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There are some foodstuffs that cause quite a bit of cross-cultural
confusion and are the focus of frequent queries. The purpose of
this file is to provide a little clarification.

MEASURE: Three conventions: US, Imperial and Metric. US measure
is by volume. Imperial measure is by weight, but uses (weighed)
ounces unless specified as fluid ounces. (This is a very important
distinction, if you try to make an Imperial recipe using US
measurements, the result will be a spectacular failure.) Metric
measure is easy, it uses grams, liters, etc.

Two measures of note:

1 US tablespoon = 3 teaspoons
1 AUS tablespoon = 4 teaspoons

1 US pint = 16 fluid oz
1 UK pint = 20 fluid oz

How to convert? The best solution IMO for non-US cooks is to get
your hands on some US measuring cups and spoons. For US cooks,
invest in a scale. Otherwise, use a calculator and conversion charts
(there are several right here in ).
Rounding will not noticeably harm things, for example, it's okay
to round an ounce to either 25 or 30 grams, you may round a kilo
to 2 1/4 pounds and so on.

DO NOT BELIEVE the adage "A pint's a pound the world around." While
it holds true for some things (such as thin liquids), there are a
multitude of other things it doesn't work for, like flour, syrups,
bread crumbs, nuts, etc.

BISCUITS: UK biscuits are US cookies and crackers. US biscuits
are similar to a UK plain cream scone (rhymes with Don). UK scones
come in more varieties -- they can be flaky, cakelike, crumbly,
savoury, sweet, large, cut in wedge shapes, and/or include add-ins
(cheese, dried fruit, etc). Scones are often served for tea (despite
Aussie relatives, I am still unclear on the concept of the meal
referred to as "tea"). US biscuits are usually served at breakfast,
and can be split open and smothered with cream/milk gravy or
sandwiched with sausage patties.

GRAHAM CRACKERS: A not-too-sweet US cookie/cracker made from graham
flour, which is a coarsely ground whole wheat flour. There is no
non-US equivalent. Graham crackers are by far the popular choice
for US recipe crumb pie/cheesecake crusts. Substitute pretty much
any dry, not overly sweet biscuit crumb. I hear digestive biscuits
make a pretty good substitute. Recipe at this location:

HALF-AND-HALF: US product, half milk, half cream. Comparable to
single cream in butterfat. (12 to 18%)

ICING SUGAR: Icing sugar, powdered sugar and confectioner's sugar
are all the same thing.

CASTER SUGAR: Granulated sugar between superfine and icing sugar
in grain size. Either can be substituted.

CORN SYRUP: Sugar syrup made from corn. Common US brand is Karo,
comes in light and dark, is flavoured with salt and vanilla. There
is no non-US equivalent. Golden (cane sugar) syrup may be substituted
with acceptable results but the taste will not be the same (this
may be a consideration for recipes like pecan pie). You can try
making a simple sugar syrup and using that:

For 1 cup light corn syrup: 1 1/4 cups granulated sugar and
1/4 cup water.

For 1 cup dark corn syrup: 3/4 cup light corn syrup plus 1/4 cup
light molasses, or 1 1/4 cups packed brown sugar plus 1/4 cup water.

COOL WHIP: Non-dairy stable whipped topping, comes frozen in tubs.
Meant as a replacement for whipped cream. Dream Whip is similar,
except it comes dry in envelopes and is made by whipping with milk.

BISQUICK: Brand name baking mix. Baking mix is a mixture of flour,
leavening and fat. Recipes you can make are found starting here:

BUTTER: Many US recipes call for "a stick of butter". Butter in
the US is packaged by the pound, divided into four "sticks". So
a stick is 1/4 pound or 1/2 cup or 8 tablespoons or 4 ounces. A
cube of butter is the same as a stick.

SHORTENING: Shortening is anything that makes a pastry "short",
i.e. flaky (think shortbread or shortcake). In the US, shortening
often refers to a shelf-stable, hydrogenated vegetable fat, common
brand name is Crisco. (some cooks swear by Crisco for cookies and
pie crusts, doesn't do much for me). Use any solid fat (butter,
lard) instead.

OLEO: An old-fashioned name for margarine. Go ask your grandmother.

CORNFLOUR: The same thing as US cornstarch. It is not flour made
from corn, which is masa harina, a finely ground flour made from
corn treated with lime. This is different from cornmeal, which is
coarse ground dried corn (which may or may not have been treated
with lime - yellow and white cornmeal are both widely available).
Polenta is a very coarsely ground cornmeal. To throw a wrench into
the gears, I have recently seen a US product tagged as "corn flour"
which appears to be a finely ground cornmeal. Go figure.

FLOUR: UK plain flour is equivalent to US all-purpose. Self-rising
flour includes 1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder and 1/2 teaspoon salt
per cup. UK wholemeal is equivalent to US whole-wheat. Cake flour
is a soft flour meaning less gluten and produces a softer crumb;
bread flour is a hard/strong flour, meaning more gluten and produces
a tougher crumb. If a recipe calls for flour but doesn't specify
what kind, use plain or all-purpose.

MILK: If a recipe calls for sour(ed) milk, you may make your own
by putting 1 teaspoon of vinegar in 1 cup of milk. (Acid is required
for recipes that contain baking soda). You may substitute buttermilk.

VANILLA: Vanilla extract and vanilla essence are the same thing.
To make vanilla sugar, combine 2 cups granulated sugar with 1 tsp
vanilla extract. Mix well and store in an air-tight container.
Place a whole vanilla bean in the jar for extra flavour. An equal
amount of vanilla extract may be substituted for vanilla sugar.


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3 of 5 people found the following review helpful:
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Very Informative., July 7, 2006 - 05:17 PM
Reviewer: Anonymous from USA
Thank you very much!

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