Tips for Better Baking – Baking 101
Help! My cake blew up, my muffins won’t rise, the cookies are too hard and the pie won’t set. If you have had any of these problems don’t worry, it may not be you but the ingredients you are using.
Making the perfect cookie may be as simple as using the right ingredients
Using quality fresh ingredients is as important with spices as it is with eggs and creams. Baking is one of the few cooking methods that takes patience and happens to be a scientific process. If you are a fly by the seat of your pants kinda cook you need this post more than you realize and if we start today we will be sure when you are ready to bake you have knowledge and ingredients to do it perfectly. The most important thing any successful baker can follow is the directions and making sure they have the right stuff on hand. Follow along to see how different products can make a difference between rise or fall when it comes to a yummy pound cake and how vanilla can make or break a cookie recipe.
First, lets remember if you are using stale products your baked goods will in most cases taste stale as well. Old spices will not enhance the flavor of your food and too much of a good thing in baking is bad.
Before You Bake Check for Freshness
Check your spices for freshness, no smell means no good. Store them in a dark pantry and avoid heat because they lose flavor faster.
Check your dates especially on flours and levening’s like yeast since old ingredients will not allow your bread to rise.
Baking powder does not last long so be sure to check it. To test its freshness add tsp to 1/3 cup water and if fizzes then it’s fresh.
Be sure your brown sugar is not hard as a rock. Keep it fresh by storing in a gallon bag and keep it in the freezer.
Keep your white sugar moisture free by storing in a gallon bag in your pantry.
Before baking test your nuts for spoilage. Chop them and then taste to see if they are still fresh and flavorful. Bad nuts can ruin your recipe. To keep fresh longer store in the freezer in a gallon bag.
All About Flours
All Purpose Flour is from hard wheat and has high levels of gluten. The gluten helps the dough rise you and you can find two types bleached or unbleached (not treated with chemicals to make it white) Same results either way. It is best for almost any baking from pies to muffins.
Pastry Flour made from soft wheat with less gluten than all purpose. It is not treated with bleach and is finer than other flours. Great for pies, biscuits and some cookies like Pecan Sandies, Shortbread and Wedding Cookies. To make pastry flour mix equal parts of all purpose and cake flour if not available.
Cake Flour is treated with chlorine to break down extra protein. It’s best for making soft cakes and muffins. Not good to use with bread. Rule of thumb if the recipe has a lot of ingredients like coconut, dried fruits and nuts then the batter will not rise. It is great for simple cakes and pound cake.
Whole Wheat Flour is from grains including bran and wheat germ. It has a darker color and a nutty flavor. Great for getting more whole grains. You can substitute half the all purpose flour in most recipes like muffins, drop cookies and quick breads.
Gluten Free Flour is not made from wheat but more like brown rice flour and garbanzo beans. It is used for anyone that is allergic to gluten. It is a great flour for most cookies whether you are allergic or not.
A Few Baking Tips
Darker colored pans absorb more heat and are great for dark crust breads and brownies. If using for baking other items turn the heat down 25 degrees for a better turnout. Lighter pans are better cakes, cookies and muffins.
Be sure yo have the right size pan when baking. It can usually be found on the bottom of the pan. A wrong size pan can cause a recipe to bake unevenly or ahead of schedule.
Cookie dough can be frozen for up to 30 days. Store in a gallon bag and label. To bake you can scoop from fozen or defrost in the fridge.
If you have leftover coffee add it to a recipe in place of the water. This is great way to add a new flavor to brownies and cakes.
Chocolate is still good even if it has a layer of white film.
Prevent sticking by lining pans with wax or parchment paper.
Use a kitchen timer, whether it is a microwave, oven or portable don’t burn the cookies by getting distracted and forgetting all about them.
Don’t overcrowd the oven, Keep all pans a minimum of 2 inches apart and stagger in the oven. Do not place under each other.
Check For Doneness-Always check the lower end of a cooking time
Cakes and muffin-Toothpick in the center comes clean
Brownies-pull away from the sides and toothpick clean
Quick Bread-Edges pull away and center rises
Cakes-Cool 10 minutes in the pan and then transfer to a wire cooking rack.
Cookies-Cool 2-3 minutes and then move to a wire cooling rack. Do not let cook on pan because bottom will continue to cook and become crunchy.
Breads and Muffins-Remove immediately and place on a wire rack or cool plate.
Happy Baking and Memory Making! K