Thursday, September 15, 2011

Tips, Measurements and Equivalents

With the weather cooling off, at least for some of us, it's time to start baking again. Last week I baked muffins for the kids, and I stocked up on some ingredients to bake cookies this weekend. Today I have a few baking tips to share.

Oven temperatures in newer recipes are very clear, but if you collect old cookbooks you'll find they often use "moderate oven" or "hot oven". Use the following when running across this type of thing.

Slow Oven: 250-300 degrees F.
Moderate Oven: 350-375 degrees F.
Hot Oven: 400 degrees F.
Very Hot Oven: 450-500 degrees F.

The following tips are from All About Home Baking published in 1933. I love this cookbook because of the baking tips. Quotes from the book are in italics.

Cutting in shortening can be tricky. If it's not done correctly your biscuits or scones will be heavy like a rock. The tip below is a great explanation of this method.

Cut shortening into flour quickly and lightly , being careful not to press down and mash the fat (butter etc.) . The cutting is continued until the shortening is separated into tiny particles and the mixture resembles course corn meal. The pastry blender is a convenient little tool for cutting in shortening. Two knives may be used instead.

(Pastry blenders are very inexpensive now, and can be found in most gadget sections of stores like Walmart or Target.)

Muffins are simple to make, but if they aren't done correctly they can turn out tough, dry or they may have "tunnels". The following tip will help:

Turn wet ingredients all at once into dry ones. Stir as briskly as possible without splashing mixture out of mixing bowl. Stop stirring in about 25 seconds, or just as soon as the flour is MOISTENED. The batter should look lumpy--do not attempt to beat it smooth. Overstirring results in muffins with sharp peaks or knobs on the outside and long holes or tunnels inside.

Measuring ingredients is very important in any type of baking. Below are a few tips to make sure your measuring is accurate.

-Flour should be sifted BEFORE it's measured, and spoon gently into the measuring cup afterwards, then leveled off with a knife. The sifting changes the volume of the flour.

-Baking powder should be measured very exact. Dip the spoon into the container of baking powder and carefully use a knife to level it off.

-Shortening should be packed into the measuring cup as tightly as possible, then leveled off with a knife.

On OFL we have old fashioned cake recipes: