As with most things you’ll find online or in print, cooking advice can be confusing.
It would be best if you looking for trusted sources to get your recipes and tips. Sometimes it means healthy skepticism and a willingness to try things yourself. You can also learn from experience and have confidence.
You might believe everything you’ve heard or read. For example, it may seem like a good idea for your onions to be cut under running water at the sink. Or that ketchup is a vegetable. Most of us are not comfortable with the more plausible sounds. This could be true. This sounds plausible.
Sugar is used only to sweeten
A lot of baking uses sugar as an ingredient. What does sugar bring to the table? It brings sweetness, of course. The temptation to reduce sugar is there for people who don’t like sweet desserts or medical reasons.
This can lead to a number of problems as sugar does more than just add flavour. The flavour of sugar is not only multi-dimensional. Sugar can be cooked to create new flavours via the Maillard reaction, which occurs in conjunction with proteins and caramelization. Like salt, sugar can enhance the flavor of other ingredients like butter, chocolate, and vanilla. It can neutralize the bitter compounds in cocoa and wholemeal bread flour. You might also like: Sugar attracts water so baked goods can retain moisture. This is especially true for honey and other liquid sweeteners. According to Harold McGee in On Cooking, honey-sweetened breads and cakes will lose more water than sugar-sweetened ones.
It doesn’t matter what measurements you use
I ask people who are unhappy with how something is baked, or their baking skills generally, if they have not weighed the ingredients. A scale is a great tool to accurately measure the ingredients and ensure that you are reproducing what the recipe creator intended.
Volume is less precise than weight. The amount of an ingredient that you put into a dry measuring cup will vary depending on how tightly packed it is and how you scooped it (was the flour fluffed up?) Did you dip and sweep? And, I discovered, the measuring cup. Even measuring cups that are the same volume can hold different amounts. Even small variations in flour or sugar can make a difference when baking.
Salt doesn’t matter in baking
It is easy to mistakenly believe that salt’s contribution to baking is only limited to the salty flavour. In Salt Fat Acid Heat, Samin Nosrat makes a compelling point. “The most bland ingredients in sweets are the foundational ones. You shouldn’t leave butter, cream, flour, or eggs unseasoned in a savoury recipe. The same goes for desserts. A pinch of salt mixed into a batter or base can elevate the flavours of pie, cookie doughs, tart fillings, custards and cake batters.
Chattman states that salt can bring out other flavours, like the chocolate in brownies and the corn in cornbread.
Bread without a knead is not real bread
This one makes me want bang my head against a keyboard as an avid bread-baker. Sharing a recipe to make no-knead bread has often elicited criticisms from people who aren’t as skilled at making bread.
Wrong. It doesn’t matter if you use a mixer, hand knead, or let the dough do the work; the same thing happens: The proteins in flour combine with water to create the gluten network. This will give bread structure and expand as it bakes. While the first two methods require active mechanical or manual inputs, no-knead recipes are more passive. Andrew Janjigian, the author of the bread-centric Wordloaf newsletter said to me that “Bread dough is interested in developing itself.” No-knead breads are more like self-kneading. They require only a quick mixture in a bowl to combine the ingredients.
A good substitute for buttermilk is milk mixed with acid
Buttermilk is a staple ingredient in my kitchen. I can make so many waffles, pancakes, waffles, and scones. It is quite bizarre to me that commercial buttermilk can be substituted for milk with lemon juice and vinegar.
Kerry Kaylegian, Penn State’s food scientist, explained to me that buttermilk producers start with milk and then add a lactic bacteria culture. Once it has fermented, the right flavour and acidity is created. Dry milk, stabilizers and heat treatment can increase the thickness.
To see the difference, I added 1 tablespoon of distilled vinegar to 1 cup of milk and let it sit for a bit more than 10 minutes. It was not thicker than the original batch, but it was still a good alternative to cultured milk. The milk smelled and tasted almost like vinegar. However, the buttermilk tasted sweet and pleasant. The pH paper strips were used to check the acidity. The pH scale is 0-14, with lower numbers being more acidic. Buttermilk from the store was about 5. Vinegared milk registered 6. What is the significance of this? To give lift, the acid reacts with baking soda (a common raising agent for buttermilk). Less acid, less rise.