Cooking is an art; baking is a science.
Coming from parents who were/are scientists, my early cooking tutelage was often based upon the science behind the cuisine. Why flour thickens sauces, how sugar works and melts, why meat browns, why egg whites whip up.
When one is baking, the science must be exact. If you do not accurately measure or weigh your ingredients, beat things to the correct consistency or bake things to the right temperature your finished dessert will not turn out the way the recipe intends. The type of ingredient used in a recipe also matters. If you use skim milk in lieu of whole milk, for example, the resulting dessert will not be as creamy or thicken properly.
Lately, my mom and I have been plagued with a series of desserts that did not come out the way we had planned. The vanilla panna cotta was thin and watery and on two occasions the family favorite, fluffy tapioca pudding, did not set up. We were perplexed. We tried the recipes again, ensure we were using whole milk and large eggs, not the usual gut-busting jumbo eggs available here in the country, much larger than citified jumbo eggs. Again, the tapioca was more like a creme Anglaise or tapioca soup. It was so disappointing.
Today, while I was baking orange blossom pecan bars with marmalade, mOm had a brilliant thought. She pulled out the measuring spoons and remarked, “I wonder if these new (rectangular) measuring spoons measure out the same as our old redoubtable measuring spoons?”
Immediately, we dropped everything and pulled out the kitchen scale, the sugar jar and all the measuring spoons we could find in the kitchen drawers.
We compared the Norpro rectangular measuring spoons, which we used for our ill-fated tapioca preparations earlier in the week, and a set by Tupperware from the ’70’s, and the set we call the “old redoubtable” that have been in the family since the ’50’s, aluminum and oxidized to a powdery finish after being washed in the dishwasher, a wedding gift to mOm from Aunt Marg.
The Norpro measuring spoons were purchased recently at a high-end cook shop and are also found everywhere in catalogs.
According to a standard conversion chart, one tablespoon is equivalent to 14.235 grams. Our measuring spoons resulted in the following for 1 tablespoon of sugar, scooped and leveled:
- Norpro rectangular: 11 grams
- Old-fashioned aluminum: 14 grams
- Tupperware plastic: 16 grams
What a shocker!
We rarely use the Tupperware spoons because they are old and ucky. We always had, in the past, used the vintage aluminum measuring spoons but they are getting on in years and don’t fit into small jars and boxes with the ease of the Norpro’s rectangular measuring spoons. But no longer!
“If they aren’t accurate, they aren’t useful.” mOm says. Spoken like a true scientist.
A difference of 3 grams too few with the Norpro or 2 grams too many with the Tupperware can make a huge difference in the result of your finished dish.
In the case of our soupy tapioca pudding, the recipe calls for 6 T of tapioca, and by using the faulty Norpro measuring spoon the recipe was short 18 grams of tapioca, over a full tablespoon! No wonder the darn thing did not set up and was like soup.
If you have a set of these Norpro rectangular measuring spoons, please do weigh out a tablespoon of sugar and let me know what you come up with.
mOm is going to use the inaccurate Norpro set just to retrieve ingredients from tight jars and continue on with using our old redoubtable.