DD101 Extra: Pizza Math and Ingredient Swapping – Volume to Weight Conversions and Substitutions
Hi, Deep Dishers.
If you’re one of the amazing people who downloaded the Deep Dish Pizza Recipe and then looked at those pesky cup-to-gram conversions and wondered… “how the heck did he convert those?”, well you’re in luck, because I’m going to give you a few links with some conversion shortcuts.
While I do that, I should tell you something that some of you already know:
The Volume-to-Weight ratio of an ingredient can vary,
depending on the ingredient.
1 Cup of All Purpose flour (US, not Metric – yeah, they’re different, don’t ask me why)
weighs about 125 grams.
1 Cup of Water (US) weighs about 237 grams.
1 Cup of Vegetable Oil (or Corn Oil) weighs about 223 grams.
ALL ARE 1 CUP. Do they weigh the same? NO.
Why? What do I look like? Bill Nye?
Go google “ingredients volume vs weight measurement”, then come back here.
You don’t wanna? Fine. I’ll try to explain:
Basically, some ingredients are made up of molecules or grains (or pieces) that are more densely packed than others. Most of the the time, especially on Earth where most of us live, air takes up whatever space is left between the grains or molecules.
In fact, if you tightly pack AP flour into a 1 cup measure and then fill another 1 cup measure using one of the usual flour measuring methods, those cups of flour could have different weights… FOR THE SAME INGREDIENT!
WHY? Do ya know how some recipes ask you to sift things like flour? The container you add the flour to is the same size, but there’s less of your ingredient in there because the sifting puts more air between the grains, so it weighs less than the same ingredient if you just packed it in there.
Now, if we were in outer space making pizza dough, I’d be talking about mass and gravity, and that’s when I’d be emailing Bill Nye to help me with this article (he is welcome to contact us at any point and I will happily add info & correct any errors), but then that’s really more than I want to explain at this point, and it’s really not necessary to get THAT sciency when we’re making pizza dough here on Earth, so…
Just get it into your head that a cup of bolts and a cup of feathers and cup of water and a cup of flour DO NOT WEIGH THE SAME…
(and that Global Warming is happening and we need to do something about it before all the coastal cities are 20 feet underwater and the only pizzerias left in the US will be in 2nd floor bakeries in Chicago and various mountain towns that will likely have frozen over in the impending ice age caused by the SuperMegaUltraPolarVortexPalooza created by Godzilla, Mothra, Gamera, Dick Cheney, and Screech from Saved by the Bell – he knows what he did)
and not paying attention to this when you switch out ingredients can be a
RECIPE… (trumpets of doom -DUN Dun dunnn!) FOR DISASTER!!!
If you decide to substitute one ingredient for another, you should be aware that if your substitution ingredient weighs differently than the original ingredient, your recipe may not turn out how you expected.
Let’s say you want to use Semolina Flour as part of the flour in your recipe and also want to use a combination of Olive Oil and Corn Oil instead of just Corn Oil.
1 Cup of Semolina weighs about 167 grams.
1 Cup of Olive Oil weighs about 215 grams.
If you substitute some Olive Oil for Corn/Vegetable oil,
you can see it wouldn’t be much of a recipe-shift,
because the weights of each cup of oil are only 8 grams apart.
But look at the difference between the All Purpose Flour and the Semolina… 42 GRAMS!
To get the same 125 grams that you had for the AP Flour, you’d only need to use 3/4 of a cup of the Semolina.
Websites like Convert.to can help you figure out the right conversions.
If you want to tweak your own pizza dough recipe, there’s great recipe calculator tools out there that have a lot of those conversions built in, like the Dough Tools at Pizzamaking.com.
Of course, ingredient weights and measures are only part of the issue.
It’s not always about PIZZA MATH.
Some ingredients behave differently. You’ll find that some dry ingredients absorb liquids at a different rate (or not at all), so you have to be aware that if you grab that evil can of cornmeal instead of the semolina you meant to buy, or substitute too much semolina for your All Purpose Flour, you’re going to end up with different characteristics to your pizza dough.
Or say you decide to change out some of that Corn Oil for Butter.
“They’re both fats, right? Should be just a simple substitution!” you say.
Well, your “simple substitution” isn’t so simple. Butter does have fat, but it also contains water, so not only are you reducing the fat content, you are increasing the hydration. You need to compensate for that by using more butter and reducing the amount of water in your recipe.
Maybe your head is spinning at this point,
and you might be nervous about making the right substitution, but don’t worry.
Even though baking is a science, it can be a forgiving one, especially with pizza dough.
Once you have followed the dough recipe exactly a few times, you should get a good idea of the texture and stretch and structure of your pizza dough. You can use that experience to compensate for a modified dough you’ve been tinkering with.
Did your customized dough end up too sticky or knotty?
You probably had too much liquid, so you may need to add in a little more flour, a bit at a time, until your dough gets to the smooth dough ball that you want.
Is your dough too dry and crumbly?
It is possible you don’t have enough water (or you live in a dry environment)
or the dry ingredients you substituted absorb water more slowly than the original ingredient.
This is one of those times where you may need to just give the dough some extra time before attempting to knead it, but you may just need more liquid; you can start working in small amounts of water (or oil) until your dough starts to come together.
Accurate measuring is important, but don’t be afraid to experiment.
Some of the best recipes resulted from someone trying something different, making a recipe modification with unexpected results, or just accidental dumb luck.
Are you familiar with the Tollhouse Chocolate Chip Cookie recipe?
The chocolate chip cookie was a somewhat controversial ACCIDENT,
(of which you can read the various accounts on the wiki link).
Today, it’s the most popular cookie in the world.
If you’re not too sure about all this cup conversion stuff…
You could always get a scale!
A gram will always weigh a gram.
A pound will always weigh a pound.
Weight of an ingredient doesn’t change.
This is why commercial bakers often measure recipes by weight.