It’s the short path from Fahrenheit to Celsius and the shorter path to failure. Ah, the joys of expatriate baking.
We sweet-toothed Americans living in the United Kingdom have grandma’s recipes in our heads and a culinary allegiance to the homeland in our hearts, but, just like her friends, grandma unfortunately measured her flour in cups. We must convert! We must convert!
The arduous process of uncertain calculations feels to me exactly like math class in fourth grade: my face gets hot, the shame creeps in.
My fellow blogger Blake has been writing about book displays lately, and I’ve just set up a range of our American baking books to amuse local bakers. To help them, I compiled a basic chart of measurement conversions and terminology. It’s admittedly spotty, and probably not altogether accurate. Curiously, all you get when you Google trans-Atlantic baking conversion charts is a sea of variations. I’ve done my best to approximate the averages in each scenario.
Irma Rombauer writes in her Joy of Cooking, “Many British, or ‘Imperial,’ units of measurements have the same names as U.S. units, but not all are identical. In general, weights are equivalent but volumes are not […] Also, the variable sizes of the British teaspoon and tablespoon [create] a further problem. Confronted with our dilemma, a British friend laughed and told us that there were no standard household British teaspoons and tablespoons. Her own teaspoons and tablespoons had been in the family since the fifteenth century and fit the family recipes perfectly. As a result the best we can recommend is experimentation.”
Along with Liberia and Myanmar, the United States is one of three nations in the world who have yet to adopt the International System of Units. Once that happens (as it inevitably will) Americans will be hard-pressed to find their own fifteenth-century heirloom spoons. You win, Britain. But what bliss! American baking books will no longer need to include complicated mathematical appendices.
In the meantime: click, print, convert, bake.