Authors: Lauren Chattman
Tags: #Cooking, #Methods, #Baking, #Reference
THE Baking ANSWER BOOK
Solutions to Every Problem You’ll Ever Face Answers to Every Question You’ll Ever Ask
The mission of Storey Publishing is to serve our customers by
publishing practical information that encourages
personal independence in harmony with the environment.
Edited by Margaret Sutherland and Molly Jackel
Art direction and book design by Jessica Armstrong
Text production by Liseann Karandisecky Cover photography by Mars Vilaubi
Illustration by Alison Kolesar
Indexed by Christine R. Lindemer, Boston Road Communications © 2009 by Lauren Chattman All rights reserved. No part of this book may be reproduced without written permission from the publisher, except by a reviewer who may quote brief passages or reproduce illustrations in a review with appropriate credits; nor may any part of this book be reproduced, stored in a retrieval system, or transmitted in any form or by any means — electronic, mechanical, photocopying, recording, or other — without written permission from the publisher.
The information in this book is true and complete to the best of our knowledge. All recommendations are made without guarantee on the part of the author or Storey Publishing. The author and publisher disclaim any liability in connection with the use of this information. For additional information, please contact Storey Publishing, 210 MASS MoCA Way, North Adams, MA 01247.
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Printed in China by Regent Publishing Services
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LIBRARY OF CONGRESS CATALOGING-IN-PUBLICATION DATA
The baking answer book by / Lauren Chattman.
ISBN 978-1-60342-439-4 (flexibind with cloth spine: alk. paper) 1. Baking. I. Title.
I must have been about 10 years old when I baked something on my own for the very first time: butterscotch blondies from
The Joy of Cooking.
It seemed like a magic trick: Mix together a few ingredients, put the batter in the oven, and, presto, dessert! During the next few years, I moved on to chocolate chip cookies, brownies, and apple cobbler, amazing myself and my family with my successes in the kitchen.
With these recipes under my belt, I asked my mom to buy some yeast so I could try my hand at a whole-wheat bread recipe. To my horror, the dough I had kneaded, punched down, and shaped exactly according to the recipe directions failed to rise in the slightest during baking. My finished loaf was about the size of a bar of cream cheese, and it weighed as much as a brick. What went wrong? Reviewing the recipe, I couldn’t find a clue. I didn’t bake bread for another 10 years.
Back in the 1970s there were very few resources for novice bakers. If you didn’t have an experienced mom or grandma to offer advice, you had to learn through trial and error. Although my own mom is a fabulous cook, she lacks a sweet tooth, so until I began a professional pastry and baking program at the Institute for Culinary Education in New York City, I had no one to turn to when I ran into baking trouble.
Cooking school was wonderful. Learning kitchen science and tricks of the trade didn’t make baking any less magical for me — quite the opposite. When I learned the secrets to making fluffy meringue cookies, tender layer cakes, and crisp puff pastry, I felt like a kitchen wizard, able to apply simple rules
and skills to create an endless array of baked goods.
Since then, I’ve worked in restaurant kitchens and in my own kitchen writing cookbooks. I’ve had my share of puzzling moments (“Is
how you fold croissant dough?”), disappointments (“Wow, these scones are tough.”), and outright disasters (“How did my Thanksgiving pumpkin pie get so watery and lumpy?”). But instead of burying the failures in the trash and trying to forget them, I’ve been able to consult with some very knowledgeable baker-mentors and I’ve acquired a shelf full of wonderful baking books to help me proceed when I’m not sure about a recipe’s directions, or what to do when things go very wrong. When I was given the opportunity to gather together baking questions and answers into this convenient little package that could sit right beside my mixer on the kitchen counter, I jumped at the chance.
This book is organized into chapters on ingredients, equipment, and baking science, followed by chapters on different categories of baked goods. So if you are wondering whether aluminum foil or wax paper is an appropriate substitute for parchment paper, you can flip to
. If you are attempting a Julia Child recipe for French apple tart, you can turn to
Pies, Tarts, Cobblers, and Crisps
, to find out whether Macintosh apples are a good substitute for Granny Smiths. Any question about baking that I’ve ever had, and any question I’ve imagined having, is included in this book. I hope it will give you the confidence that comes with knowing that the answers to your baking questions are close at hand.
Writing this book was such a gratifying experience. Researching and organizing the information that appears here has certainly made me a better baker, and a better writer, too. From the bottom of my heart, I’d like to thank the people who helped me.
Jennifer Griffin first put me in touch with the great people at Storey publishing, so she is the first on my list. At Storey, Margaret Sutherland guided me through every step of the “Answer Book” process with extraordinary intelligence, enthusiasm, and patience. It was a real pleasure working with her, and I look forward to doing so again. Molly Jackel did a wonderful job of editing the manuscript. She made the final book as clear and readable as I hoped it would be. Kudos to illustrator Alison Kolesar, whose line drawings illustrate and clarify where words aren’t adequate.
The cookbook authors whose knowledge informs the answers in this book are too numerous to list. I count on my entire baking library when I have a question in the kitchen, and it is a great comfort to know that among the hundreds of books I own there is an answer to any question I may have. But without a doubt I owe the greatest debt to several great bakers who have personally shared their knowledge with me over the years. My first teacher, Nick Malgieri, gave me the tools to make me an extremely gratifying career change 15 years ago. My ongoing collaboration with White House Pastry Chef Roland Mesnier has been one of the best professional experiences of my life. I learn something new about baking every time we talk. Most recently, Daniel Leader, a founder of the artisan baking movement in this country and a walking encyclopedia of all things bread, has shared some of his vast knowledge with me. Anything helpful I say about bread in this book can be traced back to our conversations.
Finally, I’d like to thank my family, for puzzling through some of the most difficult questions in this book with me and for sharing what comes out of the oven every day.
Great baked goods begin with quality ingredients, properly handled and measured. This might seem obvious, but it’s worth repeating because so many efforts by well-intentioned bakers are derailed by thoughtless substitution of baking powder for baking soda, the choice of imitation white chocolate instead of real white chocolate with cocoa butter, or the use of vegetable shortening that’s been sitting on the pantry shelf for over a year.
This chapter will answer questions about ingredients: what to keep on hand so spontaneous baking is possible; how to store pantry items to keep them fresh for as long as possible; how to differentiate between the different types of flour or sugar or fat in your pantry so you know you are using the right type for a particular recipe. Secure in the knowledge that you have the right ingredients and that they are in good shape for baking, you can dive into any recipe with confidence.
What pantry items should a home baker keep on hand?
This depends on how often and how ambitiously you bake. Would Scottish shortbread (just four ingredients — flour, butter, sugar, and salt) satisfy your baking urge in a pinch? Or would you like to be able to bake a loaf of whole-wheat raisin bread (you’d need whole-wheat flour, yeast, and raisins) on a snowy day without going to the supermarket? Stock your pantry and refrigerator accordingly. The following lists include items that can be stored in the refrigerator for at least a week, as well as items stored at room temperature for much longer.
The Basic Baker’s Pantry
To bake simple items such as biscuits and scones, brownies, butter cookies, or a pound cake at a moment’s notice, you should have the following ingredients on hand.
In the pantry:
all-purpose flour, granulated sugar, light brown sugar, dark brown sugar, unsweetened chocolate, semisweet chocolate chips, baking powder, baking soda, salt, vanilla extract
In the refrigerator:
low-fat or whole milk, large eggs
In the freezer:
unsalted butter, pecans or walnuts