Baker Bettie’s 10 Commandments of Baking
- Technique is everything. If a recipe says to let a batter rest, then let the batter rest! Many baking failures come from poor technique, not from poor recipes!
- Unless otherwise stated, use room temperature ingredients. If something is meant to be used cold then a recipe should state that, otherwise make sure your eggs, butter, sour cream, ect.. are room temperature.
- Do not over-mix your batters!
- Use salt (but not table salt)! It is very important to balance the flavors of sweet baked goods. Kosher, or medium coarse sea salt is best.
- Baking powder and baking soda are different ingredients! Pay attention. They serve the same purpose but do not react the same way in baked goods.
- Make it your own! Just because baking is all about science doesn’t mean you can’t get creative with the ingredients that only affect the flavor. Change up the extracts, spices, and other add-ins that only affect the flavor of the baked good to make it your own!
- Quality of ingredients IS important.
- All ovens are different. Do not rely on the time in the recipe to work for your oven. Set your timer for several minutes before it says it will be done just to make sure you don’t over cook.
- Flour should be measured after being sifted or at least fluffed up. Lightly spoon it into the measuring cup and level it off. (weighing flour is actually the best way, so if the recipe gives a weight for the flour go with this if possible)
- Baking should be fun, not stressful. If it stresses you out, you are doing something wrong.
Basic Flour Information
- All-Purpose Flour is obviously the most well known and used flour. There is no leavening agent added (unlike self-rising flour) and it has a moderate protein content. The reason protein content is important when determining what kind of flour to use in relation to texture is because the protein creates gluten when mixed or kneaded in the dough. The higher the gluten content the more chew there will be to the baked good.
- Bread Flour has the highest protein content of any of the flour we will talk about here. In a recent post I developed a recipe for Chewy Chocolate Chip Cookies. Bread flour was used here to create more chew due to more gluten. You can substitute bread flour for all-purpose flour cup for cup. Just remember the texture will be more chewy than with all-purpose flour.
- Cake Flour has the lowest protein content which is why it is most commonly used in cakes. Cake flour produces the tender crumb we desire in cakes. Because of the low protein content, cake flour also weighs less than all-purpose flour. When substituting cake flour for all-purpose flour add 2 tbsp per cup.
- Self Rising Flour is nothing more than all-purpose flour with baking powder and salt already mixed in. I once used self rising flour in my cookies because I purchased it by accident and could not figure out why my cookies tasted so salty. After researching I learned that the salt was already in the flour and I had added salt as I normally would to the batter. I really never use self-rising flour in any recipe because I like to control the amounts of leavening and salt in my recipes. But for your information 1 cup of self rising flour has about 1 tsp baking powder and 1/2 tsp salt already mixed in. With this knowledge you can make adjustments as needed. You can also use this knowledge to make your own self-rising flour if a recipe calls for it and you only have all-purpose.
- Whole Wheat Flour is flour that still has the bran and germ in it, as opposed the white flour that has been refined and the bran and germ removed. These parts of the flour have more nutrients which is why a lot of people prefer to use them over white flour. In baking, if you want to substitute whole wheat flour for all-purpose subtract 2 tbsp per cup. You should also know that whole wheat flour has a more rough texture than that of soft white flour due the bran. This is why a lot of people do not prefer it. I often use half white flour and half whole wheat if I am wanting to up the nutritious factor instead of all whole wheat because of the texture. Though I don’t know the science behind this, I also notice that cookies with at least some whole wheat flour in them do not get as flat as those with only white flour. This is also a reason I often use half whole wheat, to get a taller cookie.
Basic Flour Conversion Chart
- 1 cup all purpose flour = 1 cup bread flour
- 1 cup all purpose flour = 1 cup plus 2 tbsp cake flour
- 1 cup all purpose flour + 1 tsp baking soda + 1/2 tsp salt = 1 cup self-rising flour
- 1 cup all purpose flour = 1 cup minus 2 tbsp whole wheat flour
Baker Bettie’s Gluten-Free All-Purpose Flour Mixture
- Gluten is most commonly known as coming from wheat. When wheat is processed with other ingredients (mainly water) the protein in wheat creates gluten. But not only wheat, I recently learned that gluten comes from barley,rye, and malt as well.
To simplify gluten free baking this is a great gluten free all purpose mixture. All you have to do is mix a 24 oz bag of brown rice flour with a 16 oz of arrowroot or cornstarch (I prefer arrowroot, but both will work). Put it in a large ziplock or large tupperware and mix well. I noticed that cup for cup this mixture weights quite a bit less than regular all-purpose flour. So when substituting add 1/4 cup per cup of all-purpose flour. This will work for most recipes as a substitution for all-purpose flour)
- 1 cup all purpose flour = 1 1/4 cup rice flour/cornstarch mixture
- 1/4 cup all purpose flour= 1/4 cup plus 1 tbsp rice flour/cornstarch mixture