When I'm making dinner and writing about it, and I tell you to add a quarter cup of this or a half cup of that or 2 oz of cheese, it's because either I threw it into the bowl and then thought, "Oh, I need to figure out how much that is so I can tell people," or it's because I thought ahead and measured out the amount of stuff I wanted to use, just for the purpose of writing it down here. Everything I make, other than bread and the few other baked goods that originate in my kitchen, is by feel or guess, or smell. I don't measure, in real life.*
Measurement is why I'm not much into baking. Bread seems forgiving. Sometimes you need to add more flour, but my cakes don't turn out and I'm just not that precise. I'm a cook, not a baker.
Jessica at The Novice Chef posted a nice reminder on her blog last week about measuring. A wet measure is for wet, a dry measure is for wet or dry.
I use my dry measures most of the time.
Sometimes, I just don't have a clean measuring cup on hand, and not being one to do dishes, I'm forced to improvise. I have the dry set, I have a big pyrex measuring cup, and I have little silicone cups with measures on them, but there are times when it all gets dirty. So, I go to tablespoons.
And even there I screw up sometimes. I have to catch myself and not say things like, "Use two-thirds of a tablespoon," because a third of a tablespoon is a teaspoon, and two-thirds of a tablespoon is two teaspoons and that's where I lose all credibility.
Ok, maybe I lose it elsewhere.
I'm weighing more ingredients since I started buying butter from a local farmer in a tub. I rarely have easy-to-measure sticks, so instead I weigh, because when I'm looking for a quarter cup of butter, it'd be pretty hard to pack it into my quarter cup measuring cup well enough to be sure.
So instead I Google the weight of a quarter cup of butter (2 oz) and just weigh it out. And then the scale is out, so I start weighing other things. That saves you dishes too, because if you need 2 oz of butter and 1 oz of cheese, you put in your two ounces of butter and then add cheese til you hit three. Measuring cup saved. Can't beat addition for simplifying things.
Also, I have this sign on my wall in the kitchen (above, before the jump). It's how I know there are four quarts in a gallon and two cups in a pint and if you look very close, 16 tablespoons in a cup. See my note on credibility, above. This is where I have to be cautious and not say, "four tablespoons," because really, a quarter cup is more efficient.
Anyhow, short story long, I took the idea for the sign from a post on The Kitchn a few years ago. They posted this image:
I'm not really a serif font kinda girl, so I made my own, and added tiny 16s to represent tablespoons in a cup.
You're free to frame it and hang it in your kitchen too, or make stickers and paste them all over your Trapper Keeper.
Eventually, I'm going to have to make one to go next to it that reminds me that there are 2 1/4 tsp of yeast in a packet. I Google that a lot.
*Kind but incorrect people hear things like this and say, "Well, that's because you're such a good cook," but the reality is that I have posted 16 fails in the past year or so.