Posts Tagged ‘tips’
I love bread. No, really. I LOVE bread. I swear there is nothing better than a warm slice of freshly baked bread with butter and homemade preserves on it. This, many a nights, has been dinner for me.
Now I know carbs are bad. So… Seriously, so what! I live a very healthy lifestyle, work out like it’s my job so if I wanna have a dinner of butter bread, I am damn it.
QUIT JUDGING ME! LOL
No seriously, I do love my bread but just like everything else in life, it has to be in moderation.
As you can tell on here I have a bunch of bread recipes that call for bread flour. Well not every home cook has bread flour on hand. Just like cake flour and self rising flour, you buy it specifically for a single recipe and then it sits. Why? To me that’s wasting money ESPECIALLY when you can make it yourself using All Purpose flour.
Now the recipe is really, REALLY difficult so I’m going to apologize now.
|How to make Bread Flour|
- 1 cup All Purpose Flour
- 1 Tbl Vital Wheat Gluten
- Add both to a bowl, whisk.
- Store in cool, dry, air tight container.
If you are making a big batch of this to store, I’d recommend after you whisk it together to sift the ingredients together this way you will get even distribution.
Store in your container then.
Tough, huh? *wink*
I am going out on a limp here and guestimating that at least 4 out of every 10 homes now only has 1 set of measuring cups. And this one set is used to measure both dry and liquid ingredients… right? C’mon admit it. You’re probably sitting there right now thinking if you’re one of those 4 people.
Or if you’re one of those 6 homes that have both dry and liquid measuring cups, why do you have them? Well wait…. do you know why you should measure the dry ingredients in the dry measuring cup and the liquid in the liquid ones?
No? Maybe? Don’t care? LOL Hey, you better care there buckaroo!
What’s the difference between dry measuring cups and liquid measuring cups?
Dry measuring cups are meant to be filled right up to the top and then leveled off with a straight edge.
Liquid measuring cups generally have a pour spout and are made to be filled to the gradations on the side of the cup (1/4 cup, 1/2 cup, 6 oz, etc.) rather than being filled right up to the top.
Pretty basic, right?
So then really, why do you need both types?
Well, lemme ‘splain. If you’re measuring a liquid by pouring right to the tippy top of a dry measuring cup you’re just asking for a spill or mess (trust me, I’ve done this). Now, imagine trying to level out flour or rice in a liquid measuring cup. You really can’t get it level due to the spout.
Let me get my engineer’s cap on for a minute. One dry cup is equal to 1.1636 liquid cup, or a little more than 2 (liquid) ounces more. Now this may not be that much of a difference in cooking but in baking it can make a world of difference? It can mean the difference between a “meh” cake and an “AMAZING” cake.
Now if you’re a visual person think of this this way:
When measuring, the line for the liquid cup is under the the top of the cup (right before the spout). For the dry measuring cup the line is the top of the cup. It’s like this for dry ingredients so you can take a knife or spatula and ‘level’ it off to give an even cup or whatever you’re measurement is.
Liquid ingredients are poured in and filled to the appropriate lines. Dry ingredients are scooped in then leveled off.
Probably one of the best baking tips I can give you involves butter. A good portion of baking recipes call for softened butter. Please, Please, PLEASE resist the urge to let the stick of butter sit on your counter overnight or *shudder* microwave it. By doing the latter you’re actually breaking the butter down and making the butter unbalanced.. meaning the balance between solids and fats. It’s doesn’t affect the chemical composition but it doesn’t distribute evenly into your recipe.
From now on do this… it’ll make a WORLD OF DIFFERENCE in your baking!
Take a stick (or however much your recipe calls for) and put it in the freezer until frozen solid. Next, get out your box grater with large holes or your food processor with the shredding blade (large holes) and grate the frozen stick. It may take some arm muscles if doing it by hand but the end result is incredible.
Now if you bake a lot like me, grate a few sticks keeping them in marked baggies or what not in the freezer.
Cooking and Baking go hand in hand with Chemistry. Now before your roll your eyes, I’m not going to give you a lecture on Chemistry. TRUST ME, I am the wrong person for this. Give me mathematics, programming, engineering and I’m your gal; give me chemistry and all I make is smoke and noxious fumes Most of the time it’s the way our ingredients/chemicals mix and combine to give us an amazing result. But just like chemistry, one false move in the kitchen can turn something fantastic into something horrific.
How many of you have over salted, burnt, over cooked, over sweetened, under baked, over spiced, over thinned etc.. something in the kitchen?
C’mon, don’t be shy. You’ve all done it at least once. Cooking and baking is made up of trials and tribulations.
Yeah but.. all that hard work for nothing, right? I mean you have to throw it away and start over.. right? Not necessarily my dear friends. Try these tips to salvage your meal.
Sometimes a tomato-based sauce will become too acidic. When dealing with an acid, the neutralizing agent should be a base. Curb an acidic bite in dressings and sauces with a small pinch of baking soda. It will neutralize the sting without adding unwanted flavor. Some cooks prefer to add sugar for the same reason. Sugar, either granulated, or from naturally sweet veggies like carrots, can also provide a pleasant balance.
Way Too Salty
If you’ve added far too much salt to a sauce or soup, you might want to slice a raw potato and add it to the mix. Allow the potato slices to become translucent–they should absorb much of the excess salt. Be sure to throw them away before serving. You could also add more unsalted water to dilute the sauce slightly. Another method is to add more liquid, some sugar or an acidic solution like vinegar to balance out the brine.
Burnt Cream or Custard
So you’re making this fabulous pudding or cream base sauce only to realize that you forgot to stir it the whole time. And when you go to stir it you see that the bottom has burnt. Crap! Even the most seasoned chefs have been known to burn a custard or two. As soon as you notice that the bottom layer of custard or cream has burned, stop stirring immediately. You don’t want to stir in the burnt portions. Pour the remaining custard, pudding or cream into a new pan and keep cooking.
Restore life to stale bread by slipping it into a 325 degree F oven in a lightly dampened paper bag. When the bag is dry, your bread will have regained its former softness. Stale bread is a natural fit for breadcrumbs, croutons, crostini, bread pudding or Panzannella.
Fire in the hole – Overspiced Foods
Tame the sting of excess heat with a touch of sweetness. Tomatoes, or even a squirt of ketchup, can add sugar and acid which will fan the flames. If a touch of dairy won’t interfere with the flavor of the dish, add a dollop of plain yogurt. If you’ve got more of your ingredients on hand, make a double batch with everything but the hot stuff, and blend the two together. Don’t just add water – all you’re doing is thinning it out.
So you’ve been making your infamous sauce all day only to realize that it’s way to thin. I mean no way would this stuff stick to pasta or anything. Now granted what you add to thicken it depends on the type of method to thicken in. A combination of flour and butter will often thicken up sauces if added in small batches. Cornstarch is usually a good thickener, but it might help to mix it with water first. A little goes a long way. Some cooks use dried potato flakes as an emergency thickener. If the sauce would not do well with these ingredients, you may try a reduction. Allow the excess liquid to boil out of the sauce until it is reduced in volume. Now all of these are more for cream type bases/gravies. To thicken pasta or marinara sauce, add in some tomato paste and or some grated cheese.
How many of you haaaaaaaaaaaaatemaking a big ol bowl of popcorn only to have 1/2 of the kernels not pop? Now granted I haven’t tried this on microwave popcorn (um yuck!), but this does work on normal popcorn poppers. The kernels may have dried out, and they need some moisture to pop. Soak them in water for about 5 minutes, drain and pat them dry and try again. If that doesn’t work, place them in a container in the freezer overnight and go for a re-pop the next day.
You want those soft ooey gooey sumptious cookies only to have them hard as a rock. Never fear. Put them in an air tight container and add 1 slice of white bread to it. By the next day they will be soft.
Dimpled or Crumbled Cakes
I often here “Hey, my cake crumbled when I tried to take it out of the pan” or “it’ got ridges on it from the wire rack”. Cool cake in pan 10-15 minutes before loosening the edge and turning it onto a wire rack.
Hint: To easily remove a cake form the pan, place a double thickness paper towel over the wire rack. The towel prevents the wire bars from breaking the crust or leaving imprints on the top of the cake
- Turn hot cakes out gently.
- Cool cake at least 1 hour before decorating.
Hint: When frosting a cake, chill the cake before spreading filling and/or frosting. (Cake will be much easier to work with.) Also, apply a thin layer of frosting to the cake and then refrigerate until it is set before applying the final, heavier layer of frosting. This will seal in the crumbs and ensure a clean final appearance.
Overwhipped Cream – now ya have butter
Whipped cream is the perfect addition to pies and other desserts. It’s not hard to make, but you can’t just stand there and idly whip away to your heart’s content. Overwhipping cream can ruin it if you’re not careful. If taken too far, whipped cream turns to butter. Stop whipping when the cream is still smooth and can hold soft peaks. Cream whips best when it’s cold and whipped in a cold container. If you overwhip cream it will start to look chunky. You may be able to fix it by adding more cream and whipping it by hand. If it’s very chunky and stiff, you’ve made butter and you’ll have to start over. But hey! At least you can use your mistake!
Admit it, you’ve done it. I’ve done it… we’ve ALL done it! We’ve tried to take ‘short cuts’ in the kitchen to only have them backfire leaving us Face-palming ourselves while hearing a ‘DOH!’ in the background. You knew better but ya still did it anyway.
My friends you’re not alone. Recently I was with a bunch of friends and we were discussing our failures in the kitchen as well as some tips/tricks we all learned along the way.
I’ve put together a list of some of my ‘Ya shoulda known better’ kitchen tips.
Oven Hot Spots
So often I hear “I’m a horrible baker”, “I can’t bake anything as it comes out burnt, raw, cooks unevenly or lopsided”. Chances are it’s not you but it could very well be your oven. Test your oven’s temperature as well as test for hotspots. There are 2 methods – test it with an oven safe thermometer. If you set your oven to 350 but your thermometer reads 375, then adjust the setting (review your owners manual for temperature adjustment). Next do the “bread test”. Arrange bread slices to cover the middle oven rack. Bake at 350° for a few minutes, and see which slices get singed―their location marks your oven’s hot spot(s). If you know you have a hot spot in, say, the back left corner, avoid putting pans in that location, or rotate accordingly.
So you’ve been salivating over that big old fat juicy steak on the grill. Silently counting down for the moment you can yank it off the grill and stuff it in your mouth. The grill marks are perfect, you have that incredible sear. You slap it on your face and dive right in only to find out about 4 bites into it that it’s dry and tough. What happened? The first few bites were awesome but the rest is like shoe leather. And I bet if you look on your plate surrounding it, there’s a big ol’ pool of juices around it. Most likely you didn’t let the meat rest for 5-10 minutes before hooverizing it. You need to let it rest. Period! That cooling-off time helps the juices, which migrate to the center of the meat, to be distributed more evenly throughout. The resting rule applies equally to an inexpensive skirt steak or a premium dry-aged, grass-fed steak, as well as poultry. With small cuts like a steak or boneless, skinless chicken breast, five minutes is adequate. A whole bird or standing rib roast requires 20 to 30 minutes. Tent the meat loosely with foil to keep it warm.
You’ve slaved all day making that gorgeous piece of meat. You have the sides all in place and you’re fixin’ to make the gravy. You add your flour or cornstarch only to find pea-sized white lumps all through it. And no matter how hard you whisk it you just can’t get rid of them. Trust me, no one and I mean NO ONE likes lumpy gravy (at least not lumps of flour!). What you want to do is take out some of the broth from the pan and place it into a bowl. Next add your flour/cornstarch to that. Whisk it into a flour slurry and then pour it into the rest of the pan , whisking the whole time, until the gravy comes together. “Yeah, but I got lumps now!!!” Never fear, it’s not ruined but it’ll take another step. If lumps happen, pass gravy through a sieve or strainer, or puree it with an immersion blender. The only downside of this is if your gravy is to have pieces of stuff in it – onions/mushrooms, etc. You can either discard them or go through the sieve/strainer picking out those pieces.
Thin and flat cookies
So I’m all about thick ‘n chewy fat cookies that have a crisp to the outside but a soft ‘n chewy center. Gingersnaps and the like should be thin and crispy. You mix up your batch of dough, bake your cookies only to find out your perfectly rounded scooped chocolate chip cookie is one giant flat mess. I mean we’re talking flat as a pancake mess. It’s good but very crispy but not burnt. So what gives? That’s not how they looked in the cookbook. Keep your butter cool, right until baking. Butter starts to melt at 68°, and once that happens, its water-fat emulsion breaks and there’s no getting it back. Cold, emulsified butter helps give baked goods structure by taking in air when mixed with sugar. Even if your recipe calls for softened butter, don’t. Well you can but *I* personally don’t do that and my cookies rock… just sayin. You can use a cheese grated and grate the frozen stick of butter into your batter OR, put it in as chopped cubes and then mix. Next, chill your dough for at least an hour. This will give the butter time to re-solidify. Trust me on this… this works!
Charred Skin/Raw Center
I am no where near a BBQ expert; heck I’m more of a beginner but certain things ‘make sense’. Ever have company over, got your famous BBQ sauce made, steaks and chicken on the grill. You are the GRILL MASTER, yes you are. The chicken is nicely browned/grilled only when you go to cut it, it’s raw (ITts RAWWWWWWWWWWWWW! – sorry, had to channel my inner Gordon Ramsey). Don’t lose your grill master status – just follow these basic ‘ya shoulda knowns’ – 2 types of heats are what you need: indirect and direct. Set one side of a gas grill to medium-high and the other to low, or build a fire on one side of a charcoal grill. (Make sure your grate is clean and oiled to prevent sticking.) Start the chicken skin-side up on the low- or no-heat side, and cover the grill. After a few minutes, when the chicken fat starts to render, flip the meat, skin-side down. Point the breasts’ thicker ends toward the hot side to help them cook evenly. Cover and grill for about 25 minutes. When the meat is done (165° at the thickest part of the breast), crisp the skin on the hot side for a minute or two, moving it as needed to avoid flare-ups. Wait until the last few minutes to brush on barbecue sauce: The sugars in the sauce will char quickly.
Price vs Quality
Some people think that just because it says ‘Olive Oil’ that they are all the same. They couldn’t be further from the truth. If you use a 99cent bottle of olive oil and then use a $10 bottle of olive oil in the same dish you will most certainly notice the difference! Now I am not saying you must use the most expensive item in each dish – if you can afford to do this then we need to talk about me, my bistro and your investing. You want to use what is most economical within your budget. Trust me, I’d love nothing more than to cook with black truffles all day long but since I’m not a Hilton or related to Ina Garten (so love her). Always shop for the best ingredients that you can afford. They’re the foundation of good cooking and why we strive not to make the mistakes described here. Choose top-notch produce, meats, cheeses, spices and oils. Using poor quality ingredients: No matter how mad your baking skills, if you’re using cheap, waxy chocolate, you’re going to end up with a poor end product.
Pie Crusts are tough
A tough pie crust is primarily caused by too much handling – whether it be over-mixing or using too much re-rolled scrap dough. The toughening of a crust typically happens after the fat has been cut or rubbed into your flour. The next step is to add in your liquid – and this step is critical. Once you combine flour with liquid and begin mixing, gluten forms and gluten is not desired in pie crust. Therefore, once you add the liquid, stir only until the dough begins to come together, then turn out onto a surface and work into a ball. Press into a disc and let the dough rest according to your recipe. CHILL CHILL CHILL! Trust me on this. Chill it for a good hour.
Soggy Pie Crusts
There are a few things that you can do to prevent a soggy crust. First, make sure that your oven is hot enough and set to bake (the heat needs to come from the bottom). Filled pies that are not frozen bake at between 425F-450F. Second, if you are making a fruit pie, which contains a lot of moisture, blend the fat into the flour slightly more than you normally would. This coating of the flour produces a water resistant barrier and prevents moisture from being absorbed into your crust.
Yes, even flour, baking powder and oat bran can go off. Nuts, dried fruit, and even chocolate have a shelf life, and if you can’t remember when you bought them, or they smell anything other than sweet, chuck ‘em.
You have a sink in the center of your baked goods (and they are not doughnuts). This can be caused by a number of mistakes, the first of which is continuous opening and closing of the oven door. If you want to check on your dessert look through the oven window until baking time is nearly completed. The constant open and close exposure to cold air will make your dessert fall. Another reason you might have a sink in your dessert is that there was too much liquid in the batter for your dessert. A cake that has too much liquid will not rise as it normally should, leaving you with a wet mess.
It just falls apart
Your cake or bread falls apart or sticks to the pan after baking. First of all, you have to resist the temptation to take your finished product out of the pan or off of the baking sheet until they cool. If it is still warm it will lead to half of it sticking to the pan and the other half coming off. Allow sufficient time for your dessert to cool so that the whole dessert picks up cleanly and easily.