How to Measure Correctly
Besides using the proper ingredients, it is also essential that they be measured correctly. For best results, all dry ingredients should be at room temperature. The liquid ingredients should be at the appropriate temperature for the bread making method that you are using. Sourdough starters should also be at room temperature.
Dry measuring cups and spoons do not have a lip so accurate measuring is achieved by the use of a flat edge to scrape off the excess. For measuring small quantities of sugar, salt, yeast, herbs, etc., scoop or sprinkle the ingredient into the appropriate measuring cup or spoon, level with a flat edge.
Liquid measuring containers come in several sizes and have a lip above the measuring line to prevent spills. They are translucent or transparent for easy reading. To use, place the cup on a level surface with the measurement line at eye level for accurate reading.
Flour is sifted many times before being packaged. During shipping, it settles and becomes compact. First, aerate the flour in the bag or container by using a whisk. It is important not to dip the measuring cup into the flour; instead, scoop the flour lightly into a dry measuring cup. Do not tap or shake the cup to put more flour into it. Using a flat edge, scrape off the excess to make the flour even with the rim of the measuring cup. This method will assure an accurate measurement. The amount of moisture in flour varies depending on the growing conditions of the grain, the milling process, and the storage. Therefore, it may be necessary to use more or less flour than called for in the recipe during the kneading time.
King Arthur Flour has a great ‘How To’ video on measuring flour: http://www.kingarthurflour.com/recipe/measuring-flour.html
Shortening There are two ways to accurately measure shortening. The first uses cold water and mathematical skills. For example, to measure 1/3 cup of shortening, fill a 1-cup liquid measuring cup to the 2/3 cup mark with cold water. Carefully spoon pieces of shortening into the water until the water reaches the 1-cup mark. Pour off the water; there will be exactly 1/3 cup of shortening in the cup.
The second method requires the solid shortening to be packed into a dry measuring cup with a rubber spatula. run the spatula through the shortening several times while packing to eliminate any air pockets. When the cup is full, level the contents using the flat edge of a knife.
Sticky ingredients such as honey and molasses will easily slide off a measuring spoon or cup if oil is first measured with the same spoon/cup, or simply spray the spoon/cup with vegetable oil before measuring.