Our adventures in measuring began when Daughter decided she’d like to bake some Peanut Butter and Oat bars that she had seen on Frugal Girl’s Baking with Lisey blog.
Great idea! We’d got most of the ingredients, bar corn syrup (we couldn’t find this locally and settled for rice syrup instead). I’d noticed that American recipes are in cups, but surely it wouldn’t be too difficult to convert? After all, my own measuring system is very idiosyncratic.
I learned to cook in the days when metric measurements were just starting to be used in recipes at my school. I can swap ounces for grams easily, but rely on a decent measuring jug for converting fluid ounces to millilitres.
I also get by with a certain amount of scooping and measuring by eye. For instance I know that a matchbox sized piece of cheese or butter approximates to an ounce or 25g, and a heaped dessert spoonful of sugar or flour is also roughly an ounce or 25g.
So we thought the Peanut Butter bar recipe would be easy. Wrong! For a start, I found that none of my recipe books includes a conversion table for ‘cups’. Online, I discovered that ‘one cup’ has a different conversion depending on what you are measuring. For instance, ‘one cup’ of rice is 225g whereas ‘one cup’ of flour is 115g. We needed to measure oats...so decided to work on the basis that a cup of oats would fall somewhere between 115g and 225g.
Sugar should be easy, yes? No! ‘One cup’ of brown sugar is 180g, whereas ‘one cup’ of granulated sugar is 225g.
Butter? The recipe called for ¾ cup of butter, but the conversion table I was using only talked about sticks of butter…so now I needed to convert from sticks to cups to grams…
By this time I was getting a headache. Especially when I read that if I ever want to cook an Australian recipe, they also measure in ‘cups’ but their ‘cups’ are different to American ‘cups’! Despite metric measurements supposedly having swept around the world after the French revolution, the reality seems to be that things have not moved on much from the days when measurements were defined locally, according to the size of the King’s thumb or big toe.
We found some conversion charts online, but not all were thorough enough and listed the ingredients we needed. The most useful charts we could find were at The Metric Kitchen. There are also online conversion calculators such as convert-me.com, where you stick in your ingredient and it will convert the amount for you. This is a little tedious to say the least! My lovely blogging friend Lili at Creative Savv and I discussed measurements and she has also written a great ‘measurements’ blog post today which includes some conversion charts. She has kindly started including metric measurements in the recipes which she posts on her blog.
My own conclusion is that if you can’t beat ‘em, join ‘em! The US will probably still have ‘cup’ measurements for some time to come (even though metrification is now complete in most countries except the US, Liberia and Burma), so if you are frequently going to be using American recipes, the best thing you can do is to acquire a set of measuring cups or a Tala cone.
In the interests of fostering transatlantic recipe relations, I have one fabulous secondhand Tala measuring cone to give away to
Meanwhile Lili thinks it’s very quaint that in Wiltshire I measure everything out so precisely, and I imagine her in Seattle scooping and splashing away, rather like the Swedish Chef from the Muppets!