Search Results for: granules

Action and More Action

Reader Dan, who is working on financiers this week, has a very interesting question about baking powder:

If you’re using [baking powder], why rest the mix in the fridge? Surely the [baking powder] is activated, and loses its potency before you actually come to baking?

It’s very reasonable to assume that, Dan. Conventional wisdom holds that whenever you get baking powder wet you need to hurry it into the oven so you don’t lose any volume. That actually isn’t the case. It’s certainly true that you get a gas-producing “pop” when the baking powder gets wet. That’s the first “action” of double-acting baking powder. The second action happens when the baking powder gets hot. …

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Filed under:  Pastry | 9 Comments

Making White Cake Layers

White layers are gorgeous — and very “spring-like” — especially when accompanied by a light-colored frosting and filling (I’m thinking especially of a citrus curd of some kind). Making them is no more difficult that making any other one-bowl-type cake layer. Start by preheating your oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit and assembling your ingredients. Sift the cake flour into your mixer bowl:


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Filed under:  Pastry, White Cake | 32 Comments

What’s so great about the one-bowl method?

First, reader Glenn, let me just say that I’m still baffled as to why it’s called the “one bowl” method since I’ve never succeeded in using less than two bowls for a one-bowl cake. So right there I’m a little down on it. But there’s no denying that one-bowl layer cakes are very moist and tender devices, I dare say more so than cakes made via any other method. But why is that?

It all has to do with the manner in which the fat is introduced to the batter. A cake mixed via the creaming method — which is the standard for most layer cakes — starts out as a well-beaten mixture of fat and sugar. Doses of dry and wet ingredients are added alternately until all is combined and ready to bake. With the one-bowl method all the dry ingredients including the sugar and mixed together first, then the fat is added before any liquid touches the mixture.


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Filed under:  Pastry | 13 Comments

Cornstarch-Thickened Liquids: Why They Thin When They Cool

Reader Zavia wants to know why corstarch-thickened soup sometimes thins out as it cools. The answer is that it depends on what’s in the soup. If there’s much fat, it could have prevented the cornstarch granules from absorbing enough water to begin with. Which is to say, the starch granules didn’t get a chance to fully swell, and then released the little bit of water they had when the mixture cooled. The result: thinning. Try stirring in a little more water into the cold soup, and see if that helps it thicken. If it works add a little more water until the soup is back to the texture you want.


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Filed under:  Pastry | 2 Comments

Why do star chefs love flake salt so much?

So asks reader Brandi. Part of the reason, Brandi, is merely caché. Yet there are some good reasons why many cooking show chefs prefer to work with flake salt. For one, it’s easy to pick up. And I mean that literally. Granules of table salt run from between your fingers like tiny ball bearings when you try to pick up a pinch. Flake salt by comparison clumps and allows for easy grasping. It also dissolves quickly, which is nice when you’re trying to correct the seasoning of a food just prior to serving….

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Filed under:  Pastry | 4 Comments

Size Makes a Difference

Reader Emily makes a great point: trace impurities may not have much impact on the way a salt tastes, but the size and shape of the salt crystals definitely do. Very true. And again, that’s not because the salt is any different chemically, but because crystals of varying sizes and shapes have different surface areas, and so dissolve at different rates.

Salt grains come in two basic shapes: granules and flakes. Granules are the shape we’re all used to, the little perfect cubes we all know as “table salt”. If you remember from other discussions on the subject of crystals (fat crystals, starch crystals, ice crystals), crystallization is what happens when molecules of the same type start stacking up upon one another. Given that molecules of sodium chloride are cubical, it’s easy to see why they might naturally want to stack up into cube shapes. In fact, given the right conditions, salt can grow into huge cubical crystals known as halite, which can be anything up to 4 or 5 inches across.


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Filed under:  Pastry | 13 Comments

On Bleaching…and When It’s a Good Thing

Bleaching gets a very bad rap these days. It’s frequently portrayed as a trivial cosmetic process that comes at the steep cost of adding chemicals — chemicals! — to our food. More than that it could be racist. But in fact bleaching is not primarily about a flour’s whiteness, it’s about a flour’s performance.

But first what exactly is “bleaching”? In general, bleaching means exposing flour to a compound like chlorine gas, ascorbic acid (vitamin C) or perhaps an enzyme like lipoxygenase (derived from fava or soy beans). These agents leave no residues or residual flavors, nor do they, contrary to popular myth, diminish the flour’s nutritional value. …

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Filed under:  A Flour Primer, Pastry | 6 Comments

Making Cannelés

You often hear it said that cannelés are small, eggy “cakes”. Don’t you believe it. Cannelés are custards (with candy-like crusts) and need to be treated as such. I know what you’re thinking: Joe, what kind of custard gets baked at 525 degrees Fahrenheit? That answer is a HIGH HEAT custard, wise guy, and just like a low-heat custard, precautions must be taken to prevent a cannelé from absorbing too much heat too quickly, lest it form lots of bubbles, expand and ultimately break into a grainy, syrupy blob. I’ll explain on the way. Let’s get moving!…

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Filed under:  Cannelés, Pastry | 32 Comments

Rapid Rise Yeast

As the name implies this is the fastest-rising of all the various packaged yeasts. A version of instant yeast, it’s made via similar methods but the granules are even narrower and thinner…almost rod-like if you can see them. That means they absorb moisture and dissolve even faster, so they start working, reproducing and making CO2 almost immediately….

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Filed under:  Pastry, Rapid Rise Yeast | 11 Comments

Instant Yeast

Instant yeast is a form of active dry yeast, just a bit more technologically advanced. Like active dry it’s grown in the fermenting tank, then centrifuged and filtered to remove much of the water. Then it’s mixed with a little oil and extruded in thin threads which are then dried, cut and packaged. The difference is that in the case of instant yeast, the mixture that’s extruded has more live cells, a result of a faster drying process that’s not as stressful on the critters. …

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Filed under:  Instant Yeast, Pastry | 9 Comments