Tuesday, 19 February 2013

Overcoming US baking measures - White chocolate and sour cherry cookies

After reviewing a few American baking books recently, and moaning about American baking terms - cups, sticks, farenheit etc., I decided to get over it and have a go.

The other evening, I found myself with the kids both in bed at 7.15 (Blue reading, but essentially settled off as far as I was concerned), and the Husband away. I got a bit of an odd 'at a loose end' feeling which is ridiculous as I have (always) at least 101 things to do. Instead of doing any of the current 101 things, I sloped off into the kitchen to seize those American measurements by the horns, give them a good shake down and see if I couldn't just make them work for me.

I have a set of American 'cups', and I also have a set of proper spoon measures, thanks to a baking set Pink received once, so there's no excuse really why I shouldn't be able to bake US style to my heart's content. So what's the problem? I hear you ask. Why have I been so reluctant?

Well, my friends, it all comes down to the butter. I buy my butter in 250g blocks. And my kitchen is cold. I usually have to leave my butter over a bowl of warm water for a few minutes to soften it up enough for the general rigors required of it in baking because 'room temperature' in my kitchen is not the same as in other peoples'. Why then, would I go to the extra hassle of softening it down enough to get it to fit into a cup and allow for accurate measuring, to then put into another bowl for mixing? Why?

Hmm squares into rounds. Tricky.

Anyway, I did it. The butter was a faff, 

and I seemed to get quite a lot of collateral damage spill out using the cups - more so than if I'd been tipping my ingredients into a bowl straight from the packet:

but otherwise it all worked out just dandy.

and after all, chocolate tastes the same however you weigh it

Based on an oatmeal and raisin cookie recipe that I found in The Cookiepedia (that I recently reviewed), I made these beauties, and I commend them to you. And I remembered to weigh out the ingredients once I'd filled the cups so that you can enjoy them too, either US or UK stylie.

White Chocolate & Sour Cherry Oaty Cookies

Makes around 15
1/2 cup (110g) unsalted butter at room temperature (or warmer than room temp if your kitchen is as cold as ours is)
2/3 cup (100g) caster sugar
1 egg
1 tsp vanilla extract
3/4 (110g) cup plain flour
 1/2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp cinammon
11/2 cups oats
1/3 cup (75g) white chocolate chunks
1/3 cup (75g) sour cherries

Pre-heat the oven to 350F (180C) and line 3-4 baking trays with greaseproof paper.

Beat together the sugar and butter until light and fluffy, then beat in the egg and vanilla.

Sift in the flour, baking powder, salt and cinammon with the mixer (I'm assuming you're using a mixer, sorry) running slowly, till it's all mixed in, then stir in the oats, chocolate and cherries.

Scoop out tablespoon sized amounts of mixture onto the lined baking trays, leaving about 2 inches between each blob. You might want to flatten each blob a little with a fork I decided to do it half way through cooking, which is a little haphazard, I'll admit.

Bake for 12-14 minutes (they will need slightly longer if, at the half way stage, you decide to get them out and flatten the dough slightly with a fork - so do it before hand) and resist the temptation to leave them in for too long.

They were pretty darn good, I must say, but I have a plea to American readers - I know there are some of you out there - and it is this. Please enlighten me. Does your butter come extra soft? Do you really cut it from a 'stick' and wodge it into cups to then scrape it into the mixer? Or have I completely misunderstood?


  1. I thought butter was normally measured in 'sticks' as that's how it comes packaged. Each stick is then 4oz, so if the recipe says 1/2 stick, then it's 2oz. 1 stick / 4 oz equates to 1/2 cup (or 8 tablespoons - I've seen some recipes use the odd tablespoon of butter). So 1 cup would be 8oz, ie about 225g.
    There are quite a few online guides, but as I have a lot of US recipe books, one little book I found really helpful is 'The Pocketbook Guide to American Cooking in England'. It's really useful as there are some other subtle differences such as egg sizes and cup sizes are actually a bit different. An American cup is 239g not the 250g you tend to get here.
    I've put some of these points in a post on my blog. It probably doesn't make much difference for smaller quantities, but once you start on 3 cups if something, the diffence would be greater.
    Hope that helps! :)

    1. Brilliant - that's great advice, Susie! I shall look out that book

    2. I have found contradicting information, but the most constant is that 1 stick of butter is 114g that's 1/2cup.... So that's how I've always converted butter. Same as Susie said I just wanted to agree! :0)

  2. At least you knew that American cups are different from English cups! At one time, I didn't realise that.

    1. I've often wondered about just using any old cup though - it must be about proportions of things, mustn't it - would be quite straightforward if we hadn't got used to weighing things out...

  3. You're leaning against an open door here with me RJ. As you know, I've been a bit exasperated with measurements from across the pond. The lovely @bakingexplorer suggested this to me: http://www.traditionaloven.com/conversions_of_measures/butter_converter.html
    Worth a punt I reckon when the cookies come out looking like those!

    1. I'm warming to it, I have to say, this US baking malarkey.

  4. Hmm...ever since I got my kitchen scale, I only ever weigh things now. I rarely use my cups anymore.

    1. That's interesting to know. I love the idea of measuring things out in cups, but I guess it's the novelty factor apart from anything else. I doubt I would ever chuck my scales in the bin!

  5. I have known quite a few people (not all of them American) who swear that cup measurements are so much easier. I have tried to get used to them, but I usually convert American recipes these days before I try them. Somehow I don't feel confident unless I'm weighing ingredients. Lovely looking cookies, though, however they're measured.

  6. I do have a set of cups where the cup size is 250ml and every time I bake from one of my American books I weigh the ingredients and write them in the book in pencil to make my life easier in the future. I'm probably using the wrong size but haven't had any disasters yet. Cup measures annoy me as baking is supposed to be a precise balance of ingredients and the seemingly vague measurements e.g. how tightly do you pack the butter or flour into the cup, irritate me. I have ranted about this on my blog at some point as well.

    Anyway climbing off the soap box now! Your cookies look lovely and I imagine the sour cherry contrasts nicely against the sweet chocolate.

  7. Nice looking cookies but let me let you in on a secret. Americans usually put butter into a measuring cup or messuring spoon unless the recipe calls for melted butter and requires it to be measured out after melting.

    In the US, butter comes in an standard package of one pound that is made up of four individually wrapped sticks each stick contains 1/2 Cup of butter and on the wrapper there are usually marks for Tablespoons(since each stick has is 1/2 a cup then each stick has 8 Tablespoons). This means that for 1/2 cup of butter we would have taken one stick out the package and unwraped it. If we need Tablespoons we would count and cut the number of Tablespoons needed. If by weight then each stick is 1/4 of an pound or 4 oz..

    I suggest you convert butter measures to weight measures rather than attempt to measure it in a cup. You can measure a cup of butter or fat via letting it get soft or the displacement method(filling a large cup with water then using the butter or fat’s displacement to figure the amount) but why bother. Also there is a slight difference in the butterfat content of US vs. European butter but it usually won't throw things. European butter has slightly more butterfat so if something turns out a bit greasy that may be why.


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