The Basics of Baker’s Percentages

The Basics of Baker's Percentages- Baker Bettie

In regards to baking, I feel people fall into one of 4 groups:
1.) People who don’t care about baking one way or another
2.) People who hate the science and accuracy involved and therefore avoid baking
3.) People who try and state they can’t do it/aren’t good at it because of the science involved
4.) People who love it because of all the geeky sciency stuff that creates amazing baked goods.

I think it is no secret which of these category I fall into.

Today I want to indulge my geeky side for a moment. I want to explore the science and math of baking a little.

Hold the phone! I know. We’re not just talking science, but we’re talking math too?! Just stick with me. I promise this post is leading us to cookies. Lots of cookies. Because I have declared this week Chocolate Chip Cookie week!  A week full of the king of cookies. But first, math. Specifically percentages.

The Basics of Baker's Percentages- Baker BettieBaker’s percentage is a technique of writing recipes for professional baker’s where each ingredient is given a percentage based off of the weight of flour in the recipe.

When you really think about traditional baking, flour is arguably the most important ingredient. It is the main structure of most all baked goods (with few exceptions). When using baker’s percentages flour is always 100%. No matter how much is in the recipe. The percentage of each other ingredient is then calculated based on the weight of flour.

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Espresso, Pecan, and Dark Chocolate Coffee Cake

Espresso, Pecan, and Dark Chocolate Coffee Cake One of the worst pains I have known in my life is the pain of seeing the person you love more than anything mourning. Knowing  that they are in an incredible amount of pain and despair and feeling as though there is nothing I can do to put their heart at ease. Wishing I could fast forward time for them to the day when it will feel at least a little bit easier. But instead, I sit by their side and hold their hand and hope that it’s enough. Yet I know that nothing ever will be.

Espresso, Pecan, and Dark Chocolate Coffee Cake

It is always my knee jerk reaction to turn to food. To feed someone in their time of emotional need. I frantically think of what I can do to make it easier and I end up offering food. “What can I make you? Let me make you this, or that!” Like food is going to heal the soul or something. And maybe it does, in a way. For most of us, food feels nurturing. But it can also feel insignificant in a time of loss.

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Spiced Rum Apple Cream Cheese Tart

Spiced Rum Apple Cream Cheese TartHello long lost friends! I have missed you so much!

Well I’ve missed my husband most, but you all are a close second! Life is cRAZy right now. Seriously, cray-cray. And I feel like I’ve been starting out soo many of my posts this way lately. And I’m sorry.

I am in my last month of culinary classes while continuing to work and this makes for some seriously long days. Like out the door at 6am and not home again until midnight or later days. Which leads me to missing and neglecting you all. I’m so sorry but I will be at it again full force in just a few short weeks. Pinky promise!

Spiced Rum Apple Cream Cheese TartYesterday I had a rare few hours in the morning before I was off and running so I decided I HAD to bake something. But I wanted something that took minimal effort. Something that tasted and looked fancy and decadent but literally took no skill to throw together. As much as I love long and complicated baking, sometimes I just want easy. Easy and lazy. I hope you are okay with that!

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Hello! Bettie Bars with Whiskey Caramel Sauce

Dark Chocolate Magic Bars with Whiskey Caramel Sauce- Baker Bettie

Have you heard of a ‘Hello! Dolly Bar?’ Or maybe you call them ‘Magic Bars’ or ’7 Layer Bars?’

I had never heard of any of this until recently. Someone asked me if I had a good recipe for ‘Hello Dolly Bars’ and I just stared at them blankly. Then they were appalled that I didn’t know what they were talking about.

them: “It’s a traditional southern dessert! You should definitely know how to make them!”

me: “I’m not from the South.”

them: “You’re from Kansas. You’re from the South.”

me: (sigh)

Dark Chocolate Magic Bars with Whiskey Caramel Sauce- Baker BettieSo I decided to embrace my southern roots? and learn how to make these! Through researching these babies, I learned that Hello Dolly Bars are a cookie bar with a graham cracker crust, layers of chocolate, butterscotch, nuts, coconut, and then drizzled with sweetened condensed milk. While all of that sounds fine and good, I had to make these babies a little more fancy.

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Dark Chocolate Custard with Meringue

Easy Dark Chocolate Custard with Simple Meringue- Baker BettieMy husband and I met at work. I was new, he had worked there for a long time. And everyone knew him.

I was shy. He didn’t seem shy at all. He walked around the office with confidence. Joking with everyone. Fixing computer problems, and printer problems, or anything IT related. He would turn things off and then on again to make them work.

He was just someone you noticed.

Easy Dark Chocolate Custard with Simple Meringue- Baker BettieWe almost immediately hit it off. Like old friends who had known each other for ages.

We talked. We joked. We hung out. It was comfortable.

And the whole time I never thought anything of it. It was just all happening. Like when someone becomes your best friend. It just happens. You don’t have to force it. Or whoo them. You just realize one day that this person is the one you trust more than anyone else.

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Chicken Noodle Soup-Pho Fusion

Chicken Noodle Soup-Pho Fusion- Baker BettieI moved away from Kansas for the first time in my life to Austin, TX in 2010. I went to work at the state hospital there as a music therapy intern. It was exciting and terrifying. I was in a new city, with a new job, around new people. I was very lucky in that I had family there and was able to stay with my aunt since I was working for free. However, I still inevitably found myself to be very homesick at times. Homesick for the familiar. Familiar people, familiar places, familiar life.

We lived in an area that was surrounded by tons of Vietnamese restaurants. It was impossible not to notice them. Sometimes several different ones all sharing the same parking lot. And each of them advertizing pho, usually accompanied with a neon picture of a bowl of soup and steam coming up. I was becoming an adventurous eater at the time, but it was difficult for me to get up the courage to go into one and try this unfamiliar cuisine. I had no reference point for what to order. And situations like that often make me anxious. So of course, I avoided it.

Chicken Noodle Soup-Pho Fusion- Baker BettieAbout a month after moving to Austin, my sister came to visit me from L.A. I had a cold at the time and wasn’t much of a host in this still unfamiliar city. One lazy afternoon she suggested we go get some pho, claiming that it would feel healing. I was down. And she became my host guiding me in my first Vietnamese food experience. I trusted in her to order for us. When the food came to the table we each had a huge bowl of noodle soup in front of us with the most thinly sliced rare steak floating on top. It smelled incredible. The bowls also came with a plate of accompaniments. Bean sprouts, lime wedges, jalapeno slices, and tons of fresh herbs: basil, mint, and cilantro. She coached me about flavoring my soup, first tasting it as is and then adding in as much or as little of the add ins and sauces on the table as I desired.

I know it sounds lame, but it truly was a transformative experience. I was absolutely drawn in by the complexity of the broth. It’s all about the broth. Such an incredible depth of flavor yet so clean on the palate. And it was healing. I felt as though that bowl of soup could cure everything from my cold to my homesickness and everything in between. The next day we couldn’t decide what to eat for lunch. I sort of jokingly suggested pho again. My sister instantly agreed. I was so happy I almost cried.

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Parisienne Herb Gnocchi with Bacon and Brussels Sprouts

Parisienne Herb Gnocchi with Bacon and Brussels Sprouts- Baker BettieThe culinary world is filled with countless chef’s, personalities, and experts. I look up to a lot of them. And the ones I look up to the most all have something in common. They are good teachers. Not necessarily in the sense that they teach classes or at a school, but they have the innate urge to teach their craft.

I refer to Alton Brown a lot because he is the one who first sparked my interest in food. He approaches food as a science and helps me understand all of the inner workings of why food works. But when it comes to the actual cooking of the food, Thomas Keller is one of the people I admire most. I read a lot from him and watch videos of him teaching and talking about food. Of course I don’t actually know him, but he seems humble. A man with 3 Michelin Stars simultaneously at two restaurants presents himself as humble and as someone who loves to teach his craft. I think that is fantastic.

Parisienne Herb Gnocchi with Bacon and Brussels Sprouts- Baker Bettie

I was turned on to parisienne gnocchi  at school recently. We were making them for dinner service as an accompaniment to ratatouille, and I instantly saw all the possibilities. But let’s back up for a moment. What is the difference between italian gnocchi and parisienne gnocchi, you ask? Well, parisienne gnocchi is made from pate a choux! There is no potato or ricotta involved. Just that simple pate a choux batter I’ve been obsessing over the past few weeks.

I started researching various applications for parisienne gnocchi recently, and I found this video of Thomas Keller preparing his batter and then a video of him preparing a dish with the gnocchi. He takes so much care with these simple ingredients and makes preparing this amazing dish look so incredibly easy.

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Classic Cream Puffs

How to Make Classic Cream Puffs- Baker BettieSoooo….

That whole Pate A Choux thing is still going on over here at Baker Bettie headquarters. I hope that’s okay. I know I’m cool with it, even though my thighs aren’t. But seriously, the more I play with this pastry dough, the more obsessed with it I am getting.

Check out the rest of the Pate a Choux and All it Can Do series here:
How to Make Basic Pate a Choux
Eclairs with Espresso Glaze and Cinnamon Whipped Cream
Homemade Beignets 
Sharp Cheddar and Thyme Cheese Puffs (Gougère)

Today we explore cream puffs! The classic cream puff. As much as I like to put my own spin on things and do unique variations on the classics, I love making the classics properly as well. So I tried to make proper cream puffs. I still need some practice, but with several attempts I got much better results.

How to Make Classic Cream Puffs- Baker Bettie

A couple of things I initially had problems with was getting this babies to puff as much as I wanted and making sure they didn’t deflate when I took them out of the oven. You want them to stand tall with a hollow center so you can fill them with all that beautiful cream chantilly!  I had a couple batches that didn’t rise very much, and a batch that fell flat. So I watched a lot of tutorials and thought about the science behind pate a choux and what might help these babies come out how I wanted. And I think I figured out a method that worked beautifully!

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Sharp Cheddar and Thyme Cheese Puffs (Gougère)

Sharp Cheddar and Thyme Cheese Puffs (Gougère)- Baker BettieI feel like I need to start this post out with an apology. An apology that the week of Pate a Choux has turned into a week two of Pate a Choux. I had posts lined up for you last week that have now spilled over into this week. Treats that had been made and photographed and waiting for me to edit and share with you. But time and energy just didn’t allow it. And I hope you can forgive me.

Just to give you a few excuses about why all the Pate a Choux didn’t get shared last week: it has something to do with the fact that I’m in school full time, while working, and trying to devote a lot of time to this blogging passion I have, and be a decent wife and cat mother. But mostly it has to do with me trying to detox from caffeine. I say this to you while drinking a cup of coffee at 6pm. But me drinking coffee at 6pm IS me trying to detox from caffeine. Because I had gotten to the point where I needed several cups of coffee AND several energy drinks in one day to function. Which is not okay. Don’t do that. Take my advice. And never drink a Rockstar Energy Drink, ever. That stuff is crack in a can. You drink a Rockstar and realize you FEEL like a rockstar and game over. Addicted. Just don’t. So I’ve cut back to just two cups of black coffee a day for now. I will cut back more, but so far this much is hell and my body isn’t happy about it. But I know it will be better soon.

Okay, excuses over. On to the Pate a Choux Part Deux!

Sharp Cheddar and Thyme Cheese Puffs (Gougère)- Baker BettieIf you are just tuning into this series we are talking Pate a Choux and All it Can Do! Which is a lot! We’re continuing this week with a few more recipes about this amazing pastry dough and just how versatile it can be.

Check out the rest of the series here:

How to Make Basic Pate a Choux

Eclairs with Espresso Glaze and Cinnamon Whipped Cream

Homemade Beignets 

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Homemade Beignets with Pate a Choux

How to Make Beignets with Pate a Choux- Baker BettieFried dough. I mean… Can you really go wrong? I would argue not. There is just something magical that happens when you drop dough into a hot bath of fat. Magical and delicious.

We’re on to Episode 3 of Pate a Choux week! Beignets! And I feel I need to have a disclaimer on these because some people from New Orleans (or Nawlins) might get a little feisty with me about thinking these aren’t proper beignets. I get it.

In French, beignet means fried dough. It is synonymous with the English word fritter and in France it specifically refers to deep fried choux pastry (unless wikipedia is a total liar, which is entirely possible). So since pate a choux is a French pastry dough, then we’re going to stick with calling these beignets even though in New Orleans the dough for making beignets is typically more of a traditional yeast doughnut dough. I promise, they are still really tasty and actually much easier to make!

If you are from New Orleans and have a problem with calling these beignets, then call them Zeppole! I was thinking about how so many cultures have their own variations of fried dough. And I found this recipe for zeppole from Giada and she uses a pate a choux as the base of her recipe. Though I have also seen numerous recipes that do not use choux as the base of zeppole. Whatever. Call them what you want. As long as hot fried dough is in my mouth, I don’t really care what it’s called.

How to Make Beignets with Pate a Choux- Baker BettieIf you are just tuning into Pate a Choux week, welcome! On Tuesday I did a tutorial about the basics of pate a choux, how to make it, and all it’s various applications. That is a great post to check out first if you are unfamiliar with how to make this simple and incredibly versatile pastry dough.

Yesterday we baked the pastry for eclairs and filled them with cinnamon whipped cream and topped them with an espresso glaze. Pate a choux has many applications when baking it. But today, we fry!

Check out the rest of the Pate a Choux and All it Can Do series here:
How to Make Basic Pate a Choux
Eclairs with Espresso Glaze and Cinnamon Whipped Cream
Classic Cream Puffs
Sharp Cheddar and Thyme Cheese Puffs (Gougère)

[Read more...]

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