Vegan Baking Tips
Chocolate Loves Fat and Dislikes HeatLove that irresistible smell of the house when brownies are baking? You're actually smelling those precious volatile flavor compounds literally being baked out of your chocolatey goodies. Nooooo! Chocolate contains hundreds of flavor compounds that can be released and/or burned in the presence of heat which can also introduce unwanted bitter flavors. To ensure that your chocolate goodies are as decadent as possible it's important to make sure they're accompanied by lots of fat to hold in those volatile flavors, and to err on the side of underbaking so bitter flavors are kept to a minimum.
Add Lemon Juice When Baking with BeetsAdding beet purée to your batter is a great way to add a reddish hue to your baked items. When baking with beet purée don't for get to add some lemon juice to the batter. The acids in the lemon juice will allow the beets to retain their deep red color instead of turning your batter slightly gray during baking. This visual difference will make them much more appetizing, believe me.
Store Ice Cream at the Right TemperatureOptimum texture of ice cream and sorbet is crucial to how it's flavor is perceived in your mouth. Too hard and it will be difficult to scoop and tastebud-numbingly cold. Too warm and it will be too sweet and syrupy. For optimum flavor and mouthfeel, store ice cream between 6 and 10F (-14 and -11C). If you're storing ice cream for long periods, store it between -5 and 0F (-21 and -18C).
Store Flax and Chia Seeds in the FreezerFlax and Chia seeds are rich in Omega-3 fatty acids which can add a health bonus to your baked items. These fats are extremely perishable and when rancid can actually have negative health consequences while negatively affecting the flavor of your baked items. Store flax and chia seeds in a covered container in the freezer where they will keep for up to one year.
Chop Chocolate With a Serrated KnifeChopping chocolate with a serrated knife such as a bread knife is considerably easier than chopping with a sharp chef or santoku knife. Why? The serrated knife edge creates cracks in the chocolate that enables separation whereas the sharp knife cuts through which requires considerably more effort.
Use The Right Kind of Chocolate Depending on Your ApplicationWhen making chocolate chip cookies and other baked items containing chocolate, always reach for chocolate chips. They're specifically designed to melt without losing shape and mixing with your dough. This is because chocolate chips contain less cocoa butter. Conversely, when using melted chocolate for confections, avoid chocolate chips for better meltability and smoother consistency.
Excessively Acidic Ingredients Can Inhibit LeaveningBe careful when adding lemon juice or other acidic ingredients to muffins, breads or cakes. Acidic ingredients inhibit gluten formation when used in larger quantities and can turn these eats into a gloppy unleavened mess. For lemon flavors, lemon extract or zest is preferred.
Give Your Cake a Crumb Coat For Hassle-Free FrostingTo help frosting stick to your cake and make it as free from crumbs as possible, give it a Crumb Coat. This is a thin coating of frosting meant to absorb the outermost crumb of the cake. The cake is then placed into the refrigerator for about an hour so the frosting hardens. You then spread frosting over this hardened frosting with minimal fuss.
Store Whole Wheat Flour and Wheat Germ in the RefrigeratorWhole wheat flour and wheat germ contain the endosperm of the wheat berry which is high in polyunsaturated fats. These extremely perishable fats can impart off flavors and become a health hazard when they go rancid so keep whole wheat flour and wheat germ in the refrigerator in air tight containers where they will keep for up to 6 months.
Always Use Stick Margarine Instead of Tub Margarine When Substituting for ButterWhen baking with margarine, avoid tub margarine and always use stick margarine or Vegan Butter. Tub margarine contains extra water for easier spreadability. This is great for things like toast but can negatively affect your baked items due to it's lower fat content and higher water content. Stick margarine still contains more water than butter in most cases but will result in better performance than tub margarine, especailly in things like puff pastries, pie crusts and tart crusts.
Count Out Loud When Measuring Lots of IngredientsMeasuring lots of cups, Tablespoons or teaspoons in succession? Counting out loud will slightly make you look like a dork but not as much of a dork than if you add 2 Tablespoons too much margarine and ruin your brownies. So don't be afraid to count out loud!
Dampen Hands For Sticky DoughIs the bread, brownie or cookie dough sticking to your hands as you're trying to shape it or form it? Dampening your hands with water will get you out of this sticky situation and make the dough easier to work with.
Keep Your Caramel From CrystallizingAdd about 2 Tablespoons agave syrup or corn syrup to your caramel ingredients to keep your caramel from crystallizing after it cools.
Sift Your FlourWhen baking cakes or cupcakes, sift your flour before adding it. This will reduce clumping and aerate your flour, allowing it to rise more easily and make a more tender cake.
Know Your GlutenWhen gliadin and glutenin proteins join together with the aid of moisture they form gluten. The more gluten in your flour, the more water required to hydrate these proteins into gluten. This is why bread flour requires more water than cake flour.
Know How Long to Knead BreadKnead your yeast-leavened bread dough until it springs back when poked with a finger. Usually this is after 12 to 15 minutes of kneading. Don't worry, it's not possible to overwork the gluten by hand-kneading.
Let Baking Sheets Cool Before Adding More CookiesEmbarking on a cookie baking marathon? Let your baking sheets cool down before you put the next batch of cookie dough on them so they don't spread out too early and end up burning. When I ran my cookie company, I would refer to unwanted cookie spread as cookies farting out.
Toast Nuts for Maximum FlavorIf you're cooking or baking with nuts and they're going to be under heat for less than 20 minutes in the final recipe, toast them before adding them to the recipe for maximum flavor. To do this heat your oven to 300F (149C) place your nuts on a baking sheet and bake them for about 20 minutes or until golden.
Tapioca or Arrowroot Flour Absorbs Excess Moisture in Pies or CobblersMixing a Tablespoon or two of tapioca or arrowroot flour into your fruit filling will cause excess juices to gel, reducing runniness while improving the mouthfeel of your pie or cobbler.
Get Maximum Juice From Your Lemons and OrangesTo get the maximum juice from your lemons and oranges before juicing them by hand, first roll them back and forth on the counter while applying slight pressure with your hand. This will loosen up the fruit and allow the juices to flow out of them more easily.
How To Blanch AlmondsTo blanch almonds, cover them with boiling water and let them sit for 2 minutes. Then drain, rinse them in cold water and remove the skins by pinching them with your thumb and forefinger. Lastly, dry them off with a paper towel.
What's the Deal With that White Chalky Substance on my Chocolate?Does your chocolate have a white powder on it? Put the anthrax medication away and rest easy. The white chalky substance on your chocolate is called bloom and it's just the cocoa butter rising out of the chocolate. It will go away completely and melt back into the choclate as soon as it's re-melted and flavor and texture won't be affected.
Saturated Fats Help Make Pie Crusts FlakierFats that contain more saturated fats such as shortening and coconut oil produce flakier pie crusts. If you're still after buttery flavor, use half stick-margarine or Vegan Butter and half Vegan Shortening or store bought shortening or coconut oil in your crust.
Prevent Double Boiler Water From Getting Too LowDoing lots of chocolate or fondant work with a double boiler? Don't run out of steam! Place a metal jar lid in the water. When the water gets too low it will rattle, telling you to fill 'er back up!
Let Your Cookware Cool Down Before Washing With Cold WaterAllow your pots, pans, baking sheets and baking dishes to cool down until they're warm before washing or soaking them in cold water to prevent warping or shattering them. Shattered cookware = shattered dreams.
Coat Yeast Leavened Dough with Oil During RisingYeast leavened dough should not dry out during rising. To prevent this either cover it with a damp towel or coat it in oil and cover with a plastic bag. In extremely hot kitchens, the oil and plastic bag method is the most effective. Just don't forget to remove it before you put it in the oven!
Ripen Fruits and Vegetables QuicklyWant to ripen fruits or vegetables as quickly as possible? Place them in a paper bag with a ripe banana. Fruits, especially bananas, produce gasses when ripe that encourage other foods in their vicinity to ripen as well.
Store Popcorn Kernels in the FreezerFor optimum shelf life, store popcorn kernels in an air tight container in the freezer. Stored this way, they should keep for years and reduce the number of unpopped kernels.
Avoid Dark Cookie Sheets
When baking cookies on a cookie sheet, avoid darkened cookie sheets because they will actually absorb more heat, possibly resulting in burned cookies. This holds true for other cookware as well.
Add Instant Espresso Powder to Chocolate Batters for More Flavor ComplexityWant to make your brownies, chocolate cake or other chocolate treat pop with more chocolate complexity and depth of flavor? Add about ½ to 1 full teaspoon of instant espresso powder to the batter.
Make Your Brittle Extra CrispyWant to make your brittle a little more crispy and easier to bite into? Mix about 1 teaspoon of baking soda into the hot brittle just before it's poured onto the flat surface. The baking soda will make tiny little air bubbles in the brittle and cause it to get slightly puffed up, making for a lighter and crispier brittle.
Let Your Yeast Activate by ItselfYeast is a very temperamental beast and may not activate fully if subjected to things like excessive sugars, salts and acids. If possible, add these ingredients after the yeast has gotten a chance to activate for best results.
Keep Bandages on HandUnfortunately, if you cook and bake a lot you will eventually have to pay the 'kitchen tax' and sustain a cut. Make sure you have bandages on hand so when this happens you can deal with it and carry on with your baking. Running to the store to get bandages in the middle of baking something can be just a tad inconvenient.
Prevent Soggy Pie CrustOnly add your pie filling to your pie crust right before the pie goes into the oven. This will ensure the crust doesn't absorb the filling moisture and become soggy.
Don't Let Your Pie Crust Dough Lose it's CoolOne of the many tricks to mastering pie crusts is keeping your ingredients cool so the fat doesn't melt before the crust hits the oven. When the fat melts, the crust turns out tough and mealy instead of light and flaky. Use ice water (without the cubes) and keep your flour and bowls in the refrigerator beforehand to keep things as cool as possible.
Prevent Your Cake from Sticking to the PlateLightly dusting your cake's serving platter with powdered sugar will allow the slices to easily come away when the cake is served.
Frost Your Cake Over Wax Paper StripsFrost your cake on it's serving platter with some strips of wax paper under the perimeter of the cake. When you're done frosting, quickly pull away the wax paper strips and your serving platter will look nice and clean.
Frost Your Cake Only After it's Cooled
It's important to only frost your cake after it's cooled to room temperature. This allows moisture from the cake to escape and keeps your frosting from heating up and sliding off.
Let Your Cake Rest After Removing it From the OvenAfter removing your cake from the oven, allow it to cool in the pan for about 10 minutes before turning it over onto a cooling rack. This will keep the cake from falling apart during "the flip".
Check Your Cake for DonenessTo check your cake to see if it's done baking, poke the center with a toothpick, small clean knife or skewer. If it comes out clean, your cake is ready. If it cake sticks, put the cake back in the oven for another 5 minutes before checking again.
Store Your Yeast in the RefrigeratorYeast should be stored in the refrigerator to prevent spoiling. Stored in this manner, yeast will keep for up to six months. To test your yeast to see if it's still good, combine 1 teaspoon sugar and 2 teaspoons yeast with ¼ cup warm water. If the mixture starts bubbling it's still good. If it doesn't it should be discarded.
Put Your Baked Item in the Oven ASAPWhen you bake with baking powder and baking soda, chemical reactions start to take place as soon as they go into your batter. Your item must be put in the oven immediately so the proper chemical reactions happen under heat. Preheat your oven when you start your recipe so it can go into the oven as soon as possible.
Discard Spices after One YearDo your spices date back to the Clinton Administration? If they're older than one year, they're not going to be fresh enough to do their job and your finished product will suffer. Discard them and start with a new collection.
Check Your Baking PowderIf your baking powder is too old it won't do it's job and your recipes won't turn out. Buy your baking powder in small quantities. Write the date on the container and discard it after six months. To check baking powder for freshness add 1 teaspoon baking powder to 1/3 cup hot water. If it bubbles vigorously it's still good.
Check for Doneness at Minimum Baking TimeThere's nothing worse than opening your oven to reveal a burned recipe after all that work. Check your baked item for doneness at the minimum baking time to prevent this. Usually this is five minutes less than the total baking time specified in the recipe.
Play it SafeIt's a good idea to play it safe and get a fire extinguisher for your kitchen. Keep it an an easily accessible area and check it's pressure gauge once a year.
Easily Clean Burned Pot BottomsIs your pot bottom burned? Fill it with two inches of water, add 1 Tablespoon of baking soda and bring it to a boil. Boil for five minutes with the lid on then remove from heat and let it sit for about 30 minutes before scrubbing.
Take Notes While BakingKeep a pen and paper handy so you can write down what you need if you're getting low. You may also want to write down a trick you just learned so you don't forget it in the future.
Yellow Zest is BestWhen zesting lemons for the best possible flavor in your recipe, be sure to start with organic lemons and get the outermost part of the peel because it contains the most essential oils. The white part of the peel is to be avoided because it contains less oils and more bitter flavors. If you're zest is for decorative purposes it's ok to get the white part because thicker zest curls are more important for the overall look of the recipe.
Know Your Rolling PinsRolling pins come in two distinct types: A Rod which is a one-piece cylindrical piece of wood that's tapered on the ends. Rods are popular in French and East Asian kitchens. Rods have more maneuverability but less leverage for flattening dough. A Roller is a cylindrical piece of wood that is the same thickness throughout it's length. It has handles on each side that go through the length of the cylindrical piece of wood. Rollers are popular in western kitchens and they offer slightly more leverage for flattening dough but less control.
Use Both Cocoa Powder and Baking Chocolate for Maximum FlavorLooking for maximum chocolate flavor in your recipe? So are we. In order to best achieve this, use both cocoa powder and baking chocolate if possible because their flavor characteristics combine, resulting in a chocolate explosion. Keep in mind that if you're retrofitting a recipe to have semisweet baking chocolate supplant some of the cocoa powder you should reduce your fat and sugar slightly to compensate.
Keep Fruit From Sinking To The Bottom Of Your CakesSometimes when you add fruit pieces to cake batter, the fruit sinks to the bottom during baking. To keep this from happening coat your fruit pieces in flour before adding them to the batter.
Good Breads Come To Those Who WaitMaking a yeast leavened bread and getting tired of waiting for it to rise multiple times? By now you could have probably planted grain and watched it grow. Don't even think about cutting corners with yeasted bread recipes. As with most things in life, good breads come to those who wait.
Don't Throw Away Those Bad BananasAre your bananas getting brown? It's ok, most kitchens have at least a couple browning bananas kicking it somewhere. Don't throw them away! Place them in an air tight plastic bag and store them in the freezer. They can later be thawed out at room temperature or in the microwave and be used in banana breads, muffins, cookies and pancakes.
Keep Your Kitchen Cool on a Hot DayDying of that summer heat but still can't keep yourself from baking up a storm? Keep a cool head and switch on your kitchen fan. It'll help suck out the heat that your oven is radiating into the kitchen and keep things bearable.
Get A Nice Pair Of Kitchen ShearsInvest in a set of good quality kitchen shears to make your life easier. Kitchen shears are beefy scissors designed to cut through things like aseptic packages, thick plastic food bags, vegan sausage casings and even unbaked pie crust. Another benefit is the peace of mind of not worrying about how much rubber cement is caked on your normal scissors.
Binder Clips Make Life EasierUse Binder Clips to securely close opened plastic bags of things like nuts, corn chips and chocolate chips. They're way easier to work with than rubber bands and they last forever.
Brush Your TeethWhen baking lots of goodies and doing lots of tasting don't forget to make brushing your teeth the last part of the cleanup process. Sugar can wreak havok on your pearly whites after the sugars get eaten by natural bacteria living in your mouth. This bacteria excretes acids that dissolve your teeth. So brush up!
Margarine Has More Water Than ButterWhen using margarine as a drop-in replacement for butter in recipes, keep in mind that margarine contains more water than butter. This is even more true for tub margarine. In these cases you should consider slightly reducing the water content in your newly-veganized recipe.
No PeekingIn order to maintain oven temparatures as much as possible during baking, don't open the oven door unless absolutely necessary. Take advantage of the oven light, peer through the oven window and just chillax already!
Use A Double Boiler for Chocolate And FondantA double boiler takes advantage of the insulating property of air in between boiling water and the item you're heating. Keep in mind that the upper pot sits just above the almost boiling water and is not immersed in it. This allows for a very gentle and even warming of your ingredient. This is best used for things like chocolate or fondant.
Where You Place Your Item In The Oven MattersWhere you place your goodies in the oven can make a big difference due to the varying temperatures in different areas. The center of the middle rack usually has the most even temperatures. Also be sure to leave at least a few inches in between the oven wall and your baked item. This is important so natural hot air 'convection' currents work to bake your item evenly. If you've got a crowded oven with multiple racks being used, it's usually a good idea to rotate the items between the racks halfway through the baking duration.
Fluid Ounces vs Ounces by WeightIf a recpe specifies an ingredient measured in ounces, be sure to check whether it's intended to be in fluid ounces or weight ounces. In most cases, these are not interchangeable. There's nothing worse than realizing this after the fact and having a doh! moment.
Sift Powdered Sugar and Cocoa Powder Before UsingAlways sift your powdered sugar and cocoa powder before using. A sift with a rotary mechanism works well for this. Powdered sugar and cocoa powder are rebels and don't like to mix with others.
Wait For You Item To Cool A Little Before Removing From It's MoldNothing's worse than hard effort turning into a pile of crumbs. In most cases, wait for your baked eats to cool down a little before removing them from their pans, dishes or molds. This will ensure they stay in one piece. In some rare instances you'll want to remove the baked item while it's still hot because it still cooks slightly as it's exposed to the hot pan, mold or tray.
Always Bake On The Middle RackAlways bake on the oven's middle rack unless the recipe you're following specifically tells you otherwise.
Follow Recipes ExactlyBaking is a science. Always follow baking recipes exactly as they are written to ensure the recipe turns out as scrum-tastic-mazing as possible.
Liquid Measuring Cups vs Dry Measuring CupsDon't forget to use specific dry measuring cups for dry ingredients and specific wet measuring cups for your wet ingredients. It can make the difference between your eats becoming 'the' bomb or 'a' bomb.
Clean As You GoClean up as you go. In most cases your kitchen can be completely clean by the time the goodies come out of the oven.
Store Your Ingredients In Glass JarsStoring your frequently used ingredients such as flour, sugar, baking powder and nuts in jars makes it way easier and faster to dispense ingredients with less mess. It also keeps your ingredients fresher longer. You also might impress a friend or two with your bulk street cred.
Test Your Oven ThermometerYour oven might be lying to you when it comes to temperature. I always thought that dude was kind of shady. Keep at least one thermometer in your oven and place it as close as possible to where your baked goods are going to go. Test your extra oven thermometer regularly by placing it in a pot of boiling water. It should read 212F (100C).
Keep Your Ginger Root FreshWant to keep your ginger root as fresh as possible for as long as possible? Cut it into 1 inch squares and place them in a glass jar. Fill the jar up to the top with filtered water and close the lid tightly. Place this jar in the refrigerator for up to 6 months.
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