Wednesday, February 22, 2012

How to Measure Liquid Ingredients

Let's get through one more bit of basic baking "How To" before we move onto more recipes. We have covered How to Properly Measure Flour and Brown Sugar and some Essential Basic Baking Equipment. Now let's move on to measuring liquid ingredients.

Liquid ingredients should be measure using a liquid measuring cup.  Now, to be honest I have many times measured my liquid ingredients using a standard dry cup measure and the result has been fine but to be most accurate a liquid measure should be used.  The reason for this is two fold. 

First, a dry measure is replicating a measure by weight, while a liquid measure is measuring volume so there can be a slight difference if you use a dry measure cup.

Second, and probably the more practicle reason, is the chance of spilling is greater with the dry cup measure as you have to fill the liquid right to the rim to get an accurate measure. Any loss of liquid by spilling can again potentially affect the finished product.

To measure using a liquid measuring cup pour the ingredient into the vessel. You will have to bend down and look at eye level to ensure the liquid is level with the appropriate mark on the glass. Then add the liquid according to the directions in your recipe.

One other added benefit to using the liquid measuring cup is that you do not need to dirty a second bowl if you have to mix ingredients together before adding them to the rest of the recipe.  Say you need to whisk your eggs into your milk or combine a couple of liquid ingredients, then just choose a liquid measure that can hold the combined volume and do it all in that one cup.

So, that is the skinny on measuring liquid ingredients.  Next we are going to move away from baking for a bit and look at a couple of chicken recipes. Any of you who have been following Radishes and Rhubarb know I posted Roast Chicken and Chicken Stock recipes a while ago, but I am going to go through them again with a tutorial that provides better step by step insructions.

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Friday, February 17, 2012

How to Make Your Own Brown Sugar

We have already covered essential baking equipment and how to measure dry ingredients, now it is time to start "MIYing".  Let's start with a kitchen staple, brown sugar.

Brown Sugar is very easy to make. It is one of those things that you never really need to buy. I like it because the homemade version is moister and has a distinctive molasses aroma and taste. It is definitely cheaper than the store bought version.

It is made with just two ingredients.  It can be made with a whisk, but for time's sake I made this batch in a food processor.

To make brown sugar you need:

1 cup of granulated sugar
1 - 2 tablespoons of fancy molasses (1 for light brown sugar, 2 for dark brown sugar)

That's it. Whisk or process until the molasses is evenly distributed in the sugar. 

Now, if you are worried about the molasses, just a couple of notes on that.

First, Fancy Molasses have a milder flavour than Cooking Molasses, so it is the best type to buy for this recipe and it is useful in many other ways as well. You can use it for homemade ketchup and barbeque sauce, it is a necessity in baked beans and it adds a rich flavour to bread recipes. It is also, of course, one of the star performers in gingerbread. Lastly, it keeps forever.

**One final note, the recipe above does not make 1 cup of brown sugar, because as you remember from the article on how to measure brown sugar, it needs to be packed down. If your recipe calls for 1 cup of brown sugar I would double the recipe above. You will use about 3/4 of the doubled recipe to make one cup of PACKED brown sugar.

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Wednesday, February 15, 2012

How to Measure Brown Sugar

This post will be short and sweet (ha ha), because measuring out brown sugar is a very simple process. Brown sugar is the one dry ingredient that is not measured according to the method used the measure flour, granulated sugar or cocoa powder.

99% of recipes will tell you to measure out PACKED brown sugar. (Having said that there is that 1% of recipes that do call for UNPACKED brown sugar, which means that you would measure it the way you measure flour.)

To properly measure packed brown sugar, you have to start with a proper dry measuring cup in the unit required for the recipe (1 cup, 1/2 cup, etc).

Fill the measuring cup past capacity, so that the brown sugar is mounded up over the edge of the cup, (as seen in the first picture).

Use the heal of your hand and press the brown sugar down inside the cup. Add more, if needed, and continue to pack down until the sugar is firm and completely level with the top edge of the cup.

You know have packed the brown sugar down properly if it retains the shape of the measuring cup when you tip it out.

Next, I will show you how to make your own brown sugar. It's easy and so much cheaper than the store bought variety.

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Sunday, February 12, 2012

How to Measure Flour

I am going to start MIY Kitchen with an article on how to properly measure flour.  This may seem like a topic that does not require a lot of discussion but I believe incorrectly measuring flour is probably the biggest source of baking frustration. 

If you have ever had something at a friend's house, asked for the recipe and then could not get it to taste the same when you made it at home, it was most likely how you measured the flour. The key to light, delicate and tender baked goods is not adding excess flour.

Flour should NEVER be scooped directly out of the bag or canister with your measuring cup.  Because of the fine texture and weight of flour it can be compacted down, thereby adding more.

The most accurate measure is by weight.  A cup of flour is the equivalent of 4.25 ounces (120 grams). As a test I scooped a cup of flour directly from the bag and weighed it.  It came out at 6 ounces (170 grams). That is a considerable amount of excess flour and added up over the 2 -3 cups that a recipe requires it can have a significant effect on the texture and taste of your finished product.

However, baking by weight is not required if you follow the following steps when measuring out flour.  This is how I measure flour for most of my recipes with consistent results.

First, it is important that you use a proper measuring cup. Using a liquid measuring cup can add more volume as you will have to compact the flour to get an accurate measure.  I have provided a photo list of essential baking equipment here.

Now you are ready to measure your flour. 

Using a separate spoon or scoop fluff the flour in your bag or canister to add air and lighten the texture. Then, lightly scoop the flour into your measuring cup.

Now, being careful not to compact the flour draw the straight edge of a knife across the edge of the cup to level it. There, perfectly measured and accurate enough that you will find your baked goods turn out the same every time.

Your white sugar, icing sugar and cocoa powder should all be measured the same way (although you may have to sift the icing sugar or cocoa to remove lumps before you scoop them into the measuring cup). I will be providing articles on how to measure brown sugar, liquid ingredients and butter.  Happy Baking!

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Essential Baking Equipment

The items you need to make most baked goods are not as varied or expensive as you might imagine. Stand mixers, fancy baking pans and other similar premium equipment actually fall under the "nice to have" category.

To make most recipes you just need a few simple items. For most of my early married life I made do with this list and was able to get along just fine:

Measuring Cups

A good set of measuring cups is essential.  Baking is an exact science.  While there are some elements of a recipe that can be changed to suit your taste it is important to exactly measure the base ingredients (such as flour, sugar, cocoa) to ensure the you get the desired results. (It is also important to measure out these dry ingredients the right way.)  I  use metal cups that indicate both metric and imperial measurements.  I choose metal because they will not warp with heat or lose the markings that indicate their size and I have chosen a sturdy set that I bought at a department store because I was sure of their accuracy.

Liquid Measuring Cups

Liquid ingredients such as milk, oil and water should be measured using a liquid measuring cup to ensure accuracy and to avoid spillage.  I use glass cups and I have a few different sizes as they are also great for mixing up things like salad dressing or pancake batter.

Measuring Spoons

As with measuring cups, a good set of measuring spoons is very important to ensuring that your baked goods turn out the way you want them to.  Like the measuring cups, I chose metal spoons for their durability and accuracy.  I chose these ones with the long thin spoon because they fit inside small spice jars.

A Set of Mixing Bowls

You will need bowls of a few different sizes to mix batters. Some recipes call for you to mix ingredients separately before combining them into larger bowls, so it is important to have a few sizes on hand.  I use ceramic. I recommend that or glass over plastic (because plastic can retain odours and flavours) and metal (some metals can cause a reaction with your baking ingredients).

A Good Whisk

This is the item I think a lot of people neglect to have in their kitchen.  A good sturdy whisk can perform a number of tasks and can save time.  Use it for creaming together eggs and sugar when making a cake, for whipping cream or egg whites, or for folding in ingredients with a gentle touch. The uses are endless.

Wooden Spoons

These are your kitchen work horses.  I use them for everything. Get a set with strong handles and your can use them to mix cookie dough, mix bread dough, make cakes, and on the stove for anything from melting chocolate to stirring stew.  The wood will not conduct heat so you can safely stir anything hot.

Cake Pans

You do not need a lot of these, just 2 -3 will be sufficient to cover most recipes. A couple of 9 inch round pans will do for most layer cake recipes and, if a single layer cake recipe call for an 8 or 9 inch square pan, the round pan will work just as well.  The only other size I would recommend is a larger rectangular pan, like a 9 X 11 inch for brownies or squares and it can also double for a lasagna pan.

Cookie Sheet

A good heavy sided cookie sheet is another must have. The one I have pictured here is obviously well used. The heavy rounded edges prevent it from warping under high heat.  You can make cookies, bread, sheet cakes and you can use it when cooking to broil, roast or bake. 

Muffin Tins

Muffin tins for muffins, cupcakes and even baking eggs. A couple of strong metal muffin pans will serve you well.

Loaf Pan

And lastly, a loaf pan for bread and quick bread. 

There, that is the list. Having said all this, you do need to keep in mind that things may take a little longer to put together and require a little more elbow grease than when you are using a stand mixer or hand mixer. Nonetheless, with these items you will have a well stocked kitchen and can make most baking recipes.

I will follow this up with a post about the "nice to have" items and then we will move on to cooking essentials.

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