Tuesday, May 15, 2012

The Scale of Things

I never thought of the scale as my friend. 

Because let's be honest, since about 1979, the scale has never given me the number I wanted.  The scale is the most dreaded part of any doctor's visit.  The scale is a cruel master, not just instantly responding to a single binge-y night, but famous for refusing to respond at all to an entire week of monklike deprivation and Herculean exercise.  The scale is changeable, move it two inches in any direction and the numbers can jump around like toddlers after trick or treating. 

I'm gonna say it.  I HATE the effing scale.  Or I did.  Until now.

As a cook, I love testing new recipes, trying new things. I especially love cookbooks, and cookbooks from other places are like mini vacations.  But I don't like Math, and trying to convert a recipe from metric is a mind-numbing exercise well beyond my interest.

But with the interwebs full of fun food blogs from parts abroad, and cookbooks dangling delicious sounding recipes full of grams of this and liters of that, it was time to get my stuff together.

It started simply.  We missed a pal's 60th birthday.  And she and her husband were coming up to the Farm for a weekend, and I wanted to make her a small birthday cake to celebrate.  I was informed that her favorite cake is yellow cake or white cake with vanilla frosting.  A cake I did not have in my repetoire, being more of a chocolate/banana/nut cake kind of gal.  But technology would help me!  I found a recipe online for a cake.  It sounded delicious, a simple vanilla scented yellow cake.  And lucky for me, the recipe contained both standard and metric measurements.

Except it didn't work.

The cake turned out sort of dry and leaden.  Not inedible, and our guest actually claimed to love it, but I was deeply disappointed.  I looked back at the recipe and realized something important.  In converting the metric to standard, the amounts had gotten a little imprecise.  And I recognized that there is no way to mess up measuring things by weight, but that depending on everything from the type of container to the way you scoop it, flour measured by volume can be as much as DOUBLE the weight you need, which I believe is what happened to me.

Then something wonderful happened.  Escali, makers of not only precise, but funky and fun kitchen scales, sent me a package. 

Oh yeah.  That my Chickens is a glass digital kitchen scale in a very sassy tangerine orange.  And it is, despite my original fighting, changing the way I cook.

For starters, it is really easy to use, the glass makes it easy to keep clean, and the color and clean lines mean that if I leave it on the counter it becomes decor and not clutter. 

Less than 2 minutes out of the box and I was confident in my usage, which is a pretty good curve for a new piece of equipment.  And the most important part, within a couple of weeks I had pretty seamlessly integrated it into my cooking.  Especially when I started to play with the other item in my package...

While slighly less snazzy on the looks, this nutritional scale is a dieters and diabetics dream.  Because it comes with a book of every food you can imagine, giving special codes for each.  Put your food, even pre-cooked foods like lasagna or cookies, on the scale, punch in the code, and it will give you the nutritional value....calories, carbs, sodium, sugars...as someone who is both trying to lose weight AND needs to be very careful to manage carb intake, this thing is a godsend. 

Between the two, I can now bake with confidence, try out some of the recipes in my metric cookbooks, and stop hearing Michael Ruhlman in my head chiding me for waiting so long.  (If you have not bought his book Ratio yet, do it now.  It will change your cooking forever.)  Plus I can be a smart girl and make sure I am staying on track with my carbs.

Which of course, makes the bathroom scale, that fickle bitch, somewhat more pliant. 

And since you know how we love to share, Escali sent me one of the fabulous orange scales to give to one of you!

So, comment below by Thursday May 17, 11:59 pm CST, telling the class either a metric recipe you are dying to make (feel free to post the recipe so we can all have fun) or how you think an adorable tangerine orange kitchen scale will change your cooking, and the old random number generator will pick one of you as the winner!

Yours in Good Taste,

The Polymath


  1. I usually avoid recipes that use the metric system like the plague so I don't have one on hand. I will say that a new kitchen scale that happens to be beautiful will be a welcome addition. This is what I currently use: http://www.bedbathandbeyond.com/product.asp?SKU=13581258

    Pathetic, I know. But I never know what one to buy and it was 5 bucks.

  2. I've been wanting a food scale for ages but could never justify the purchase! There are so many recipes I'd like to try that either need a scale or need to be converted from metric...this is one I've seen recently that sounds amazingly yummy!


  3. I have several friends in Europe that send me recipes and I simply can't duplicate! one of my favorites is this cookie recipe -Punitions- that a friend made while visiting. Clearly this won't help with my diet or lower carb intake but if I could just make them... I'd totally share!


    5 oz; 140g unsalted butter, at room temperature
    125 g sugar
    1 large egg, at room temperature
    280 g all-purpose flour

    1. Put the butter in the work bowl of a food processor fitted with the metal blade and process, scraping down the sides of the bowl as needed, until the butter is smooth. Add the sugar and process and scrape until thoroughly blended into the butter. Add the egg and continue to process, scraping the bowl as needed, until the mixture is smooth and satiny. Add the flour all at once, then pulse 10 to 15 times, until the dough forms clumps and curds and looks like streusel.

    2. urn the dough out onto a work surface and gather it into a ball. Divide the ball in half, shape each half into a disk, and wrap the disks in plastic. Chill the disks until they are firm, about 4 hours.

    3.Position the racks to divide the oven into thirds and preheat the oven to 180°C. Line two baking sheets with parchment paper.

    4.Working with one disk at a time, roll the dough out on a lightly floured surface until it is between 4 and 7 mm thick. Using a 4-cm round cookie cutter, cut out as many cookies as you can and place them on the lined sheets, leaving about 2.5 cm space between them.

    5.Bake the cookies for 8 to 10 minutes, or until they are set but pale. Transfer the cookies to cooling racks to cool to room temperature.

  4. Last summer I was lucky to be able to be in Puglia Italy. One day we rode bikes through Uggiano la Chiesa which was designated as a Citta del Pane. They are famous for the breads they bake for Saint Joseph's Day. Huge loaves decorated with eggs, vines and leaves all made out of dough. Recipes for this bread is hard to find, I could only find pictures. Below is a good recipe for another Italian bread that I'd love to make and an orange scale would do wonders!


  5. Fantastic Post! I'm new to cooking. My boyfriend and I have packed on some pounds since we got together (2 years ago...today!)and a few months ago, we decided that HAD to change! We are trying really hard to discover better foods, make healthy foods together in our own kitchen, and rediscover portion control. All of these things would be made oh, so much easier with a food scale, which we currently do not own!


  6. Well-timed, Stacey! I was just scouring the various kitchen scales out there. Partly for the healthy eating tip and partly for those recipes with weight-based measurements. Wanting something easy to keep clean, cute enough to keep out, and small enough to store without too much trouble. Behold!

    When I was in high school, we had an exchange student from Italy (Firenze to be exact). She brought us a really cool Italian cookbook that was sort of comic book style. I have always wanted to try the recipes but none of the measurements translated. I would start with that. Next stop would be an amazing bread recipe (and its variants) that I made with my aunt and uncle in Maine. They insist on weighing the flour and it is WORTH IT! Especially the version with that starts with a base of rye porridge!

  7. I LOVE the color orange, number one. It'd go perfectly in my kitchen...not just as an accent piece, but as a usable kitchen tool!!!

  8. I just became a pescetarian 2 weeks ago like Jen did (is still?) and man, I really need one of these. We also happen to be moving into a house we are purchasing so I think ORANGE to go with my fish and veggie diet and new kitchen will make it all much more wonderful! Thank you Stacey for your blog. Can't wait to read Off The Menu! :0)

  9. I just became a pescetarian 2 weeks ago like Jen did (is still?) and man, I really need one of these. We also happen to be moving into a house we are purchasing so I think ORANGE to go with my fish and veggie diet and new kitchen will make it all much more wonderful! Thank you Stacey for your blog. Can't wait to read Off The Menu! :0)

  10. I swear by my kitchen scale - not only for cooking and baking but also for the SousPug's meals. So glad you mentioned Ratio - Love love LOVE that cookbook :)

  11. I think the scale will change my cooking because I've never been that precise in my baking/cooking. But, I think that if I use it I can get better results! :) Thanks, Stacy!

  12. I celebrated my 55 birthday today and the scale IS NOT MY FRIEND. Over the past 10 years of a stressful job I have packed on the weight. But with a sexy orange scale to cook with I think there's hope for me!

  13. I took a "Pie Ninja" class last November and everything was weighed, important in temperamental climate (Pacific Northwest).

    Diagnosed as a diabetic last June so am also watching the carb intake. We went to Italy via Air France in March, I ordered a diabetic meal, and it had 96 freaking grams of carbs. What are they thinking? There was white rice, two large rolls, margarine (gack), and some other delightful items - then they passed MORE bread after the meal.

    Needless to say, I ate only the fish that accompanied the rice and did behave myself in Italy - came home 10# lighter and working on more.

    So how exactly do I reconcile being diabetic with being a Pie Ninja? This should be interesting and I'm willing to give it a try, especially a pear pie with ginger streusel.

    Thanks for reading.

  14. Yes, well, I need to food scale because I just don't even try to do math anymore. The food scale would allow me to try some recipes that come from beyond our borders, and that could just be all sorts of fun!

  15. That is one sassy food scale! I've been toying with purchasing one, but have been afraid to take the plunge. Plus, I could finally use the cookbook I received as a Christmas gift 7 years ago, which only measures by weight!

  16. I would totally make ANYTHING from, "bake your cake & eat it too!" by Tamara Milstein. Here is a link to one you all could enjoy with that sassy scale! I do not know this blogger. http://mycookinggallery.blogspot.com/2010/03/key-lime-cake_15.html Although I would honestly probably make the Indian carrot cake first as it looks even more simple. And to whomever gets the scale??? You will love it for making perfect margaritas. Equal parts fresh squeezed lime juice (first so you know how much of the rest to add), orange crap, tequila. Sweetner to taste (agave or powdered sugar)...sometimes I like a hefty dose of Pellegrino in mine for a margarita spritzer! Enjoy!

  17. I'm like you, I never use metric recipes. Unfortunately, I haven't kept track of the metric recipes I wanted to tyr because I was too lazy to convert them. I love the color of the scale!

  18. I've never had a scale in my kitchen, so it would be a wonderful new toy (and I'm a big fan of the color orange, so that's a huge plus!).
    Anything that can make me more precise, would mean better meals for my family.

  19. This is something I've been wanting to try for ages! On a practical matter, I think it would help me to lose weight. I'm pretty good about eating healthy, terrible about portion control. In fact, my portions are out of control.

    I'd also love to use it for translating Jamie Oliver's cookbooks. His recipes are wonderfully healthy, quick, and easy, but often the measurements are metric or weight based.

    This would make my life a breeze. Well, at least this one aspect of my life!

  20. Ohh... My kitchen is orange. My current scale is broken. :)

  21. I have a very lovely basic kitchen scale that I use to weight yarn when I'm knitting. My nutritionist keeps trying to make me measure everything, but I am resisting. My scale has an acrylic box on top that you put stuff in, but I am not putting a piece of chicken in it to measure. I think a flat scale that's easy to clean would definitely be more appealing.

  22. Ever since Bistro 110 closed, I've been daydreaming about their utterly fantastic gateau breton. Of course since it's from Brittany, any true recipe would be metric:


  23. My grandma's recipes are all by weight. I have been too scared to try them. One of these scales might do the trick. It is going on the birthday wishlist!

  24. I'm a grad student and while in school, things like exercise and good cooking kind of get tossed aside for more important aspects in life such as homework, tests and sleep. Perhaps a scale would let me weigh out my food in better portions so I don't feel AS guilty about not working out :)

  25. There is nothing more disappointing than finding a really interesting cookbook only to dig in and find the recipes are in metric. I always sadly close the book and put it back on the shelf. I want to buy those books! Its a bonus that the snazzy orange scale would jazz up my southwestern kitchen.

  26. I agree with you about "Ratio"! I have the iPhone app but have never used it because I have a fairly primitive scale that I don't think is all that accurate. Tangerine would look so much better than that piece of plastic with the wobbly indicator.

  27. It is amazing what a scale can do versus imprecise measurements. I know a Weight Watchers participant who lost 80 pounds and attributes it to weighing out her portions instead of piling things in measuring cups. Broken cereal from the bottom of the box, I'm looking at you.

  28. I have a french cookbook dying to be translated and converted. I'm most looking forward to doing tarte flambée--heavy cream, onions and lardon. :)

    --Liz Young (I can't figure out how to sign in since I don't have blogger, live journal, etc)

  29. I have a couple of recipes that I would love to convert and try. and, the tangerine would look great in my kitchen scheme - blue, lime green and orange! - karla c