Tips!

Tips – everybody’s got ’em! As time goes on, I will have more and more to share with you. For now, I’ll tell you what I learn and what I know as I go and grow. If it works, it’s a new rule – whatever “it” may be.  Baking and cooking are hardly new to me, and I don’t claim to be Puck, Childs, Flay, Ray, Emeril, or Stitt. I’m just doing what I love and for all to see. While many of you already know this stuff like the back of your hand, there are oodles of people who are following their first inspiration to cook and/or bake and need a little help. So here you go, grasshoppers! If you have any questions, feel free to ask. I am always happy to help. Likely, your question will require an answer that will be “one for the books”! So I’ll promptly add answers to this list. After all, that’s how this list began.

Thank you. Now, read on…

Let’s start with one of baking’s primary colors – flour.

Flour – Simply try to understand the basics, and you’re off to a wonderful start! I prefer King Arthur brand, but I will also use Pillsbury and Gold Medal.

– Unbleached All Purpose: Due to its versatility, I use it for nearly all of my creations. Also, I am one of those bakers that feels they can taste the bleaching agents in bleached flour. For this reason alone, I don’t use bleached flour.

– Unbleached Bread Flour: Unless the recipe absolutely calls for (99% of the time, it doesn’t) bleached bread flour, this is all that I use. Unbleached flours are allowed to age naturally instead being treated with chemical agents that force the process along. No thank you!

– Whole Wheat: This is a high gluten flour ground from intact wheat kernels, or “wheat berry”  including the indigestible bran. Because of this, whole wheat flour is thought of as more nutritious since it has the extra fiber content.  It comes in all-purpose, bread, cake and pastry varieties. Because of Every now and again, I make something using wheat flour.  The texture and color is not as light as with white flour. Hint: if you prefer whole wheat flour, use it in place of the unbleached all-purpose flour in my recipes. You get the benefit of the whole wheat with the taste and performance of regular all-purpose flour, or white unbleached flour.

– Pastry Flour: Soft, unbleached white flour that produces tender baked goods. To keep fresh, store in an airtight container in the freezer.

– Cake Flour: Made of soft white wheat and have very low gluten or protein. I prefer the pastry flour to the cake flour.

Dairy Products

– Eggs: Use Grade A large eggs. All of my recipes are developed using Grade A large eggs. Substituting egg sizes can lead to dramatically different results. Use them at room temperature. Cold eggs will cause your batter to be cold which can make for a struggle for the batter or dough to rise in the oven. Room temperature eggs blend well and result in better volume. In a hurry? Put your uncracked eggs in a bowl of hot tap water for about 5 minutes. Tahhdahhh! Room temp eggs!

– Milk: Moistens and adds butterfat to batters and doughs.

– Buttermilk (and buttermilk powder): Surprise! Surprise! Buttermilk is low in fat, high-protein, and rich in calcium. This is even more reason to eat dessert made with it! In terms of fat content, it’s very similar to skim milk. It has a pH of about 4.4-4.8 which helps tremendously to tenderize baked goods resulting in a fluffier end product.

– Cream: Usually whipped and used as a topping, it still finds its way into my doughs and batters for its richness and full-bodied taste.

– Yogurt: Excellent when used in quick breads. For me, it’ has the effect of buttermilk.

Leaveners: This factor completely depends on what else is going on in the recipe. Your leaveners include baking soda and baking powder. They are different and reactive to different environments. Baking soda is an alkali that predates baking powder. It was used to create the necessary reaction for leavening whereby it creates carbon dioxide. The gases released during the reaction are trapped in the dough or batter forcing it to rise. Today it can be used with baking powder to neutralize excess acid in a batter or dough. Baking powder can be used with any combo of ingredients. The whole “double-acting” term  refers to the initial leavening action being followed by a second and final leavening action that occurs due to a reaction to the heat of the oven.

Sweeteners – Of course it adds sweetness, but it makes valuable contributions to the texture and color of your finished product.

– White Sugar: Let’s not get too hung up on this one. Be sure you are buying pure can sugar, or else assume that the sugar in the bag is beet sugar.

– Confectioners Sugar:  White, powdery sugar with a little cornstarch added in. Also know as 10X sugar. Can be lumpy, so in some cases you will need to Sift! it.

– Brown Sugar:  This is actually white sugar that has been sprayed with molasses. It’s texture is soft and moist. It adds interesting flavor, but can be a bear at times. It’s prone to form rock hard lumps that often have to be discarded. Dark brown sugar can be the most difficult of the two when it comes to this issue.

Baking Pans

Anodized vs Non-Anodized – Alright…Well, long story short – anodized is the way to go and here’s why. First, and most importantly, let’s understand what it means to be “anodized”. Perhaps you’ve heard of hard-anodized cookware. Such cookware are made of metal (aluminum) and hardened in an electrochemical process. The description of this process is lengthy and meaty. If I get too deep into the science of it all, I may lose my biscuits, I mean marbles. Basically, bathing the metal pans in an acid bath prepares the pans to receive an electric current which leads to that uniform oxide coating synonymous with Fat Daddio pans. Compare Fat Daddio to a regular aluminum cake pan. You’ll see. Anyhoo, the thickness of the newly created coating is such that the pan’s surface is much harder, less reactive (I’ll get to that in a minute), less corrosive, and it even gives the pans some non-stick kudos.

Now, aluminum  is reactive. It even found itself among list of top priority toxins in the United States some years back. Folks, it just isn’t good for ya; your immune and nervous systems. Be sure, though, not to damage the surface of your anodized pans or else you release dangers of the aluminum below the surface. Remember, it’s just a coating! Personally, I’m a fan of stainless steel and ceramic cookware.

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