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Old 07-22-2010, 03:45 PM   #1
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Exclamation Please Help Me Decipher "American" Recipes :)

Hello,

I stumbled upon these forums while trying to google some cooking information. I feel really stupid asking these questions because I know how to cook and I know how to improvise. I am just not 100% sure what everything means in an American cookbook.

So I have some yummy muffins baking right now and whilst preparing them, I found myself asking a variety of questions.

1. Does "mix ingredients" mean by hand (wooden spoon) or does it mean in a mixer? Does it depend on what you are baking? I mix pancakes by hand, most cakes by mixer. What is the correct way to mix muffin batter? Does the terminology in the recipe give me the answer?

2. Should I always sift flour unless it says not to when baking? Or should I never sift flour unless it says to? I chose to sift my flour for these muffins.

3. What the heck does it mean by this: 1/4 cup butter, cubed? Where I come from, a cube would be 1 - 2 cm cubes. Surely this is not what this means? I opted to "dice" my butter but then when the next instructions were to mix with a fork and sprinkle over muffins, I decided to rub the butter in to give it a more uniform distribution. What exactly was I supposed to do? The muffins are looking very appetizing BTW :)

So thank you in advance for any help you can give me.

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Old 07-22-2010, 04:24 PM   #2
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Mix means mix by whatever means you choose unless specified. Typically muffins are done by hand. If a recipe cautions you, "Don't over mix.", or "Mix until the ingredients are just barely combined" do it by hand.

Don't sift unless directed to. You also have to be careful to measure either before or after sifting as sifting makes a big difference in volume. e.g. 1 cup of flour, sifted is different from 1 cup of sifted flour. With the former, you measure then sift. With the latter, you sift then measure.

Cubing butter typically means 1 cm - 1.25 cm (1/2 inch) cubes in American recipes.
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Old 07-22-2010, 04:34 PM   #3
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Thank you for the answers. So, how does one "sprinkle" one cm cubes over the muffins? It was a mix of sugar, flour, cinnamon and butter. Should I have just scooped out one cube, along with a bunch of the dry ingredients and dumped one on top of each muffin?

The muffins aren't as good as they looked - I will try a different recipe next time.
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Old 07-22-2010, 06:40 PM   #4
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Malgal View Post
Thank you for the answers. So, how does one "sprinkle" one cm cubes over the muffins? It was a mix of sugar, flour, cinnamon and butter. Should I have just scooped out one cube, along with a bunch of the dry ingredients and dumped one on top of each muffin?

The muffins aren't as good as they looked - I will try a different recipe next time.
You have to tell the whole story when you ask a question. When you ask about cubing butter, it gave me the impression you wanted to make a pie crust or similar.

What you are asking about is making a crumble topping for the muffins - different story all together.

Perhaps you could post that portion of the instructions, including what to do with the dry ingredients and we could advise more effectively.
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Old 07-22-2010, 08:05 PM   #5
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Malgal View Post
Thank you for the answers. So, how does one "sprinkle" one cm cubes over the muffins? It was a mix of sugar, flour, cinnamon and butter. Should I have just scooped out one cube, along with a bunch of the dry ingredients and dumped one on top of each muffin?

The muffins aren't as good as they looked - I will try a different recipe next time.
It sounds like you did the right thing by rubbing the butter into the dry ingredients, this is how crumb and struesel toppings are made. I think what the recipe was instructing, was to take 1/4 cup butter (2 oz.) and just cut into small cubes so that it is easier to rub in I don't think you need to worry too much about the size of the cubes as long as you get it rubbed into the dry mix
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Old 07-22-2010, 08:27 PM   #6
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Originally Posted by Andy M. View Post
You have to tell the whole story when you ask a question. When you ask about cubing butter, it gave me the impression you wanted to make a pie crust or similar.

What you are asking about is making a crumble topping for the muffins - different story all together.

Perhaps you could post that portion of the instructions, including what to do with the dry ingredients and we could advise more effectively.
Sorry, I thought my third point in my original post made it clear that I was making a crumble topping for muffins. The instructions told me to mix the dry ingredients, add the butter (which was listed in the ingredients exactly as I described above) and mix with a fork. Then sprinkle over muffins.
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Old 07-22-2010, 08:30 PM   #7
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It sounds like you did the right thing by rubbing the butter into the dry ingredients, this is how crumb and struesel toppings are made. I think what the recipe was instructing, was to take 1/4 cup butter (2 oz.) and just cut into small cubes so that it is easier to rub in I don't think you need to worry too much about the size of the cubes as long as you get it rubbed into the dry mix
Thank you. It seemed the right thing to do at the time. The topping was still too crumbly though. Seems like there was a bit too much dry to wet ingredients.
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Old 07-22-2010, 08:42 PM   #8
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This is a good thread Malgal. I'm sure there are others who are confused by the way Americans describe things too. These questions you have make perfect sense. What was it about your muffins that you didn't like? Taste? Texture? The topping?

What country are you from Malgal?...if you don't mind me asking.
Maldives? Malaysia? Mali? Malta? Those are all interesting countries so I was just curious.
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Old 07-22-2010, 10:51 PM   #9
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This is a good thread Malgal. I'm sure there are others who are confused by the way Americans describe things too. These questions you have make perfect sense. What was it about your muffins that you didn't like? Taste? Texture? The topping?

What country are you from Malgal?...if you don't mind me asking.
Maldives? Malaysia? Mali? Malta? Those are all interesting countries so I was just curious.
Thank you. I really did feel a bit stupid asking because I come from nowhere as exotic as the locations you have suggested, and English is my first language - I am Australian. It is quite amazing how many little differences there are in our cooking "language" and in the ingredients themselves. I usually improvise but figured it was time to actually ask some questions in the hope that the answers will make my cooking better! Oh, the screen name comes from Alaskan Malamute. I have an 11 yr old female and just recently put down my 12 year old boy who was my first born :(

In spite of the amount of sugar in the recipe, they weren't as sweet as I thought they would be but that might have been because of the amount of blueberries. They were also a bit drier than they should have been (but nowhere near what I would call dry). I stuck a skewer in after 20 min and they were not cooked so I gave another 5 minutes. I think I should have given them a bit less time. I am in a relatively new house and don't bake often so I am not really used to my oven yet. And the topping was too crumbly. Most of it fell off when I took the muffins out of the pan.
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Old 07-22-2010, 11:04 PM   #10
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You shouldn't feel stupid. Actually, you were clever enough to realize there were differences and to ask the questions. As I understand it, there is also a difference in the size of a cup measure and tablespoon.
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