Thursday, July 22, 2010

Baking FAQs

Hello again! It has been a little while since I wrote an entry… I have been so busy with my daughter’s birthday party planning that I have not been able to sit down and write (details and recipes from the party will follow!)
Anyways, I don’t know how many of you are amateur cooks/bakers like me, but every recipe that I try comes with lots of “trial and error”. When it comes to baking, especially cupcakes (my favorite, can you tell???), I have come to learn that it is a blend of art and chemistry. The preciseness of measurements and the chemical reactions that happen during preparation and baking just amaze me. I guess I have just watched too many “Good Eats” episodes (if you have never seen one, you should!) with Alton Brown going over his recipes in a way that explains the “whys” and “hows” of cooking.
So why do I bring this up you say? With every recipe that I try, some work, some don’t work. Some recipes work, but I may tweak it a little to better suit my needs/desires. Here are some of my thoughts on issues/problems/hurdles that I have come across and how I best deal with them:
Q.     Cupcakes not baking evenly, or as the cupcake bakes, the center doesn’t have that pretty dome look (makes it look more like a valley).
A.      Here are a few things I would recommend:
a.       Always bring your cold temperature ingredients to ROOM temperature (i.e. butter, eggs, milk, buttermilk, sour cream) when specified. Having ingredients brought to room temperature lets the batter bake evenly once it has been mixed. For example, butter acts differently in different temperatures. As an example to this example, if you are making a flaky pie crust, it is a requirement to have the butter be used VERY COLD, whereas for regular cupcakes, the butter is at room temperature.
b.      Always measure your ingredients the same way. The most accurate way to measure ingredients is by weight (to quote my hero Alton Brown). However, even if you are not weighing your ingredients, make sure that one cup of flour equals another cup of flour. My way to be consistent is to run the flat end of a knife through the top of the measuring cup once the flour has been added. That way you’ll remove any extra flour that should not be included in the recipe.
c.       Sift any dry ingredients. I usually try to add that into my recipe even if it is not asking for it. It doesn’t hurt to add this special touch! It makes it easier to distribute the dry ingredients evenly through the batter.
d.       A specific note, make sure that your baking powder and/or baking soda works. I found this tip online, and it works really well. Test your baking powder by adding ½ tsp of it to 3-4Tbsp of room temperature water. Test your baking soda by adding ½ tsp of it to 3-4Tbsp of white vinegar. If the powder bubbles in the water/vinegar, it still works. Make sure to test your baking powder and soda every 6-12 months.

I guess I only have these comments for now! Please post any questions that you might have and together we can increase the knowledge base in this entry J Happy eatings!

1 comment:

  1. Wonderful tips! I have started to test my soda and powder every few months, and it has helped prevent a few baking disasters!