Small-Scale Thinking

In the past I have recommended (OK, scolded, ranted, pleaded) that you weigh your baking ingredients. Are you doing that?

Do you have a kitchen scale that gets a workout every time you bake? Yay!

Are you using that scale to weigh all of your ingredients? Not so fast.

Most kitchen scales have a resolution of one or two grams. That means that if you need to measure in small amounts, which is common for things like yeast and salt, it is very difficult to be accurate.

If you needed, say, 2 grams of instant yeast, and you tried to measure that on your 1-gram-resolution scale, you could wind up with anything from 1.5 to 2.5 grams. That’s a 25% margin of error, even assuming the scale is perfectly calibrated. If you’re weighing only one gram, the margin of error goes up to 50%, and if you need less than a gram, you might as well just let lemurs weigh it out for you.

Being the conscientious baker (ok, the phrase “compulsive geek” could come to mind) that I am, this is not okay with me. (Maybe it’s okay with you, and I’m okay with it being okay with you, but it’s still not okay with me. Okay?)

I’m really liking this new Admetior spoon scale. It’s fairly inexpensive, compact, and spot-on accurate, as corroborated by my earlier MyWeigh Axe, which I also like but is a little pricier. Both have 0.1-gram resolutions and can handle up to 300 grams.

Until you can get your hands on one of these little gems, I suggest using good old-fashioned measuring spoons in most cases where you need 10 grams or less. Here are some conversions for ingredients commonly called for in small amounts:

Instant yeast: 1 teaspoon = 3.1 grams; 1 gram = 0.32 (1/3) teaspoon

Table salt (not Kosher): 1 teaspoon = 6 grams; 1 gram = 0.17 (1/6) teaspoon

Diastatic malt powder: 1 teaspoon = 3.5 grams; 1 gram = 0.29 (between 1/4 and 1/3) teaspoon

Ground cinnamon:  1 teaspoon = 2.6 grams; 1 gram = 0.38 (3/8) teaspoon

Active dry yeast: 1 teaspoon = 4 grams; 1 gram = 0.25 (1/4) teaspoon

Remember that the more “compactable” the ingredient is, the less accurate volume measurements are. And of course it wouldn’t hurt to have some of those small and odd-sized measuring spoons! (But if you’re going to spring for those, why not just get the scale? You saw where this was going, didn’t you?)

If you have a very small amount to measure, here’s a strategy that works for things that disperse evenly in water, such as yeast and salt:

Let’s say you’re making a sponge that calls for 0.2 grams of yeast. That amount would be difficult to measure with even the smallest of measuring spoons. So do something like this: take one gram (1/3 teaspoon) of yeast and disperse it in 100 grams of warm water. Let it stand for a few minutes. Now you have one gram of yeast in 100 grams of water. If you weigh out 20 grams of the yeasted water, it will contain 0.2 grams (or close enough) of yeast. Don’t forget to reduce the amount of additional water you put into the sponge by 20 grams.

Of course this won’t work for things that don’t have water as an ingredient. It is also slightly wasteful, but on the other hand, how much will be wasted if you bake a doorstop because your yeast was incorrectly measured?

Or you could just get the scale.

CommentsLeave a comment

  1. says

    I like to think that I can ‘remember’ weights and measures, but heck, who am I kidding…if I ever needed a cheat sheet, it’s now! I’m printing this little item off and scotch-taping it to the inside of my spice cabinet. Oh, and that neat little spoon scale? I’m SO gonna get me one.

  2. says

    I have made things with incorrect amount of yeast before, I am sure. I like the trick of dissolving the yeast in water and then measuring the water, it is a good tip.

    Happy Baking!

  3. says

    I depleted the batteries of my scale with holiday baking. I was measuring out the flour into a mixing bowl of starter+water when it died, and then I had to figure out everything else based on feel.
    That spoon-scale is awesome. :D

  4. says

    I have exactly the same spoon scale which is sold here in Germany under a different brand name. It is really hepful for things like yeast and salt and I am glad I have it! But your chard is awesome too!

  5. Caroline says

    Oh dear, another must-have. Since most of the stuff you recommend has to be ordered from the US, I usually buy a few of them (to compensate for the shipping costs) and give them to friends, so you are now responsible for flooding Holland with Superpeels etcetera.

  6. says

    I do have a digital scale for ingredients, that handily switches back and forth from imperial to metric. And I bought a small increment little scale for recipes that put small things like yeast and salt by weight. Very handy indeed! That being said.. if I ever saw those spoons I would buy them in a heartbeat as they are so cool!

  7. says

    As I’ve become more serious about bread baking the need for a good scale has become evident. My darling daughter gave me one for Christmas that converts from pounds to metric…Yay!. It is supposed to weigh very small amounts, but I’ve not tried it yet…looks like a good thing to do considering this post. Thanks for such great information.

  8. says

    Weighing ingredients is more the norm for home cooks on my side of the Atlantic – volume-based measurements just wreck my head! I’d never come across those nifty measuring spoons, though, very neat.

  9. says

    Yeast? Salt?
    Gramma had it figured out – some things got a small pinch, some got a bigger pinch – some even got two pinches.

    Gramma was the best baker I ever knew!

  10. says

    What an absolute gem of info this is….. I love the spoons. Please let me know when you’re having a giveaway :-). Just kidding…a little bit! And next time, I’ll know how to weigh my yeast!!!

  11. Davoid says

    Really enjoyed this article, your personality made me laugh.
    It’s good to see someone else who likes to be accurate (and geeky) about measuring.
    I will read more of your articles…


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