In the 13th century, a cake was known as "kaka," from an old Norse word. The pies, pastries and breads we enjoy today have a rich history. Our preoccupation with the perfect dough dates back centuries to the crude flour and water concoctions created during the ancient Roman and Egyptian times. And cake? You can thank the ancient Egyptians for that, and for several more advanced baking techniques. Although the oldest known oven dates back to about 6,500 years ago, ancient baked goods didn't really resemble their modern-day counterparts until the days of Medieval Europe when more ingredients and technologies were available (and fruitcakes were popular).
Today, baking skills are considered more of a science than art; in fact, unlike cooking, recipes are known as "formulas." Measurements are accurate and always exact because there's a chemistry to how the ingredients work together in baked goods. How honed are your baking skills? Do you know the difference between a whisk and a beat, or how to correctly bloom yeast? Get a baking tune-up with these techniques.
Mix together your dry ingredients first, and make a well in the middle. Wet ingredients are then poured into the center. This is known as the "muffin method" of mixing.
The method of creaming butter with sugar creates tiny air pockets in the butter that will help the cake rise when it bakes. Don't skimp! Properly creamed butter and sugar is pale yellow. Beat for two to three minutes to get the proper aeration.
Different flours contain different levels of protein and fiber and can lend different textures and tastes to your baked goods. If you don't like the nuttier, denser texture it provides, you can mix it with all-purpose flour for a lighter flavor and crumb.
Although mostly considered interchangeable, dark brown sugar has more molasses than light brown sugar. More molasses means a deeper, more assertive flavor.
A spoon, whisk or other utensils are each used for specific purposes. Brushes, for instance, are used to spread egg wash on the pastry. And spoons, well, they're used for the most basic of baking techniques: mixing ingredients together in a circular motion.
Dissolving these microorganisms in slightly warm water - 100 to 110 F - will activate them. Storing them below 50 F will cause them to go dormant.
Kneading dough helps produce the gluten in them. Specifically, kneading is when you work your dough by repeatedly folding it onto itself.
A spatula is key to doing the job well. And that begins with what's called a crumb coat, a rough layer of frosting applied to keep any crumbs under control before the final layers are added. Remember, chill between swirling on layers for best results!
Bread flour has the highest protein content. It is commonly used in baked goods where you'd want a chewier texture, such as pizza doughs and breads.
When activated, yeast feeds on sugar or starch in dough, and it releases tiny bubbles of carbon dioxide gas. It's the same gas humans exhale, and it's what causes dough to rise.
The technique requires you to incorporate solid fat into dry ingredients until just pea-sized lumps of fat appear. This is most often accomplished with either a pastry cutter or simply with your fingers. It's important to keep your ingredients cold, so they don't melt too fast while you work.
This happens near the beginning of the tempering process. First, the chocolate is melted. Then, as part of "seeding," handfuls of grated bits of tempered chocolate are added to the mix. The resulting tempered chocolate should be between 88 - 89 degrees Fahrenheit for best use.
Greasing the pan with melted shortening or oil, and even laying down a sheet of parchment paper will all keep your baked goods free from sticking. (Additionally, also try a combination of butter and flour or sugar for easy removal.) And if all else fails, return your cake to the still-warm oven for about 10 minutes to release any stuck areas.
You can't skip the leavening agent in a recipe and expect your baked goods to rise - it's the reaction leaveners have with other ingredients that gives rise to cakes and other products.
Folding involves very gently incorporating ingredients together by adding a lighter ingredient like whipped cream to a heavier one, such as batter. This gentle method is good for turning egg whites or whipped cream into your batter - it incorporates air into the mix. A "cut-fold" is done with a rubber spatula or whisk: cut through the ingredients across the bottom of the bowl. Continue back up the nearest side, and repeat.
The size of a baking pan is measured across the top, from the inside edge to inside edge. Large, shallow pans need increased heat while small, deeper pans require a lower temperature. Depth is measured from the inside of the bottom of the pan to the top rim.
Passing dry ingredients through a fine mesh sifter allows you to remove any lumps, but also to mix the ingredients together. Additionally, sifting aerates the flour.
To measure your brown sugar the right way, make sure it's packed firmly into a measuring cup or spoon. If your brown sugar is too hard, soften it with a cut apple in the container for a day or two.
They're out of the oven, but where should they sit to cool? Place your breads and cakes on a wire rack, which allows for good air flow all around the baking pan.
Baking powder and baking soda are both leaveners, which means they create the air needed for your baked goods to rise. But they aren't interchangeable. While baking soda must be paired with an acid to activate, baking powder just needs moisture.
All of these methods -- in a double boiler on the stovetop, in the microwave, or in a slow cooker -- melt chocolate gently, without scorching or sticking or turning grainy and crumbly.
Thermometers take the guesswork out of baking. Cakes and cupcakes, for instance, should measure an internal temperature of 205 - 209 degrees Fahrenheit.
Compared to milk chocolate, which tempers at 86-88 degrees Fahrenheit, most dark chocolates need temperatures between 88-91 degrees Fahrenheit to soften and reach their melting point. The more cocoa butter, which is a type of fat, the chocolate contains, the faster that chocolate will melt. Because it doesn't contain chocolate solids, white chocolate isn't truly chocolate.
Liquids evaporate faster in higher altitudes, so you'll need to make some changes to your recipe, beginning with a change to the baking time and temperature. High-altitude baking requires a temperature increase of about 15 to 25 degrees Fahrenheit, with a shorter baking time (since the temperature is hotter).
Measuring from butter or margarine sticks is easy as there are markings on the wrapper. But if you're working in cups rather than tablespoons, each stick of butter is equal to a half cup measurement.
From bread to cookies, you can bake just about anything with it. In a pinch, all-purpose flour can take the place of cornstarch as a thickening ingredient. Use two tablespoons of AP flour for one tablespoon of cornstarch in everything from soup to fried foods to cookies.
Small amounts of wet or dry ingredients should be measured in measuring spoons - all the way to the top, please. The largest spoon in your set it typically the one tablespoon measurement, which equals three teaspoons.
Both vinegar and lemon juice are good options for turning milk sour. For one cup of milk, you'll need one tablespoon of either.
In French, it's known as beurre noisette, and it means melting and cooking your butter until the milk solids in it get toasty and brown. Browned butter adds a nutty taste to your baked products.
Too much gluten in your batter can send your muffin tops soaring. Instead of getting that perfect dome, they've turned out with peaks - and that's because of overly-large bubbles called tunnels. It's this air that gives volume to your muffins, but too much will make your muffins look like cones.
Brown sugar is sugar that contains molasses, a liquid, up to as much as 10 percent in light and 20 percent in dark varieties. Cookies made with brown sugar are softer because of the additional moisture content molasses adds to the baked good, and the moisture attracts and absorbs more from the air.
Butter, margarine, or shortening? It'll make a difference. Butter has a lower melting point than the others, causing cookie dough to spread more during the baking process - and more spread means a thinner cookie.
While baking on the bottom rack is great for baked goods that you want to brown on the bottom, like a pizza, and the top rack for goods that need to brown on the top, like pie, it's the middle rack where most baked goods will flourish. It's the middle rack where the heat is evenly distributed and the perfect place for golden brown cookies.
Making dough for puff pastry or croissants requires a little more than mixing and rolling. Laminating the dough gives it its rich layers, and it's done by folding dough around cold butter and rolling.
How much does just one medium-sized apple yield? Just about one cup of sliced apple. This is pretty easy to remember and comes in handy when buying the right mount of apples for a pie for example.