To the Bottom of the Can

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A good practice to follow after using aerosol sprays especially for nonstick cooking sprays is to do three things.

1. Turn the can upside down and spray a bit of the contents.

2. Rinse the nozzle off in running hot water.

3. Store the can upside down on top of its lid.

(We store our cans on an enclosed wire rack so that the cans can sit on their lids without clamping the lids.)

Floss Your Cheesecake or Chocolate Oblivion

 CHOCOLATE OBLIVION TRUFFLE TORTE 

CHOCOLATE OBLIVION TRUFFLE TORTE 

How can you slice a cheesecake or chocolate oblivion with a knife without it marring or pulling on the cheesecake, as well as possibly scratching your pan?
You can use a heated knife and wipe it off every cut, being extra careful not to scratch your pan.
Rose came up with a practical solution when she was writing The Cake Bible, using waxed, non-flavored dental floss. Her mother always had an ample supply for her dental practice. Here is the technique on our chocolate oblivion for contrast to the floss.

1. Mark the center of your cake.  
2. Cut a length of dental floss that is 6 inches longer than the diameter of your pan.
3. Wrap the ends of the floss on each of your index fingers.
4. Position the floss just above the cake to cut thru the center and pull it taunt.
5. Press down thru the cake and the crust, and at the same time with a sawing like action of moving the string back and forth
6. Release the floss from an index finger and lightly press down the floss against the pan’s bottom on both sides of the cake.
7. With the other hand, pull the floss away from the cake and pan.

Repeat with the rest of the servings.   

For making cheesecakes and the chocolate oblivion, we bake our them in a waterbath with the springform pan wrapped with two layers of heavy duty aluminum foil or slightly larger silicone pan. Wilton makes a great glass bottom which has no 'lip' raised edge. If we use a 'lipped' edge springform pan, we only use one that has a flat, smooth bottom, which we invert the bottom upside down when we clamp the sides to lock it in place.  

The Hoola Hoop of Tart Unmolding

 CHOCOLATE HAZELNUT MOUSSE TART from the BAKING BIBLE 

CHOCOLATE HAZELNUT MOUSSE TART from the BAKING BIBLE 

Truly it is the simple things that can make the biggest difference. It took me all these years to figure out a sure fire way to unmold a tart in a tart pan with removable bottom when it sticks to the bottom. I wasn't happy with heating a towel under hot tap water and wringing it out before applying it to the pan bottom as it never stayed hot enough for more than a few seconds and I was also concerned by the risk of moisture creeping into the bottom crust.

One day during our step-by-step photo shoot, it suddenly hit me how to heat the bottom of the pan effectively without turning the tart upside down! I've added this simple technique to the upcoming Baking Basics but can't bear to make you wait for almost two years to know it, especially with all that holiday baking coming up.

So here it is right now: Heat the bottom of a 9 inch cake pan by filling it with very hot water. Let it sit for several seconds until the pan feels hot. Empty the water and invert the pan onto a counter. Set the tart on top and let it sit for about 1 minute or until the bottom no longer feels cold. Repeat if necessary. You can also use a blow dryer to heat the inverted cake pan. If necessary, slide a thin-bladed knife or long metal spatula under the crust to release it.

This Weekly Baking Tip is a reposting from December 15, 2016 in Tips & Techniques category on Our Blog page. We have 16 other Tips & Techniques postings for you to explore.  

Vegan Meringue

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When I saw this extraordinary mind blowing technique on Food 52, replacing egg white with chickpea liquid (they refer to it as watery dregs) we just had to try it! Dan Barber, in a project utilizing parts of ingredients that more often than not get tossed, came up with this genius technique. I can't begin to imagine how anyone could conceptualize and take the daring mental leap that the liquid in which canned chickpeas is packed could possibly support and hold air to create a mousse the way viscous egg white accomplishes so perfectly, but it does! Of course there are differences. First of all, Food 52 noted that the chickpea flavor completely disappeared on baking and we found this to be true in that no one would ever detect the actual flavor of chickpea but there is a subtle additional flavor. Also it does not hold its shape in baking quite as well so that any ridges or swirls flatten into mushroom cap smoothness. Here's the recipe as we did it:

1/3 cup/59 grams chickpea liquid (now dignified in Latin as aquafaba bean water)

1/2 cup/100 grams superfine sugar

1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

Preheat the oven to 250°F/120°C.

Line a baking sheet with parchment. In the bowl of a stand mixer, add the chickpea liquid and sugar and use the whisk beater by hand to stir it together. Attach the whisk beater. Starting on low speed, and gradually increasing to high, beat for 15 minutes until fairly stiff peaks form when the beater is raised. They will droop slightly.

Place a dab of meringue underneath the parchment in the center to keep it stationary. Use two large tablespoons or pipe mounds onto the parchment.

Bake 40 to 50 minutes. At 50 minutes, Woody pressed one and it was not yet crisp so we continue baking another 10 minutes. This caused the meringue to begin to brown and become less smooth but still not crisp, however, after removal from the oven and cooled they became perfectly crisp. (We should have taken them out at 50 minutes.)

We are not vegans but if we were, we would find that the meringues made with aquafaba and superfine sugar, which are delicate and light, are a perfectly acceptable substitute for the egg white variety.

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This Weekly Baking Tip is a reposting from July 18, 2015 in Tips & Techniques category on Our Blog page. We have 16 other Tips & Techniques postings for you to explore.  

 

 

 

 

 

 

Know Thy Oven

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LEFT: BREVILLE CONVECTION, RIGHT: PANASONIC CONVECTION

One batter, weighed equally between two identical pans, and baked for the exact same time to the exact same internal temperature, in two different countertop ovens. The interior of the cake (the crumb) is the same but the tops and the exterior are markedly different. (Note: The top of the cake in the Breville is browner but the exterior is less brown.)

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LEFT: BREVILLE CONVECTION, RIGHT: PANASONIC CONVECTION

No two ovens bake exactly the same. All ovens, except for those with circulating trays, will have some hot spots. Convection ovens tend to bake more evenly but still have hot spots. I rotate my cakes half-way around after two-thirds of the estimate baking time except if they are sponge type cakes such as génoise or chiffon that will fall if moved before they finish baking. In the Breville, if a recipe calls for 350°F/175°C I use 340°F/170°C. In the Panasonic, if it's a small cake or a pie I don't lower the temperature but for a large cake that requires more than 1 hour of baking time, such as a honey cake, which starts browning too fast, I lower the temperature to 325°F/160°C after the first 30 to 45 minutes of baking. When you get a new oven, try baking a familiar cake. I use my all-occasion downy yellow cake from The Cake Bible. Get to know your oven and you can adjust accordingly.

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By each of our ovens, we have a notecard noting temperature adjustments for the particular oven and specific settings and times for some of our recipes. 

This Weekly Baking Tip is a reposting from August 6, 2016the Tips & Techniques category on Our Blog page. We have 16 other Tips & Techniques postings for you to explore.  

Rose Knows: Honey

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Honey can serve as an excellent sweetener for baked goods. In addition to sweetness and extra flavor, it has great moisture retention and lends a lovely color to breads and cakes.

Honey is derived from the nectar of plants gathered, modified, stored, and concentrated by the honeybee. It is made up of levulose (fructose) and dextrose (glucose). Honey has innumerable sources, such as borage, buckwheat, avocado, lavender, thyme, tupelo, and clover, and its flavor varies accordingly from mild and floral to intense and leathery.

Honey has been used as a highly effective natural antibacterial and preservative through the ages, as far back as ancient Egypt. Honey is antiseptic, antibiotic, antifungal, and antibacterial and it never spoils. For this very reason, most natural honeys should not be used in bread baking as they will kill the yeast necessary to raise the bread! Pasteurized honey, however, such as those found in supermarkets works perfectly. As it doesn’t state on the label whether the honey has been pasteurized or not, if you want to experiment with the flavors of other honeys (I love blue borage from New Zealand, and lavender from Provence, for example), try proofing the yeast first by adding a little honey instead of the usual sugar. If there is no bubbling activity use the honey in cake or tea instead.

When it comes to cake and other baked goods, to substitute honey for sugar conventional wisdom recommends replacing 1 cup of sugar (200 grams) with 3/4 cup honey (252 grams). The reason is the following:

One cup of honey weighs 336 grams, of which 17.2% (57.8 grams) is residual water. So 3/4 cup of honey minus the residual water is 208 grams, which is almost the same weight as the 1 cup of sugar, which contains only 1 gram of residual water.

Because honey browns at a lower temperature than sugar, it is also recommended to lower the baking temperature by 25˚F/14˚C.

Cakes made with honey instead of sugar will retain their moisture longer, as honey is highly hygroscopic, but they also will be denser because sugar crystals capture air during the beating process and result in an airier crumb.

Honey cakes are traditional around this time of year for the celebration of the Jewish New Year on September 14. 


This Weekly Baking Tip is a reposting from 9/9/14 in the Tips & Techniques category on Our Blog page for Food Arts Magazine's Sept. 2014 edition. Click here  to see the posting. 
We have 16 other Tips & Techniques postings for you to explore.  

The Pastry Chef's Magic 'Glue'

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How to Rim a Glass: nothing works as well as a light brushing of egg white. Enjoy your summer margaritas, as summer like days have already started here in northwestern New Jersey.
Brushed on egg whites can be used in many ways in baking to 'glue' or seal. Egg white can be brushed on blind baked tart or pie shells to seal the crust before filling to keep it crisp, or brushed on the top crust to add a sheen to the crust, or as a 'glue' for applying a sugar glaze. 

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This Weekly Baking Tip is a reposting from the Tips & Techniques category on Our Blog page. We have 16 other Tips & Techniques postings for you to explore.  

Know Your Cake Pan Sizes

Knowing how the cup capacity of your pans is helpful when you want to scale a recipe to work in a larger or smaller size pan. In many cases you can use a rectangular or square pan instead of a round pan with comparable results. However, you may need to adjust the leavening for different shaped pans. The Cake Bible's Wedding and Special Occasions chapter has charts and recommendations for scaling recipes and several batter formulas for different types of cakes. 

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The Nuts & Bolts of Tart Crust Baking

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An excellent way to shield tart crusts from over-browning is to use a one size larger tart pan ring inverted over the crust’s border. Be sure to elevate it about a quarter inch above the crust versus resting the ring on the crust, which would press it down to soon and deform any decorative border. This also allows the filling to puff up without sticking to the ring.

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An easy way to elevate the ring is to use 3 bolts or 3 stacks of nuts, equally spaced around the tart pan, which has been set on a foil-lined baking pan. If blind baking, after removing the weights, set the ring on top. If filling an unbaked tart shell, set the ring on top right at the beginning of baking.

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The Secret Shelf Life of Arrowroot

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Arrowroot is used as a thickener for sauces and glazes. It is made from a tropical rhizome (underground stem). I like using it for glazes to top fruit on a tart, pie, or cake because it has a slight sparkle and also because it starts to thicken long before the boiling point so does not cause the fruit to soften.

Although cornstarch, also an effective thickener (when allowed to come to a full boil), has an indefinite shelf life if stored in an air-tight moisture-proof container, I have found arrow root to have a limited shelf life.

As a result of my move from New York, I discovered I had three bottles of arrowroot each of a different vintage. I seized the opportunity to do a comparative testing of their thickening powers. The oldest one (now don't be horrified as I was!) was 24 years old! The next to oldest was 19 years old. And the third one was 14 years old. The results were: The oldest arrowroot thickened but not effectively as it still had flow. The next to oldest thickened but not as fully as the last one which also was less tinged with yellow. This was was kept in an airtight container in an air conditioned room which accounts for its unusual viability. 

I recommend that if you want to be sure of the full effectiveness of arrowroot, use it up to two years from the purchase date and then replace it.

(previously posted in Tips & Techniques) 

Beer Your Meringue

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Our chocolatier colleague and friend, Zach Townsend, wrote to us about a technique he discovered in an old French cookbook which suggested using beer to stabilize beaten egg whites.

One of Rose’s most important contributions to baking is for stabilizing egg white meringue beaten to stiff peaks using the ideal amount of cream of tartar. The correct amount is so effective, you can even overbeat the egg whites for several minutes after reaching the stiff peak stage without risk of breaking them down.

So using beer as a stabilizer had us back in the baking kitchen to whip up some egg whites to see the results. We used an IPA ale for the test.
1. we whipped two egg whites, without any additions, to soft peaks.
2. about a tablespoon of beer was then added to the egg whites.
3. the whites were then beaten to stiff peaks

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We placed some of the meringue into a bowl to compare it to beating the remaining meringue for one more minute. Our observations:
 . the addition of beer definitely stabilized the egg whites.
 . the meringue was not as dense or stable as meringue using cream of tartar.
 . both meringues began weeping liquid after an hour, which does not happen with the cream of tartar stabilized meringue.
 . the meringue does have, as one would suspect, a slight beer taste.

We can see using beer for stabilizing egg whites for a savory soufflé or other savory dish that incorporates meringue, but for desserts we favor cream of tartar to stabilize the egg whites.

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Unsalted or Salted Butter~~That is the Baking Question

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In all of our recipes where butter is an ingredient, we list the butter as unsalted butter. This is because the amount of salt in salted butter can vary. Many manufacturers of salted butter will have salt listed as 0.9 grams/Tablespoon, which correlates to 7.2 grams/1 stick (8 Tablespoons) of butter.

Unsalted butter usually has a fresher taste as well.

Here are two examples of how much extra salt will be added to a recipe if you choose salted butter instead of unsalted butter.
The Sour Cream Butter Cake’s ingredients in The Cake Bible includes:
Unsalted butter:  170 grams / 12 Tablespoons
Salt:                         3 grams / 1/2 teaspoon

   If you used salted butter and no additional salt instead, the salt in the butter translates to: 0.9 grams/Tablespoon x 12 tablespoons of butter:

Butter’s Salt:         10.8 grams / 1-1/2 +1/16 teaspoons

  Over 3 times the amount of salt for the recipe using UNsalted butter

 Looking at a popular recipe like Chocolate Chip cookies using salted butter, whether with or without including the salt listed on the ingredients, will almost always increase the amount of salt for the recipe.
A popular internet recipe includes:
Unsalted butter:  113 grams / 8Tablespoon
Salt:                        6 grams /  1 teaspoon

   If you used salted butter and no additional salt instead, the salt in the butter translates to: 0.9 grams/Tablespoon x 8 tablespoons of butter:
Butter’s Salt:        7.2 grams / 1-1/4 teaspoons

   If we were to include the specified salt: 6 grams/ 1 teaspoon
More than 2 times the amount of salt for the recipe using UNsalted butter

 Unsalted butter is the answer for your baking. 

 

Dry Milk: an Undervalued Ingredient

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This is an invaluable bit of kitchen wisdom imparted to me by the late Carl Sontheimer of the original Cuisinart food processor. He once told me that adding powdered milk to mixtures such as marzipan results in a more velvety smoothness. I've since noticed the presence of dry milk on the labels of many ingredients. And recently I tried adding it to yogurt to see if it would soften the intensity of the lactic acid. I was amazed how just a small amount of the dry milk powder made the yogurt creamier and deliciously mellow.

One of the important uses of dry milk I value the most is its addition to bread dough. I've experimented with "instant" dry milk and King Arthur's "Baker's Special Dry Milk. Their dry milk not only adds a smoother and more mellow flavor, it also results in a more tender texture and a significantly higher rise. Unlike "instant" dry milk, which is intended to be reconstituted and processed at low heat, the "Baker's Special Dry Milk" is heated during production to a high enough temperature to deactivate the enzyme protease, which impairs yeast production and, what is most critical, gluten formation and structure. This variety of dry milk will not reconstitute in liquid so it must be added to the flour. The high heat process also produces an exceptionally fine powder, which disperses uniformly through the dry ingredients. Because the particles are so much finer than the more crystalline ones of "instant dry milk," they pack down when measuring in a cup so if replacing "Baker's Special Dry Milk" with "instant" dry milk by volume you will need double the amount to arrive at the same weight. To substitute it for regular milk in recipes, use 1/4 cup of "Baker's Special Dry Milk" or 1/2 cup "instant" dry milk (1.4 ounces/40 grams) plus 1 cup/8.3 ml/8.3 ounces/237 grams of water per cup of milk. Up to 8.2 percent of the weight of the flour is the recommended amount; I use 6 percent in my soft white sandwich loaves.

If Your Brown Sugar Hardens

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After we open a bag of brown sugar, we transfer the sugar into Ball jars or other airtight containers. Over time, even in an airtight container, brown sugar can harden and/or start to turn white (as the sugar dries, some of the molasses separates. Creating a humid environment will allow the brown sugar to rehydrate to become pliable and brown.

 

TECHNIQUE:

1. Break up the brown sugar as much as possible.

2. Choose a small cup/container that can sit on top of the sugar, while leaving a half-inch or more space between its rim and the container’s cover. (You can also make a ‘cup’ with aluminum foil.)

3. Crumple up a small piece of paper towel and saturate it with water. Set it in the cup.

4. Set the cup on top of the sugar, where it will not tip over.

5. Re-attach the sugar container’s cover.

6. Allow the brown sugar to hydrate for several hours, and remove the cup.
    If necessary, remoisten the paper towel and continue rehydrating the sugar.

 

 

Zesting and Juicing Citrus Fruits

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Before zesting a lemon, orange, or other citrus fruit, you should first wash the fruit with a scrubby soaked with warm water and dish washing detergent to remove any sprayed on preservative coating. Then dry the fruit completely.

1. Cutting off the protruding ends on the fruit makes it easier to zest.

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2. Zesting with a microplane is the best method for shaving off finely grated shavings of just the fruit’s outer peel.
 Avoid zesting the pith (the white flesh between the peel and the fruit ), which is very bitter.

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3. With the protruded ends removed, you also can extract more juice.

Plastic Wrap “Cover” for Food Processor

If you are food processing a mixture without requiring the addition of ingredients through the feed tube, you can cover the top of the processor’s bowl with a piece of plastic wrap to extend over the bowl’s rim. This will save you time, not having to clean the cover and feed tube, plus letting you scrape off any splattered mixture on the plastic wrap back into the bowl.

TECHNIQUE:
1. Cut a piece of plastic wrap that will extend a couple of inches over the rim of the food processor’s bowl and drape it across the bowl’s top.

2. Attach and lock the processor’s cover over the wrap to keep it taut.  

3. Scrape any splattered on mixture back into the bowl.

Be careful to keep the plastic wrap from wadding up in the locking mechanism that is also the trigger for the food processor’s power switch.

Fight Fire with Fire

Last week we were about to use a new nonstick cake pan with its information label still attached that we had bought a few months before.  We peeled off the information label, but four patches of hardened on rubbery glue remained firmly attached. Using a scrubby pad with dish soap and elbow grease did not remove the resilient last smears of glue. Using Goo Gone or similar products was vetoed, for fear it food destroy the non-stick finish.

“Fight fire with fire!” Rose called over to me. “Use strapping tape.”

Having been a handyman maintenance manager for many years, I had never heard of this idea. With strapping tape wrapped around two fingers, I rubbed and rolled the tape over the glue smears. Like magic, the smears became smaller and smaller, and the tape became blackened with the removed glue. It took two more rounds of strapping tape and a washing of the pan to get all of glue off.

So next time that you feel stumped by gooey glue, reach for some ‘fire.’

What is the difference between 1 cup flour, sifted; and 1 cup sifted flour?

There is a big difference in the weight of flour, depending on which method is used. For this tip, we are measuring bleached all-purpose flour.

Method One: 1 cup flour, sifted means: you put the flour into the measuring cup and then sift it onto parchment or onto a mixture. This can vary depending on which method you use to measure out the flour: dip & sweep into a cup, or lightly spooned into the cup.

 Method Two: 1 cup sifted flour means: you set the measuring cup on the counter and sift the flour into the cup.

Before measuring for any method, it is best to stir the flour lightly in its container or bag. Let the flour mound slightly above the top the cup’s rim. Then, with a metal spatula or knife, level it off.

Be sure to use a cup with an unbroken rim, referred to as a dry measure as opposed to a liquid measure, which has a spout. Do not be tempted to shake the cup or tap it as that compacts the flour.

For this tip, for Method One, using bleached all-purpose four, we are showing the weight for 1 cup flour using the dip & sweep method, and then sifted onto parchment.
1 cup=135 grams by dip & sweep

For Method Two, you will have the least amount of flour because the flour is aerated.
1 cup=114 grams by sifted into the cup

However, if the author states how the flour is measured into the cup before sifting, using the above weights, you can simply sift the flour onto parchment or a bowl on the scale, until you reach the correct weight. For this example, 1 cup by dip and sweep was specified. 

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Scissors for Finely Chopping Herbs

A convenient method for finely chopping herbs for savory baking recipes is to use a small kitchen scissors and a Pyrex custard cup. After washing and drying the leaves to be chopped, fill the custard cup about halfway full. Then use the scissors to ‘chop’ the herbs to your desired size. While you are ‘chopping,’ it helps to change the angle of the bowl to the scissors, from time to time, as well as to move the scissors with short pecking like strokes.