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Category ... FAQs

Baking with Convection

May 16, 2015 | From the kitchen of Rose in Equipment

Woody-putting_deep passion_in_oven.jpg

I have long understood that with convection baking the oven is usually needed to be set at a temperature about 25°F lower than for conventional baking. I assumed that when an accurate thermometer was used to measure this temperature that it would register the same temperature as conventional baking, but I was wrong.

Using two highly accurate thermocouples to check the temperature of four ovens, I found that although when setting the ovens 25°F below the temperature normally used with conventional baking it actually registered lower but it baked within the same time parameters.


With convection, heat is transferred more efficiently, so the effect is that of a higher heat than what is registered on a thermometer. The benefit of convection is more even heating.

Every oven is different so use the range of time given on a recipe, such as one of my cakes, to determine the best setting. This is the ultimate gauge and more reliable than any thermometer.

Note: Baking at a higher setting for less time, or for a lower setting for more time will have markedly different results in texture and shape of baked goods.

Tips from Hector on Nurturing Your Sourdough Starter

May 18, 2008 | From the kitchen of Rose in FAQs

I've developed my starter at a 75 to 85 oF kitchen, in Hawaii. And as some people experience, the process looks different from how it is described.

A warmer environment accelerates the process. I would recommend in this warm case, to follow the instructions for the first week, then do your feeding at shorter time intervals.

Ideally, you want to feed when the starter is at its peak activity (the most bubbles, higher, before it deflates). Seems like your starter is now on its peak, so actually, feeding it sooner as you say will be ok, but just in case, I like to let the starter "over activate" during the first week, to get the most yeast growth possible.

I've read somewhere that when the ideal temperatures are not possible, the starter will behave differently. I was getting a lot of smell and bubble activity. After 4 weeks, I've kept feeding daily, a few times I will forget and let 2 days pass by which turned my started "really dirty and stinku looking." I am glad I did not give up since the first time I made bread it proved the starter was alive!

It is really easier than what we think, and definitely don't get discouraged if things don't look as expected. Having your own birth starter becomes beloved.

Ratio vs. Percentage

Nov 12, 2006 | From the kitchen of Rose in FAQs

Bake Bread Instead!

i was browsing the internet yesterday and came across a lively discussion/dispute as to whether the "dough percentage" in my book was a percentage or a ratio.

technically, a percentage is based on the total, for example if the total weight of the dough were 100 grams and water used to make it were 40 grams the water would be 40% of the total. but NOT with the traditional baker's percentage in which the percentage of the water (or any other ingredient) is based on the flour whose value is given as 100%. this makes it easier for bakers to scale the ingredients up and down and to create new formulas (recipes).

so in this bread which weighs 100 grams (for clarity let's leave out the small weight of yeast and salt) if the water weighs 40 grams and the flour 60 grams, to get the baker's % you divide the weight of the water by the flour and get 66.6%

in my listing of the percentage of water i also included residual water, for ex. if i added banana or honey i included the amount of water contained in this ingredient. this information is not necessary to the success of the recipe. it is there to give a sense of what to expect from the texture of the bread. a bread of 66% hydration is average. 72% hydration will have a crumb with larger more open holes, etc. etc.

NOW: enough of this nonsense and BAKE THE ___BREAD!!!

Ingredients in the UK

Oct 15, 2006 | From the kitchen of Rose in FAQs

Great Feedback from Cherry and Alexis

You gave me useful advice a few years back about flour after I moved to the UK. I've since discovered that McDougall's Grade "00" flour (not self-rising) is a perfect substitute.
Additionally, I find that buttermilk is a better substitute for American sour cream than (higher fat) UK soured cream in cakes and muffins--seems to give more reliable results than an educated guess at the amount of soured cream to decrease.
Thus, with a few added marginalia, the US "Cake Bible" remains in use here.

AFAIK, the 00 is not bleached, but it is somewhat softer than the regular plain flour. I researched this once, and according to the Flour Advisory Bureau, bleached flour is not available to the UK consumer. (Although I suspect that the McDougall Supreme Sponge is bleached as it claims it can absorb more fat and sugar than regular flour... sadly it's only available in self-rising!)

UK spoons are now pretty much standardised at 5 and 15ml. The Aussies are the ones who are off: an Australian tablespoon is 20ml! I bake in metric now so I can ignore imperial versus US ounces.

The other headache is baking powder. I know a lot of Americans who report having to use 1.5x as much. My guess is that there's more bulking agent--the first ingredient listed on the container is rice flour. I'll be honest, I cheat: I bring American baking powder back with me (and I've got some Swans Down as well).

British soured cream is the same fat content as American, 18%, though it tends to be thinner in texture. I've never had a problem cooking with it.

The Chocolate Wedding Cake in the Cake Bible

Oct 13, 2006 | From the kitchen of Rose in FAQs

Karen Question

I am planning on making the chocolate butter wedding cake for a friend's wedding next weekend. Your chocolate base cake formula appears to have more butter (530 grams butter for 12 inch layers or 75.67 grams x rose factor 7) that the 3-tier chcolate butter cake to serve 150 (400 grams butter for 12 inch layers) although the other ingredients are the same. Could you please advise what is the correct amount of butter to use?

Rose Reply
You're right! Originally I made the cake just as it appears on page 486-487 but decided to add more butter to make it more moist. You could instead just add a little syrup.
I changed it in the base but forgot to change it on the larger recipe. If you opt to go with the higher butter it would be 16 oz./454 grams for the two 6 & 9 inch layers and 18.5 ounces/525 grams for the two twelve inch layers.
Do let me know what you decide to do! Either way it will be delicious and chocolatey!

Where to Study Baking

Oct 10, 2006 | From the kitchen of Rose in FAQs

Gina Question

I am currently in the process of applying for the Baking and Pastry program offered at the Art Institute of Vancouver. I know that this is a good program but am also wanting to keep my options open. I was wondering if you had any suggestions or knew of other Baking and Pastry programs that are offered elsewhere. If you have any advice, I would love to hear it.

Rose Reply
Ii don't know anything about the program in Vancouver but I do know it is an extraordinarily beautiful city and fabulous food town. You should definitely check out the French Culinary Institute, and the Institute for Culinary Education in NYC, the CIA in Hyde Park, NY, and Johnson and Wales which has several campuses.

Why Does the Cake Dip in the Center?

Oct 05, 2006 | From the kitchen of Rose in FAQs

Question from Kim

I've been baking cupcakes using your All Occasion Downy Golden cake recipe. The texture is incredible - soft, light, fluffy and melt-in-your-mouth. The only problem is that the cakes rise beautifully in the oven - but then about 5 minutes after I take them out they begin to sink in the middle. What do you think could be the problem? I'd love for them to be just slightly rounded on top, for the sake of presentation.

Rose Response

First i'd like to say that when I make cakes in two layers I like the cakes to be perfectly flat for tiering but when I make one higher layer I also like it to be gently rounded.

Dipping is always a structural problem. It can be either of the following

The Wrong Type of Flour
If using unbleached flour for a butter cake in which the butter is used in softened form, as opposed to melted as for a genoise, the cake will dip in the center about 5 minutes after baking. This is because the smooth flour particles of unbleached flour cannot effectively hold the butter is suspension. So use bleached cake flour or bleached all-purpose flour.

Too Weak a Structure
This is usually due to too much leavening. Try dropping the baking powder by 1/4 teaspoon.

The larger the cake, the less amount of baking powder per cup of flour is used. This is because the distance from the sides of the pan to the center are greater so that they batter needs a stronger structure to support itself.

Why Cakes Dome???

Jun 11, 2006 | From the kitchen of Rose in FAQs

There are two desirable looks to the top of cake layers:

1) slightly rounded for a one layer cake
2) perfectly flat to stack as a multiple layer cake

Cakes dome in the middle for two reasons:
1) the metal on the outside of the pan conducts the heat faster so that the sides of the cake set while the center still continues to bake and rise higher than the sides.

2) the structure of the cake is too strong, preventing the leavening gases from escaping til toward the end of baking when they erupt through the center like a volcano.

My recipes are created to have the proper strength or structure of the batter to result in level or slightly rounded tops.


If you are getting doming:

1) try silicone pans (silicone does not conduct the heat the way metal does making the center to sides more even).

2) wrap metal pans with moistened cake strips. you can make your own by wetting paper towels and wrapping them in foil or purchase cake strips that can be reused many many times.

3) use a weaker flour. i you are using all purpose flour switch to cake flour.

4) increase the leavening. if using baking powder increase it by 1/4 teaspoon; if baking soda 1/16 teaspoon. you may need to increase it further depending on the results. leavening weakens the structure of the cake by breaking through the cell walls created by the gluten formed by the flour when combined with liquid.

5) increase the butter: an extra ounce of butter will coat the flour more preventing the formation of gluten, weakening the structure.

What is the difference between condensed and evaporated milk?

Mar 31, 2006 | From the kitchen of Rose in FAQs

Condensed milk is both thicker and sweeter than evaporated milk.

How can I keep a pie crust from shrinking when I prebake it?

Mar 29, 2006 | From the kitchen of Rose in General

A pie crust that shrinks a great deal is also one that is tough. This is a result of too much water, too high a protein flour, and or overhandling of the pastry. My cream cheese pie crust in The Pie and Pastry Bible is one that shrinks very little.

But it will help any recipe to allow the dough to relax after rolling and lining the pan for at least 1 hour, covered and refrigerated. Lining the crust with parchment and dried beans or peas until it has set also helps to keep itís shape. A coffee filter, the sort used for coffee urns, is just the right size and shape to line the pastry.

Can you use those new low water higher butterfat butters in all baking?

Mar 28, 2006 | From the kitchen of Rose in FAQs

Not without making changes to the recipe as it will throw off the water balance and make pie crusts and cookies too fragile without adjustment. These butters are ideal for puff pastry, Danish, clarifying butter, and, of course, for spreading on bread.

Why do baking recipes call for unsalted butter and then add salt?

Mar 27, 2006 | From the kitchen of Rose in FAQs

Why do so many baking recipes call for unsalted butter and then salt is added anyway?

Because the amount of salt in salt butter far exceeds the amount you would add. Also, unsalted butter has a fresher, more delicious flavor.

What is the best way to stabilize whipped cream for frosting a cake?

Mar 26, 2006 | From the kitchen of Rose in FAQs

Whipped cream tends to water out slightly after beating so to keep this from happening I use a small amount cornstarch which does not affect the texture.

It will not hold up well at room temperature but in the refrigerator will stay well on the cake for 24 hours! Many people have reported that this recipes has saved their lives!

For 1 cup of heavy whipping cream, use 2 tablespoons of powdered sugar and 1 teaspoon of cornstarch (if your cream is very low in butterfat use 1 1/2 teaspoons), and 1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract.
Refrigerate the mixing bowl and (preferably whisk) beater for at least 15 minutes.
In a small saucepan place the powdered sugar and cornstarch and gradually stir in 1/4 cup of the cream.

Bring to a boil, stirring constantly, and simmer for just a few seconds (until the liquid is thickened). Scrape into a small bowl and cool completely to room temperature. Stir in the vanilla.
Beat the remaining 3/4 cup cream just until traces of beater marks begin to show distinctly.

Add the cornstarch mixture in a steady stream, beating constantly. Beat just until stiff peaks form when the beater is raised.

What is the best chocolate to use for baking?

Mar 25, 2006 | From the kitchen of Rose in FAQs

Generally cocoa (Dutch-processed) gives the best flavor impact in baking. In ganache (heavy cream and chocolate) or chocolate cream pie, where the chocolate is the main ingredient and does not get subjected to long heating, bittersweet chocolate is a good choice.

Brand of chocolate is entirely a matter of personal preference. What tastes good by itself will also taste good when mixed with other ingredients. You be the judge!

Why is butter better for baking than margarine or other fats?

Mar 24, 2006 | From the kitchen of Rose in FAQs

Butter is the fat that melts closest to body temperature so there is no perception of greasiness on the palate. Not only does it offer its own lovely flavor, it also enhances the flavor of other ingredients.

Why not just use a cake mix?

Mar 23, 2006 | From the kitchen of Rose in General

Cake mixes contain emulsifiers which give them what is known as tolerance, i.e., the ability to keep their texture despite additions of various extra ingredients. These emulsifiers result in an unpleasantly metallic after-taste. The flavor of a cake baked from scratch is incomparably superior.

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

Mar 22, 2006 | From the kitchen of Rose in FAQs

There is a big difference in the weight or amount of flour. 1 cup flour, sifted means you put the flour into the cup and then sift it. 1 cup sifted flour means to set the cup on a counter and sift the flour into the cup until it mounds above the top. 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. With this second method you will have the least amount of flour because the flour is aerated. Do not be tempted to shake the cup or tap it as that compacts the flour.

Is it really necessary to sift flour?

Mar 21, 2006 | From the kitchen of Rose in FAQs

Not if you weigh it. Sifting makes it easier to measure consistently. It does not, however, evenly incorporate dry ingredients. Whisking them together by hand, beating them in a mixing bowl, or whirling them for a few seconds in a food processor does a far better job of mixing.

With all the specialty flours on the market, how can you tell which to use?

Mar 20, 2006 | From the kitchen of Rose in FAQs

When a recipe calls for cake flour, it is best to use cake flour but be sure it does not contain leavening. You can substitute bleached all purpose flour: for 1 cup of cake flour use 3/4 cup bleached all purpose flour plus 2 tablespoons corn starch. For pie crust, pastry or bleached all purpose makes the most tender crusts. A national brand bread flour is usually best for bread but a strong (high protein) all purpose flour gives very similar results.

How can you be sure your oven is holding the right temperature?

Mar 19, 2006 | From the kitchen of Rose in FAQs

Most oven thermometers I have tested are unreliable. The best way is by baking a reliable recipe. If the recipe says bake 30 to 40 minutes and it is done in 25, turn it down 25 degrees. If it takes longer than 40 minutes turn it up 25 degrees. Occasionally oven thermostats become erratic and do not hold temperatures no matter what the setting. This requires professional calibration or a new thermostat.

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