Sunday, April 11, 2010

Baking A.B.C

They always accuse me of being very accurate and detailed. I guess that’s one of the reasons why I became an engineer ;P. I believe that these “characteristics” are a key to my success in my hobby and passion: making dessert.

When it comes to desserts, following the instructions precisely is one of the key factors to success. Therefore, if the recipe says, for example, that you need to use eggs or butter at room temperature; you really need to do so. From my modest experience, I’ll tell you a thing or two about the ingredients in our market that can give you the best results and the basic tools that you need to have in your kitchen for making desserts.

Butter: the best type of butter that you can use is Al-Marai’s, a Saudi product. Generally, when you open the cover of the butter, you’ll find small dashes indicating how the amount of butter is divided, usually to units of 25g. This can help you measure the amount of butter without using a scale of making an extra cup dirty.

When the recipe states that butter should be at room temperature, make sure you put it out ahead of time. When the butter reaches room temp, it will be very creamy and soft (Y). Sticks of 100g come to room temp faster than bigger sizes. Therefore, if you forgot to put the butter out before or had one of those sudden baking mood spans that come to me, use an equivalent amount of sticks.

None-Stick Spray & Parchment Paper: This product can make your life easier when it comes to greasing your pans. It is very beneficial when you have one of those fancy pans with curves and texture. There’s a variety of brands of non stick sprays in the market. I personally used Crisco and Mazola and they’re both very good. There are butter, oil and olive oil sprays. I always use butter spray for cakes. Parchment paper is also a good product to ensure that what you’re baking doesn’t stick to the pan. Cut the paper to fit the base of your pan, then add small sheets to the sides if it’s required. The greased side in your parchment paper is the inner one, don’t forget that while you’re using it (I always do :P).

Colors and Flavors: Your recipe dictates the solidity of the colors you should be using. You can find paste colors which are excellent for coloring frost because it doesn’t spoil its consistency. Liquid colors can work for other things. I find that the best paste colors you can use are Wilton’s which you can buy online or from Tavola (in Royal Plaza). I started with the 3 basic colors (red, yellow and blue) and mixed as I needed other colors, but you can also buy all the colors that you need. The liquid colors are available in all grocery stores. I usually go for Foster Clarks colors. The flavors that are most commonly used are: Almond, vanilla and rose extracts. For those, I’d go with Foster Clarks too.

Measurement Tools: Use the standard measurement tools such as cups, teaspoons and tablespoons. Empty yogurt cups, mugs, water glasses, used food cans or any other “tools”, that I was very surprised with, are not accurate and, hence, can spoil your cake. When you use a certain measurement cup, use it for measuring everything throughout the entire recipe. It’s also very beneficial to have a small scale for the kitchen. You can find measurement tools is many places such as hyper markets, or in cooking equipment stores such as Tavola and others.

Oven: Before you start measuring and mixing ingredients, turn on the oven to the required temperature and adjust the oven’s rack. This step is very essential for the success of your baking. I love the way my mom describes this process when she assures it’s importance. She pictures it as if the batter “jumps” due to thermal change (3ashan el kaika tfzz, hehehe). When you bake you usually use an upper rack. In my oven there are 4 levels; I use the second from above. The temperature that I usually use for baking is exactly between 250 and 300 F (electric oven).

Cooling rack: a rack is an excellent tool for cooling things. It is very essential when you’re making cookies and biscuits because they have to be cooled from both sides to ensure that no moist remains and spoils them. You can find a cooling rack in any cooking equipment store.

Mixer: When you’re mixing you can use either an electric mixer or a hand mixer, yet they are both very essential in the kitchen. There’s a variety of brands for electric mixers in the market (Moulinex, black & Decker, Kenwood, etc), choose the one that best suits your needs and budget.

Spatula: Make sure you have a rubber spatula in your kitchen because you will need it to scrape the sides of the bowl, fold a batter or other functions. An offset spatula will be essential for decorating. (We will be featuring decorating in several articles in the blog, beeee patient ;D)

Sifter: A sifter is important when your recipe states that you have to sift a certain ingredient (again, I’m very annoyingly accurate with what the recipe states :$). For example, sifting the sugar is a must when you’re making frost to make sure that the frost is smooth and has no chunks.

This is so far all I can think of. Both Dana and I will be updating you with the best ingredients and where you can find them according to each recipe that we post.

--Nora :)

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