Wednesday, September 25, 2013

Common Basic Baking Terms - Part 3



Before you wonder, no, there won't be a part 4 in this series! Only once I started writing, did I realize there is no way I could put this in one or two posts without having you dozing on your laptop even before you make it halfway through. Here is the last part for you. Images from the internet.

Ribbon stage : This term is commonly used while whipping eggs or yolks and sugar for foam cakes. You need to whip till the egg mixture looks pale, turns thick and forms a ribbon or falls in a ribbon like pattern. When you have whipped for the approximate time as directed and lift the beaters away from the egg mixture, it will fall or drop from the beaters in a flat ribbon like pattern, stays on the surface for a few seconds before disappearing back into the mixture. This shows that the mixture has been sufficiently beaten. Watch the first 30 seconds of this video.


Room temperature, butter : Recipes for butter cakes, cookies etc specify that butter should be at 'room temperature'. This means that the butter should be slightly cool and just pliable. It should only give slightly when pressed with your index finger. It should never be gooey or oily. The stick in the middle seems to be the one at the optimum temperature.

I have never really checked, but it should be 65 degrees F (18 degrees C) and 70 degrees F (21 degrees C) as mentioned in Joy Of Baking. This temperature allows the maximum amount of air to be beaten into your batter. To bring refrigerated butter to room temperature, cut in into cubes and leave it on the counter for about 30 minutes approximately. You could soften it in the microwave, but its very tricky, so best avoided. Rolling butter in between parchment is also done.



Stiff peaks and soft peaks, egg whites : Recipes guide you to whip whites till they form either soft or stiff peaks. As you whip, stop and lift the beaters slowly. If the peaks stand up but droop back (NOT the same as flopping back right away) you have reached the soft peak stage. Beat and wee bit more (30 seconds to a minute) and the peaks will stand up in shiny, pointed peaks and not droop back. Stop right there! If you whip any longer, the whites will dry out and be very difficult to fold in. Adding cream of tartar in the right quantity to the whites helps prevent over beating. 

Watch Rose here  4.30 minutes into the video.


Scant : A scant teaspoon means just about a teaspoon, a teeny little less than a teaspoon (as opposed to a heaping teaspoon). These measures are not really accurate, but work fine as a rough guide where you can add ingredients to taste.

Scrape down: When you mix batter for cakes and the kind, the recipes direct you to 'scrape down the sides'. This is just taking your spatula and turning it around in your mixing bowl, so as to scrape the batter or any unmixed ingredients in the bowl back into the batter. Important as this helps ensure that all the ingredients in your recipe are well incorporated into the batter.

Stir : Your stir together ingredients when you just mix them with a spoon or something similar in a circular motion. Note, this again is just for simple mixing, not for creating volume.


Spoon and sweep method: This is a commonly used method for measuring flour, I used to follow this before I got my kitchen scales.  Keep the measuring cup on a level surface like your counter. Loosen the flour in your flour container, scoop out the flour with a large spoon and spoon it lightly into the cup. Do not shake or tap the cup. When the flour is a bit over the rim, take a knife or a scale and sweep off the excess flour. This gives you 130 grams of flour.

Sift : Sifting dry ingredients in baking is for aerating and incorporating them into each other. You also need to sift cocoa, cornflour and powdered sugar to get rid of lumps before you measure. Since sifting increases volume of flour, pay attention to whether the recipe states the flour as 'sifted flour' or 'flour, sifted'. If its sifted flour, you first sift the flour and then measure. If its flour sifted, you first measure and then sift. This is specially relevant if you do not weigh ingredients and just measure them using standard measuring cups and spoons.  

A cup of all sifted purpose flour weighs 115 grams, a cup of all purpose flour measured by dip and sweep method weighs 140 grams, a cup of APF measured by spoon and sweep method weighs 130 grams. 

  
Simple syrup : This is just water and sugar heated together (till the sugar dissolves) in varying proportions to get different density of the syrup. Used for brushing on foam cakes and the kind to moisten it, to poach fruit etc, the standard usually is a ratio of 1:1. You could always alter the amount of  sugar to taste. Nothing to stop you from flavoring it with herbs or lime or cinnamon or anything you please!

Sponge: This could as a baking term refer to (a) kind of cake (b) a component of yeast dough.

Sponge Cake : One which uses eggs as their main leaveners. Whole eggs as in foam cakes like genoise and fatless sponge or with beaten egg whites as in chiffon cakes. 

Sponge (as part of yeast dough)/ starter : Usually a mix of yeast, liquid and flour that's allowed to sit for some time before adding it to the rest of the dough ingredients. Called by different names, this helps develop more flavor in the bread. Again, slight differences in the components, the consistency, the duration of fermentation, gives these different names. Read this to know more.


Sourdough (above) : Have never tasted one or ventured to bake one yet! Supposedly, in sourdough breads., the dough and the bread have a high level of acidity. The pre-ferment here is a sourdough starter which you cultivate at home mixing flour and water (no yeast) and let natural or wild yeast grow in it. This starter is 'maintained' (a big story!) and used as a leavener for baking breads, either with just the sourdough starter or sourdough starter plus commercial yeast making it a 'mixed starter'.  Sourdough breads have complex flavors and a distinct crumb, more here. I hope to get there someday!

Straight rise : This refers to the method of baking bread the simplest way without using any kind of starter. Just mix all ingredients, let the dough proof twice and bake!



Torte : A torte (as a  kind of cake ) usually refers to one with very little flour, more of ground nuts or bread crumbs.

To 'torte' a cake means to slice the layers into thinner layers for filling and then frosting the cake.

Toss : You normally toss one thing into another so as to coat the ingredients. Cubes of cold butter are tossed in flour to coat the butter with flour while making puff pastry, pie crusts etc.


Temper : One of the reasons why chocolate is tempered is to get that superb gloss to your decorations. Read more about this here. You also temper egg mixture while you make custard and custard based desserts as given under 'Dribble' in my previous post.

Unleavened : Usually used in the context of flat breads and crackers, these are made without any kind of leaveners like baking powder, baking soda, cream of tartar or yeast in them, hence they do not rise much. Chapati or rotis are classic examples of unleavened Indian breads.


Water bath / Bain marie : In my previous post here
 


Whip : You use a hand held electric mixer or a stand mixer for whipping cream or eggs. Whipping helps incorporate air into your cream or eggs.

Whisk
: You could whisk liquids to just combine them or whisk vigorously with a wire whisk to incorporate air. Go by the recipe directions and the objective of whisking.

Zest : Removing the outermost part of the rind of citrus fruits like oranges, limes and lemons is called zesting. The zest gives amazing aroma to your bakes. Best tool to use is a citrus zester.

Monday, September 16, 2013

Carrot Cake Macaroons. Flavorful Little Bites!


Carrot is not just for cake, says Alice Medrich. And I nod in total agreement. I love her book Chewy Gooey Crispy Crunchy Cookies for constantly reassuring me that there are heaps, heaps more of these delightful little things to be baked. An alluring variety of textures and taste, its so easy yield to the temptation and bake from the book over and over again! Having tremendously enjoyed her Bittersweet Decadence Cookies , Bittersweet Brownies, Cocoa Brownies, Mock Puff Pastry, Cocoa TuilesCitrus Tuiles , Coconut Wafers and Coffee Walnut Cookies I can safely say, if you enjoy your cookies, this is one book you may want to own.

Spicy Carrot Masala Macaroons. Wait! How did this one escape my eye! Desserts with a touch of heat - no, not really my thing. But I could surely imagine little chewy macaroons with carrots, almonds, and coconut, spiced with cinnamon, cloves, and orange zest. They turned out to be chewy, delicious little bites indeed! Watch the recipe video! Have you subscribed yet?





If you haven't tried macaroons yet, they have a crispy outer crust when just out of the oven, the interiors moist and chewy, think the ever popular South Indian Coconut Fudge. Unlike the famous French cookies macarons which are notorious for being tricky, these are really easy, quick and forgiving. Best the day they are baked, they soften the next day, but delicious nevertheless!


Ingredients:
  • Whole almonds (with or without skin) - 105 grams / 3.75 oz / 3/4 cup
  • Egg whites - 60 grams / 2, large
  • Sugar - 200 grams / 7 oz/ 1 cup ( I have weighed and powdered it, you could use fine grained)
  • Ground cinnamon - 1 teaspoon (or garam masala or pumpkin pie spice)
  • Ground cloves - 1/8 - 1/4 teaspoon (will add this next time, just a suggestion)
  • Salt - 1/4 teaspoon
  • Carrots, medium - finely shredded - 158 grams / 5.625 oz/ 1 plus 1/3 cup lightly packed
  • Unsweetened dried shredded coconut, NOT dessicated coconut - 63 grams / 2.25 oz / 3/4 cup
  • Orange zest - 1/2 teaspoon (the recipe has much lesser lemon zest, please read note)
Procedure:
  • Line your cookie sheets with baking parchment. Set aside. Pre-heat oven to 160 degrees C / 325 degree F. Position racks in the upper and lower thirds of the oven.
  • Place the almonds in a zip lock bag and bash with a rolling pin till its mostly in smallish pieces. This helps in grinding it without making it oily or pasty before getting them to the texture you need. 
  • Grind them to an uneven meal in the smallest jar of your mixer (or pulse in the food processor). The texture should range from mostly fine to finely chopped. Set aside.
  • In a medium sized, thick bottomed steel saucepan with a handle (helps you hold it in place as you stir), whisk the egg whites with a fork till frothy. Whisk in the zest, ensuring there are no lumps. 
  • Stir in the sugar, spices and salt. Add the grated carrot, coconut and almonds. Stir until all the ingredients are moistened. Set aside for 10 minutes to dissolve the sugar and hydrate the coconut.  
  • Bring a large wide skillet of water to a very low simmer; place bowl in skillet. cook 5-7 minutes, or until the mixture is very hot and the liquid turns from opaque to translucent, stirring constantly with a silicone spatula, making sure to scrape the bottom.
  • Drop heaping teaspoons 1 inch apart on the lined baking sheet. Or form tall beehives with your fingers. Bake for 20-25 minutes or till the tips of the carrot shreds begin to color and the bottoms of the cookies are deep golden brown. This again may vary depending on your oven. 
  • I think I like these a tad underdone as they taste so moist and good! I have baked for about 20 minutes as mine were really small. Bake a small test batch (err on the side of under-baking rather than over bake), cool and taste. If they are too hard or jaw-achingly chewy or dry (don't ask me how I know), reduce the baking time by a couple of minutes. 
  • Rotate pans halfway to ensure even baking.
  • Set the pan on the rack, cool cookies completely before storing.
  • In case, you find it difficult to remove them from the parchment, hold one cookie at a time, gently peel the parchment away.
  • The cookies keep for 3-4 days loosely covered to prevent sogginess, rather than airtight.

Note: If you use more zest, it may overpower the cinnamon. Use lesser zest to play up the cinnamon, or omit altogether. But I had used the zest of almost one whole orange, it was very, very zesty, but paired amazingly well with the carrot and almonds.




Thursday, September 5, 2013

Dulce de Leche (In the pressure cooker)


Dulce de Leche. Less fancily put, caramelized condensed milk in the easy versions of this much adored caramel flavored confection. Pronounced as dool-say day lay-chay  meaning 'milk candy', its used as a dessert topping, as an ingredient in cakes, brownies, bars and several other desserts. And then, there is an entire population out there who can eat spoonfuls of it straight out of the jar!

I have never really been tempted to make Dulce de Leche as I am neither very fond of intense caramel flavor, nor a raving fan of anything seriously sweet. Curiosity more than anything pushed me into this. After all, I have never really been brave enough to pressure cook a sealed tin of condensed milk! Dulce de Leche is also made by cooking condensed milk in the oven, in the microwave (the fastest way) and also from whole milk on the stove-top. Each method comes with its own merits and disadvantages.


As I gather, you could cook the condensed milk to varying degrees according to personal preference for texture, color and intensity of flavor. This obviously means you would have to make this a couple of times to figure out what exactly makes it tick for you. If you love caramel, you are not likely to complain a lot about the attempts. Even better, Dulce de Leche can be refrigerated for a month, while you can think of various ways of using it up. May be even gift jars of this to folk who appreciate the flavor.

Recipe source : Divya's Easycooking , original recipe source Anushruti's Divine Taste

You will need
Sweetened condensed milk, I used Nestle (not unsweetened or evaporated milk) - 400 grams
A pressure cooker
  • Fill your pressure cooker (10 liters) halfway through with water. Remove the plastic outer lid if the tin has any, make sure you do not open the tin. Fully submerge the unopened can of condensed milk in the water. Put the lid and the weight on the cooker lid, on medium heat, pressure cook  for one whistle. This took about 25-30 minutes. 
  • After one whistle, lower the heat to low and cook (still with the weight on) for 20-30 minutes. If you like your Dulce de Leche very thick, dark and very intense, cook for the longer period. Its better to cook less than more the first time. Vary the cooking time as needed the subsequent times you make it. I cooked mine for almost 32 minutes and mine was very thick, quite dark, with an intense caramel flavor. I shall cook for maybe 20 minutes next time for a less thicker, less intense sauce. 
  • The cooking time and whistle can be used as a rough guide as it could vary depending on the efficiency of the cooker and the heat given. So make notes as you go, make changes depending on the result you are looking for.
  • Once you turn off the heat, allow the pressure to drop. Open the lid of the cooker, carefully remove the can (leaving it in there may cook it further) and allow it to cool completely, again about an hour. Do not try to open it when hot as it could be dangerous. 
  • Once the can cools, open the lid and have your way with it! Refrigerate if not using immediately. You could push in half a pod of slit vanilla bean into the jar before refrigerating. The sauce thickens on cooling and refrigeration. Gently warm in the microwave to soften.