Sunday, June 12, 2011

Baking Tips

I have made a ton of stuff lately, including multiple cakes and some numcious strawberry oatmeal muffins, but unfortunately my camera memory card has crapped out on me.  Until I get a new card or a new camera, I'm shit out of luck with picture blogging.  So instead of doing food posts I'm going to do a handy little tip post with some of the useful tips and tricks I've acquired over the years.


1.  When baking cheesecakes, custards or any flourless cake set the pan in a larger pan of boiling water.  This is called a water bath.  Set the cake pan into the larger pan inside the oven, then carefully fill it with boiling water halfway up the cake pan.  This ensures the cake bakes evenly and prevents brown sides on cheesecakes.  I wouldn't recommend this for normal flour based cakes as it can cause excess moisture as well as shorten the baking time resulting in an over done cake. 

2.  Many recipes will instruct you to butter a pan before adding the cake batter.  I suggest using cooking spray or vegetable oil.  The reason for this is that butter contains water and thus causes the sides of the cake to be over moist.  The best way to prepare a pan for baking is to lightly spray it with cooking spray or a thin coat of vegetable oil, line the bottom of the pan with parchment paper and then spray or oil the parchment paper as well.  Add some flour to the pan, shake it to cover the bottom and sides and then tap out the excess. Extra tip: If baking a box mix, reserve a tablespoon of the mix to use in place of the flour.  If making a chocolate cake, use cocoa powder in place of the flour.  This will prevent white flour spots on the sides of your cake.

3.  Have flattened out cupcake liners?  Don't throw them away.  Use them to grease pans!  They are perfect and prevent greasy fingers.

4. Want to cut down the fat in your recipes?  Replace vegetable oil with applesauce or plain nonfat, greek or turkish yogurt.  You can even use flavored yogurts if you want to.  You can replace the oil 50/50 or 100%, your choice.

5. If you find your cakes are too dense or heavy, it may be because there is actually too much flour in it.  The best way to measure flour is by weight, but second best is spooning flouring into your measuring cup instead of scooping, then leveling it off with a knife.  This ensures the flour isn't compacted into the cup which results in much more flour than intended.

6.  If you can only bake one cake layer at a time and are worried about leaving the batter sit, here's a good trick.  Leave the baking soda out of the main recipe, then add it when you need it by mixing it with vinegar.  For instance, if your recipe calls for 1 teaspoon of baking soda and the cake makes three layers, simple mix 1 heaping 1/4 teaspoon of baking soda with 1/4 teaspoon of vinegar and stir it into the cake batter pan right before it goes into the oven.  It will fizzle and bubble up when you mix the baking soda and vinegar together, that's what you want.

7. Out of eggs?  Use a mashed banana instead.  It provides the moisture and binding qualities of egg.  If your recipe wouldn't fare well with banana flavor, use a mixture of flax seed and water instead. These are great alternatives for people with egg sensitivities. 

8. Buttermilk is a common addition to cake batters and the likes.  No need to go out and buy it though, simply put one tablespoon of vinegar or lemon juice in a measuring cup, then fill with milk to the one cup line.  Let it sit for about five minutes and you're good to go.

9.  Don't freak out if a recipe calls for cake flour.  Simply measure out a cup of flour, remove two level tablespoons, then replace that with two level tablespoons of corn starch.  Sift these together five times.  That seems excessive, but it is very important for not only combining the two, but getting air into it.  Instant cake flour.

10.  When adding nuts or fruit to cakes or bread, give them a toss in some flour first.  This will prevent them from sinking and also prevents the fruit from bleeding color into the bread.

11.  If you are using a glass pan to bake your cake, remember to reduce the heat by 25 degrees.  Glass absorbs much more heat than metal pans and will easily dry out your cake.

12.  Just because a cake recipe calls for water doesn't mean you have to use water.  For chocolate cakes, try using hot coffee or soda.  Just remember that if you're using soda, you wan't to cut the sugar a bit.  You can also replace the water with buttermilk.  Making a lemon cake?  Try using Sprite. 

13.  If you're making a cake that calls for a fruit filling between the layers, dust the layers with confectioners sugar before you add the fruit.  This will prevent the fruit filling from soaking into the cake.

14.  Don't have a cake tester or a toothpick laying around?  Use a stick of uncooked spaghetti instead!

15.  If you don't have a cake leveler and are nervous about cutting it with a knife, use a piece of unflavored dental floss instead.  It slides right through for an even cut and works wonders with dough recipes too.  To slice perfect dough sections, place the floss under the dough where you want to cut it, then cross the string and pull in opposite directions.

16. When making cupcakes or muffins, use a cookie scoop to fill the cups.  This ensures even distribution and even cooking time.

17.  Want to make heart shaped muffins but don't have a heart pan?  Just line the cups with papers, then add a small ball of foil to one side of each cup so the paper is pressed into a heart shape then bake as normal.

18.  The best way to get a clean, smooth slice on a cake is to use a heated knife.  Run it under hot water for a few seconds then dry it off and slice.

19.  When baking bread, the more times it rises the more fermentation happens.  Fermentation = flavor.  Rise, punch, fold and repeat.  What's even better is setting it in the fridge for an overnight slow rise.  This is especially great with bagels and rolls.

20.  If you need to make cupcakes or muffins for some reason or another and are going to be too busy to bake them the day of, there is a way to make them ahead of time.  Line your baking tray with foil cups, fill as usual and then set the pan on a baking tray and freeze them.  Once frozen, put the cups into a freezer bag and mark what they are, the oven temperature and baking time plus ten minutes.  When ready to make them, just put them back in a muffin pan and bake as usual, noting the extra baking time.


I hope these tips make baking a little easier for everyone! 


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1 comments:

Mama said...

Great pointers Jenna!

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