Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Baking is like Science but HARDER

I check out cookbooks like a diabetic baker. They always leave me feeling slightly awed and unworthy.

My latest foray into food porn was Southern Living - 40 Years of Our Best Recipes (click to read first section on Amazon). I liked this book because instead of telling you to do it explains why you do.

Check out this list of reasons why all my baked goods are endorsed by Duncan Hines or labelled by a bakery:

- Use name-brand ingredients. Store brands of sugar are often more finely ground than name brands, yielding more sugar per cup, which can cause a cake to fall. Store brands of butter can contain more liquid fat; flours can have more hard wheat, making the cake heavy.

- Measure accurately. Extra sugar or leavening causes a cake to fall; extra flour makes it dry.

- For maximum volume, use ingredients at room temperature. We like to premeasure our ingredients and line them up in the order listed. That way, if interrupted, we're less likely to make a mistake when we return to the recipe.

- Beat softened butter (and cream cheese or vegetable shortening) at medium speed with an elextric mixer until creamy. This can take from 1 to 7 minutes, depending on the power of your mixer. Gradually add sugar, continuing to beat until light and fluffy. These steps are important because they beat the air into the batter so the cake will rise during baking.

- Add the eggs one at a time, beating the batter just until the yellow yolk disappears. Overbeating the eggs can cause the batter to overflow the sides of the pan when baked, or it can create a fragile crust that crumbles and separates from the cake as it cools.

- To prevent the batter from curdling, always add the dry ingredients alternately with the liquid, beginning and ending with the dry ingredients. Mix just until blended after each addition. Overmixing the batter once the flour has been added creates a tough and rubbery cake.

You know what I have to remember when baking with cake mix? Allow ingredients to come to room temperature before mixing.