How I measure flour using the “scoop-and-sweep” method

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When people write to tell me that their dough seems “too wet,” the first question I ask is: how are you measuring?  Because I measured with the “scoop-and-sweep” method, not the “spoon-and-sweep” method.–view the video to see exactly how I do it.

American recipes usually are based on volumes, measured with standardized measuring cups.  If you press down into the flour bin (use a flour bin, not the flour’s bag), you’ll compress and get too much flour.  If you use the “spoon-and-sweep” method, where a spoon is used to gently fill the measuring cup before sweeping, you’ll get too little flour into the cup.  Likewise, don’t “aerate” the flour by mixing it or whisking before measuring; that will lighten the cup.

If you do it the way I tested it (and use flours like the standard ones I tested with), you’ll get results like you see in our photos and videos.  You can also consider weighing flour, using the weight equivalents that appear in all our books starting in 2009. There’s more about using weighing flour in this post; I use this scale.

Side issue: ignore what I said in the video (made some years ago) about bleached flour absorbing less water than unbleached–it’s not true anymore. Modern bleaching doesn’t include anything that decreases protein content. I prefer unbleached flour just to avoid the chemicals and because I love the richer color of the crumb that you get with unbleached, but it won’t affect the measuring or the ability to absorb water.

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122 thoughts to “How I measure flour using the “scoop-and-sweep” method”

  1. Hello – I am using the Master recipe from pg 53 of your New Artisan Bread in five minunes a day.

    My first batch of dough worked out great but only gave me 3 lbs of dough instead of 4 lbs. I measured carefully each time I made a 1lb artisan loaf. Did I under measure flour?

    My second question is more important…I just created my second batch of dough. After letting it rise for about an hour I realized that I only used 6 cups of flour instead of 6 1/2. Should I make up for the 1/2 cup of flour along the line somewhere. Will the dough be any good for bread? Thank you.

    1. Hi Lorraine,

      The batch does make just under 4 pounds of dough, so you should get 4 loaves that are an ounce short of a pound. Are you making the bread by weights or cup measures?

      You can add the additional flour to the dough at any point, then you will need to let the dough sit for about an hour to allow the flour to absorb the excess water.

      Thanks, Zoë

  2. It just seems so much more sensible to weigh ingredients, thus completely eliminating “quantity’ issues. I have a digital scale which measure to 1 gram (1/3 ounce) so ability to measure small quantities isn’t an issue. Why persist with “scoops”?

    1. Agree… but, most Americans haven’t made the conversion. All of our books except the very first (in 2007) have weights now, in addition to cups.

      1. Did I miss something, because my Healthy Bread in 5 only has one recipe with weights and that’s the master recipe only. With that said will I have any problems using the conversion chart on pg 36 to convert the recipes that are in the book.

      2. Correct, you didn’t miss anything. HBin5 was our first foray into weights, kind of seeing the response, so we only did it for the Master recipe, and included the conversion chart so people could pencil in their own if they so desired.

        Since HBin5, all our dough formulas in the books have weights…

  3. How can I convert to weight? I have had your first book for 5 years, and love it, although I’ve not used it often, plan on using it more now. Thanks!

    1. Hi Jo,

      You may want to pick up our new edition, we’ve added weights for all the recipes!

      All-purpose flour weighs 5 ounces per cup. We obviously can’t list every ingredient, but the AP is the most used ingredient, so hope that helps.

      Thanks, Zoë

  4. Hi Jeff and Zoë!

    I’ve just made the basic recipe from the new Bread in 5. I only made 1/2 batch since it’s just myself and wasn’t sure I would eat 4 loaves in two weeks. Actually I probably could but my waistline wouldn’t agree 🙂
    The first loaf did come out not quite as brown on the top and not as airy inside. I did realize that I forgot to make slashes in the loaf. Could this be the cause and or is there a reason for the scores? I did measure in weight since I have a scale.. Thanks so much for your response! Laurie

    1. Hi Laurie,

      The slashing does help the loaf rise in a more uniform way. The color of the loaf is more dependant on the heat of the oven. You should let your baking stone preheat longer and make sure your oven is running true to temperature by using an oven thermometer.

      If your bread is not as open as you’d like you may find this post helpful:

      Thanks, Zoë

      1. Thanks Zoe, I have checked out the link you sent and have put the last of my dough out for a longer rise and covered and covered with a large bowl since here in Maine its still a bit chilly and very dry. Also wondering if I could use a large cast iron pan rather then a baking stone? I do have a lodge dutch oven but have seen some concerns over the enamel coming off. More of a concern was using the stone and having it crack regarding the steaming water. Thoughts on the cast iron pan (I know I’ll still use the water but seems to be safer) Thanks again!

      2. Hi Laurie,

        You can use any of those options and have a wonderful loaf. I have been baking in my Dutch Oven for years and have never had an issue with enamel coming off. I have only had one stone crack in a dozen years, and it was a very thin, inexpensive one I used on the grill. And baking on a cast iron pan is a great option as well, although you can’t use a peel to get the loaf in and out of the pan, so you should bake on parchment and lower it in like you would a DO.

        Enjoy, Zoë

  5. Can your no-knead, then refrigerate, method work for virtually ANY bread recipe? I’ve already skipped hand-kneading and gone to bread machines for that step, but not sure if I can just mix-rest-refrigerate for these and other recipes??? Many thanks

    1. Hi Gene,

      We have 5 books with all kinds of recipes from Baguettes, Cinnamon buns, whole grain breads, gluten free and pizzas. You can find just about anything you’re hoping to bake.

      Thanks, Zoë

  6. Hey, thanks so much for the great web content. I have just purchased the New artisan and the gluten-free books, and also the Bob’s flours for the latter master recipe.

    My question is about measuring the gluten-free flour once I get it all blended together. Shall I pack it firmly as you recommend with the initial blend, or scoop and sweep as with regular flour?


      1. Thanks much. Here I go!

        Oh, by the way, how do both xanthan gum and psyllium work similarly? They seem kinda different from one another…just curious. I am using Yerba Prima psyllium powder as it is way less expensive than xanthan gum. Hope this brand passes muster…(?)

      2. Uh oh, you’re asking me a chemistry question, and I haven’t had my afternoon coffee! I don’t really know the chemistry, but if you mixed the powders in water, you’d see that the solution (colloid?) seems kind of similar, it becomes gel-like, which helps the grain flours hold a shape even though there’s not gluten. The psyllium seed has something that acts like a gel in the presence of water, like xanthan.

      3. Cool. Thanks. And though I have no experience with the xanthan gum, I do with psyllium, and there is indeed a moisture-holding quality with it. I often use it instead of bread crumbs when making a meatloaf or köfte, and the end result is surprisingly juicy. Wonder if you’ve played with chia as this too turns kinda gelatinous when hydrated…?

      4. Sure does, but we found that it just didn’t work well in the bread, though you can find folks on the web who disagree with us. Moisture-retaining, but not enough structure so it was too dense. Basically, if we couldn’t swap it for xanthan and get a comparable result, we worried that it was too much variability for the same recipe. Whereas xanthan/psyllium were pretty similar (caveat, see in the book about brioches).

      5. Hey Jeff (and Zoe, too),

        I just baked off my first attempt, and the taste and mouth-feel are excellent. I am so psyched….I am a baker and work at a cafe, and we have been trying out King Arthur’s mixes, but while tasting okay, the residual mouth-feel is gritty and off-putting (worse than uncleaned spinach!)

        However, your gluten-free dough recipe did not rise for me but actually flattened while baking. I did not measure with packed cups, so it is perhaps an issue of over-hydration, and I frankly do not remember what yeast I use as I purchase by the pound, keep it in the freezer, and it may be either Red-star or SAF. Both are instant. I mixed a half-recipe so that I could mix in my bread machine (just to mix and let rise while turned off so no added heat). Used every ingredient exactly in half, but it did not look as biscuity as yours in the video, certainly not as I left it out to proof after one day of refrigeration (got kinda flat).

        Regardless, I shall try again, as the taste is way beyond what I expected.

        Thanks so much for your amazing attention to detail…I realize the necessity for such here in particular. I so want to provide such good tasting bread to all our customers who now think that anything bready needs to be and taste like cardboard.

        Thanks again for any comment or advise.
        best to you!

      6. Well, you really have to measure with packed cups, or else weigh the ingredients–otherwise the hydration’s going to be way off.

  7. You mention a weight conversion chart in your hb5 book. Would you post that chart for those of us who purchased the first edition?

    1. There’s only been one edition of HBin5, not sure what you mean. It does have a weight conversion chart, so I’m confused? The weight conversions are on page 36.

  8. I am using your new book, the basic recipe. When I use a scale to weigh the flour, 2 lbs. measures about 7-1/2 cups. Using Gold Medal all purpose, Escali scale and one other scale. What am I doing wrong?

    1. If you’re measuring exactly like you see in this video, using “scoop-and-sweep” rather than “spoon-and-sweep”, then there’s no explanation–it must be in the cup-measuring technique. If you’re having good results with the scale, just use that–it’s superior in every way.

  9. You mention the video a few times here, and yet I see no video linked or embeded anywhere on the page.

    Could you please link the video in question?


  10. Hi, I am on my second attempt in making the dough, all seems to go well, until I remove the dough from the fridge to form a loaf. There is no stretch in the dough as in your pictures and videos. I have tried adding more water. The dough resembles thick porridge, it doesn’t, matter how long I try to form it I do not get a smooth dough as in your video. What am I doing wrong. I live in the UK and I am using metric weight.

    1. Hmmm. Sorry for the trouble. I’ve baked my method in the UK, but I used relatively high protein flours: Shipton Mill Traditional Organic White Flour, and Waitrose Whole Meal Bread Flour (note that if you go with the whole-meal, you need about a half-cup more water (4 ounces/110 grams). Many European white flours are low in protein because they don’t blend in any North American flour (often Canadian)–which is high in protein and absorbs a lot of water. Short answer is that whatever flour you’re using, with the very runny result you’re getting, you need to decrease the water, not increase. Quarter-cup (2 ounces/55 grams)? You can salvage your existing batch by mixing in some flour, then allowing to ferment at room temperature for two hours before refrigerating again.

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