Saturday, June 8, 2013

Having problems with the kilos: cooking and baking in Germany

The kilogram is the base unit of mass in the International System of Units, so items are weighed here in its various forms.The problem is that whenever I hear someone mentioning a "kilo," I imagine the that drugs are the items being mentioned, because after all, in movies they always mention a "kilo of..." whatever drug.

I don't think that this is a very useful way to think about this measurement!

This especially comes into play with cooking and baking. I feel as if I'm stuck between two worlds here. I brought all of my American recipes with me but am constantly pulling out the baking charts to convert Fahrenheit to Celsius to actually bake what I've assembled. 

Here's a hint, Americans moving to Europe: bring your cooking measuring utensils! Even if you're not much of one to cook, do it any way because there might be an American recipe you'd like to try and it's so much easier just to use the US measurements instead of having to convert everything.

It didn't dawn on me that folks here don't use measuring cups or measuring spoons like we do in the US until my friend commented that she thought my measuring cups were so cute. I was a bit confused; they were just standard measuring cups so I didn't see what was so cute about them. She then told me that such things aren't used in Europe.

That totally blew my mind (it doesn't take much). I asked her how one would measure ingredients if one didn't use measuring cups. Yes, I was being a bit dense. She told me that she uses a scale to measure her ingredients.

Duh on my part! That makes sense; I had noticed before that recipes from the UK and Europe call for amounts of items by weight, not measured by cups. The kitchen scale is so handy-handy here. I actually just bought one, but that's because I wanted to make soap and it's necessary for that. It also worked really well when I went on a rice crispie treat making adventure that was off the beaten path.

My friend said that the bonus was that she had fewer bowls to clean because she can measure all of the ingredients in the bowl and mix it from there. I would assume that dry and wet ingredients would be mixed separately.

How does one measure ingredients in a bowl? If the bowl is already on the scale, one wouldn't want the weight of the bowl to be included. Maybe this is obvious to most people, but I had to find out that you put the bowl on the scale, press "Tare," and that will set the scale's weight to 0 and you can add your first ingredient from there. After weighing the first ingredient, you'd press Tare and add the second one and so on.

My mind was blown a second time when I took a German cooking class and learned that Germans just use tablespoons and teaspoons for measurements. And by those measurements, I don't mean spoons specifically designed for measuring in cooking, but I mean spoons just from the spoon drawer! Isn't that wild? In the US we have specific measuring spoons and they're even divided in by halves, quarters, and sometimes even smaller than that. Recipes usually call for a very specific amount of an ingredient and being off can adversely affect the food, such as adding too much or too little yeast in bread. I wonder how it's done here to avoid that problem? Maybe the important ingredients are weighed, too.

Cooking, here I come! However, there's also the German oven, with its multitude of settings, to deal with...and that's a whole other blog post, for sure.


  1. Hi, I'm German, so I'm used to using a scale and utterly confused when I see an american recipe with cups and spoons.
    About the last point: I never stumbled over a recipe that needed that specific measurements. Even bread with yeast. My scale is even a analogue one, so I am not able to weigh everything to the last gram. But, as you pointed out, for the smaller ampunts we use normal Spoons. Sometimes you read in a german recipe to use "ein Päckchen", one package of sth, for instance dry yeast or vanilla sugar.

  2. I always wondered how recipes for baking would turn out without very precise measurements? I think I've heard that baking is like a chemistry experiment and if one doesn't have the exact amounts, it can cause a problem, like for stuff with baking powder or soda? Or, maybe it's just American paranoia? ;)a

  3. Perhaps its just me, who is so relaxed. ;) I mean,
    what could possible happen if you're not using the exact amounts? Who ever heard about someone who blew up his kitchen by using more or less of some baking incredients. The worst is that the cake didnt turn out okay. But this can happen anyway.

  4. Because things can settle or fluff out, volume measurements are just rough guesses. Better to use a scale for baking. Since I started using weight instead of measurements when making bread dough, the results have been more consistent.

  5. The whole EL thing in German recipes totally threw me off. Also, half a tasse? Like, any Tasse?
    I still don´t own a scale, but I don´t bake at all. When I do, I use my US measuring cup. A gift from my cousin who works at the US Army base. Best. Gift. Everrrr.

  6. :) Hehe. I'm so horrible with domestic and mechanical skills that I would be too "scared" to have ambiguous measurements for ingredients, and I agree, what exact size Tasse? I'm not confident enough in my skills to just "know" what is the right amount. With the lack of skills in domesticity and mechanical-(icity?), I think, what use am I? Hmm, I could write an academic paper; that's about it, and that is not very useful!