A recipe for chewy bagels or fruit-studded quick bread is a balanced formula of many ingredients. Liquid is the catalyst: It develops structure-building gluten; dissolves and distributes yeast, sugar, and other ingredients; energizes baking powder and baking soda; and, in the oven, vaporizes into steam that causes breads to rise. Bread recipes call for a variety of liquids: water, milk, eggs, melted butter, oil, yogurt, fruit juices and purées, and sweeteners such as honey.
Not every bread contains sugar, but many do, even if just a tablespoon or two. It adds sweetness and moisture, provides food for yeast, tenderizes crumb, and deepens crust color. Granulated white and brown sugar, honey, molasses, and corn syrup are common forms.
Butter, margarine, oil, shortening, and other fats like egg yolks create moist, tender loaves with rich flavor that keep well because fat slows moisture loss. By themselves, eggs also add structure-building proteins. Salt regulates yeast so that it rises neither too quickly nor too slowly. Proper measurement of these and all other ingredients ensures consistent, successful results.
Before you fill it, set a glass or plastic liquid measuring cup on a counter or tabletop. Add the liquid. For greatest accuracy, check the measurement at eye level rather than from above.
For brown sugar, spoon enough into a dry measuring cup so that it mounds slightly above the rim. Press the sugar firmly into the cup to pack it. Turn the cup upside down to unmold; the sugar will hold the shape of the cup.
For solid vegetable shortening, spoon into a dry measuring cup. Pack down firmly with a rubber spatula, then level by sweeping across. Slice sticks of firm butter or margarine with a knife along the measurements printed on the paper.
Measuring Syrups and Honey
Sticky liquid sweeteners are measured like any other liquid, except that they tend to cling to the sides of the measuring cup. To help them pour out smoothly, measure any oil first, to coat the sides, or brush the inside of the cup lightly with vegetable oil before filling.