Most of the ingredients used in baking are likely to be recognizable to you. But I wanted to share some of my shopping and storage strategies, as well as how to choose the finest options for each baked treat.
This book's recipes call for unsalted (sweet) butter. Organic butter can be used if desired, but it is not required. Butter, by the way, absorbs other flavors in your refrigerator, which is why most refrigerators have a little butter drawer built into the door. But because the door isn't completely airtight, cover your butter in plastic wrap and freeze any sticks you won't use right away."You don't want the scents of cheese, smoked meat, or onions in your butter to get into your cookies or cakes."
CHOCOLATE AND COCOA
The rich chocolate taste found in chocolate cakes and other baked products originates from cocoa, not chocolate. Cocoa, of all the ingredients you'll use in your baking, is the one where I believe you should invest the most. Purchase the best you can afford. Choose a Dutch-process cocoa with a fat level of 22 to 24 percent, regardless of brand, for the most concentrated flavor."When it comes to chocolate, I like to keep a large quantity on hand, even for melted chocolate recipes, because starting with chips eliminates the need to break up blocks of chocolate before tossing them into the double boiler or microwave.
Extra-large eggs are required in every recipe in this book. If you have easy access to organic or local, farm-raised eggs, you can improve the flavour of your baking. Eggs, believe it or not, are one ingredient that is better to bake with when they are older than when they are fresh, though you should never use them past their "best by" date."The yolks of older eggs are harder, making it easier to separate them from the whites when necessary; and the proteins in the whites are more relaxed, enabling whipping them easier to get a frothy effect." Whites that are at room temperature relax even more. So don't feel obligated to go out and get a dozen fresh eggs every time you want to bake.
There's an easy technique to see if your eggs are still good if you don't know how old they are. Place the egg carefully in a glass or measuring cup filled with water. It's fine if the egg sinks."If it floats, that signifies there's gas in the shell and it's on its way to spoiling." Floaters should be tossed. However, just because one egg out of a dozen floats doesn't guarantee the rest will, so don't discard the entire carton if you find one rotten egg.
I understand that having only one type of flour in your kitchen simplifies things, but I am a firm believer in the benefits of cake flour and pastry flour. In my recipes, I use all-purpose (unbleached) flour* wherever possible, but cake or pastry flour is required in some circumstances. "Here's why:
FLOUR FOR CAKE
Simply put cake flour has a smooth, polished texture that is unparalleled "It's impossible with any other flour." (It's also not possible with the all-purpose flour and cornstarch mixture that's commonly used in place of cake flour, so I'm not including it here.) Cake flour has a lower protein level (8%) than any other form of flour, according to science. Simply run your hands through some all-purpose flour and then through some cake flour to notice the difference: All-purpose flour is gritty, whereas cake flour is rich and pleasant to work with.
The crusty texture of certain biscuits and pastries is due to the comparatively low protein level of pastry flour (about 9%). You can sometimes replace all-purpose flour for cake flour, but the result will not be the same.
I wish I could explain why we use butter substitute margarine in some of our dishes, but the truth is that it's just tradition.I recommend using only standard, unsalted margarine sticks."A rancid nut doesn't taste like,rancid butter or meat; rancid nuts have a somewhat fishy taste and odor that isn't pleasant.
It's a good idea to roast nuts before using them in a recipe to bring out their earthy taste. Toast them in a frying pan over low heat or in a 350°F oven until fragrant, about 10 minutes; shake the pan to promote equal cooking and avoid burning, whether on the stovetop or in the oven. Before using the nuts, allow them to cool completely.
When I say pure vanilla extract in my ingredient lists, I'm not kidding; stay away from imitations "Or vanilla flavored artificially." Those imposters don't taste like vanilla, and their chemical purity is questionable.
I normally use granulated sugar for sweetening, and when I say "sugar" in a recipe, I'm referring to that. I occasionally use light brown sugar for a richer, darker flavor. I use powdered sugar to prepare quick icings for black-and-white biscuits and pastries like Napoleons. (Powdered sugar also appears in the Chocolate Brownie Clusters and the Seven-Layer Cookies recipes.) Crystal sugar, a heavier granulated sugar (clumps are larger) used to give sweetness and color to meringue.
If you're a novice baker, you may be startled to learn that some of the recipes in this book use salt. That's because salt accomplishes the same thing in desserts as it does in savory dishes: It enhances the flavors with which it comes into touch.
I respect your taste for low- or reduced-fat milk, but if at all possible, I recommend using whole milk in your baking. The final product will have a superior flavor, and the fat will aid in the binding of the elements."
VEGETABLE OLIVE OIL
In my recipes, don't use canola or other neutral oils in place of vegetable oil because vegetable oil is already a substitute, a stand-in for the food service items that we use but that you can't acquire at home. To achieve the desired outcome in the recipes that call for it, you'll need the fat and viscosity of vegetable oil.
Back in the day, lard rendered hog fat was used in almost every pastry created in a bakery like Carlo's for a variety of reasons. That it was less expensive than shortening or butter. We now prefer butter to lard because it has a deeper, more refined flavor. But I still use lard in some recipes: nothing crisps up a cannoli shell like frying it in lard, and lard gives some recipes that real Italian-American bakery flavor.
We utilize vegetable shortening,in a lot of our recipes because it's in a lot of our tried-and-true recipes and it can withstand a beating better than butter. I've replaced shortening with butter in several recipes throughout the years, but I've only replaced half the shortening in others because of the finished product's stability.