Thursday, July 19, 2012

The Non Cupcake Queen

Hi everyone, it’s Karine! I was supposed to be here today to post one of my new found favorite breakfast dishes, but due to technical difficulties, will not be able to download pictures off of my camera. And what’s steak and eggs without pictures? So instead I’m doing a post for all my fellow complete beginner bakers who just aren’t sure what that button on the oven does.

As you probably know by now, Zuma is big on baking, and has gotten to making some pretty killer cupcake recipes. I, on the other hand, am just starting out, and have had some difficulty getting my sweet treats to come out the way they look in recipe pictures. I decided that I was done with the disappointment of opening the oven to find yet another batch of failed muffins. So I did some blog reading, asked some better versed in baking friends, browsed through web tutorials, and figured out a few things I’m doing wrong.

One day I will make cupcakes like Zuma's!
My “research” yielded many results, and I realized how wrongly I was approaching baking. There were quite a few little tricks and tips that I learned, that I wished I’d known about sooner. Overly dense muffins, cakes that cave-in in the middle, and cookies too hard to bite into no longer! I compiled all the most useful things into a list (I’ve recently started making lists for everything, it’s becoming a bit of an addiction, and I may need an intervention sometime soon) and thought that for all of us non-cupcake-queens-and-kings aka Zuma, this list could be majorly useful.

These are going on my wishlist

So here it is, a list for beginner bakers, separated into categories of different aspects of baking, compiled by the ultimate beginner baker herself:
Unless the title of the baked good includes the word “flourless”, more often than not, you’re gonna need flour for your baked good.
  1. The difference between the different kind of flours is that they have different protein contents. 
  2. Other than bleached and unbleached, no two flours are interchangeable! There are ways to substitute if you want to get creative, but measurements change, and for a beginner it’s best to stick inside the box.
  3. The importance of sifting seems to be highly debated in the baking world. My conclusion: if you have time to spare, sift with care. Basically, if you have the time, do it, but do it well. Small increments of flour at a time, otherwise it really is useless.
  4. White whole wheat flour and whole wheat flour taste are not the same. 
Ovens are all different, but we love them all equally (well, sorta). There’s a few things to keep in mind about them to get your baked goods to their maximum potential.
  1. Invest in an oven thermometer. Most standard ovens that come in houses and apartments are slightly off and can throw your red velvet cupcakes in for a loop. Try to use it everytime you preheat because ovens aren’t always consistent. I’m ordering this one on Amazon.
  2. Make sure the oven rack is at the right level. If it’s not indicated in the recipe, then it should be in the middle. This is almost as important as having the right temperature.
  3. Recipe calls for 250 degrees for 40 minutes. You have to leave the house in 20. Math would dictate 500 degrees for 20 should do the trick. It won’t because baking isn’t calculus. Milder variations of time tweaking fall under this category too. If you don’t have time, don’t bake it. You can experiment with time and temperature when you’ve already got a good hand at it.
  4. This is obvious but I have to mention it for safety’s sake. Turn your oven off when you’re done. Ovens should be hot, but not smoking hot.
Tools of the trade are important, both what you use and how you use them. 
Spoon+spatula=spoontula! College student convenience

I bought these along with the spoontula today :)
  1. Rubber spatulas are awesome, they mix well, are easy to wash, and come in some really fun colors. They are also inexpensive. And they come in fun colors.
  2. For measuring cups, the amount of any given ingredient in the cup should be smooth at eye level. This will guarantee more accuracy in the ingredient ratios, and lead to a better baked good.
  3. Mixers and blenders are not interchangeable. Sometimes blenders can be interchanged with food processors. Food processors also can’t be interchanged with mixers. 
  4. Here’s an amazing list of tool essentials for any beginner baker. I bookmarked it the second I saw it, and you all should too.
Last but not least, some helpful things to know about what actually goes in your sweet (or savory) treats, besides flour.
  1. Dry ingredients and wet ingredients are not friends until the final moments approaching oven time. Mix separately, and when combining, don’t rush. Slowly mix and you will have happy batter.
  2. Baking powder and baking soda are very different but both ineffective if unfresh. Test soda by putting one teaspoon into a few tablespoons of white vinegar, and test powder by putting one teaspoon into a few tablespoons of warm water (tap is fine, as long as it isn’t cold). If they’re not bubbling, don’t use! The more they bubble the fresher they are.
  3. Whole milk is always better than 2%, 1%, or, heavens forbid, nonfat. 
  4. Butter should not be cold unless the recipe calls for it. Room temperature!
  5. Unsalted over salted butter. If you have to use salted, don’t put extra salt in the batter.
  6. So you’re about to make chocolate chip cookies. You have all your ingredients out and ready. All you need to get out is the brown sugar. You go to the pantry and, behold, your brown sugar has evolved into brown rock. Don’t freak out! Wrap it with a warm towel and leave it out for an hour or so. You should have brown sugar good as new (not really, but as close as it’ll get).
  7. Remember that amazing tool list I showed you? Well, there’s one for ingredients too! This brown eyed baker is an angel. 
The things I put in this list almost all spawn from personal experience. It is not an extensive list, and is open to changes and edits. So if you have something you’d like to add that I completely missed, please let me know. My baking adventures are just beginning, and input from all of you is not only welcomed, but encouraged! 

Much love,

1 comment:

  1. Love your post! One more tip I learned from other bakers - never overmix the batter once you combined wet and dry ingredients, otherwise, the cupcakes will not turn out light and fluffy :) xo


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