Friday, October 8, 2010

Tips for Baking Powder and Baking Soda

Because Baking Powder and Baking Soda are levening agents, they need to be fresh, and at their peak for best results.

Always store them in air tight glass or plastic containers after opening. Ziplock type plastic bags are slightly porus and allow small amounts of air to enter, reducing their effectiveness, and the absorbtion of odors, which will leach into fine baked products.

If stored properly, they will keep for up to 6 months in your cupboard.

Thursday, October 7, 2010

Savory Corn Muffins - Basic Recipe

Please refer to my post - Muffins - Let's Get Started, and assemble all utensils before beginning. Please also refer to the World Wide Metric link provided on the home page, if necessary. Preheat oven to 400oF, and grease 24-36 medium sized muffin tins. If using smaller tins, grease more, if using larger tins, grease less.

Dry Ingredients:
390 Grams Bread Flour (this is important)
25 Grams Baking Powder (fresh-sealed in an air-tight container < 6 months) 10 Grams Baking Soda (fresh-sealed in air-tight container < 6 months) Dash of Cayenne Pepper (optional) 5 Grams salt (optional) 275 Grams Yellow Corn Meal Method:
1. Place sifter over large mixing bowl and pour in each ingredient after measuring.
2. Sift all ingredients into bowl and discard any lumps or impurities.
3. Set aside.

Liquid Ingredients:
125 Grams granulated sugar
625 ml milk
20 ml lemon juice
5 eggs
175 ml vegetable oil (not olive oil)

1. Using whisk, blend sugar, milk, lemon juice and vegetable oil.
2. Add eggs, one at a time, and blend until yolk and white have been well blended into total liquid measure.

Putting it all together:
1. Make a well (hole) in the centre of the dry incredients and pour the liquid ingredients into the centre.

2. Using the wooden spoon, blend just until combined and there are no visible lumps.

3. Place in refridgerator for approximately 10 - 15 minutes to allow the corn meal to absorb the liquids.

4. Remove from fridge and Spoon batter into muffin tins, approximately 2/3 full.

5. Bake approximately 20 minutes, turning half way through. (Note heat varies with each oven so it may take less than, or more than 20 minutes.)

6. Remove the muffins when they are golden brown and tops are no longer shinny.

7. Allow to cool on wire rack, or wooden board, for 10 minutes, then remove from muffin tins to avoid sweating and staling.

Serve warm, or seal in air tight containers and allow to stand at room temperature. You may also freeze them, using double wrap, or air tight containers. NEVER STORE THEM IN THE REFRIDGERATOR.

Options: You may also add these ingredients, just after the mixing stage between wet and dry ingredients, for a more robust muffin. Blend ONLY until incorporated into the batter.

Bacon, Onion and Cheese: Finely chop 5 slices of lean bacon and fry together with 1 medium finely diced onion, until cooked through. Cool to room temperature. Add 100 grams of grated parmesean, or cheddar cheese.

Green and Red Peppers with Corn Nibblets: Finely chop 1/4 each green and red pepper, and add 250 grams canned or frozen corn nibblets.

Sundried Tomatoes: Finely chop 1 sundried tomatoe and add to batter.

Why Weight versus Measure

Why is weight versus measure so important in baking uniformly perfect products again and again?

Let's use the example of a recipe calling for 1 cup/250 ml of vegetable shortening. Many varieties of shortening use air infusion to increase volume. Using the measure formula, your end result will include less fat and result in a tougher, dryer, heavier, and less delicious product.

The same is true with compacted flour, baking powder, baking soda, sugar, and so on. These will contain more volume, than by weight, creating issues with proper rising, salty flavour, and inhibiting proper reaction with other ingredients.

A cup of chopped fruit or vegetables, may contain more air spaces, than by weight, and result in less moisture/steam required during the baking process.

I could go on and on, but all recipes in this blog are based on the dry measure by weight process to ensure perfect results.

Tips for Bananas Used for Baking

To bring out the full flavour of bananas used in cakes, quick breads and other recipes, place them (skin on) in your freezer for a few hours before using, or overnight.

The skin will blacken, and the bananas will become fleshy and much less firm, but there flavour will be enhanced immensely.

Muffins - Let's Get Started

Over the next week, I'll be posting a number of muffin recipes along with directions. Be sure you have the following essentials handy and assembled before beginning any of these recipes.

You will need: kitchen weigh scale - 3 - 4 lb.; bowl or container to use with scale; wooden spoon; hand wisk; liquid measuring cup 2 cups/500 ml; 1 large and 1 medium mixing bowl; dry measure sifter; muffin tins (24-36 cups); non stick cooking spray; preheated oven (temperature will depend on the recipe).

If you are working with ounce and pound measures, instead of grams and milliletres, you will find the link to World Wide Metric, on the right of the main page, invaluable for making conversions.

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Tips for Quick Bread Bakers

Quick breads are flour mixtures (or alternates such as corn, oats, or rice) leavened with baking powder/soda, instead of yeast.

They can be sweet (as in desserts) or savory (as in tea biscuits/muffins).

There are 1,000's of quick bread recipes, but only a handful of reasons for their failure to bring pleasing results.

Over mixing of liquid and dry ingredients is the #1 reason for failure. These should only be stirred, with a wooden spoon, just until combined and there are no visible lumps. You aren't looking for a smooth batter (as in cake, or pancakes here).

Other reasons for failure include: activating the baking soda too soon (be sure all ingredients are assembled in advance; too hot/too cold oven; baked too long; insufficient mixing of liquid ingredients before adding to dry; too much, or inappropriate flour type. Please remember, baking continues after product is removed from the oven heat.

Your end product should always be:

1. Even in shape
2. Well browned
3. Rough and slightly rounded on the surface
4. Even in texture, on the inside
5. Light in both weight, and to the pallet