Believe or not, I was just getting ready to bake some cookies (I have a new recipe that is actually considered a vegan recipe, so I want to try it out with respect to taste, texture, appearance, shelf-life, etc.), when I realized that I do not have my “crutch.” I never start to bake without it. I guess you are curious what I call crutch? I am going to let you on it: it is a notebook that has my notes of course, about mishaps, errors, accidents, etc., occurred while baking. Naturally, the important notes are the ones that explain how I handled these events? how I was able to correct errors? and more. I moved long-distance recently, and I am still sitting on some unopened boxes, so I am hoping that the notebook is in one of those unopened boxes. If not, I maybe in trouble.
In the meantime I am just going to jut down here some baking tips that I can recall from memory and hope for the best. Watch for the new cookies; I may post them by the end of the week.
Measuring ingredients for baking correctly is almost as important as using the correct blood type during surgery, or have the right instrumentation for flying an airplane. I hear someone commenting about my dramatization: “Sheer exaggeration”…Well, perhaps, because in this case there is no real life and death situation; however, your cake will need a resuscitating equipment (and it may not work?)
Last week, while watching the chocolate program on Food Network, Tyler Florence, the moderator, baked a flour-less chocolate cake. Although he is a great chef, I believe he should not venture to work as a pastry chef. You do not “eyeball” the sugar content of a cake and you do not “spoon” out the flour from a container and drop it into the cake batter. Of course we did not see the results of his baking because the cake presented at the end was prepared the correct way by his assistants. (although that cake did not look great either).
Sugar and fat makes the cake tender and moist (read the Fine Cooking magazine’s article); however, too much sugar (as it could have happen when eyeballing the amount needed) prevents the flour from setting and the cake will fall apart. (But we will discuss the importance of ingredients in an other upcoming post).
For now I’d like to go back to our original theme, measuring the ingredients in baking: Here are a couple of important tips:
- Stir the flour before measuring it out (I mean stir it in the container); or powder them. The same applies to cacao powder. You will get a more accurate measured quantity.
- Sift the flour before measuring if the instructions in the recipe are requesting you to do so.
- Measure the flour by over-filling the measuring cup loosely, than level it off with the edge of a knife or the sides of the spatula.
- Refresh (or rather out with the old/in with the new) your baking powder. Dorie Greenspan recommends to change the baking powder every 6 months; I think it is a recommendation that makes sense. Mark the starting date on the container, so that you can know when the 6 months is up.
- Sift the cocoa powder before measuring; then spoon it loosely into the measuring cup. When the cup is full with a heaping measure of cocoa powder, level it off with the edge of a knife or the sides of the spatula
Measure liquids with the liquid measuring cups; make sure that the level of the liquid is exactly at the level of the required volume at eye level. When pouring out the liquid form the measuring cup, use a spatula to drain out the excess droplets
Measure brown sugar by compressing it into the measuring cup. After the cup is over-filled, level it off and release it into the mixing container.
- Measure white sugar by filling the measuring cup “loosely”, and when overfilled, level it off with a straight edge of a knife.
- Invest in a kitchen scale, particularly, if you like to bake and planning to do a lot baking. You will not regret it. As I said before accuracy in baking is a must if you want to have great products. Personally, I like the Salter Digital scale. It has a high degree of accuracy; you can convert the measurements to English units (i.e. oz vs Kg ), and from volume to weight; you can put a large pan on top of the scale and still read the numbers (trust me, it is a rarity). It is easy to clean, and comes with a conversion chart for all major, popular items.
- Use eating utensils as measuring spoons; they are not correct and may affect the result of your baking; although I must add, that in pharmacy school they teaching you that a teaspoon is 5 ml and a tablespoon is 15 ml and that is that. I wonder how can we be so sure with medicine, but hesitant with food?
- “Eyeball” any ingredients in baking
Thanks for visiting. Could you please let me know how you handle some mishaps in your baking? Thanks.