In my next installment of “15 Tips for Better Baking”, I thought I’d concentrate on ingredients. After all, they’re the building blocks of a great recipe!
- It goes without saying (but I’m gonna say it anyway), that in pretty much anything in this world, you get out of it what you put in it. This also goes for baking ingredients (let me put on my shocked face…). If you invest in quality butter, cream, milk, and eggs, there will be a distinct difference in the flavour, richness, and general quality of your baked goods.
- Having said the above, you also need to know how these ingredients work within your recipes; each brand uses their own formulations, which means that a block of butter or a tub of yogurt from various different brands may have wildly varying levels of moisture content, sodium levels, protein, and fat, which can wreak havoc with your recipe if you
- For best results, use a quality pure vanilla extract; not the stuff from grocery stores, but from a store that specializes in quality baking ingredients. Don’t be afraid of the cost; you’ll need less, and it will taste better! Better yet, if you can get hold of a few whole vanilla bean pods, make your own with a 1 litre mason jar and a bottle of vodka or white rum.
- If incorporating more than one flavour into a batter or icing, always start with the vanilla; vanilla enhances most flavours.
- When baking cakes, pastries, pies, breads, or quick-breads, use unsalted butter. Unsalted butter has a fresher taste that really comes through in these fine foods; it’s also actually fresher than salter butter, as salt is a preservative, so salted butter has usually been in storage longer and is therefore likely “older”.
- However for cookies, use salted butter, as it helps bring out the flavour more distinctly.
- If you need to use salted butter when a baking recipe calls for unsalted butter, reduce the additional salt in the recipe by half to compensate.
- Molasses will be easier to pour from your measuring container if you first spray a little nonstick baking spray in the cup; it works like a charm!
- Custard based baked goods (such as creme brulee or cheesecake) will be less likely to curdle or crack if you whisk in a tablespoon of flour or cornstarch into the sugar first.
- Make sure all your ingredients are room temperature before using, especially butter, milk, and eggs! It’s far too easy to curdle your recipe when working with ingredients of different temperatures, and you also may not get enough leavening/air beaten into your butter or eggs if they are too cold, leading to a flatter, denser finished product.
- Similarly, use same-temperature ingredients together; hot ingredients to hot, cold ingredients to cold. this will also minimize curdling.
- Always use fresh ingredients, including those in your pantry. Just how old is that box of baking soda? How many months/years have you had that yeast? Other than honey, everything has an expiry date. Your baking soda, especially if it’s been opened, has a shelf life of about 6 months to a year. Same with your yeast. Buy smaller quantities and buy it more often; you will save more than the bargain of buying such things in bulk by not having to trash a failed batch of baked goods because your baking soda was expired and ruined your recipe!
- You can store your dry yeast granules in the fridge or freezer to extend its shelf life.
- Follow the recipe, but trust your instincts. While published recipes have been “kitchen tested” and made as foolproof as possible, only you know how your kitchen works. Is your oven heat not the right temperature? Do you have hot and cold spots in your oven? You need to accommodate for that to ensure your baked goods succeed.
- (there was no number 15….dun dun DUNNNN!)
With thanks to the following: