Thursday, 30 January 2014

Beating the scales - or not. And a Lemon Tart that didn't work out quite how I planned

No I don't mean beating the scales in the weight loss sense, I mean that little game we all play trying to work out exactly where to cut the butter to give the weight that's specified in the recipe? You know what I mean, don't be coy. I bet you're really good at it.

Oh. You don't? So it's just me? It is? Oh dear.

 Well, it's out there now, so best get on with the confession.

It started with those butter packs that have 'approximate' 50g sections marked out on the edge of the butter paper. I'd cut as straight and as accurately as I could to see if I could indeed cut 50g. Then I started doing it by eye. And not just 50g, but 100g. Or 75g. How about 40g...

I realise that this says alot more about me than I'd like, but to be fair, this doesn't extend to weighing out anything else. I still wouldn't have a clue how much 50 or 100g of sugar or flour would look like. Well - I suppose I would a little bit, but not with the confidence that I like to think I have to cut butter up into appropriate portions. 

I would never try to beat the scales when it came to weighing out, say, blackcurrants, and, without scales, or the handy measuring mug I have from Love Food Hate Waste, I always cook too much rice. So it's not an all-pervading affliction.

I don't think I've ever been absolutely spot on with the butter, doing it by eye, but I'm getting better, and sometimes I can be just a gram or 2 out.

The days just fly by, I tell you.

So when I set to, the other afternoon, to make a lemon tart for some friends who were coming for dinner that evening, I needed to weigh out 140g of butter. The excitement! There's so much more skill required when you're not aiming for multiples of 50g.

From my 250g pack of butter, it didn't take a genius to work out (as I did) that I needed to cut a bit beyond half. I eyed up the block, made a mark, then cut. I was reasonably confident, but the scales - my new, stripy for Christmas, scales, said no. 97g.

97g??? Was the Co-Op cheating me? I'd definitely cut more than half a block of butter that professed to be 250g. I looked again. Then I weighed another block of butter I had in the fridge which was also supposed to be 250g, from the same store. 192g.

Before I stomped up the road, receipt in hand, outrage on my lips, to accuse the Co-Op of swindling its customers out of butter, I decided I'd better weigh something else. I got out a full pack of paella rice. Different product, different supermarket 'own brand'. 500g on the packet, 177g on the scales. Or 233g depending on which way up I put the box on the scales. Yeah. Not good.

I'd put a new battery in the scales already, so it appears that I had a calibration issue.

Not just a calibration issue, but a problem with my dessert.

I'd already had an issue with the pastry case - I bought the pastry, and committed the fundamental error of using the left over to make jam tarts BEFORE the 'baked blind' case had come out of the oven shrunken and wonky in parts, so I had nothing to patch it with. 

I was working on a recipe I haven't used before, which is never a good thing with a couple of hours before your guests are due. And as if that wasn't enough, I'd already weighed out the sugar, believing in my scales, before my trust was destroyed with the butter. Not only that, but I'd grated the lemon zest into the sugar as required, leaving me with the options of (1) picking out all the bits of lemon zest before working out how to re-weigh some more sugar, (2) going to the Co-Op (I still wasn't utterly convinced) to get more lemons, or (3) winging it.

Unlike the week before, I didn't have the necessary to knock up an alternative. Visions of lumpy, lemon-flavoured scrambled eggs leaking all over the oven from my patchy pastry case filled my head.  

But, you know, life is too short to pick the grated zest of 3 lemons out of a bowl of caster sugar that might or might not have weighed 225g, and it felt ridiculous to just start again, so I decided that the sugar would have to be the right weight, added butter that looked to me as if it was around 140g, did what I needed with the eggs (no weighing required, thankfully), and held my breath.

Well, you'll be relieved to know that all was pretty much well that ended well - or that ended in a few glasses of wine with some lovely friends who I am going to miss so much when we move. They were very kind about the tart, and, wonky pastry case and guesstimated ingredients aside, it tasted pretty good. Lemon tart is pretty much one of my most favourite things to eat, and for all that every stage was tinged with disaster (even the actual baking - which despite my vigilance ended up with it catching slightly on the top) this particular specimen was, in my humble opinion, definitely in the general lemon tart ball park, if not exactly right between the goal posts.

What? You want the recipe now? Well, I feel that I owe it to you all to make it again and check it works using the measurements I was supposed to be using. Because I know I'm a bit "some of this and some of that" but I really can't guarantee how much sugar and butter I actually used. And as there's always going to be room for another post about lemon tart on this blog, you'll just have to wait till I get this one right...


  1. I'm so glad I'm not the only one who does that with butter! Do you also hold a measuring jug of liquid up at eye level to make sure the bottom of the meniscus is on exactly the right line? Or is that just the former science teacher in me coming out?

    1. Oh - yes, I do that too! It's about the only thing in science that I mastered...

  2. It still looks delicious though!! :)

    1. Thanks. It was pretty good, but with room for improvement. Will just have to make another one. Life is tough sometimes!

  3. Hello my name is Francesca and I'm Italian. I discovered your blog by accident, looking for new things. I have joined your followers. If you go too foul. Thank you. Francesca

  4. Yes! I do that too with the butter! And liquids... Oh dear...
    You should definitely get your money back though on those scales.

    V entertaining post, thank you for making me chuckle!!

    1. see - I KNEW it wasn't just me. There's at least 3 of us out there!

  5. sometimes try to do the butter by eye, but always end up rechecking it, so don't think that counts? Love lemon tart too and yours looks delicious.

  6. Oh no! I am the same with butter though, cut by eye, but I always weigh it after to check if I'm right or not. Hope you get your scales sorted soon.

  7. Not just me then! I feel I've won something when I cut the butter just right, even calling to Mr CC in the room next door to tell him!

    1. :-) defintiely not alone - there seem to be plenty of us closet butter weighers out there


I LOVE comments - please leave one. Unfortunately, I have been getting hideous amounts of SPAM so please can you do the word verification thingy?