Currently viewing the tag: "baking"

by Buck Reed

Perfect Pie Crust

If the kitchen were a concert hall, then cooking and baking would be very different music. Cooking would be Rock and Roll, in that it is based on musical talent that has no real or consistent structure. There are rules but not really written in stone. But if we look at baking, we would compare it to opera. Opera is pure structure with standardized music and very structured voices for the various parts. Where you can get away with cheating a technique or substituting out an ingredient or two in cooking, you really cannot do the same with baking. Baking calls for specific ingredients that are measured out and combined in a very specific way. We call this technique, and this is the mantra of baking!

When making pie dough, we are looking at Pate Brise and Sucre, as well as 1-2-3 dough. As far as technique, they are exactly the same. All you are doing is combining your fat with the dry ingredients by cutting them together so that the fat looks like little pea shapes surrounded by dry ingredients. Then, you gently mix in the wet ingredients to make a dough with the dry ingredients that has streaks of fat in it. Do not overmix the dough. Form it into a ball, wrap it up, and let it stay in the refrigerator for about an hour.

When you roll it out, the dough will form layers of dough separated by fat. As it bakes, structure will form with the dough, but as the fat melts, it will become flakey in texture.

Ingredients are also an important factor in making pie dough:

Dry – All Purpose Flour is all I have ever used to make pie dough, and I have always had good results. Some recipes will call for sugar to be added.

Fat – Shortening or butter are usually called for, but lard is said to be the best choice.

Wet – Water would be the main ingredient, but some recipes might call for milk and some might call for eggs. Also, a half a splash of vinegar can be added to your liquid as it will help stop the formation of gluten, which will make your crust tough. Also, that’s probably how your grandma did it and you don’t want to argue with grandma! Another rule is to make sure your wet ingredients are as cold as possible when you mix them with the dry/fat ingredients.

If you follow these easy steps and use the proper ingredients, you will find success in your baked products. And once you master this technique, you can make not only any pie dough, but biscuits and cobblers as well.

by Denise Valentine

Hello, everyone. Now that the children are out of school for the summer, you may be looking for some activities to keep them busy. Baking is always fun, and the best part is that they get to eat the finished product.

These “7 Layer Cookie Bars” provide the perfect opportunity to let the kids help create the recipe. You can let them sprinkle on the layers, and when they are finished baking, they can enjoy the delicious cookies with a big glass of cold milk.

I hope you have a wonderful summer!

7 Layer Cookie Bars

1/2 cup butter, melted                                

1 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips

1 1/2 cups graham cracker crumbs    

1 cup butterscotch flavored chips

1 (14 oz.) can sweetened condensed milk                    

1 1/3 cups flaked coconut

1 cup chopped nuts (optional)

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Pour melted butter into a 9 x 13 inch baking pan. Sprinkle graham cracker crumbs over butter; pour sweetened condensed milk evenly over crumbs. Top with remaining ingredients; press down firmly.

Bake 25 to 30 minutes or until lightly browned. Cool. Chill if desired. Cut into bars. Store loosely covered at room temperature.

The Supermarket Gourmet, Buck Reed

We all have seen it on reality shows, at the movies, and even in Disney cartoons. The angry chef. It is almost cliché to say one plate of under- or over-cooked risotto might send them into a tirade—an over-cooked steak might bring you close to being stabbed, or an under-cooked piece of fish might get you sent home. They portray themselves as culinary masters who are one dish away from acting like murderous madmen, bent on destroying anyone in their way. The truth is, it is not an act.

The nice guy executive chef, the benevolent leader of the brigade is a myth, the white whale, an out-and-out unicorn, never to be seen in a professional kitchen.

If this is indeed who they are, then I submit that bakers are the complete opposite. I say baker, because I am a cook who is comfortable baking, equally a rarity in the culinary world. I learned to first bake in the U.S. Navy, where you do what you were ordered, and the better you did a job, the more they left you alone. When I left the service, I worked as a line cook in an upscale restaurant; I spent two weeks learning baking—there, called pastry chef—from a wonderful person who had the patience of Job, coupled with the meticulous adherence to detail any master chef would have envied. She was exacting, but kind, a good teacher who critiqued without demeaning.

I believe all good bakers have this quality. Yes, I have known a few bakers who did not possess these qualities, but then I do not think they were very good bakers.

If you ask a chef/cook why he doesn’t like baking, you almost always get the answer that they do not like measuring everything. Great cooks do not really even need recipes. Some will tell you that it is boring, that there is no room for creativity. Nothing could be further from the truth. There is always a fruit or vegetable right around the corner coming into season that you can try to figure out how to work into a recipe. Or you can try a different flour or sugar that might change the texture of your cookie. Some might even say it is an easy win, that slapping some chocolate on a pastry and hitting it with some booze is far easier than, say, seasoning a soup. They will say everyone applauds the dessert course, but the unsung hero is the guy who perfectly cooked your steak. But few realize that the true master of baking is in the basics. It is all about the appreciation of the ingredients and discipline of the techniques that make the baker. That is where the caring starts. That is where the respect makes a difference. That is where the love comes in.

At the end of the day, I am still a cook who knows how to bake, but truth be known, I would never call myself a pastry chef.