It's me Shirley Corriher. Below are the chief concerns of bakers everywhere as well as the solutions I give them. Hope this helps with your holiday baking:
How to Make Muffins with Peaks
For a peak on muffins, the outside of the muffins must set while the inside is still juicy and rising. You need an oven temperature of at least 400°F/ 204°C. Also, an acidic batter (made with buttermilk or sour cream), which makes batters set faster, is an advantage.
When the cook adds water to flour, two proteins (glutenin and gliadin) in the flour join with water and each other to form strong, elastic sheets of gluten, which holds baked goods together. Cookies have very little gluten because all the fat coats the flour proteins and they can’t join with water. You can make cookies less crumbly simply by sprinkling a tablespoon (15 ml) of water over some of the flour, and stirring, BEFORE you mix the flour with the fat and sugar.
How to Make Cakes and Muffins More Moist
Substitute equal measure oil (canola or vegetable) for part of the butter in the recipe (1/3 the butter). Oil greases the flour proteins better than solid fats and better prevents gluten forming, leaving more water in the batter.
Make Heavy Cakes Lighter
When a cake is over-leavened, the bubbles get big float to the top and pop! there goes your leavening and the cake is heavy or sinks in the center. Proper leavening: 1 to 1 1/4 teaspoons of baking powder per cup of flour in the recipe or 1/4 teaspoon baking soda per cup of flour. Reduce the leavening to the right amount and you will have a lighter cake.
Cake Sinks in the Center
There are many absolutely delicious cake that sink in the center. They have too much sugar and butter to have great structure. If this is a loaf cake, double the recipe and make it in a small Bundt pan. When you invert it, it will look perfect and taste great.
Crisp Pie Crust
When you are rolling out a pie crust, when it is almost as large as you want. Roll the crust up around a rolling pin, sprinkle a circle of 5 to 6 inches of very fine bread crumbs on the counter, unroll the crust on top of the crumbs so that the crumbs are in the center of the crust. Roll over the crust several times to press in the crumbs. Bake as usual.
Really Hot Mashed Potatoes
We used to make the mashed potatoes at the last minute so that they would be hot, but they were never really hot. We had been beating room temperature air into them. The big secret is to make the mashed potatoes ahead--put cream, butter--all the good stuff in and then put them in a casserole dish and tightly cover with foil. Place in a 325°F oven for 30 minutes and they will get hot all the way through and stay hot.
Odds and Ends Left-Overs
You can throw little bits of this and that left over meats and vegetables into a food processor or blender, add 1 teaspoon to 1 tablespoon curry powder (depending on the amount of the left-overs that you have and the intensity of flavor that you like), puree, thin with chicken stock and/or a little cream. You have a great soup.
November 21, 2008
When I come up with a really great recipe, or figure out how or why something happens, I can’t wait to share it with everybody. I just get really excited if I can make something taste better or have a better texture or just be a lot better than it was before. My Chocolate Crinkle Cookies, for example, I roll them in regular table sugar before I roll them in confectioners’ sugar. This does two things--the confectioners’ sugar doesn’t soak in so it is snow-white against the black chocolate instead of a spotty gray and, best of all, the cookies have a crunchy surface that makes a perfect bite with the soft fudgy center.
BakeWise is full of explanations about how to make things better: moister cakes and muffins; an incredibly flaky pie crust that is easy; a spotlessly smooth chocolate icing that makes cakes look as if they came from an expensive bakery; bigger, crisper cream puffs; huge popovers; cookies that don’t crumble; meringues that don’t leak; a sensational blueberry pie without cooking the berries -- they are fresh and juicy and wonderful! Enjoy all of BakeWise’s fascinating information -- the hows and whys of successful baking.