What do I need to bake like a French Chef? The Right Tools & Utensils (2): a scale

This might be THE most useful tool in your kitchen.

I was born and raised in France, with the metric system, I’ve always seen a scale in the kitchen and to me it doesn’t make sense to use cups, spoons and the Imperial system units of measures. Honestly, when you only want to do half of a recipe, isn’t it easier to divide 400g in 2 (200g) than 1 3/4 cups in 2 (I can’t even do that one)?

And because the density of each ingredient is different, the weight of 1 cup of sugar won’t equal the weight of 1 cup of flour for example. For some cakes it doesn’t really matter because you go by volume. A very popular cake that many French mothers bake with their kids is the gâteau au yaourt, a kind of pound cake with yogurt and oil (instead of butter) where the yogurt container is used to measure the other ingredients.

 

But take the macarons for example, you need the same weight of sugar, almond flour and icing sugar. At that point it’s just easier to buy a scale than do the conversions in cups. Especially because depending on the coarseness of your almond flour (or sugar) or the way you fill it, a cup measurement could be far from accurate. A heavily packed cup will weigh more than a fluffed one, 1 cup of fine almond flour will weigh more than 1 cup of coarse flour.

In French pastry arts, most recipes require to be accurate for the subtle chemistry to work. Scaling up or down is always delicate because some ingredients will behave slightly differently when the mass/volume is larger (you have to be careful when scaling up a recipe with a lot of liquid like a syrup for meringue) but at least you have more control over what you’re measuring with a scale.

If you prefer using pounds and ounces, that’s alright though, scales (at least in Canada) usually have an option to switch from metric to Imperial. Once you’re used to using a scale, you won’t go back to cups. Hopefully the US will come to that realization as well some day! When I follow a recipe initially in cups, I usually take the extra time to do the conversions and/or weigh my ingredients so that I’ll have a recipe in grams the next time I want to make it.

When I was a child, we were using an old school mechanical scale (a smaller version for the kitchen of the body weight dial scales), which was fine but not very precise (more than cups though!).

Nowadays digital scales are more affordable and come in all sizes, that’s what we use in professional kitchens.

At home, we have something similar to this one:

Smart Weigh Digital Glass Top Kitchen and Food Scale

and we had one of these at the bakery:

Ozeri ZK14-R Pronto Digital Multifunction Kitchen and Food Scale

 

A tiny precision digital scales can come in handy too. I use it sometimes in the bakery kitchen instead of teaspoons (it holds up to 100g) and A LOT when I make my own skincare products where the batches are much smaller.

American Weigh Signature Series Black AWS-100 Digital Pocket Scale, 100 by 0.01 G

And because sometimes we can’t avoid it, here’s a link to a conversion tool:

http://www.onlineconversion.com/weight_volume_cooking.htm

or you can just google what you’re looking for! (ex: 1 cup of flour to grams, 1 cup syrup to grams)