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.



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



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.



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.

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. 


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.

Make Your Own Cake Strips

Many butter or oil based layer cakes benefit from encircling the cake pan’s sides with an insulating cake pan strip, which will give you a more even crumb and texture throughout the cake as well as the sides less likely to over-brown. There are several manufactured cake strip products, including Rose’s own Heavenly Silicone Cake Strips, which was the first silicone strip on the market.

You can easily make your own cake strips with heavy-duty aluminum foil and paper towels, which are especially useful for larger and odd-shaped pans. Here is the technique, using a 9 x 2 inch round pan as our example:

 1. measure the diameter (total length of sides) & height of your pan.  (example: 29 1/4” diameter x 2” high)   

 2. cut a strip of aluminum foil that is 3 times the height of your pan, with its length 8 inches longer than your pan’s diameter. (example: 37 1/4” length x 6” high)                                           

 3. cut paper towel strips about 2-1/2 times the height of your pan, and fold them over in thirds. Cut enough paper towels strips to make a long strip that is 5 inches shorter than the aluminum strip. (example: three sheets 5 1/2” wide before folding)                                             

 4. place the aluminum foil strip on your countertop. Crease the foil lengthwise in thirds and fold the sides upwards. (A yardstick works well for creasing and folding.)                                                                                                                                             

 5. moisten the paper strips with water.                                                                                         

 6. place the paper strips on the foil leaving around 2 1/2 inches of exposed foil on each end.     

 7. fold the foil’s lengthwise sides over the paper strips.                                                                   

 8. fold the foil’s ends over 2 inches to encase the paper strips.                                                       

 9. wrap your cake pan with the foil strip’s open edge facing up.                                                 

10. use paper clips to hold the overlapped ends of the strip together. You can also use metal clamps to secure the strip to the cake pan, especially for rectangular pans, although your cake’s top edge may become slightly marred if it rises onto them.

The foil cake strips can be reused. Just unfold the aluminum foil before using them to moisten the paper towels. You can also attach overlapping strips for encircling larger pans and odd-shaped pans.

Weigh That Batter!

One of the benefits of weighing your completed cake batter, bread, cookie, or pie dough is to see if maybe you forgot an ingredient. Prior to working with Rose, I made a glorious 10 inch round pumpkin cheesecake for the family Thanksgiving: glorious until I tasted it and realized that only someone, being me, would be eating it, since I forgot to include the sugar.

Virtually all of our baking kitchen recipe sheets have the total of the ingredients written above their charts. We also start a recipe with a mise en place (set up for ingredients), in which we stage the ingredients on our counter top before starting the recipe’s instructions.

Our example here is for our English Dried Fruit Cake from The Baking Bible, in which the ingredients add up to 1854 grams. Prior to filling the cake pan, we ‘tared’ out the pan’s weight. Our cake batter weighed in at 1837.7 grams, which allows for a small percentage of loss from batter still clinging to the beater and bowl. So we knew we could pop it into the oven with total confidence.

Depending on the recipe, you may be able to mix in a missing ingredient. (Hopefully the discrepancy amount will flag an ingredient’s amount.) Or you can make the choice to bake it and cross your fingers, OR toss it out and start over. 

Baking Product Expiration Dates

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Expiration dates or ‘best by’ (aka shelf-life) for baking products, refers to the manufacturers’ recommended date for quality. This does not take into consideration the temperature or environment at which the product is stored.

Storage is a major factor affecting shelf-life.

If the product can be stored at room temperature, there is a wide range of possibilities including humidity levels. Cocoa, for example, if stored in an air-tight container in a dark area  below 70˚F/21˚C, can keep for many years.

Unbleached flour and whole wheat flour can be stored at room temperature, but refrigerating or freezing the flour will extend the shelf-life considerably. (Unbleached flour will gradually loose its gluten forming potential, while whole wheat flour will develop rancidity on improper storage).

If the product requires refrigeration and your refrigerator is opened often or runs more on the upper side of the recommended temperature range, it will shorten the shelf life. Freezers also vary greatly in temperature. Butter, for example, keeps well past the expiration date in a freezer that is -5˚F/-20˚C.

Oxidation is yet another factor in shelf-life and can be retarded by vacuum sealing products such as chocolate.

Contamination is also a factor in shelf life. Corn syrup, for example, can ferment if one dips a finger or spoon into the container.

When it comes to shelf-life, use your best judgment and taste buds and if there are any concerns, contact the manufacturer.

Paper Towels to Absorb a Cheesecake's Condensation

Have you baked a stunning cheese cheesecake, let it cool, used plastic wrap to seal over the top of the pan, and then refrigerated it, only to discover the next day that your cheesecake is now blemished with water splatters on its top?

We have experienced this on more than one occasion.  A solution, which we included in Rose’s Heavenly Cakes and The Baking Bible, is to use  paper towels and a large dinner plate.

The technique:                                                                                                                                      1. Once the cheesecake has cooled to room temperature, drape two paper towels in crisscross pattern or folded together (as pictured) over the rim of the pan, with their curved sides up.          2. Place an inverted plate larger than the cheesecake’s rim to secure the paper towels from drooping onto the cake.                                                                                                                        3. Before serving, carefully lift off the plate, and then the paper towels.

We found that the paper towels absorbed up to 3 grams of water with a damp feel to them, and water droplets on the inverted plate.

What is the meniscus

meniscus |məˈniskəs|

noun (pl. menisci |-kē, -kī| or meniscuses)

Physics  the curved upper surface of a liquid in a tube.

A cup of water, measures 8 fluid ounces, but does not weigh 8 ounces. Look up water in the dictionary. It defines one fluid 8 ounce cup of water as 236.6 grams (8.3 ounces weighed). The volume reading should be taken at eye level and the meniscus--the clear space at the very top--should be above the measuring cup’s marked line.

If one mistakenly measures with the top of the line level with the cup’s, one can be short as much as one tablespoon. Shown below at 223 grams.

(Incidentally, liquid measures are not designed to measure solids such as sugar and flour which need measuring cups with unbroken rims on which to level off the ingredient.)

Capping Your Angel Food or Bundt Pan 12/1/17

 We all have done it, and we all have strategies for not dropping cake batters down the center tube of an angel food or bundt pan. A solution that has worked for us is to "cap" the center tube's opening. We have tried 3 different ways. 

Our favorite, as pictured, is to "cap" the opening with a small piece of plastic wrap and wrap it around the center tube about a half inch down the tube to hold it in place.

A small circle of aluminum foil folded over the center tube or a bottle cap that sits snugly on top work too. Both of these may dislodge.

Remember to remove your "cap" before popping your cake into the oven. 



foil "cap" on bundt pan for making orange splendor butter cake

foil "cap" on bundt pan for making orange splendor butter cake