after each. Often, when making cakes or cookies, a sifter is placed onto the bowl so that the dry ingredients are mixed and weighed all at once. These scales are usually accurate to within a few grams, which makes it possible to weigh small amounts of powerful ingredients like leavenings, salt, and spices. Otherwise, those ingredients should be measured by volume.
Digital scales may display weight differently. One scale may read 1 pound 12 ounces and another 1.75 pounds. The numbers are the same, but seeing ounces displayed as decimals can be confusing. The number 1.3125 looks ridiculous, but it is 1 pound 5 ounces, or 21 ounces. Such is the complexity of living with the English system, which the majority of Americans use. To make conversions easier, see the appendix for a list of decimal equivalents for fractions and decimal equivalents for ounces.
How I Measure
Everyone measures a little differently, and these differences often reveal a bias. In looking at my notes for this book, I notice that I have a bias toward a midsize bakery that employs four to eight bakers seven days a week. I also realized that much of how I measure I learned in home economics, well before I embarked on a culinary education. It was there that I first learned the difference between measuring dry and liquid ingredients.
In the back of this book is a list of volume and weight equivalents for many ingredients. I measure flours, cocoa, confectioners' sugar, and starches by the spoon-and-sweep method, which means I lightly spoon the ingredient into a measuring cup and sweep off the excess with the blade of a knife or spatula. I get 4.25 ounces of all-purpose flour per cup. If you merely dip your measuring cup into the flour, you will end up with between 5 and 5.5 ounces per cup. You can see the advantages of a scale already. Granulated sugar doesn't vary much between dipping or spooning, so I scoop it directly, but brown sugars I pack tightly into the cup.
I did not weigh the liquid ingredients; they are in fluid-ounce form. This is standard practice in small to midsize operations, except in breadmaking. Many bread bakeries have a special water system that allows the chef to instantly get a specific amount of water at a specific temperature, and the amounts are input by weight. The bread chapter lists liquid ingredients both by volume (fluid ounces) and weight (ounces).
Eggs are a special case. Some bakeries exclusively use eggs in the shell, and therefore specify a number of whole eggs, even for large batches. An equivalent number of bakeries use containers of frozen whole eggs, egg whites, and egg yolks. Large eggs are approximately 1.7 ounces out of the shell; for the larger batch I multiplied that times the number of eggs, so that the eggs may be scaled. You can easily convert back to a number of whole eggs. If the eggs are separated in the recipe, I provided the weight of the whites and yolks, respectively.
Leavenings, salt, and spices are listed by volume. In my opinion, only a scale accurate to within a gram or two is appropriate for measuring these things. The exception to this is in the bread chapter, where weights are listed for every ingredient to provide all the information necessary to use the baker's percentage system.