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Facts on Flour & Holiday Baking
Making the Baking Season Fun and Easy
- If trying a new recipe, do a test run before making it for a special occasion. If your baking time is different than the recipe, make a note of this on your recipe.
- Have your ingredients prepped and ready before getting started.
- To help lessen cracking in your loaves of holiday bread, let the batter sit in the loaf pan for 20 minutes prior to baking.
- To keep crisp cookies crisp, store them, when cooled, in a tin or can with a loose cover.
- To keep soft cookies soft, store them in an airtight container with apple or bread slices, changing frequently. They help mellow and moisten the cookies.
- Pay careful attention to pan size. Bars baked in a pan that's too large result in a cake-like treat — not a toothy, chewy one. Bars baked in a pan that's too small tend to be dry and crumbly.
- Resist the temptation to check on your creation while it's baking. Opening and closing the oven door affects the outcome. When you open the oven you let cool air in the oven and it decreases the oven temperature.
- Undercooked cakes tend to sink in the middle and may be unusually heavy.
- Overcooked cakes are dry and have thick crusts. If you overcook the cake, you can slice off the tops to take the over-baked parts off.
- If your cake doesn't look done in the time allotted by the recipe, see if it's springy to the touch and insert a toothpick. If it's got a spring to it and the toothpick comes out clean — you should be good.
- For a great apple pie, variety is the secret ingredient. Each type of apple has its own unique qualities. Combine them for a complex flavor and pleasing texture.
- For flaky pie crust, keep all of your ingredients super cold to keep the butter from melting. Chill the bowl, freeze small pieces of butter, use ice water and a machine (not your warm hands) to blend ingredients and work in the coolest corner of your kitchen.
- For superior flavor, use the freshest ingredients available. Flour, eggs, butter and spices can all pick up flavors from other things on the shelf, so buy fresh for the best results.
- Make your baked goods the day before a special event. Many times they taste better the next day.
All About Flour!
What makes a certain flour good for one recipe and bad for another? Gluten! When flour is moistened and mixed for dough or batter, gluten forms from the protein in the flour. Some flours have more protein, some less, forming more or less gluten, which is key to making breads expand and cakes stick together. For the best baking results, learn about these three basic types of flour:
- All-purpose flour is a blend of hard and soft wheat. The balance of gluten from these creates the texture you want for quick breads, pie crust, cookies and most everyday uses.
- Bread flour has a higher gluten-forming protein content, creating dough that is nice and elastic. This makes it ideal for making kneaded breads.
- Cake flour is made with soft wheat, producing less gluten, so your cake will have that perfect delicate and slightly crumbly texture. Note that self-rising cake flour is different.
When substituting an alternative flour (whole wheat, rice, oat, soy, etc.), you'll need to balance the change in gluten.
Holiday Shopping List: During the holidays I always make sure my kitchen is stocked with baking ingredients so I am always ready to whip up a goodie!
Flour, sugar, baking soda, baking powder, salt, eggs, milk, pure extracts (vanilla and almond), butter, Crisco shortening, pecans and walnuts, canned pumpkin, bananas, semi-sweet chocolate, holiday spices, vegetable oil, and powdered sugar.
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