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The Handy Trick I Learned While Working in a Bakery

Food52 logo Food52 1/22/2020 Emma Laperruque
a dirty plate on a table © Provided by Food52

How many recipes have told you to cut squash into ½-inch chunks, or slice potatoes into ¼-inch rounds, or roll sheets of cookie dough to ⅛-inch thick? Even though I cook and bake for a living, I still have trouble estimating these measurements by sight. (It’s hard!) And while our test kitchen and my own kitchen have rulers on deck, the more I cook elsewhere, the more I realize this isn’t a given.

Before I joined the team here at Food52, I worked as a nighttime baker. Which meant a lot of pie dough–rolling, cookie dough–rolling, biscuit dough–rolling...really, just a lot of rolling. After a while, instead of trying to find a ruler every time—as I'm covered in dough, no less—I figured out something about my hands: 1-inch is the distance from the first to second knuckle on my middle finger. And ¼-inch is the thickness of my pinky.

Of course, your body is different. But, whether it’s your middle finger or ring finger or thumb, I’d bet a biscuit that you can find natural 1-inch and ¼-inch markers, which you can use as a rough guide for whatever recipes throw at you. Estimate the halfway point of the 1-inch and you have ½ inch. Do the same with the ¼-inch and you have ⅛-inch.

It may not be quite as precise as a ruler—but it sure is more convenient, and it has yet to let me down.

Recipes Where This Will Come in Handy

a couple of hot dogs sitting on a table: Our Best Philly Cheesesteak © Provided by Food52 Our Best Philly Cheesesteak Our Best Philly Cheesesteak a plate of food on a table: 3-Minute Chicken With Charred Cherry Tomatoes, Burrata & Mint © Provided by Food52 3-Minute Chicken With Charred Cherry Tomatoes, Burrata & Mint 3-Minute Chicken With Charred Cherry Tomatoes, Burrata & ... a chocolate covered donut: Swedish Rye Cookies © Provided by Food52 Swedish Rye Cookies Swedish Rye Cookies a piece of cake on a plate: Roll-Out Sugar Cookies © Provided by Food52 Roll-Out Sugar Cookies Roll-Out Sugar Cookies

What’s your handiest trick when cooking? Let us know in the comments!

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