Basics of Baking

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luckieazn87

Assistant Cook
Joined
Apr 8, 2004
Messages
9
Please excuse my ignorance in baking. But I have a question that's been bothering me. I love to bake, but I feel like I lack a basic knowledge of baking. Like the amount of each ingredient that is needed, and what each does, and ratios of flour to eggs or sugar, or etc. Just those kinds of stuff. Can someone please elaborate?? Thank you.
 

kyles

Head Chef
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Dec 13, 2003
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UK
Basically, with baking you need to follow the recipe. You can't really fudge it with ratios etc, as you need to know what end product you are wanting to produce, a feather light sponge, or a dense chocolate cake. Why guess it when someone else has done the work for you?

Once you have mastered the basics, you can play around with your recipes a little, as you get a feel for the ingredients and ratios. I can highly recommend Nigella Lawson's "How to be a Domestic Goddess" I am sure there are some great American baking books as well.
 

Barbara L

Traveling Welcome Wagon
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Apr 4, 2004
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Joy of Cooking has a lot of information about different foods, spices, techniques, etc. (at least it did when I got mine a zillion years ago--I assume it still does). Kyles is right, you can't bake quite the same way you cook (a little of this and a little of that)--you do have to measure. As she said, once you gain a good understanding of things you can start to play around with your ingredients.

You can probably find Joy of Cooking at your local library. That would be a good way to try it out before deciding if you want it or not.

:) Barbara
 

daisy

Senior Cook
Joined
Jan 24, 2004
Messages
210
After 50-odd years of cooking, I've never felt the need to know things like that. If you want to get all scientific and mathematical, you could enrol in a gourmet cooking course, where they go into that sort of thing in detail. For me, I'm happy to follow a recipe, but I'm not afraid to change it a little after the first attempt - add a bit more or less liquid or flour, or omit one of the non-vital ingredients etc.
 

kyles

Head Chef
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Dec 13, 2003
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UK
Ah Sushi, if you ate more home baked cakes and less sushi your delicate tummy would thank you!!! It might be bigger though........

Nothing is more satisfying than baking, in my humble opinion, especially these days when less people bake, you can really impress with quite a simple recipe. We have a bring a plate day at work every so often, and I always bake something, last time I took chocolate dipped strawberries, mini lemon and poppyseed muffins, and tiny pavlovas filled with fruit. It was a winner. Next time I am going to try the fruit sushi ideas we have been chatting about!
 

-DEADLY SUSHI-

Washing Up
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Mar 9, 2004
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NW Chicago Burbs'
Kyles... I agree with you a 100%. Alas, Im just horrible at baking. I baked bread twice. The government seized my creation for research years ago and I belive are now using it in Iraq to hamper the enemy. :?
 

jasonr

Senior Cook
Joined
Apr 8, 2004
Messages
375
Try Williams Sonoma Essential of Baking. It has big illustrated recipes with full color photos that leave little to the imagination, it has a full survey of all the classics (bread, cakes, pies, cookies, pastries, etc...) and the quality of the recipes is excellent. Also be sure to invest in the essential equipment (a hand mixer, measuring spoons, measuring cups, baking sheet, etc...) and follow the recipes to the last detail.
 

Ganache

Assistant Cook
Joined
Dec 24, 2003
Messages
5
I would recommend "The Cake Bible" by Rose Levy Beranbaum. It may be alittle technical, but does explain alot & you should be able to learn from it.
 

chefcyn

Cook
Joined
Aug 25, 2004
Messages
73
Ganache said:
I would recommend "The Cake Bible" by Rose Levy Beranbaum. It may be alittle technical, but does explain alot & you should be able to learn from it.
The Pie and Pastry Bible by Beranbaum is just as good a resource for...well, pies and pastries. Her books are well done and have great ideas.
 

jpmcgrew

Executive Chef
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Aug 31, 2004
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Raton,NM, USA
You pretty much hafto follow baking recipes as it is chemistry and science ,regular cookin is an art as you can mess around alot with food. Naturally you can add a few extra goodies in baking like nuts and choc olate chips but untill you have baked alot its hard to know how to mess with a baking recipe.
 

marmalady

Executive Chef
Joined
Sep 3, 2004
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2,642
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USA,SouthCarolina
I'd also add that as you are reading recipes and techniques, you get a clear understanding of the terms - what does 'fold' mean, versus 'beat' - when a recipe says 'beat eggs and sugar til light and fluffy', have an image in your head of what 'light and fluffy' looks like.

Get some decent equipment - you don't have to go top of the line - Cooks Illustrated did a study a while ago on cookie sheets, and they found they liked the inexpensive 'Eco' ones the best. Make sure your oven is at the correct setting - if you don't have an oven thermometer, put it on your list of 'must -haves'! I think more baking is ruined by inaccurate oven temps than just about anything else.

And lastly, start simple - don't attempt a recipe that has a thousant ingredients, and the same amount of steps in the recipe. A simple cookie, or quick bread, or cake, to start off with. As your technique for each item grows, you can build your confidence in more difficult recipes.

Whoops - sorry, that wasn't last! :D - Don't ever, ever, be afraid to ask questions; there ARE no stupid questions!

Enjoy!
 

Bangbang

Executive Chef
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Jul 17, 2004
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Location
USA,Michigan
I just made my first batch of muufins from scratch. I'm on a roll now.I picked up the book Muffins by Francesca DiPaolo. I was gettin bored so I thought I would start learning to bake. I make Pizza,Foccacia,and Bagels but other than that I am a Moron when it comes to cakes,cookies,muffins,and pies. I have to follow a recipe exactly except for pizza and some breads.
 

mudbug

Chef Extraordinaire
Joined
Sep 9, 2004
Messages
11,166
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NoVA, beyond the Beltway
luckieazn87 said:
Please excuse my ignorance in baking. But I have a question that's been bothering me. I love to bake, but I feel like I lack a basic knowledge of baking. Like the amount of each ingredient that is needed, and what each does, and ratios of flour to eggs or sugar, or etc. Just those kinds of stuff. Can someone please elaborate?? Thank you.
Always use butter or lard for the fat required! You will not be sorry.
 

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