Monday, September 12, 2011

The One With the Baking Tips and References

I know lots of people have questions regarding measurement conversions and tips on little baking tricks and I thought I'd compile a list of the ones I use most often. I plan on adding to this whenever I think of something else, so feel free to ask questions if you have any.

Terms and Methods
You may see some terms in recipes that you are unfamiliar with but are used often and without explanation. As I think of them I will try to list them below.

Folding: is a technique used for mixing ingredients when you want to keep as much air and substance in your mixtures as possible. Use a wooden spoon or a spatula to lift the batter in a cranky motion. Use slow, steady movements so as to combine your mixtures without overworking and flattening them.

Double boiler: is a method of heating used for delicate ingredients, especially chocolate. To make a double boiler, fill one larger pot about half-way with water and set a smaller pot or a heat-proof glass bowl (like Pyrex) in it. The important thing about this method is to make sure that the water will not spill into whatever you are cooking in the top of your double boiler, so don't fill up the bottom pot with too much water, or use too small of a top pot. Make sure the top pot has a handle you can use to lift it out of the water. While cooking, you will usually want to have the heat up just high enough to make the water simmer, not boil. Boiling is too hard to control and can easily spill water into your mixture, which could ruin it.

Melting chocolate in the microwave: by placing chopped chocolate (or chocolate chips) in a heat-proof, microwave safe bowl in the microwave for 30 seconds. Stir chocolate and replace in microwave for 10 second intervals, stirring between each until chocolate is melted and smooth. Be careful not to overheat, as it can ruin the chocolate.

Measurement Conversions
  • 3 teaspoons are equal to 1 tablespoon
  • 4 tablespoons are equal to 1/4 cup, 16 tablespoons to 1 cup
  • 2 cups is equal to 1 pint, 2 pints to a quart, and 4 quarts to a gallon
When you know these conversions, it is easy to use the information on the back label of an ingredient to find out how much you need with some basic math. Here's an example: If a recipe calls for 8 ounces cream cheese and you have a 32 ounce tub from CostCo which contains 32 servings of 2 tablespoons, then you know that for 32 ounces there are 64 tablespoons and so 8 ounces would be 16 tablespoons, or one cup of cream cheese. I know, it makes you feel like you're in fifth grade again with all these word problems, but knowing your measurement conversions can really come in handy.

Ingredient Conversions
  • 6 oz chopped chocolate is equal to 1 cup chocolate chips
    (For each two ounces of chopped chocolate, use 1/3 cup chocolate chips)
  • 1 stick of butter is equal to 8 oz and 1/2 cup

  • You can substitute all-purpose flour for cake flour by doing this: Measure out a cup of all-purpose flour and then remove 2 tablespoons. What you have left is equivalent to a cup of cake flour. Once you have measured out all the flour you need, use a fork to quickly sift and aerate the flour before incorporating your other ingredients. Using this trick, my cakes have all turned out fine.

Other Ways to Measure
  • The little spoon in your silverware drawer is a teaspoon, if leveled off (like with a liquid). The big spoon is a tablespoon if leveled off. A heaping teaspoon would be about equal to 1 tablespoon. You can use these when cooking, but it is not advised to use a non-standard set of measuring utensils for baking, as they are not exact. 

Tips and Tricks
  • Baking is all about chemistry. It requires exact measurements in order to turn out right. Keep that in mind as you read ingredients and directions on a recipe. Level off your measurements with the straight edge of knife to make them exact. And remember that each step of a recipe is important. 
  • For tips on choosing your cake pans and how to prepare cake pans, click here.
  • For my favorite cake-making supplies, click here.


I'm really not much of a kitchen gadget collector. They take up space and require money I don't have. So I have found a lot of ways to get by without these gadgets and here are a few:
  • Crush the graham crackers for a graham cracker crust without a food processor: Break the graham crackers into a ziplock, gallon-sized bag. Use a heavy rolling pin to crush the graham crackers. You will need to shake and re-roll the graham cracker crumbs to make sure you get all the little pieces smashed down. Your crumbs are ready when they are about the consistency of sand.
    I have also found that Honey Maid's graham crackers are, for some reason, the easiest to crush to crumbs.
  • The chopping knife in your knife set is also an excellent substitute for a food processor. Chop in one direction, from right to left, and then in the perpendicutlar direction, from top to bottom. Rearrange whatever it is that you're chopping and repeat the process until you have pieces of the desired size.
    I use this for chopping candy for toppings and vegetables for cooking and pretty much everything else. Even garlic can be chopped very tiny with a knife if you don't have a garlic press. First, lay the flat side of your knife against a clove of garlic and press down on it with the palm of your hand to break down the clove and disconnect the peel. Remove the peel and chop away.
More to come as I think of things. And especially if you have questions that I can answer. :-)

No comments:

Post a Comment

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...