Foodie & Her Feast

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Understanding your ingredients and how to use them will improve the quality of your baking. Always measure carefully and never mix metric & imperial measurements. Below are few of the essential ingredients in baking.

Butter
Butter comes in two forms. Always use unsalted butter for baking, unless specified in the recipe. Butter has about 80% fat content; the rest largely consists of water with some milk solids. Light butter or Lite butter has less fat content and more water making them unsuitable for baking. Bringing the butter to room temperature ensures that it is soft enough to blend in easily and can hold plenty of air, thereby making your bakes lighter.

Sugar
Apart from providing sweetness to your bake, sugar also provides texture and colour. Most of the recipes call for granulated white sugar or Caster sugar. Caster sugar is finer than granulated sugar and is generally used for sponge cakes, puddings and meringues. Other commonly used sugars are Brown sugar – Light and Dark. White and Brown sugars are equally sweet but the molasses in the brown sugar gives a moister texture to the bakes.

Eggs
Cookies and cakes obtain richness, moisture, tenderness and volume from eggs. Eggs are generally used at room temperature. Although, eggs separate best when cold, bring them to the room temperature after separation, so that they will blend better with other ingredients. If they are used cold from the refrigerator, they cool the butter down and the mixture can curdle.

Baking Powder & Baking Soda
Baking powder and Baking soda are both used as leaveners. Always mix them with dry ingredients first. Baking soda, also known as sodium bicarbonate, has no leaving properties. But when used with acidic ingredients such as buttermilk, sour cream etc it gives one of the tenderest crumbs. Batters containing baking soda should be baked as soon as possible.
Baking powder is a mixture of bicarbonate of soda and cream of tartar, and is different from baking soda or bicarbonate of soda. The two cannot be interchanged. Check the expiry date of baking powder before use, as its effect wears off when it’s old. To test the effectiveness of baking powder, simply mix 1 tsp baking powder in 1/3 cup hot water. If the bubbles rise enthusiastically, then it is good to use.

Bread Crumbs
Bread crumbs are used both in sweet and savoury dishes. They give a nice golden crust to pies and lovely coating to pan fried food. Bread crumbs can be dry, fresh, browned or buttered. Stick to what the recipe calls for, as the result can vary otherwise.
Dry crumbs are made from dry or toasted bread. To toast the crumbs, spread on a baking sheet and bake in 375F oven for 10 to 15 minutes.
Fresh Crumbs are made from fresh (usually white) bread. They can be made either by lightly crumbling the bread with your fingers or pulse it in a food processor till it reaches the desired consistency.
Browned or buttered crumbs are made by seasoning the dry bread crumbs with salt. Add about 1/2 tsp for 1 cup crumbs. Brown them slowly in 1/4 cup (4 tbsp) butter. Cook till the butter is absorbed and the crumbs are golden brown. You can also season with other ingredients like dried herbs, garlic, grated cheese etc for that extra punch. Use at once.

Chocolate
Can you imagine a world without it? I most certainly can’t. I believe it is one of the greatest blessings of humanity, right next to the internet and home delivery! Chocolate is widely used in baking and hence is commonly available in the market. They come in various forms.
Unsweetened Chocolate is pure chocolate containing equal parts cocoa butter and cocoa solids. It does not have any added ingredients, which is why it imparts a deep, rich chocolate flavour. Unsweetened chocolate is generally combined with sugar while making cakes, brownies, frostings etc.
Bittersweet or Semi-sweet chocolate are made of at least 35% pure chocolate. Bittersweet, as the name suggests, has a deeper flavour than semi-sweet and are less sweet. These chocolates, though different from each other, are usually used interchanged in recipes.
Milk chocolate is the kind that we munch on every other day. They are the sweetest of the lot, making it everyone’s favourite. It contains at least 3.5% cocoa butter and around 12% milk solids. It is best used in frosting and puddings.
White chocolate contains no chocolate liquor; hence it is ivory and not brown in colour. They are really delicate and burns easily.
Chocolate chips are designed to hold their shapes in high oven heat and hence is widely used in baking. They come in a variety of sizes and flavours.
Compound Chocolate is less expensive than chocolate. The cocoa butter content of this has been replaced by other fats. This does not require tempering and is used in baking.

Cocoa Powder
There are two types of cocoa powders available. Unsweetened Cocoa Powder and Dutch Process Cocoa Powder. Unsweetened cocoa powder is used in recipes that call for baking soda. They are light in colour and have an assertive chocolate flavour. Dutch process cocoa powder produces a darker cocoa but milder in taste.

Flour
Plain flour and self-rising flour are commonly used and are quite low in gluten. It is advisable to sift the flour at least 3 times as this increases the quantity of air held by it, making the cakes lighter. You can also sift the salt and Baking powder/soda along with for the flour to ensure even distribution. Always fold in the flour, unless the recipe asks otherwise.
If the recipe calls for Self rising flour and you haven’t got any, you can add baking powder to plain flour. Use 4 teaspoon of baking powder per 225 grams (8oz) of plain flour.
Similarly, cake flour can be substituted using the recipe; 1 cup cake flour = 3/4 cup flour + 2 tbsp corn flour.

Cream
Cream is the fat that rises to the top of whole milk. It has a smooth, satin like texture and is labelled according to its butterfat content (heavy to light).
Half and half is a combination of equal quantity of milk and cream and usually contain about 10.5 to 18% butterfat. It is mainly used in beverages and does not whip.
Light cream contains about 18 to 30% butterfat.
Single cream has around 20% butterfat is used in both sweets and savoury.
Light whipping cream = 26 to 30% butterfat.
Heavy cream or heavy whipping cream has about 36-40% butterfat. When whipped it holds its shape and doubles in volume.
Double cream has more than 42% butterfat.
Clotted Cream (Devonshire or Devon Cream) is a thick, rich, yellowish cream that has 55-60% fat content and is so thick it does not need to be whipped.

Salt
A small amount of salt will deepen the flavours and define the sweetness of your bake. Table salt is the default salt for baking. Use other salts only when specified.

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