Raise your hand if you’ve ever had flat cookies, swore at rolling out pie dough or ruined a baking recipe because you fudged a little on the ingredient ratios. My hand is wildly up! Cooks are usually divided into the “free spirits” who saute and the careful chemists who bake. Sometimes I say “pshaw!” to even trying to bake, yet the gorgeous fruits of summer or Thanksgiving beckon, my kids or co-workers need a birthday surprise – and I wish I had a better handle on this baking thing…..
I think it’s pretty safe to say that we’ve all had our share of baking issues and run into unfamiliar ingredients or problems that have left us scratching our heads. So I interviewed Gayle Starbuck, our Cooking School star of Cheese Making and an accomplished Baker. Gayle will be offering a class designed for Beginning Bakers 101 on April 19 & 26th. I need that class! Here are a few things I learned from Gayle:
Tracy: How come baking needs to be so very exact?
Gayle: A recipe for baked goods is like a formula. Substitutions don’t work because the ingredients must work together exactly or the product will be too dense, tough or fall apart – measuring and weighing are examples of must do actions.
Tracy: Gayle, you to me that “It’s all about the flour” What does that mean?
Gayle: Flour gives body and structure and contains gluten protein. The quantity and quality of each flour’s proteins determines how it will perform. There are many flours to choose from and they have a different range of protein content.
Tracy: Does it matter what kind of butter or shortening I use? Does butter really go bad?
Gayle: Yes, salt is a preservative and it can mask "off flavors". Unsalted butter is usually fresher. Using it means you can control the amount of salt in a recipe. Bad butter can be detected by slicing it - the outside will have a different color than the inside.
Tracy: What about using cocoa to bake? Is there any specific kind?
Gayle: There is a difference between Dutch-processed and natural cocoa powder. The difference is acid. It’s worth understanding. Look at the recipe. Does it call for a majority of baking powder or baking soda? If the recipe is mostly leavened by baking powder, reach for the Dutch-processed cocoa. If it’s a baking soda heavy recipe, go for natural cocoa powder!
There is so much to learn about baking! We have only scratched the surface. Try our cooking classes at our fantastic Kitchen Classroom at our eastside campus at 18700 SE Mill Plain. We have a blast! This Spring check out Spanish cooking, Herbal and Plant Infused Oils, Cooking Wild Mushrooms and Thai Curries in Hurry.