It is always important when baking to use the freshest ingredients and understand how the right ingredients help recipes succeed. What are the differences in baking ingredients and why do we use them?
Eggs and Unsalted Butter
- Always use at room temperature when baking.
Heavy cream or whipping cream has a higher fat content than whole milk. It is the cream that rises to the top of fresh milk and will double in volume when whipped. Heavy cream is desirable when making any type of mousse. To make parve recipes use a non-dairy, pourable whipping cream.
Types of Flour
- All purpose flour is a mix of flours and are good in cookies, cakes and muffins. It can be bleached or unbleached. A 5 lb bag of flour has a little more than 17 C of flour.
- Bread flour is usually unbleached, has more gluten and is best used in yeast doughs.
- Whole wheat flour is made from grinding wheatberry, but is not good for baking due to its heaviness. Some bakers will try mixing whole wheat and white flours together, which makes for a healthier and less dense dough than using whole wheat flour by itself.
Types of Sugars
- Granulated sugar is refined and derived from sugar cane.
- Confectioners sugar is sugar ground into a powder and had cornstarch added. Do not substitute for sugar.
- Light and Dark Brown sugar are sugars with molasses added. Always measure by packing.
- There are other, less refined sugars that provide similar results and often you may not notice the difference. Try using coconut or maple sugar, both of which are healthier than granulated sugar, and do not alter flavor.
Baking Soda produces carbon dioxide when mixed with acidics like lemon juice or vinegar. It reacts quickly when moistened so it should be placed in the oven after mixing.
Baking Powder combines baking soda with an acidic to produce carbon dioxide when baking.
- Always preheat the oven.
- Use a cooling rack to cool cakes and cookies.
- Use liquid measuring cups for liquids like milk, oil and water.
- Use dry measuring cups for dry ingredients like flour and sugar.
How do you know your cake is done?
Insert a toothpick in a cake and if it comes out clean, the cake is done. If it comes out moist, the cake is not ready to come out of the oven.
The top of the cake should be springy and be evenly browned.
Photos above by Mark Greenberg