It seemed my grandmother had a special touch when it came to baking. Before the days of special fancy ingredients, she could turn four old brown bananas into moist flavorful bread, which was perfect for an afternoon snack with a cup of tea. Today’s baking know how will never match that of your grandmother’s, or mine since it was not uncommon for our grandmothers to bake everyday. Our lifestyle does not allow us to have that much experience and trial and error practice as they did. So let us look at a few simple, useful baking tips to help streamline the process.
1. It is so important to know your oven. Temperature is key to success. Buy an inexpensive oven thermometer and find out if your oven temperature is accurate. Sometimes just a small adjustment of twenty five degrees will make a huge difference. Pre-heating the oven is also essential to great results.
2. Ingredients play one of the most important parts in baking. Flour being the most commonly used ingredient should be fresh. I store mine in a sealed Tupperware container so I know it is always good. Whole grain flours become rancid faster so it is best to store them in the fridge or freezer. Make sure to transfer them out of the original package so they do not take on flavors from other foods.
3. Sweeteners, the next most common ingredient add flavor and allow baked goods to brown. White or brown sugar, honey, or corn syrup all work depending on the recipe.
When it comes to baking pans, think dark. Dull aluminum cookie sheets, pie and bread pans absorb more heat and therefore produce crisp, nicely browned results.
4. Proper Measuring is also vital. Grandmothers are notorious for “a little bit of this” or “a handful of that” when giving recipes out, but a little more accuracy is generally required. Keep it simple, use liquid measuring cups for wet ingredients (milk, oil, honey), and dry cups for dry ingredients (flour, sugar etc.), leveling off dry cups with a straight knife. As for eggs, extra large are my favorite and give you the most for your money.
5. One time you can experiment with measurements is when a recipe calls for flavorings, ex. Cinnamon, nutmeg, or an extract. The amount with these can be up to your taste preferences. I usually start by following the recipe exactly and then increase or decrease accordingly. Not everyone shares my fondness for cinnamon so this way works for me.
6. Lately I have been experimenting a lot with gluten free ingredients, especially gluten free baking mixes and I find the above tips also work if you are interested in a different option.
Okay I admit we can never bake totally like our grandmothers, but by following these few hints, we will come close.