Answers to Some of Your Baking Questions
Every day I receive emails from visitors with questions about a cooking technique or a recipe. Unfortunately, I can't get to them all, but I try to get as many responses as possible, and if I don't know the answer, I'll ask one of my chef friends. Here are some I've received that deal with baking, a subject I am not comfortable with, so I sent them to my friend Chef Jenni Field, a great baker and pastry chef.
Cracks In Cake
This one comes from Debbie, who says,
I tried the apple cake recipe, it is fantastic except for the part about the cracks in the middle of the cake. In fact, I had the same problem with other cakes as well, can u let me know what is the probable cause of this?
Here's how Chef Jenni replied,
My first thought is that, with fruit in the center, you're bound to get some cracking as the fruit boils and settles down upon cooling. I'm not sure how much cracking you're getting, but with a "homey" dessert like an apple cake, I'd just hit it with some powdered sugar and eat up!
If you're getting cracks in other cakes, it could be from over-mixing or using the wrong flour. Depending on where you live, flours can be very different from one another. In the US, stick with a nationally available all-purpose flour for the most consistent results.
Regarding over-mixing the apple cake, try folding in the dry ingredients rather than trying to beat them in. (In cakes using the creaming method - adding dry and wet alternately after creaming the fat and sugar, mix until just combined after each addition).
Also, check your oven temperature--if the oven is too hot, it could cause things to rise and peak, creating cracks in the cake. This is great for muffins but not what you want with cake. If you don't have one, get an oven thermometer to check the temperature.
All Purpose Flour
Here's another baking-related question I asked Chef Jenni to help with:
I have tried using natural unbleached, all purpose flour to make a layer cake and have been unsatisfied with the texture. I tried using 2 tablespoons less of the all purpose flour (which I read is the equivalent of cake flour). I have tried replacing some of the all purpose flour with corn starch. None of the things I've tried have given me the light, airy cake that I get when I use the package mix. I do want the cake to be all natural. Any suggestions?
Chef Jenni replies,
I bet it's their mixing method, not the flour, messing them up. Also, mass-produced cake mixes contain emulsifiers and tenderizers unavailable to the home baker. So, generally speaking, a home-baked cake will most likely not be as light as a cake mix cake. Notice I said "not be as light," not "not be better." I stay away from cake mixes because of all the additives.
If you've tried using different flours and even using less all-purpose to stand in for cake flour, I would consider buying some cake flour. It is more finely milled than all-purpose flour, so your results tend to be a lighter, finer texture. If you've already tried cake flour and aren't satisfied with your results, I would look to your mixing method.
If you are using the creaming method, make sure that all of your ingredients are at cool room temperature (about 68-70 degrees F) and thoroughly cream the fat and sugar until it is very light and fluffy. Next, add the eggs, one at a time, and beat each one in thoroughly before adding the next. Then, thoroughly whisk together all the dry ingredients and add about half to the batter.
Mix until incorporated on medNext, add-low speed. Add half of the liquid and mix in. Follow that with half of what's left of the flour, the rest of the liquid, and then the rest of the dry. Mix just until incorporated after each addition, and scrape the bowl frequently.
Following this procedure should result in a well-aerated cake that is fairly tender.
More About All Purpose Flour
What does all purpose flour have in it? Any baking powder or baking soda?
Chef Jenni says,
You are not alone in your confusion over the flour. There are a wide variety of flours on the market, and it seems like more are introduced daily.
All-purpose flour is a blend of high and low-protein flour. The manufacturers blend the flour so there is enough gluten to make a reasonable (often excellent) loaf of bread but not so much that you will end up with a chewy birthday cake. This is why they call it "all purpose:" it is good to use in various baked goods.
When you ask about baking powder and soda, I assume you mean self-rising flour. All-purpose flour and self-rising flour are not interchangeable because self-rising flour does contain leaveners and salt. Self-rising (or self-raising) flour is one of the first "baking mixes." Rather than measuring out all-purpose flour, baking powder, and salt separately, a cook can measure the self-rising flour--everything else is already in there.
Can Kitchen Smells Get Into a Cake?
Robin contacted me and asked,
Can a potent/hot aroma alter the taste of a cake being prepared? For example, if chilies are cooking (they are so potent I have to leave the kitchen!) in the same kitchen where a cake is being mixed together (at the same time), can the cake batter absorb any of the aroma? Could the aroma possibly alter the taste of the cake?
Chef Jenni says,
I've never experienced such a thing, but that could be because I've never been roasting hot peppers while mixing cake batter. As most of you have been reading my blog or visited my site, I'm not much of a baker. However, my 11-year-old daughter is getting interested in baking, so you will see more recipes posted based on what she is making in the future.
Having said that, smells are physical properties. We smell tiny airborne molecules of whatever is giving So from the scent. From that standpoint, it stands to reason that some of the volatile components of peppers and other "hot" foods could waft about in a kitchen and settle on/in your cake batter.
It would further depend on the type of cake you're mixing. Fats readily absorb flavors, so a butter-heavy cake would likely pick up more flavors than a leaner cake, such as angel food. I can say that all sorts of scents waft around in commercial kitchens - roasting lobster shells being a particularly pervasive and intense one, and pastry chefs continue with dessert production despite it. If you have any concerns about flavor transfer, I recommend that you don't do both tasks simultaneously. I hope this helps.
Help With Coconut Macaroon Recipe
I have a coconut macaroon recipe that I've been having trouble with. I've been cooking it for years but have never really perfected it. Usually I get different results every time i cook it. What I would like to achieve is a layer of chewy baked macaroon top with the bottom, a layer of custard not unlike flan or crÃ¨me brulee.
I bake them in really small paper patty pans and they come out like this: Sometimes I get the result I would like to achieve, other times the macaroon is dry and the custard layer would not be there and it is hollow at the bottom.
These are the ingredients I generally use: desiccated coconut, eggs, condensed milk, vanilla, butter, and molasses. Combined, I bake them in a preheated 180-degree oven for 15 minutes. Are there ingredients in my list that I should exclude? Help, where do I go wrong?
I asked Chef Jenni for help with this one. Here is what she had to say:
This is strictly speculation since I've never made macaroons with these specific ingredients. Since Robin doesn't give the amounts for any of the ingredients, I'm going to assume that these guys are primarily desiccated coconut and egg with the other ingredients there for body and additional flavor/richness. If so, there are a few variables.
One would be the weather. The humidity will affect the final product when working with an egg-heavy recipe. Low humidity will equal a crisp outcome, and high humidity equals chewy. So, that's something to think about.
Another variable that the baker has more control over is mixing time. I would suggest that over-mixing yielded the hollow-bottomed result. Next time, keep track of how long and how quickly - you're mixing and write it down. If the results are hollow-bottomed, dry macaroons decrease the mixing time.
Eventually, you'll hit the magic speed/time combination. Then, assuming that humidity isn't the deciding factor, you'll always get your desired results by mixing for that specified amount of time. My gut is if you're looking for chewy/custardy macaroons, you'd want to mix on no more than medium speed for a relatively minimal time.
I will be interested to hear how things turn out and would also like to see the full recipe and the procedure sometime.
As to the last question Resi asks, if she should exclude any ingredients to get the results she is after, I wouldn't alter/omit any of thInstead, e ingredients. I would first look at the mixing speed/time and then the oven temperature. And, for my part, I'd probably add a very healthy pinch of salt into the mix!
How Many Key Limes Does It Take For ½ Cup of Lime Juice?
Susan wrote and said:
I absolutely love your key lime pie recipe. I only have one comment... For ½ Cup of KEY lime juice, it requires 12-15 KEY limes. I can't help but think your suggestion of 3-4 limes refers to regular limes, hardly the same thing. There is NO SUBSTITUTE for key limes, they are quite unique. And, now, I must go make my pie!
Chef Jenni replied,
Yes, Susan is absolutely right. Key limes are very small, about the size of a pecan in the shell. It would take quite a few to yield ½ cup of juice, so I'm guessing 12 - 15 looks right.
Key limes are generally only grown in Mexico now, and they can be pretty hard to find in the States. So I used Nellie and Joe's Key Lime Juice rather than trying to juice a ton of hard-to-find key limes. For folks who can't find key limes or key lime juice, you can substitute Persian ("regular") limes in a pinch, but the flavor won't be as sharp. If you have some citric acid, you can add a pinch of that, and it might get you closer to an actual key lime flavor.
Forgot to Add Sugar to Fruit Cake - What Do I Do?
I have just made a rich 12" fruit cake, and very stupidly I forgot to add the sugar, is there anything I can do, I really don't want to throw this cake away. Thanks I look forward to your reply.
Oh, Susanne. The short answer is "No." But don't feel too stupid. We've all been there. Or, speaking for myself, I've been there. I learned the hard way to taste the batter every step of the way. Most of the time, it's a pleasure, but occasionally I'll catch a potentially Big Problem, such as no sugar, no butter, or no salt.
Sugar is a critical ingredient in baking. Not only does it make baked goods taste sweet, it also keeps them moist, assists in browning, and aids in tenderizing. Without sugar, baked goods are unappetizing because of the lack of sweetness, but they are also dry, pale, and tough.
It's too bad that this happened to a fruit cake because the ingredients can be expensive. However, I suppose that you could try dousing the whole thing with sugar syrup (bring equal parts, by weight, of sugar and water to a boil, stirring until all the sugar is dissolved. Cool).
Barring that, I'd think outside the box and consider using your unsweetened fruitcake as a base for stuffing or a bread pudding. Think about it. You've probably got some nuts and fruits in the cake, and the fact that it's tougher than a "regular" cake would work in its favor in helping the cubes to keep their shape.
For stuffing, crumble up the fruit cake and dry it out in a very low oven (maybe 180F-200F). Mix together with chicken stock, sauteed mirepoix (onion, carrot, and celery), an egg, some poultry seasoning, salt, pepper, and maybe some cooked and crumbled sausage.
For the bread pudding, you can introduce sweetness through. First, mix the custard. Next, mix up a basic sweet custard: one egg and 2-3 tablespoons of sugar per cup of dairy (whole milk, half&half, cream, etc.). Next, cube your fruit cake, put it in a buttered baking dish, and pour the custard over it. Let it soak in for a good half hour to hour, and then bake at 325F until somewhat risen golden brown, set on the edges, and just a bit jiggly in the center. Let cool for about half an hour, then serve with some ice cream. Good luck with it!
Cracked Chocolate Chip Cookies
Help! We have a chocolate chip recipe that we have been making for years. Recently the baked cookies have a different appearance - even from within the same batch. Baked in the same oven, at the same time and even on the same pan - some cookies bake as usual and others look "cracked" or like they might even have oats in them. We have had no ingredient substitutions, no change in mixing, climate, etc. Please share any insights as we are really stuck. Thank you.
I'm going to assume that you're talking about a "standard" creaming method chocolate chip cookie. Given that, the only real thing I can think of is that your butter isn't soft enough when you cream it together with the sugar.
Or maybe your eggs aren't at room temperature, and the batter curdles slightly as the butter seizes up when the cold eggs hit it. That could definitely leave you with a bit of an "oatmealy" look to your batter.
If your recipe contains baking powder, make sure that it is fresh. Old baking powder takes up space and can affect the texture of your batter.
That's all the insight I can give you since I don't know your specific ingredient list or technique. I hope this helps, though.
Altitude Adjustments for Angel Food Cake
I am having trouble with Betty Crocker angel food cake mixes. I live at 5,280 feet and have a brand new stove. I followed the high altitude adjustments to the basic mix (added 2 tbsp. corn starch to the dry mix), used a 10" pan as called for, and baked at 350 degrees. Three times I have tried this and each time, the cake overflows the pan while baking. Then when I place it upside down to cool, it falls from the pan. What can I do to resolve this? Thanks for your time.
Have you used this mix before and had it turned out correctly? Maybe with your old oven?
I just looked up the ingredients for this cake mix, and I'd like to take a quick second to suggest that you make angel food cake from scratch. There's sodium lauryl sulfate in the mix as a "whipping aid." That ingredient is also found in shampoos and is considered irritating. Plus, it also contains artificial flavorings and BHT as a preservative. I'd make a standard angel food cake using real whites, vanilla, salt, cake flour, and a little leavening.
If you love the boxed mix, though, I'll try to help. The high altitude directions I read called for adding ⅓ cup of corn starch, which is 5 tablespoons and 1 teaspoon of corn starch. It also says to increase the water from 1 ¼ cup to 1 ⅓ cup. The additional dry ingredients will help to "weigh down" the leavening and keep it from overflowing your pan, even with the relatively low atmospheric pressure. Also, the wee bit of extra water will help it to blend in more evenly.
Make sure that you're not greasing your pan. Angel food cake needs to grab onto the sides of the pan to "climb." Baking in an ungreased pan also ensures that it won't fall out when you turn it upside down to cool.
I hope that helps (and I hope you try to make one from scratch)!
So, that concludes this round-up of mostly baking-related questions. Please note that Chef Jenni often asks to know the recipe - the exact ingredients and procedure you use to make your baked goods. She says that this is because there are a lot of variables in baking and pastry, that there is a lot of chemistry involved, and that knowing the ingredients and procedures can help to narrow down the problem and make it easier to come up with the correct answer.
Making Tartlets Ahead of Time
Judy asked, I'm going to make your key lime tartletfor a bridal shower on June 25ht, 2011. I just wanted to know how far ahead can I make the tartlets? Thank you, Judy
Jenni says, You can make the tart shells and freeze them uncooked for up to a month. Since your party is on the 25th, this won't be a problem for you. If you want, bake them the day before filling them and keep them at room temperature. I wouldn't make the filling more than two days ahead. Freshest is always best; you don't want your tarts picking up any stray refrigerator smells.
Substituting Raw Sugar for White
Kimberly asks, Can I substitute raw sugar for white in cordial an jam recipes?
Jenni says, Yes, you can certainly substitute raw sugar for white. However, since it contains more impurities (mainly molasses, which is never a bad thing in my book), the color might not be as vibrant. As long as you're OK with that, go for it.
Substituting Baking Soda with Baking Powder
Jeanie Koch asks, I have a recipe for bran muffins and it calls for 3 tablespoons of baking soda, it also uses buttermilk, what I would like to know is if I can use half baking soda and half baking powder. Thank you.
Jenni says, It's hard to know how to answer your question without seeing the recipe. However, I will say that 3 tablespoons of baking powder are a heck of a lot. Generally speaking, it takes ¼ teaspoon of baking soda to leaven 1 cup of flour properly. Most likely, the bulk of the baking soda is there to offset the acid in the vinegar.
When you start talking about swapping out baking soda for baking powder (or vice versa, for that matter), you're talking about altering the pH of the batter. Vinegar makes a batter acidic, and baking soda makes it more alkaline. Baking powder is neutral since it contains ingredients that balance pH-wise.
If you mess with the pH of your batter, you run the risk of its not setting up--too alkaline (basic), and it won't set at all, and you'll end up with pudding. If you had used the recipe before and liked it, I'd stick with it. However, if you'd like to send me the recipe, I'll take a look at it and see if it's possible to make some substitutions without altering what it is you like about that bran muffin recipe in the first place.
Yeast in Bread
Ron asks, Can you please tell me how much fresh yeast I should use for a 2 pound loaf made in a bread maker? I have tried with 12 grams but it nearly took the lid off the bread maker. I am using 560 grams of flour, brown sugar, vegetable oil, skimmed milk, salt, plus 3 x 60 gram vitamin "C" tablets crushed. I would really like a reply as all the bread I am making at the moment is soggy at the top and has to be cut off and wasted.
Jenni says You can do one of two things (or both):
- Cut down to 8-9g fresh yeast and/or
- Cut down or eliminate the amount of Vitamin C you're using. For example, maybe go w/1 - 60g Vitamin C tab instead of 3.
Now that I think of it, you might also make the dough in your bread machine, take it out, let it rise, and bake it in your oven at 375F. That way, your bread won't be constrained by the lid of your bread machine, and some of the moisture will be able to escape into the oven, keeping your bread from getting soggy.
If I forgot baking powder in my recipe will it effect the taste
1.what is the preparation before i make cookies??
2.how should i know my cookies are ready??
Nadia, It won't effect the taste, per se, but it will certainly effect the texture. Your end product will be dense with a very tight crumb. Also it will not (or just barely) rise. All this is dependent upon how much baking powder the recipe called for and what mixing method you use.
If I understand your questions correctly, you are asking about mise en place--getting everything set up and prepared before baking. For cookies made with the creaming method, make sure all your ingredients are at about 68F. This means you'll have to get the butter out of the fridge at least 30 to an hour before baking, depending on the temperature of your kitchen.
I'd go ahead and mix all the dry ingredients together, have all of your mix-ins (chocolate chips, nuts) if using, and put the sugar together with the butter.
Then, it's as easy as 1-2-3:
1) cream butter and fat (then, add egg, if called for)
2) add in dry
3) stir in mix-ins
Depending on the type of cookie you're baking, there are different ways of knowing when they're done. Look at the bottoms to make sure they are deep golden brown--this is a good way for basic chocolate chip, oatmeal and peanut butter cookies. Some cookies aren't supposed to brown (Mexican wedding cookies, shortbread, etc) so just check to make sure they are firm.
When in doubt, take one out of the oven to sacrifice for the cause. Eat it. If you like the texture, it's done.
Best of luck to you:)
Oh, that first comment up there was directed at Marlene. Sorry!
can you freeze zabaglione and defrost it without it changing in texture?
I just made chocolate chip cookies for the umteenth time and they are flat and get hard when cooled. I rechecked the ingrediences and measurements, nothing wrong. Could it be the oven temperature? I wanted them thick and chewy.
Can you post the recipe along with the oven temperatures so we can try and help you figure out what went wrong?
How can i make very HIGH muffins like Perkins? If I put more batter in the cups, it just spreads out all over the sides. Does it need more baking powder to rise more quickly? I would really appreciate your input. Thanks, Carmella
I am having trouble with my cheesecake splitting on the top. I have a Cheesecake Factory recipe that is great. The taste and texture are good. I have cooled it down in the oven with the oven off and I have put it on a cooling rack. How do they get their tops so perfect with no cracking?
I am attempting to make an apple strudel and it the recipe calls for 3.5 oz. sultans. What is this and is there a substitute if I can't find it in the store? Thanks.
Never mind. I just found out that sultans are sultanas which are golden raisins! Dumb question. Thanks anyway.
i have a question if i don't put enough baking powder in a cake how much will it rise smaller or bigger?
how can i get my homemade bread to be like store bought , mine comes out course and tough , how do i get it to be soft and fluffy ,ty
This is the third time I have tried baking , the first was chocolate chip pan cookies and I tried making cranberry bread twice. All three times, the batter just stayed liquid, it did not bake. Could this be the Oven? I am using a thermometer and it just a little higher than the oven thermometer. I would appreciate any help. Thank you
Hi Sheran, I would need a little more information including the recipe to be able to help. - RG
How do you keep bananas from turning brown in banana cream pie?
The old brown banana cream pie dilemma. You can go a couple of ways. First, you could roast the bananas. This will deepen the banana flavor and caramelize them somewhat. The texture will be softer than fresh, and they'll be brown-ish to begin with, but the depth of flavor will be lovely. Plus, they won't get any more brown because the heat will have killed off the enzymes that cause browning. Second, dip the banana slices in acidulated water - water w/a bit of lemon or lime juice in it.
Either way, banana cream pies tend to get soggy fairly quickly because of the moisture content. Ultimately, the best way to keep your bananas from browning is to invite a crowd and eat the whole pie on the first day!
when i bake muffins or bread the oven works fine,but when i try to bake a casserole it never gets hot, even after an hour it's still cold inside. Why is this?
Hi Ole, could be your oven, could be the temperature you're cooking at. Without a recipe, it is hard to tell. - RG
can sweet roll dough be shaped into rolls & refrigerated overnight, then allowed to raise in the morning?
Good question. The answer is Absolutely! Shape and refrigerate, then take out about an hour before baking and you're good to go. You will want to give the dough a first rise the day before, then punch down, shape and chill.
Last night I baked a white pizza that I saw on Food Network by Claire Robinson. I made it last week and it was fabulous, so this time I decided to add a few toppings of my own to jazz it up. It was good, but there was a distinct "lemon" flavor to the pizza and I can't for the life of me figure out which ingredient may have caused this.
Here are the ingredients I used:
1 lb. store bought fresh pizza dough
3 cups mozzarella cheese
1/2 cup ricotta cheese
The following ingredients are the ones I added this time:
paresan/romano blend (grated)
It almost tasted like I had put lemon zest in the recipe somewhere. It wasn't bad. Nice summer taste, but it was unexpected. Where did it come from? The basil? Maybe because I used a different brand of olive oil this time?
I'm guessing it is the basil. Maybe you purchased lemon basil, a hybrid between basil and African basil that has a strong fragrant lemon scent. Did you like the outcome or was the lemon flavor to overpowering? - RG
The flavor was good, just not expected. Come to find out, it was the olive oil. I sauteed mushrooms last night for the eggplant parm I was making, and I tasted one of them before I put them into the dish. Again, not a bad taste, just unexpected. I will, however, go back to using my normal EVOO instead of the high end specialty stuff. Thanks for the response. I thought it had to be the basil and thought maybe i had bought lemon basil. Glad I figured it out.
Congratulations on your deductive powers. - RG
Can I prepare a carrot cake at 8 in the morning, put it in a 9X13 pan, put it in the fridge, and then take it out and bake it at 8 p.m. at nite? If not, why not? The consensus is it needs to be baked right after it is prepared and in the pan, but no one can tell me why?? My husband is hoping to save on electricity costs and heating up the house. My response, "tough!!".
Thanks for responding.
Hi Laurie, great question so I asked my friend Chef Jenni Field for her opinion. Her response is at Carrot Cake Recipe Question
I was always told that when one bakes anything in a casserole or sheet pan with sides, you never place it on another pan to prevent drips. EVERYONE on the Food Network places their pans on larger baking pans- is this a good idea?
Hi Catherine, I asked my friend Pastry Chef Jennifer Field your question and here is what she had to say,
I would like to learn how to make cakes or cupcakes from scratch. How do you know the right portion amount with all ingredients?
Hi Jacqueline, thanks for writing. I'm not sure if I have a cupcake recipe on my site but there are plenty of baking techniques described. If you do a search on my site for baking, you can learn what you need to bake a cake or make cupcakes and there are thousands if not tens of thousands of recipes on the internet. Good luck. - RG
how can I make my red velvet cake turn out more moist ?
Great question for my friend Chef Jenni, a professional baker and contributing writer. I'll ask her to respond. Thanks for writing. - RG
my lemon curd (for pie filling) has a metallic taste even though I am using a stainless saucepan to cook the curd. can you tell me what might be happening?
Let me ask Chef Jenni, a contributing writer and professional baker to respond. - RG
@Eileen: I'd be happy to try and help, but I really have to see your recipe before I can tell you how to fix it. Please post here, or ask RG to forward the recipe to me, and I'll see what I can do for you!
@Linda I'm glad you specified that you're using a stainless steel pan--it really does make a difference. As with Eileen, I'd like to see your recipe, but the first thing I can think of is that you need to add some salt to your curd. Salt will help to round out the flavors and "fill out" the flat, metallic taste you describe.
I am very thankful to this topic because it really gives great information .
Thanks Eloisa - RG
I cook from scratch more often than not, and would love to create my own recipes. I would like to know how to decide, when baking, whether to use baking soda, baking powder or both. Are there any "golden rules" about this?
Great question and I will ask baking and pastry chef Jenni Field for a response. - RG
The question of whether to use baking powder, baking soda, or both in a recipe is a question of pH balance. Ideally, your batter will be neutral, with a pH closer to 7. This means it doesn't contain many (if any) acidic ingredients: coffee, yogurt, sour cream, non-alkalized (regular) cocoa powder, molasses, citrus juice, etc. In this case, the general rule of thumb is 1 teaspoon of baking powder (its pH is neutral) per cup of flour. So, 3 cups of flour will require 3 teaspoons baking powder.
Baking soda has a high pH (over 7), which means that it is a base. It is used to leaven and to neutralize acidic ingredients. The rule of thumb here is 1/4 teaspoon baking soda per cup of flour.
Most modern recipes use a mixture of both baking soda and baking powder, the powder to leaven and the soda to neutralize. My rule of thumb is the same 1 teaspoon of powder per cup of flour and about 1/2 teaspoon soda per cup of acidic ingredient.
There are many variables to consider when developing your own recipes, not the least of which if pH. I can recommend two books that are very helpful with this. Bakewise, by Shirley Corriher, can help you figure out how to balance your recipes so the pH is pretty neutral. Micheal Ruhlman's Ratio offers standard ratios for almost any baked good you can think of. It's invaluable as a launching place for any new formula you're trying to come up with.
Good Luck, KK!
Thanks Jenni and be sure to check out Jenni's blog, Pastry Methods and Techniques to learn everything you need to learn about baking and pastry making. - RG
Summarize the biscuit method of mixing?
Hi Michael, are these homework questions you are asking? This method of mixing is explained on my How to Bake Page in some detail. Please take a look there for an answer. - RG
After baking pound cake, the top and sides are crusty to the point where I can actually peel this off instead of being buttery and soft. What am I doing wrong? I sifted the cake flour and really creamed the cream cheese, butter and sugar well.
Hi Stella, interesting dilemma. I asked Pastry Chef Jenni Field to respond to your question and wrote a separate post for it at Pound Cake Recipe and Crust Fix. Hope this helps - RG
Can you tell me the difference in polenta, grits and just plain cornmeal? And can they be interchanged in recipes? I make fried cornbread often, but it is not "gelled" first like with fried or grilled polenta.
Great question KK. I asked my friend Chef Jenni Field and here is what she told me - "As far as I know, in the case of grits/polenta, it is a matter more of cooking style than it is of actual substance. Cornmeal is more finely ground than grits/polenta. Otherwise, all three are pretty much the same thing. I have subbed grits for cornmeal in cornbread before. It works okay, but of course the final product is more...abrasive...in the mouth because of the larger grind of the grits.
Does your fried cornbread have egg in it? If so, it doesn't need to gel before frying since the egg proteins will hold it together. Polenta or grits need to set up in the fridge before frying since neither generally contain eggs."
Hope this helps - RG
What two elements does a proofing cabinet control?
Describe how to activiate the following types of yeast: Compressed, Dry active, quick rise dry.
Contrast batters and doughs?
Hi Michael, looks like you want RG to do your homework or answer a test question. No thanks but I would like to see how YOU answered these questions. - RG
No matter what I do or which recipe I try I have trouble baking banana bread. My trouble is getting even baking. Generally the top center is under baked while the sides are a bit too brown. I have tried, stoneware pans, glass pans, not stick metal pans, different recipes, and now have a new oven that can bake convection or traditional methods. It was one of the first things I wanted to try in the new oven to see if it would come out right. Not much change. I've tried putting the racks at varying levels too. Any ideas? This is kind of driving me crazy! I'm a baker for years, and this is the one thing I cannot seems to get right! Please help!
Hi Mary, I would need to see your recipe to be able to help. - RG
My mom, at 70, has baked her fair share of cookies. Lately she's complaining that after the first couple of days, her cookies become hard(er), regardless of how she stores them or type of cookie she bakes. Is there an ingredient she can add to the recipe? Or is this simply how it is....cookies are not as fresh after two days.
Let's see if I can get Pastry Chef Jenni Field to give you a great answer. - RG
Karen, unfortunately, staling happens. The starch granules somehow transform over time, probably due to oxidation (although don't quote me on that). Regardless, baked goods go stale fairly quickly. I generally store everything tightly wrapped in the freezer. Fortunately, cookies thaw quickly! 😉 I know that King Arthur makes a product called cake enhancer that is supposed to increase "shelf-life" of baked goods. Here's a link: http://www.kingarthurflour.com/shop/items/cake-enhancer-8-oz I hope that helps.
Thanks Jenni - RG
I baked some Banana and cinnamon muffins on Friday, let them totally cool then put them in a box to keep them fresh-er. I looked Sunday and each one had a squidgy top, they were sticking together and the lid had condensation/water drops in the middle. I checked inside them and all are thoroughly cooked, not dry either, and I don't know why this has happened, the sponge was cooked perfectly. I have cooked muffins before and the only problem I have had in the past is the paper casings come off (this I don't know why either as have adjusted cooking time up and down and it doesn't seem to make a difference) If you could help with my problem at all I would be extremely grateful, also how long does Banana cake keep? Thanks in advance
Hi Rachael, I asked Chef Jenni Field, a pastry chef and avid contributor to The Reluctant Gourmet. Here is what she has to say,
"The only thing I can think of about this is that they weren't totally cool. And even if they were, maybe they weren't able to breathe in the box. They need a bit of air circulation, because they'll continue to give off small amounts of moisture. It could also be that the bananas were "wetter" than normal. When dealing w/an agricultural product, they can vary from crop to crop, so this particular batch of muffins may have contained more moisture than previous batches.
Having said all that, two days closed up in a box is a little long, too. If I'm not going to eat muffins the day I make them, I put them in freezer bags, suck out all the air and freeze them. Then, I heat them up individually in the toaster oven. Since they do contain mashed fruit and are very perishable, I wouldn't recommend leaving them out on the counter, boxed or not, for more than the day that you make them.
As to the papers coming "unstuck" from the muffins, I've heard of folks having that problem before, but I cannot for the life of me figure out why it happens. Some folks will bake one batch and everything will be fine and then bake more the next day, and the papers fall off. I wish I had some words of wisdom about that, but it just seems like a random thing."
I made apple cake and I completely forgot to put baking powder and baking soda, the result is not really good, what can I do to the cake. I don't want to throw it. Is there anything i can do to the cake. Thanks.
Can self rising flour be used in making home made bread?
Joyce--I have seen recipes for biscuits that contain both chemical leaveners (as in self-rising flour) and yeast, but I've not ever seen a bread recipe that calls for self rising flour. Maybe in the case of banana or zucchini breads and other breads baked in loaf pans that don't contain yeast. But nothing will give you the flavor profile in your bread that yeast will. Beer bread, containing self rising flour, beer and maybe a bit of sugar and other seasonings may come closest to "real bread" flavor since the beer was fermented with yeast.
I did find a bread recipe calling for both yeast and baking powder, so you might be able to sub your self rising flour for the flour/salt/baking powder (which is all that self rising flour is) in the recipe. http://www.instructables.com/answers/do-you-still-need-yeast-if-you-only-have-self-risi/
I hope this helps.
I have a great recipe for blueberry muffins and the recipe has a yummy crumb topping. I put the topping on after I scoop the batter into the muffin cups. But while baking it seems to come off as the muffin raises. I am wondering how to keep more of the topping on so it looks professional.
I would try packing on a pretty thick layer before baking--don't just sprinkle it; kind of press it into the batter just a bit. If pieces still fall off, pile them back on with just a couple of minutes left in the baking time. Also, make sure your crumb topping is in small pebbles rather than larger chunks. None should really be any larger than the size of small peas. Hope this helps.
why is it when i make Jewish apple cake it goes down and settles when i take it out of the oven, i put the right ingredients thanks
While at my Mom's house, I was going to bake a pound cake with a tried and true recipe (her recipe that I have use for years). I was not paying enough attention and used self-rising instead of regular flour. What a disaster! About 3/4 of the way through I noticed it didn't look like it usually does, but I ignored that warning. It wasn't until I was cleaning up her oven from the momentous over-spill that I retraced my steps and realized what I had done; but that was just when my sister and nephew came along to enjoy what I had done. There are plenty of pictures...
What I was really wondering: Why do recipes call for an alternating between the milk and flour?
Ken, first of all, I can imagine you did have an interesting mess on your hands! But to your question: the reason the creaming method calls for adding eggs gradually and then alternating the wet and dry ingredients is to keep the emulsion stable. You are starting with an emulsion of fat (butter) in a sugar/water solution (the minimal amount of water is from the butter and from what water the sugar attracts). The rest of the procedure is designed to keep the emulsion from breaking into a soupy mess. So, you add a little dry to tighten up the mix, then a little wet to loosen it--but not so much that it breaks. When you add the dry, you're adding to the structure. Then, when you add wet, you're increasing gluten formation (structure) and thinning the consistency of the batter so it will rise up beautifully. A too-heavy batter will result in a too-heavy cake. So, the whole idea is to perform a balancing act, alternating adding two opposing forces to achieve the right balance of structure and tenderness. Hope that helps! 🙂
@Louis, it sounds like you might be underbaking. Without more information, it's hard to tell, but if the cake looks well risen in the oven and then deflates when you take it out, it sounds like the structure hasn't completely "set" in the oven. And that means that the dough can't hold itself up, which means a flat cake out of the oven. To make sure, try taking the internal temperature of your cake before removing from the oven. You're shooting for around 200F. If you are concerned about over-browning, just tent your cake w/some foil during the last few minutes of baking.
Thanks Chef Jenni - RG
have experienced huge holes in cooking gluten free mud cakes. No such problem when I use normal flour, only when I use maize or rice flour. Any tricks to solving this problem?
Hi, Richard. I am not a GF baker, so I can't really speak to your issue specifically. I would recommend running/swirling a thin knife through your batter to break up any potential air pockets. Short of that, I would check with a GF baking website for more expert advice. Good luck with it.
I need recipe for old fashion cheese cake, ones made before Philadelphia Cheese was in existence. It was baked on a sheet pan (with elevated sides) and cut to order, and weighed. It was very moist, nearly melted in your mouth, and delicious. Can you help me??
Hi Honorene, I asked my friend Chef Jenni about your question and here's what she came up with. Hope this helps. - RG
I found this--it's baked in a spring form pan, but it could just as easily be scaled up to bake in a sheet pan and "sold by weight." http://whatscookingamerica.net/LizKrause/ItalianRicottaCheesecake.htm It's not very sweet, which makes me think it's fairly authentic to Italy or to early Italian immigrants to the US.
I’ve been making lemon bars, and the last batch the crust ended up on top of the filling. Any ideas how this could happen? I did nothing different.
I would like to make a chocolate lava cake for my grandson. Since you should eat these cakes warm, is it possible to, say, make one and save the batter in the fridge for a day or two before using again?
I'm making a basic apple pie and a pumpkin cream pie with gingersnap crust for thanksgiving. The only time I have to make them is the Tuesday morning before. Will the taste and texture still be good? Any techniques to help them stay fresh?
To Kristina--You should be okay w/the pumpkin pie for a couple of days. Wrap it very well to prevent any off flavors from the fridge, and you might even want to change your box of baking soda just to make sure:)
I'd consider putting the apple pie together on Tuesday, freezing it and then baking it on Thanksgiving day. I'm just afraid that your crust will get soggy, and part of the joy of an apple pie is the contrast between crisp top crust and soft apples.
Hope that helps.
To Irene--You can certainly do that, or you could bake them all and then reheat to serve. Either way should be fine--just bring them to room temp and reheat at about 300F for maybe 5 minutes for individual cakes. This should be long enough to reheat w/o continuing to bake and ruining the gooey center.
To Anne--Wow, that's a new one on me! I have read recipes for a cake called "impossible cake." As it bakes, it separates into a custard layer and a cake layer. Kind of like a pudding cake. I'm wondering if your filling was maybe a bit too warm and caused this to happen. Would be interested in seeing your recipe and doing a little troubleshooting with you.
I recently picked some persimons and pureed them with sugar. I'd like to make a moist cake, or a brownie like tart. I can't find a recipe. Any suggestions as to how to incorporate the puree into one of the above. I could wing it and see, but i've done that before with little success. What proportions of puree to flour, how many eggs, etc. Can you help before the by the 20th.
In a home I bake pecan pie for 50 min at 350. If I put 2 pecan pies in what temp and how long do I bake them.
What is the differnce between "soda" and "baking soda" in the cookie recipe I have for Soft Molasses cookies? It comes from a VERY old Watkins cookbook. And there are several recipes that call or both.
Good questions. Sometimes names change over time. For all intents and purposes, they are the same thing. It may be an early form using "soda ash," but regular baking soda should work just fine in a molasses cookie.
@Paul You probably will notice a slight increase in baking time, but as long as there is plenty of air circulation around each pie, it shouldn't be a significant amount. I'd keep it at 350 and then check when your one pie would normally be done. If both aren't done, drop it to 325 and cover w/foil if things are starting to brown too much. Depending on how "undone" they are at the "one pie done" mark, check quickly after an additional 5-10 min and in increments of 5 min until they're done. Write down the total time so that next time there won't be any guess work. 🙂
I make Spritz Christmas cookies every year, they look great coming out of the cookie press onto the cold cookie sheet. However, when they bake they spread out and loose their distinct shape? How can I fix that, so when they are baked they keep their shape?
@Debbie: I have honestly never met a spritz cookie that doesn't puff and spread a bit. It's just the nature of the dough: it has to be lose enough to be extruded through the press. You can probably minimize the spread by freezing the pan of spritzed dough until the cookies are solid. Then, bake them from frozen. This should help them keep their shape a bit, but you'll never get the sharp edges or points on the Christmas tree shape, for example, unless you do a rolled cookie and then cut out the shapes. Even then, the points will certainly soften a bit. You could also try maybe subbing some shortening for some of the butter--the shortening has a higher melting point and will help the cookie hold its shape a bit longer in the oven.
@Charles: I'm sorry I didn't see your question until now. What I would do is sub the persimmons for mashed banana in a banana cake recipe. At the very least, this would be a very good starting point for your experimentation. Use your favorite banana bread recipe--or maybe an applesauce cake, instead--and then swap the bananas or applesauce for the persimmons. You may have to adjust the sugar depending on how much you used in the puree, but I think this would be your best bet.
I like that you are interested in proportions and the ratios of different ingredients to "build" a cake/brownies with the texture you're looking for. You may want to pick up a copy of Michael Ruhlman's "Ratio" cookbook. That's what the entire book is about: ratios of ingredients to get what you want. Shirley Corriher's "Bakewise" also goes into a lot of that as well.
The last two pecan pies I baked resulted in the center being soft or watery. What causes this to happen?
I have read all the bad press on Canola Oil, etc and am looking for the healthiest oil for baking.
Can you tell me the safest oil?
@Richard not sure what you mean by watery, but it could just be that you underbaked by a few minutes which left the center too jiggly to set up even when cool.
@Karen It's really hard to say. It depends on what you're looking for--the oil with the least saturated fat? The one that lends additional flavor to your baked goods? The one that lends itself well to browning? I would look for an oil expressly labeled non-GMO and the one with the lightest flavor (unless you want the oil to lend flavor as in a lemon-olive oil cake).
Also remember that when making a cake that contains oil, even if the recipe calls for a cup of oil, if you cut it into slices, you may only be ingesting 1 Tablespoon per serving. Moderation, as is often the case, is key.
Virginia M. Musci
I have a receipe called Strawberry Shortcut Cake. Marshmallows on the bottom, from stratch batter, thawed frozen strawberries mixed with strawberry jello on top. In the past marshmallows would rise to the top and the strawberries/jello would go to the bottom. I've tried this twice this past week and the marshmallows stayed on the bottom and burnt and the strawberries stayed on the top. What happened? thanks for your help.
I have no idea what happened, Virginia. Did you do anything differently from what you usually do? Using any different ingredient brands or have a new oven? If you could provide a bit more information, I'll try to be helpful!
A recipe calls for the pie to be baked at 425 deg F for 30 min followed by 325 deg F for 30 min. Can I just bake it for 375 deg F for 60 min?
Deborah A. Cook
A recipe for shortbread cookies asks for 3/4 lb. of butter. How many sticks is that? I am assuming 3 sticks, am I correct?
In baking oatmeal cookies, it calls for 2 cups of sugar and 1 cup of brown sugar. My husband is a diabetic and I would like to bake the cookies for him using a sweetner substitute. When I bake the cookies regularly, he steals them when I'm not looking. Can you help me give him the cookies so that he can enjoy them without his sugar skyrocketing.
I made a carrot raisin bread with molasses it fell in the middle all i had was sides. I used all purpose flour. I live in Utah
I have tried several On-line Recipes for hot dog buns but they seem to be very heavy and also almost have the consistency of a cake. Are these bad recipes or am I doing something wrong?
Hi Don, hard to tell without seeing the recipes. Email me an example and I'll see what I can find out.
I've made two buttermilk pies with different recipes, and during baking, the butter separates from the rest of the ingredients. What am I doing wrong?
Absolutely impossible to say without knowing your recipes and procedures, Yvonne. If I had to hazard a guess it would be that the oven is too hot, though. If you'd care to share more information, perhaps I can be a bit more helpful. Thanks!
Can you tell me why my cup cakes sometimes come loose from the baking cases please?
I have a recipe that I've made many times, and the last two times I made it did not work right. I think it's because they've changed the amount of cake mix in a box from about 18 ounces to about 15 ounces. Here's the recipe for chocolate chip pound cake:
1 box yellow cake mix
1 box instant chocolate pudding
8 oz sour cream
1 cup water
1/2 cup oil
1 cup chocolate chips
You mix it all together and bake in a bundt pan (350 for 50 minutes). The last two times it has come out totally squishy and seemingly unbaked in the middle--very different from what it was before. How can I change this recipe to accommodate the new cake mix size? thanks
I baked pecan cake using 180g of plain flour and 50 gm of high protein flour for 45 minutes at 180 degree Celsius. I was just following the recipe.
At 45 minutes, the inside is still wet. So I baked for an additional 10 minutes. The inside is now done . But the cake is quite hard especially the top. In fact it is not so much like a cake but something between bread and biscuit. What went wrong? Oh I forgot to mention the high protein flour used is organic. Please advise.
I would avoid using the high protein flour. High protein flour is better for bread. In cakes you want a more tender crumb. Without seeing your entire recipe and procedure, that's my best guess, Casey.
Could you please clarify an issue with cocoa powder for me? I am always getting confused on what type of cocoa powder to use when a recipe calls for a specified amount because it never states whether to use natural or sweetened? If sugar is added do you automatically assume you use the unsweetened? Thanks so much for your help!
WHENEVER I BAKE COOKIES, LIKE CHOCOLATE CHIP, THEY COME OUT OF THE OVEN LOOKING GREAT BUT IN A FEW MINUTES THEY GET VERY HARD. I HAVE CHECKED THE OVEN AND USE ALL UP TO DATE BAKING MATERIALS BUT CANNOT FIGURE OUT THIS PROBLEM. PLEASE HELP?????????
Hello I just have a question.. How come when I make loaves or breads the top of them always split?? Is there anything I can do to prevent this or is it going to split like this all the time??
Hey, Margaret. I know this is a very tardy response, but it's never too late to learn, right?
Lots of times, yeast breads split because the dough forms a skin and the rising action splits it. You can help prevent this by making sure your dough is not too dry and by baking in a moist oven (spray water in at the beginning or add a couple of ice cubes in a hot pan to melt and steam). You can also direct the rise by making your own slashes in the bread. This gives the bread "somewhere to go" when it rises and also looks beautiful. It's still important to make sure your dough is not too dry, though.
Hope this helps!
G. Stephen Jones
Thanks so much Jenni. For all the bakers visiting, Jenni is an incredible baker and blogger. Please visit her at pastrychefonline.com.
If I have a recipe for muffins, and the recipe calls all purpose flour, can you change it to cake flour and if you can do you have to change other ingrediends in the recipe
The Reluctant Gourmet
Rick, for some really good answers to your question as well as some suggestions, go to https://food52.com/hotline/11669-can-i-substitute-cake-flour-for-all-purpose-flour
I have a Pumpkin Cheesecake recipe that I would like to make for Thanksgiving. Instead of making just one large cheesecake, I would like to make four small ones. When I did this before they came out dry. Do I have to change the temperature and the time in the oven?
I have been making a family pound cake for years and it has been turning out perfectly. I have a new oven and the recipe now will get too brown on the bottom especially and not done in the middle using the same temp..350* at 1 hr 15 min. I will look perfect on top but not close to done in the middle. I have tried putting it on a higher rack in the oven and that has helped as far as the burning the bottom but it still will not be done in the middle. HELP
Can a lemon filling go on cooled prebacked crust and if not why not?
My mother used to bake a delicious self-frosting cake. All she did was pour the cake batter in a loaf pan and pour water on top. The water oozed down through the cake and when you turned it out it created a delicious chocolake cake with a gooey chocolate frosting. I have hunted high and low and cannot find a recipe. Help?
I made a pound cake that did not brown on top. I tested it for doneness and stick came out clean but top was light yellow. There are no leveners in it but I did use a little ACV in it. I tried baking it twice in 2 different type pans: bundt and Angel food.