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Did You Know...?

Jan 26, 2008 | From the kitchen of Rose

I've decided to start a new posting that I will schedule every once in a while as I collect these helpful tidbits that professional bakers take for granted that might not occur to anyone to pass on to home bakers. Here is the first posting:

1) Convection ovens (other than most counter top models) need to be set about 25°F/15°C lower, i.e. to arrive at the equivalent temperature of 350°F/175°C set the oven at 325°F/160°C.

2) Honey and yeast: it's best to use processed (supermarket) clover honey as other honey, especially raw honey, may have an antibacterial effect which kills the yeast. it's fine to experiment as some other types of honey will work but make a small batch of dough in case it doesn't.

3) Brown sugar: store it in a canning jar. If and when it becomes rock hard, all you need to do is to make a little foil cup, set it on top of the sugar, wet a paper towel and wring out the extra water. set it in the cup and screw on the lid. Within an hour it will start to soften and by the next day it will as soft as when you first bought it.

4) How to tell when a cake is baked: if your oven has a window watch toward the end of baking. The cake will lower visible in the pan and you'll know it's time to test for doneness.

Comments

the only wheat flour i've experienced that's prone to rancidity is whole wheat flour and should be stored in the freezer. if this is not whole wheat flour then there must have been some contaminate in the jar. you could try washing any storage container with a mild clorox solution. airtight is always best.

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I live in a cottage that gets quite cold. I was making a pumpkin cake last night and the flour smelled rancid. The jars I use do not have a seal, but I am going to buy new jars for storage. Have you got any suggestions for storing flour, and is the cold causing the flour to go bad?
Blessings

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For me a piece of bread in thezip lock bag or jar and the brown sugar is soft the next day and stays that way. the bread is dry and can be used for bread crumbs. for me thsi is the easiest way ever.

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For me a piece of bread in the zip lock bag or jar and the brown sugar is soft the next day and stays that way. the bread is dry and can be used for bread crumbs. for me thsi is the easiest way ever.

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In re: lowering oven temperature during convection mode. It's important to consult your oven manual first before you do this. My Thermador convection oven does indeed have you lower the temperature during baking, but for roasting it says to use the oven temperature specified in the recipe. Also, some convection ovens automatically reduce the temperature for you, so you don't have to do it manually. Every oven operates differently, so definitely read your oven manual carefully. I think I've read my oven manual at least a half a dozen times cover to cover, and I still need to consult it once in a while! But it's worth it. The results I get in my convection are amazing!

Thanks to Rose for all the great tips!
Renee

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Patrincia:
Interesting...I don't think it would help...I think the flour helps keep the pieces in suspension rather than sitting on top...besides, the top of the cake would have uncombined flour on it...not so sure it would work.

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Thanks rose...I will keep the strip on...raise the temp a little more. And bake it longer before adding the crumbs. This has been a little frustrating...it is my favorite cake in the cake bible...and since I got the new oven I'm going nuts with it. It used to turn out perfectly, every time with the old oven.

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not using the strip means the outside will brown too much. i would instead raise the oven temp.

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Bill - do you think sprinkling the crumbs with a dusting of flour before you place them onto the cake batter would help keep them in place? (you know, like you do to keep nuts, berries, chocolate chips, etc from sinking to the bottom of brownies, muffins, cakes, etc).

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By the way...when the crumbs sink and the cake looks somewhat unattractive, a sprinkling of powdered sugar does wonders for the appearance...and the cake is delicious, with the crumbs on top or sunk into the middle.

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I made this cake all the time with no problems using the cheap, no name oven that came with my apartment. Then I go and buy a Viking...and all my crumbs sink. Alas, what's a boy to do? I've been gradually creeping the temperature up, and I think I'm giving up on the magic cake strip for this cake. I know I need to get a better oven thermometer...I know that my oven is slightly cooler than what the dial says...but i'm using a cheap supermarket thermometer...and it's probably off too. Everything else seems to be coming out fine, though.

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that was both clever and daring of you!
i add the crumbs half way through the baking in my counter top convection oven and no sinking.
my mantra should be "know thy oven"!

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I use the convection fan to preheat my oven as well....and turn it off for baking. I made the sourcream coffee cake recently...and since I bought my new oven I've had a problem with the crumbs sinking...I've read everything on the blog about it. This time I baked the cake without the crumbs for a while and then sprinkled them on top. I checked the little window and the crumbs were still sinking. So I took the cake out of the oven, took off the magic cake strip, put the cake back in and put on the fan...it arrested the sinking on the spot. after a bit i shut off the fan and the cake came out rather nice. I will try again with the temperature a little higher.

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sticky buns are the best thing in the whole world and if you bake them in silicone, let them cool before unmolding and every smidgen of caramel will stay on the buns!

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Zach Townsend
Zach Townsend
02/ 6/2008 09:59 AM

One of these days I'll no longer be able to avoid the allure of bread baking - it's inevitable, especially with your delectable book in my possession. I've got to get to those sticky buns!

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thank you zach--which reminds me that when baking bread i preheat with convection and turn it off during the beginning of baking so all that nice moisture doesn't get blown out of the oven! then i turn it back on for the last 10 minutes or so of baking to help rid the oven of moisture and crisp the crust.

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Zach Townsend
Zach Townsend
02/ 6/2008 09:41 AM

I have two ovens, one is a combo of convection/standard. I've only ever used the convection when baking chicken or pizza, etc (especially if the pizza was frozen as it defrosts it faster). I, too, have generally set it 25 degrees lower. I've never used it for baking cookies.

Thinking about it, I have generally only used it in combination with the regular heating feature - meaning turning it on and off at certain points in the baking rather than leaving it on the full time (except in the case of pizza) such as if I wanted to crisp something up faster. I have no idea if this is the proper way to use convection, but I guess there is no true "proper" way - what works, works, and as Rose said, depending on the oven and on what one is baking.

We can only learn by doing. Mistakes teach us great lessons.

However, I've not thought of the brilliant idea of speeding up the pre-heating my oven using convection when I just need it for standard heating. Excellent suggestion!

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not all convection ovens are created equal. here's how i use mine to green advantage: i always preheat using convection as it's faster even if i chose to bake without the convection option. on my counter top model i use the same temp. as indicated on my recipes and it takes the same amount of time to bake. in my gaggenau which is a wall oven i use 25 degrees lower when using convection. hope this helps.

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I would appreciate more information about using the convection oven for baking.

We have an Italian oven with a convection setting - but I never got the hang of using it, and it seemed to brown/burn cookies unevenly.

Yet I see that the bakery section of the supermarkets use convection ovens and their baked goods come out fine.

This is a green issue as well - as I am told that convection saves energy as well as time.

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my gaggenau says the same thing and in fact i can't bake directly on the flour because it's not flat! in that oven i use a thick stone on the bottom rack and preheat it for at least 45 minutes.

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Rose, thanks for the feedback. Pastry bake (bottom heat only) has been what we typically use, but it's been a bit confusing at times. Our oven manual specifically says not to put anything on the floor of the oven, I think out of fear of cracking the porcelain finish, or something like that. So we never put anything down there. The lowest rack is about 1" above the bottom.

The manual states: "Do not place aluminum foil, dishes with reflective qualities or any object on the oven floor as this will cause a heat build-up which will result in irreversible damage to the porcelain enamel."

Makes it sound quite scary, but probably nothing bad would happen.

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most of the ovens i use have just bottom heat as the heat rises. i could see it being a problem having the top element on bc of the very thing you pointed out--overbrowning the top. though hervé this reports in his scientific investigations that having the top of a soufflé set (from top heat) locks in the moisture and results in a higher rise.
each oven seems to perform differently so judge by the results.
the one thing i would avoid purchasing is an oven with bottom heating element exposed as i like to bake on the floor of the oven for part of the time to get crisp bottom pie crusts.

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With regards to number 1, while I am aware of convection vs. non-convection adjustments, what about ovens that heat from both the top and the bottom? When I had a gas oven, only the bottom burner was used in bake mode, but now with my electric wall oven, there is a bake mode where both the bottom (hidden) element and the top broiler element are on, and another mode, pastry bake, where just the bottom element is on. We haven't done enough controlled experiments to see which works best, but is there one mode which is the "standard" heating method? Both elements on does cause more browning on top.

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very good point john. in fact i have some wonderful thyme honey from greece and blue borage honey from new zealand that are no doubt processed bc they work perfectly in bread. i'll make that ammendment on the posting.

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As to Number 2, unprocessed clover honey is just as likely to have an antibacterial effect as other honeys. During the processing of your average supermarket clover honey it is heated, which kills the antibacterial effect. Perhaps another reader would know the time and heat required to do this with raw, unprocessed honey.

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For keeping brown sugar soft, I do what my mother did (and my Gran before her-) and drop a "spiral' of fresh apple peel into the jar - it seems to work for us - and adds a lovely slight fresh aroma.

I love your blog - I have an absolute weakness for baking breads, and salivate over your recipes! thank you for sharing them.

Penny

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i would sooner sacrifice a piece of apple than a crumb of my own bread (and that's the only kind i have)!

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apple in brown sugar does work but why waste a bit of apple? what if you don't have one handy or don't want to cut one up? a bit of stale bread in the container works too, this is my favorite trick!

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About brown sugar, I buy it in the resealable plastic bag. After opening it, I store it inside the original bag inside a vacuum sealed food bag. It sounds like more trouble than it's worth, but I have stored brown sugar for well over 6 months and it retains its moisture.

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Gretchen - my oven manual says to lower the temp by 25F when using convection, and that the total cooking time may be reached in as much as 20-25% faster than the time stated in my recipe. I have found this to be true when roasting, but I don't use convection for baking.

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Thanks for the convection oven tip. Will it work also if I keep the same temperature, but lessen the baking time? If so, is there a rule of thumb for that situation?

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I too put my brown sugar in an air tight container and it stays soft with no problem. I read somewhere that a piece of bread in the container will soften sugar.

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If you need to soften your brown sugar immediately, just zap it in the microwave for a few seconds... works like a charm!

Btw, I buy my brown sugar in 2lb. bags and transfer it to an airtight container where it stays soft for months on end.

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thanks for the ideas, it is very nice.

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Zach Townsend
Zach Townsend
01/28/2008 10:00 AM

I agree about the apples, though it works, I always hated slicing off an apple (not that I couldn't eat the apple afterwards, but still...) just to place inside the jar then worrying about forgetting it. With the small piece of paper towel, it doesn't matter if I forget it over a few days. It's completey dry when you remove it in a day or two and does no harm nor requires buying anything I don't already have on hand.

Fried green tomatoes is one of my favorite dishes...

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thank you--all ideas welcome! just wanted to mention that apple is indeed the traditional way but i've always regretted having to buy apples off season just to restore my sugar so that's why i came up with the idea of an easier form of moisture!

speaking of bee keepers and honey--fried green tomatoes was on cable last week and i had quite forgotten what an enchanting movie it was. i even read the book afterwards. am i the only one who thinks that the old lady story-teller was the bee charmer?

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And, I'm glad you made this decision..! I'm a fairly new baker and I happen to have a bee-keeper Uncle, so my inclination is to use honey instead of other sugars. I'm quite hoping that my next loaves will finally rise properly, thanks to your helpful suggestion.

I'll try to return the favour by mentioning that a simpler and entirely compostable option for restoring brown sugar is to place a slice of apple* in the jar; works in hours.

Thanks!

* organic apple! :)

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Zach Townsend
Zach Townsend
01/26/2008 04:55 PM

This is a great idea Rose, thanks.

By the way, Rose's approach to the brown sugar has been fool proof for me, works everytime and I never worry about the sugar getting hard. And if it does overtime, it's easily solvable.

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I actually always keep my brown sugar in its original plastic bag (never buy the kind in the box) and *then* stuff it in the pretty container I bought for the sake of kitchen vanity. As long as you squeeze all the air out of the bag and reseal it every time, I never have hard brown sugar. Another bonus: You can pack the sugar into a measuring cup by pressing your fingers into it through the side of the bag. No mess.

Or maybe I just go through brown sugar pretty fast. (But I think I remember when I first got the pretty containers I dumped the sugar out of the bag into the container and it rocked up on me in a week.)

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it only lowers slightly. if your oven doesn't have a window you always have to test for doneness by opening the door briefly no matter what system you use.

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I didn't get number 4, do you mean that after the cake rises it should "fall" noticeably?
How would one notice that through the window?

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