Baking is a completely different animal from cooking.  It requires special techniques and tools, a preciseness generally not required in general cooking, and extreme patience.  This has led to me being slightly overwhelmed and scared of it, as I’m sure many of you have felt, too.  It has also led to me making hockey puck-esque breads and dry as the Sahara brownies.  So, when I saw that my college offered a student-taught baking class this semester, I jumped at the chance to improve my baking skills.

Baking encompasses many different types of foods including yeast breads, laminates (layered doughs), cakes, mousses, custards, pies, tarts, cookies, chocolates, and more.  In my Baking 101 Series, I’ll walk you through each of these categories by giving you tips and recipes that I’ve learned through my baking class and personal experiences.  Today’s post is on digital scales, and the next post will focus on yeast breads.  Along the way I’ll also do my standard cost analysis on homemade vs. storebought baked goods.

Buy a digital scale

The first thing that you’ll need to do if you want to get serious about baking is to purchase a digital scale.  Although many recipes give volumetric measurements for ingredients, you really want to find and use recipes that give you weight measurements.  This is because one “cup” of flour will have a different weight depending on how you scoop the flour in (stick the cup in the bag and level is vs. using a spoon to scoop it in the measuring cup).  Also, different measuring cups are not precisely the same volume.  So, what should you look for when purchasing a digital scale?

1)      Make sure the scale can hold at least eleven pounds.  You want it to be able to hold your biggest mixing bowl and several pounds of dough.

2)      What’s the smallest weight increment the scale can measure?  It should be able to measure down to one gram or 0.1 ounces.

3)      Battery type: I made sure to buy a scale that takes regular AA batteries instead of the button type batteries just because I generally have AA batteries around the house.

4)      Tare button: this will allow you to place your mixing bowl on the scale and then zero it to weigh ingredients directly into the bowl.

5)      Anything else is just bells and whistles and you’ll likely be paying way too much for it!