Weighing white and whole wheat flour

Before Alex and I became a bit obsessed with pizza dough, I don’t think I’d ever made the same bread product again and again (…and again and again…).  In doing so, I learned I had a hard time consistently making the same dough.  Sometimes my dough was perfect and chewy, sometimes it was too dense.  After a long time of shifting guilt around the kitchen (did I not knead long enough?  did I knead too long?  is this yeast not good?  did I put in too much salt?), I finally started eying up my flour.

Around the same time, I also happened to encounter several different articles on food blogs and in cookbooks that were beseeching home cooks (like yours truly) to measure flour with a scale, not by the cup.  This article, by Gluten Free Girl, was especially compelling.  I started talking about ordering a scale.  And then, about a week later, I came home to a package on the door step addressed to me.  Alex bought me a scale without telling me (isn’t he the best?!).

So many things to measure!  We were grabbing stuff from around the house and piling the scale high.  Does Alex’s iPod weigh 101g, like it says on the package?  Why, yes, it does.

Finally, today I got around to measuring cups of flour (the original plan for the scale!).  I used two flours and two techniques for filling the cups.

Flours:

  • Trader Joe’s Unbleached White Flour
  • King Arthur White Whole Wheat Flour

Techniques:

  • Scooping flour directly from the bag and then leveling the cup (my normal way)
  • Sprinkling flour into the cup (like we learned during pizza class at King Arthur)

Here’s what we found:

  1. White flour, normal cup: 158g
  2. White flour, sprinkled cup: 110g
  3. Whole wheat flour, normal cup: 130g
  4. Whole wheat flour, sprinkled cup: 103g

I was super surprised by the range of weights.  158g for my normal cup and only 110 g for a sprinkled cup??  Wow — that’s a big difference!  A sprinkled cup is about 30% less flour than my normal cup.  To find out what a cup of flour should weigh, I looked at a couple of my cookbooks.  It seems 140g is the official weight of a cup of all-purpose, white flour.  So, in the past I’ve put too much flour in my recipes and, with my new sprinkling technique, I’m putting in too little flour (except in cases where a recipe calls for sifted flour, I guess).

And why did I bother weighing whole wheat flour?  The difference in weights between the white and wheat flour starts to explain part of the difficulty of subbing out whole wheat flour for white flour in some recipes.  I was really surprised to see that my whole wheat flour is lighter, but all in all it goes to show that — because the flours are different densities — they can’t quite be replaced one for one.  This is true for all those other wonderful flours, like spelt, corn or quinoa.

I’m pretty sure that if I did this at different times of year (drier or wetter) and with different brands of flour, I’d see even more differences in weights.  I can’t wait to start using the scale when I’m baking and see if I get more consistent results.  If so, I’ll finally get that pizza dough recipe up!

Now, back to the kitchen…

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13 thoughts on “Weighing white and whole wheat flour

    • I agree — with cakes it could be a huge problem. I’m about to try to replicate a sponge cake I made last week and now I’m trying to remember how I measured out the flour. If only I had weighed it!

  1. Allison – Hello!
    I cannot stress loudly and long enough the importance of weighing your ingredients.
    Sometimes a guess is good enough but I only cook gluten, diary, preservative free and I cannot make a simple little mistake or I have a disaster on my hands.
    I have 2 sets of scales – one set set for normal cooking and the other for allergy cooking as cross-contamination is another big issue I face. People grin at me and my kitchen as I mostly have 2 sets of cooking utensils. Believe me when I tell you that you have to be very mindful but once you have changed the old mindset it just becomes natural to do it right the first time.
    Hang in there with the pizza dough and remember it may be a pain to weigh everything to the last ‘nth’ but so worth it when you get consistently good product!
    Keep the great work – Rae :)

  2. Wow, very cool. I’d love to get a kitchen scale. I did notice that with a couple of baked goods I’ve made–wondering if scooping the flour made too much get in the recipe, when they came out dense.

  3. That is so wild! Amazing difference! We love using whole wheat flour and our favorite is Kamut Wheat. I have often asked myself why one pizza crust turns out one way and the next time it is different too – this MUST be why! Thanks for the explanation :)

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  4. Pingback: GF Flour, The Weighty Chart & Win a Scale | Gluten Free Canteen

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