Tips To Make Your Baked Goods Better
Use Room-Temperature Ingredients
Many baked goods start by creaming together butter and sugar, which is made easier with warm ingredients. The exception – biscuits and pie dough need chilled butter to make a tender dough.
Invest in Quality Bakeware
Flimsy, thin pans and sheet trays won’t conduct heat efficiently, causing your cake, pie, cookies or pastries to bake unevenly.
Butter and Flour Your Pans Generously
When a recipe calls for a greased and/or floured pans, it’s for a reason: Your batter has the potential to stick to the pan and the cake will be difficult to get out of the pan in one piece.
Use Fresh Ingredients
The majority of ingredients used in baked goods—like baking soda, baking powder, yeast, and flour—have a relatively short shelf life, so if you don’t bake frequently, purchase them in small quantities so they don’t sit in your cupboard and become stale.
Measure Accurately or Weigh Ingredients
Successful baking means eliminating as much potential for error as possible and, that means, making sure your measurements are exact.
If you’re looking to cut down on the sodium, baked goods are not the place to do so. The half teaspoon of salt added to two dozen cookies won’t set you over your daily allotment, but leaving it out will drastically change the taste of the cookies.
Rotate Halfway Through Baking
Every oven has a hot spot, and if you don’t correct for it, you run the risk of unevenly cooked pastries—or worse, some that burn or wind up underbaked.Don’t, however, open the oven constantly to check on progress—it’ll lower the temperature and alter the baking time.
Pay attention to key instructions like “cream until light and fluffy,” “mix until just combined” and “fold in gently.” Otherwise, your end result will be dense and heavy.
- 1 1/2 cups white whole-wheat flour, plus additional for dusting
- 2 teaspoons baking powder
- 1/4 teaspoon sea salt
- 1/4 cup unsalted butter, well chilled and cut into pieces
- 1/2 cup whole milk
- 2 tablespoons chopped fresh chives
Preheat oven to 400°F. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.
Sift the whole wheat flour to make sure there are no clumps.
In a food processor fitted with a steel blade, pulse flour, baking powder and salt until well combined.
Add cold butter and pulse until a fine crumb is formed, about 10 pulses.
Through the feed tube of the processor, drizzle in the milk and process until a ball of dough forms.
Turn dough out onto a lightly floured surface and knead until no longer sticky; knead in the chives.
Press dough into an oval shape about 1/4-inch thick. Cut dough into 8 equal parts and place on prepared baking sheet. Bake until golden, 15 to 18 minutes.
- 1 cup all-purpose flour
- 1/2 cup white whole wheat flour
- 2 teaspoons baking powder
- 2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- 1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper
- 1/2 cup butter, softened
- 1/2 cup packed brown sugar
- 1 cup mashed roasted butternut squash or 1 cup frozen cooked winter squash, thawed
- 1/4 cup finely chopped crystallized ginger
- 1 egg
- 1 teaspoon vanilla
- 1/3 cup milk
Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Line sixteen 2 1/2-inch muffin cups with paper bake cups; set aside.
In a medium bowl combine all-purpose flour, white whole wheat flour, baking powder, cinnamon, salt and cayenne pepper; set aside.
In a large bowl beat butter with an electric mixer on medium speed for 30 seconds. Add brown sugar; beat until combined. Add squash, ginger, egg and vanilla; beat until combined.
Alternately add the flour mixture and milk to the squash mixture, beating on low speed after each addition, just until combined.
Spoon batter into prepared muffin cups, filling each about two-thirds full.
Bake in the preheated oven about 20 minutes or until muffin tops spring back when lightly touched.
Cool in the muffin pan on a wire rack for 5 minutes. Remove muffins from the pan. Serve warm.
Walnut-Yogurt Zucchini Bread
- 1 cup walnut halves (4 ounces)
- 2 cups all-purpose flour
- 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
- 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- 3/4 cup sugar
- 2 large eggs
- 1/2 cup olive oil
- 1/2 cup fat-free plain Greek yogurt
- 1 cup coarsely grated zucchini (from about 1 medium zucchini)
Preheat the oven to 325°F. Butter and flour a 9-by-4 1/2-inch loaf pan.
Spread the walnut halves in a pie plate and toast them for about 8 minutes, until very lightly brown. Transfer the toasted walnuts to a cutting board and coarsely chop them; then freeze for 5 minutes to cool.
In a large bowl, whisk the flour with the baking powder, baking soda and salt.
In a medium bowl, mix the sugar with the eggs, oil and yogurt. Add the wet ingredients to the dry ingredients along with the grated zucchini and toasted walnuts and stir until the batter is evenly moistened.
Pour the batter into the prepared pan and bake for about 1 hour and 10 minutes or until the loaf is risen and a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean.
Let the loaf cool on a rack for 30 minutes before unmolding and serving.
Spinach Corn Muffins
- 1 cup old-fashioned rolled oats (or 3/4 cups oat flour)
- 1 cup cornmeal
- 2 teaspoons baking soda
- 1/4 teaspoon sea salt
- 2 eggs
- 3/4 cup buttermilk
- 1/4 cup honey
- 2 1/2 tablespoons olive oil
- 3 oz baby spinach, finely chopped
- 2 1/2 tablespoons sage leaves, minced
Preheat oven to 400°F. In a blender, blend oats to the consistency of flour.
In a large bowl, combine oat flour, cornmeal, baking soda and salt.
In a medium bowl, whisk eggs, buttermilk, honey and oil. Fold wet ingredients into dry ingredients and stir. Stir in spinach and sage.
Line 12 muffin cups with paper liners. Fill three-quarters full with the batter. Bake muffins for 15 minutes or until a toothpick comes out clean when inserted in center.
Let muffins cool in the pan for 5 minutes before removing to a wire rack to cool completely.
- All-purpose flour, for shaping dough
- 1 pound pizza dough from your supermarket or homemade and thawed if frozen
- 4 tablespoons olive oil, divided
- 4 garlic cloves, finely minced
- Coarse salt and ground pepper
Preheat oven to 400 degrees F.
On a lightly floured work surface, roll out dough into a 16 x 10-inch rectangle; with a knife or pizza cutter, cut crosswise into 16 strips.
Tie each strip into a knot and place on a large rimmed baking sheet. Brush knots with 1 tablespoon oil. Bake until golden, 15 to 20 minutes; transfer to a large bowl.
While the rolls are baking, heat garlic and the remaining 3 tablespoons oil in a small saucepan over medium heat until garlic, about 5 minutes.
Pour garlic and oil over the bread knots in bowl; season with salt and pepper and toss gently. Serve.
Another tradition I established for our family was baking a special coffeecake for Christmas morning breakfast. In the early years there were a few different cakes tried but the one that became the favorite was an almond cheese filled cake. For my children, their spouses and their children, Christmas morning is not the same without this cake. I share this recipe and how to make it with you here in this post.
This coffeecake dough can be shaped in the form of a wreath or a horseshoe or even a candy cane. I make it in the form of a log because it fits in the freezer better.
Since Christmas morning is busy enough, you do not want to be baking on Christmas morning or even the day before. This cake freezes well, so you can make it ahead of time, defrost overnight in the refrigerator and reheat the next morning in a 350 degree F. oven for 15 minutes. Let sit for a few minutes on a serving plate and then drizzle with frosting. You can also decorate the cake with glazed cherries or other festive trimmings.
Almond Cream Cheese Coffee Cake
- 1/2 cup sugar
- 1/2 cup butter, room temperature
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- 2 packages (1/4 ounce each or 4 ½ teaspoons) instant yeast
- 1/2 cup warm water (110° to 115°)
- 2 eggs, lightly beaten
- 3 1/2 cups Eagle Brand Ultra Grain all-purpose flour (or 2 1/2 cups all purpose flour and 1 cup white whole wheat flour)
- 1 package (8 ounces) cream cheese, softened
- 8 ounces almond paste
- 2 cups confectioners’ sugar
- 2 to 4 tablespoons milk
- 1/2 teaspoon almond extract
Dough: Combine the flour, yeast and salt in a medium bowl and set aside. Cream the butter and sugar in the electric mixer bowl fitted with the paddle attachment until light and fluffy. Add water and eggs and beat until well combined. Mix in the flour until the dough comes to a ball or comes away from the sides of the mixer bowl. Switch to the dough hook and knead the dough for about 5 minutes or until you’ve made a soft, smooth dough.
Remove the dough to a floured surface. Grease the bowl and return the dough to the bowl. Allow the dough to rise, covered, for 45 minutes to 1 hour, or until it’s puffy (though not necessarily doubled in bulk).
Filling: While the dough is rising, prepare the filling by beating the cream cheese and the almond paste together until smooth. Chill until ready to use.
Cover two baking pans with parchment paper.
Transfer the dough to a lightly floured work surface, and divide it in half. Roll each half into a 15 x 10-inch rectangle.
Spread half of the filling on the dough, leaving a half inch border all around the dough.
Fold 1/3 of the dough towards the center and fold the other side on top of the folded side. See photo.
Place bread on prepared pan. Cut 1-inch-wide strips from each side of the filling out to the edges of the dough. Seal edges.
Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.
Baking: Allow the braids to rise, covered with plastic wrap or a kitchen towel for 1 hour, until almost doubled in size.
Bake the braids for 22 minutes rotating pans halfway through the baking time.
Remove from the oven, and cool on a wire rack. Yield: 2 braids.
When braids are cool wrap in heavy duty foil and freeze. Braids should be defrosted overnight in the refrigerator and heated the next day in a 350 degree F oven for 15-20 minutes. Remove foil and place on a serving plate.
To make the glaze: Combine the powdered sugar, almond extract and enough milk to make a frosting that can be poured over the braids. Allow glaze to set before cutting the braids.
- Let us eat coffeecake (wvgazette.com)
- Pumpkin Streusel Coffeecake (butterfliesandbrownies.wordpress.com)
- Cherry and Chocolate Stollen Spirals (underthebluegumtree.com)
Flour that is used in baking comes mainly from wheat, although it can be milled from corn, rice, nuts, legumes, and some fruits and vegetables. With so many types of flour to choose from-spelt flour, soy flour, quinoa flour, rice flour, organic bread flour and even gluten-free flour-your head may begin to spin. If you want your recipe to be a success, you’ll need to understand what each type does and whether it’s right for your recipe’s need.
There are two different types of wheat in the descriptions below: hard and soft. The difference is in the protein content, with hard wheat having a higher level of protein than soft. Wheat is milled and processed in slightly varying ways to create the different flours, for example whole-wheat flour will be darker in color than all-purpose flour because it contains the whole kernel (the bran, germ and endosperm) rather than just the endosperm (the center of the wheat kernel).
The type of flour used will ultimately affect the finished product. Flour contains protein and when it comes in contact with water and heat it produces gluten, which gives elasticity and strength to baked goods. Different types of flour contain different amounts of protein. Therefore using a different type of flour than what is called for in a recipe (without compensating for this change) will alter the outcome of the baked good. A cake flour is used to make a white cake where a delicate tender crumb is desired. Bread flour is used to make a chewy bread and all-purpose flour makes a delicious batch of chocolate chip cookies.
What Mario Batali says about using different flours in Italian cooking:
Soft wheat flour produces the tender pasta used in Emilia-Romagna’s cuisine. Hard wheat flour, conversely, is lower in starch and higher in protein and gluten, producing firm and resilient pasta and bread. Durum wheat is high in gluten and is usually ground into semolina, a slightly coarser flour used in pasta production, particularly in the South of Italy. When purchasing flour, look at the nutrition panel for the protein content, which is listed in grams per pound.
Essentially, for thin tender pasta, I’ve found the pastry flour in the bulk bins to be perfect. For everyday pastas I just use all purpose. For rustic pastas with a rougher texture and thicker noodles, I mix in 1/3 or even 100% semolina, again from the bulk bin. Sometimes I experiment with hard winter wheat Durum (bulk bins), which I think is similar in protein/gluten to semolina but more finely ground if I want a finer texture.
How To Store Flour:
Flour must be kept cool and dry. All flours, even white flour, have a limited shelf life. Millers recommend that flours be stored for no more than 6 months. The main change that occurs over time is the oxidation of oils when flour is exposed to air. The result of this is rancid off flavors. During hot weather, store flour in the refrigerator.
Flour should be stored, covered, in a cool and dry area. This prevents the flour from absorbing moisture and odors and from attracting insects and rodents. Freezing flour for 48 hours before it is stored will kill any weevil or insect eggs already in the flour. It is better not to mix new flour with old if you are not using the flour regularly.
Do not store flour near soap powder, onions or other foods and products with strong odors.
If freezer space is available, flour can be repackaged in airtight, moisture-proof containers, labeled and placed in the freezer at 0 degrees F. If flour is stored like this, it will keep well for several years.
Keep whole wheat flour in the refrigerator the year around. Natural oils cause this flour to turn rancid quickly at room temperature.
Throw away flour if it smells bad, changes color, or is infested with weevils.
Flour is always readily available so it should only be brought in quantities that will last a maximum of two to three months.
Put a bay leaf in the flour canister to help protect against insect infections. Bay leaves are natural insect repellents.
Following are the flours I use on a regular basis with a description of how I use them. The brands I use are also depicted in the pictures but use the brands that are sold in your area. Recipes follow with the type of flour I use in the recipe.
Unbleached All-Purpose Flour
Ideal for the full range of your baking repertoire. All-Purpose is strong enough to combine with whole grains for higher-rising loaves, and tender enough to make beautiful pie crusts, scones and muffins.
Unbleached Bread Flour
High-gluten bread flour, milled from hard red spring wheat, is perfect for yeast baked goods-bread, rolls, pizza, and more. The higher the protein level, the stronger the rise. Excellent companion for whole grain flours, such as rye or whole wheat.
Ultragrain All Purpose Flour
Ultragrain All Purpose Flour contains 9 grams of whole grain per serving and twice the fiber of other all-purpose flours. Use it in place of standard white flour in all of your favorite recipes. Recipes made with Ultragrain look, cook, bake, and taste like recipes made with white flour, but have the added benefit of whole grain nutrition. I like the convenience of the whole wheat flour added in with the white flour, especially for baking muffins and other coffeecake types of bread.
Self-rising flour, a blend of flour, baking powder, and salt, is a Southern staple. Milled from a lower-protein wheat than all-purpose flour, it produces softer, more tender baked goods, including biscuits, pancakes, cakes, cookies, muffins, pastries, and more.This convenient flour eliminates two steps in many of your favorite recipes: adding the baking powder, and adding the salt. Both are already in the flour.
White Whole Wheat Flour
100% white whole wheat is a lighter whole wheat, with 100% of the nutrition. Makes lighter-colored, milder-tasting baked goods. Perfect for cookies, bars, bread, muffins, pancakes… all your favorite baked goods.
100% Whole Wheat Flour
Traditional Whole Wheat Flour, features the classic flavor of red whole wheat. Its fine grind and 14% protein content produce whole-wheat breads with a hearty texture and higher rise. Excellent for yeast bread.
Unbleached Cake Flour Blend
A flour blend that produces a medium-fine texture cake, moist and flavorful, with no artificial colors or chemicals added. It is a good flour to use for baking birthday cakes and cookies, especially Christmas sugar cookies.
Whole Wheat Pastry Flour
Pastry Flour (both white and whole wheat) is milled from soft wheat and has a level of protein between all-purpose and cake flours (at about 8-10%). That medium level makes it great to use in recipes where you want a tender and crumbly pastry (too much protein would give you a hard pastry and too little protein would give you a brittle dough). Try pastry flour in recipes for biscuits, pie dough, brownies, cookies and quick breads. Do not use it for making yeast breads.
I prefer to use the whole wheat version and I have great success with it in all my pies and cookies.
Whole wheat pastry flour is milled from low-protein soft wheat, producing a flour with 9% protein. Use it in cookies, pie crusts, and scones to incorporate whole wheat into your pastries while retaining the tenderness these pastries need.
Semolina–a coarse grind of high-protein durum wheat–gives gorgeous color and great flavor to breads, pizza crust, and pasta. Substitute semolina for some (or all) of the all-purpose flour in your bread recipe.
Makes wonderful pasta.
My favorite way to use the semolina flour is mixed into pizza crust – it really just helps make a superior crispy product. I just replace about a cup of the regular flour with semolina and mix it in.
Italian-Style flour makes an extremely supple dough, smooth and easy to work with. The “00” refers to the grind of the flour, and how much of the wheat’s bran and germ have been removed, not to its protein level. There are low-, high- and in-between 00 flours. The one sold in the US is a lower protein one. Try it for crackers or pasta, tender pizza, focaccia, and bread sticks or crisp grissini.
Wondra is an instant flour, low in protein and finely ground. It has been treated, so that it will dissolve instantly in water and not require the same long cooking process as non-instant flour to dissolve in a liquid and thicken it. The process is called pregelatinization and it involves heating a starch (flour) with very hot water and/or steam, then drying it out, so that it has essentially been cooked already. Because of this, instant flour is unlikely to form lumps when mixed with water or broth. Wondra also has some malted barley flour mixed into it, which acts as a dough conditioner in many breads. This quick-mixing all-purpose flour is the perfect solution for lump-free gravies and sauces and for breading fish and poultry.
These pancakes taste like they are made with buttermilk and are light and fluffy with minimal fat.
Makes: 5 servings (2 pancakes each)
- 1 cup fat free milk
- 2 tablespoons canola oil
- 1 teaspoon lemon juice
- 1-1/4 cups Ultragrain All Purpose Flour
- 1 tablespoon granulated sugar
- 1 teaspoon baking powder
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- 1/4 teaspoon baking soda
- 1/4 cup Egg Beaters
- No-Stick Cooking Spray
Pour milk into small bowl and whisk in oil and lemon juice; set aside. Place flour, sugar, baking powder, salt and baking soda in medium bowl; blend well. Form a well in center of dry ingredients; set aside.
Add Egg Beaters to milk mixture; whisk together. Pour mixture into the center of dry ingredients. Gently whisk together just until combined; a few lumps will remain. Do not overmix.
Spray large nonstick griddle or skillet with cooking spray. Heat griddle over medium heat until hot. Pour four 1/4 cupfuls of batter separately onto griddle.
Cook about 1-1/2 to 2 minutes or until large bubbles form on top and bottom is golden brown. Turn with wide spatula; cook 1 minute more or until second side is golden brown. Keep warm. Repeat until all batter is used. Sprinkle with confectioners’ sugar or serve with pancake syrup, if desired.
- 4 tablespoons reduced-fat cream cheese, cut into small pieces
- 2 tablespoons butter, cut into small pieces
- 2 cups Whole-Wheat Pastry Flour
- 2 tablespoons light brown sugar
- 2 teaspoons baking powder
- 1 teaspoon baking soda
- 3/4 teaspoon salt
- 1/4 cup dried fruit, your choice
- 1 teaspoon freshly grated orange zest
- 2/3 cup plus 1 tablespoon buttermilk, divided
- ½ cup chopped pecans, divided
1. Preheat oven to 400°F. Lightly oil a large baking sheet or coat it with nonstick spray. Place cream cheese and butter in freezer to chill, about 10 minutes.
2. Combine flour, brown sugar, baking powder, baking soda and salt in a large mixing bowl. Cut cream cheese and butter into flour mixture using a pastry blender or your fingers until it resembles coarse meal. Add dried fruit, 1/4 cup pecans and orange zest and toss to incorporate. Make a well in the flour mixture. Add 2/3 cup buttermilk, stirring with a fork until just combined.
3. Transfer dough to a well-floured surface and knead gently 7 or 8 times. Divide dough in half. With floured hands, pat each piece into a circle about 1/2 inch thick. With a floured knife, cut each circle into 8 wedges. Transfer to prepared baking sheet. Lightly brush tops with remaining 1 tablespoon buttermilk and sprinkle with remaining pecans.
4. Bake scones for 12 to 15 minutes, or until golden and firm. Transfer to a wire rack to cool slightly. Serve warm.
Fresh Whole-Wheat Pita
Stuff with your favorite salad or sandwich fixings. Leftovers make tasty baked chips.
- 1 tablespoon sugar
- 1 package dry yeast (about 2 1/4 teaspoons)
- 1 cup plus 2 tablespoons warm water (100° to 110°)
- 10 ounces bread flour (about 2 1/4 cups)
- 4.75 ounces White Whole-Wheat Flour (about 1 cup), divided
- 2 tablespoons 2% Greek-style yogurt
- 1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
- 3/4 teaspoon salt
- Olive oil cooking spray
1. Dissolve sugar and yeast in 1 cup plus 2 tablespoons warm water in a large bowl; let stand 5 minutes. Weigh or lightly spoon flours into dry measuring cups; level with a knife. Add bread flour, 3 ounces (about 3/4 cup) whole-wheat flour, yogurt, oil, and salt to the yeast mixture; beat with a electric mixer paddle attachment at medium speed until smooth. Switch to the dough hook and knead dough until smooth and elastic (about 10 minutes); add enough of remaining whole-wheat flour, 1 tablespoon at a time, to prevent dough from sticking to the bowl (dough will feel sticky). Place dough in a large bowl coated with cooking spray, turning to coat top. Cover and let rise in a warm place, free from drafts, for 45 minutes or until doubled in size.
2. Position the oven rack on the lowest shelf.
3. Preheat the oven to 500° F.
4. Divide dough into 8 portions. Working with one portion at a time, gently roll each portion into a 5 1/2-inch circle. Place 4 dough circles on each of 2 baking sheets heavily coated with cooking spray. Bake, 1 sheet at a time, at 500°F for 8 minutes or until puffed and browned. Cool on a wire rack.
Yield: 8 servings (serving size: 1 pita)
Golden Semolina Biscotti
You won’t need a mixer to make these crunchy biscotti; the dough is easily stirred together by hand.
- 5 tablespoons (2 1/2 ounces) melted butter
- 2/3 cup sugar
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- 2 teaspoons baking powder
- 2 to 4 drops flavoring of choice; e.g., butter-rum, almond, hazelnut, etc.
- 2 teaspoons vanilla
- 2 large eggs
- 1 1/2 cups Unbleached All-Purpose Flour
- 1/3 cup Semolina Flour
- 2 cups diced dried fruit, chocolate chips or chunks, or nuts
Grease a baking sheet. Preheat your oven to 350°F.
Stir together the melted butter, sugar, salt, baking powder, flavor, and vanilla, mixing until blended. Add the eggs, then blend in the flour and semolina. Use a spatula or your hands to mix in the fruits, chocolate, or nuts.
Scoop the dough onto the baking pan and shape it into a 10 1/2 x 4-inch log.
Bake the log in a preheated 350°F oven for 30 to 35 minutes. Cool for 1 hour.
Slice on the diagonal into 1/2- to 3/4-inch wide pieces. Place the biscotti back onto a baking sheet.
Bake in a preheated 325°F oven for 22 to 26 minutes, until golden. Turn them over halfway during the baking time.
The biscotti will become crisp as they cool; allow them to cool right on the baking sheet.
Store in an airtight container when totally cool. Yield: 14 to 18 large biscotti.
- Get Stretch & Structure! Better Baking with Bread Flour – Ingredient Spotlight (thekitchn.com)
- Easy Home-Made Bread, A Recipe (thedomesticfringe.com)
- Whole Grain Levain for Bread Baking Day #54 (korenainthekitchen.com)
- So you wanna go gluten free? (cesttavie.wordpress.com)
- More Of That Sweet Smell (bangordailynews.com)
- Wino Wheat Bread (sugar-coat-it.com)
- Whole Wheat Pizza Dough Recipe (Bread Machine) (grainmillwagon.com)
- Soft-Crusty-Bread Cookies (muponisi.wordpress.com)
- Off-topic: baking your own Swiss walnut bread (thoughtsontranslation.com)