Baking the Best Muffins
Mix all dry ingredients together and all wet ingedients together in two separate bowls before starting recipe. Sift all dry ingredients together in your mixing bowl. Make a well in the middle of dry ingredients mound to pour wet ingredients.
For the most tender muffins, measure ingredients carefully and mix just enough to moisten. Don't worry if batter is a little lumpy. Overbeating can make muffins tough. Muffins are best warm from the oven. Reheat any leftovers briefly in the microwave. Serve muffins with a fat-free topping; jam or preserves, honey, maple syrup, applesauce or even a dollop of flavored nonfat yogurt.
If you have only a 12-cup muffin pan, pour a little water into empty cups, so the muffins will bake evenly.
AirBake Muffin Pans make the best muffins (IMHO). They come in 12 and 6 cup pans. You don't have to use liners that makes the muffin look bad after peeling (and takes the great taste of the browned part off). All you need to do is spray each cup with Pam (or shortening spray of your choice) and they bake wonderfully as well as pop out of the pan so easily. Clean up is great too. (Do not submerge pan in water. It will water log the pan and not cook properly.)
Muffins are my favorite goodies to make (as well as eat LOL). I Hope that my muffin making tips has helped you. ;~). CFF Shared by Angie
Baking cakes is not more difficult than other types of cooking, but it does require that you be more exact. Throwing in a little more of one ingredient, or substituting another usually doesn't work for cakes. Cake baking requires skill, accuracy, and precise measuring of ingredients.
EQUIPMENT: Standard cakepans come in both 8- and 9-inch diameters, and you'll probably want to have three of each. Shiny metal pans are apt to produce the lightest, tenderest crust. Avoid darkened metal or enamel pans as they can cause uneven and excessive browning.
You'll probably also want a 10-inch tube pan and a 10-inch Bundt pan. You can often substitute a tube pan when the recipe calls for a Bundt pan, but be careful using a Bundt pan when a tube pan is called for; most Bundt pans hold slightly less batter than tube pans.
Make sure you have several wire cooling racks. Cakes that cool on a solid surface often become soggy.
TIPS FOR PERFECT CAKES: A perfect cake results not from luck but from accurate measuring and proper mixing and baking. To ensure your success, use the tips and techniques that follow, unless your recipe specifies something different. Position oven rack in the center of the oven. Always preheat the oven when baking cakes.
Be sure to use the correct pan size. Grease cakepans with shortening; do not use oil, butter, or margarine. Lightly dust pans with flour. Do not grease pans for sponge-type cakes. Let eggs, butter, and milk reach room temperature before mixing. Do not sift all-purpose flour unless specified. Always sift cake flour before measuring.
Cream shortening thoroughly. Gradually add sugar, and beat until light and fluffy. (Beating will take about 7 minutes with a standard mixer, longer with a portable type.) Add only one egg at a time, and beat after each addition.
Add dry and liquid ingredients alternately to creamed mixture, beginning and ending with the dry ingredients. Beat after each addition, but only until the batter is smooth; do not overbeat. Using a rubber spatula, scrape sides and bottom of bowl often during beating.
Stagger cakepans so they do not touch each other or the sides of the oven. If placed on separate racks, stagger the pans so air can circulate. Keep the oven door closed until minimum baking time has elapsed. Test the cake for doneness before removing it from the oven (underbaking can cause a cake to fall). The cake is done when a wooden pick inserted in the center comes out clean or if the cake springs back when lightly touched.
Let cakes cool in pans 10 minutes for layer cakes and 15 minutes for tube cakes. Then invert cakes onto wire racks to cool completely.
Let the layers cool completely before adding filling and frosting. Lightly brush the cake to remove loose crumbs.
HIGH ALTITUDE ADJUSTMENTS
More than any other type of baked good, cake is affected by the lower air pressure at high altitudes. When baked above 3,000 feet, cakes will not rise properly and may be dry and tough. Use this chart as a guide when baking cakes at high altitudes.
In addition, when baking a cake above 3,000 feet in altitude, increase the baking temperature by 25°.
Ingredients 3,000 ft. 5,000 ft. 7,000 ft. 10,000 ft.
Sugar: for each 1 to 3 1 to 2 1 1/2 to 3 2 to 3 1/2
cup, decrease teaspoons tablespoons tablespoons tablespoons
Liquid: for each 1 to 2 2 to 4 3 to 4 3 to 4
cup, add tablespoons tablespoons tablespoons tablespoons
for each 1/8 1/8 to 1/4 1/4 1/4 to 1/2
teaspoon teaspoon teaspoon teaspoon teaspoon
STORAGE FOR CAKES: Cool cakes thoroughly before storing, even the unfrosted ones. If covered
while warm, the cake may become sticky. Store unfrosted cakes and those with a creamy-type frosting under a cake dome or a large inverted bowl. Covering it well with plastic wrap will also work, but will mar the frosted surface if you don't first insert wooden picks into the cake in several places to hold the wrap away from the frosting.
Cakes with a frosting of fluffy meringue are best eaten the day they are made. That type frosting gradually disintegrates when stored. If you have leftovers, store under a cake dome with a knife under the edge to keep the dome slightly ajar so air can circulate.
Store cakes with cream in the frosting or filling in the refrigerator.
CAN I FREEZE MY CAKE?
That's one of the most commonly asked questions we receive from readers, especially as the holidays draw near. Unfrosted cakes freeze better than frosted ones. Let the cake cool completely; wrap it in aluminum foil, and then in plastic wrap. The quality will stay good up to five months when frozen.
Frosted cakes are trickier to freeze. Those with creamy-type frostings freeze better. Do not freeze those with meringue-type frostings. When freezing a frosted cake, place it in the freezer uncovered for several hours or until it is frozen. Then loosely but thoroughly wrap it in plastic wrap, and return it to the freezer. it should keep up to three months.
Let unfrosted cakes thaw in their wrapper at room temperature. Unwrap frosted cakes as soon as you remove them from the freezer, and let them stand at room temperature until thawed.
CAKES IN THE MICROWAVE ARE TRICKY
Some cakes bake well in the microwave oven, but they require special pans and adjustments in ingredient proportions. For that reason we have not given microwave directions for our cakes. The manual that came with your particular microwave oven is your best guide to cake recipes that will work well in your oven.
WHAT WENT WRONG
Since cakes require such exact measurements and baking and mixing procedures, there are a number of things that can go wrong when baking a cake. Use the following chart to help you diagnose and correct problems
with your cakes.
CAKE PROBLEM CHART
If cake falls:
Oven not hot enough
Opening oven door during baking
Too much leavening, liquid, or sugar
If cake peaks in center:
Oven too hot at start of baking
Too much flour
Not enough liquid
If cake sticks to pan:
Cake cooled in pan too long
Pan not greased and floured properly
If cake cracks and fails apart:
Removed from pan too soon
Too much shortening, leavening, or sugar
If crust is sticky:
Oven not hot enough
Too much sugar
If texture is heavy:
Overmixing when flour and liquid added
Oven temperature too low
Too much shortening, sugar, or liquid
If texture is coarse:
Inadequate mixing or creaming
Oven temperature too low
Too much leavening
If texture is dry:
Overbeaten egg whites
Too much flour or leavening
Not enough shortening or sugar
Shortening Cakes: There are two basic kinds of cakes. Most are classified as shortening or butter cakes; the others are sponge-type cakes, discussed later.
Shortening cakes are the type you probably bake most often. They include the basic white, yellow, and chocolate cakes, pound cakes, fruitcakes, and any others that are made with shortening, butter, or margarine (use only stick-type margarine, not whipped). They usually depend on baking powder or baking soda for leavening. Sometimes eggs are added whole; sometimes they're separated and the whites beaten until fluffy before adding. Unless the recipe specifies otherwise, use the standard mixing procedure discussed
Pound Cakes: Pound cakes take their name from the original recipe -- a pound each of butter, sugar, eggs, and flour. Today's pound cakes include more ingredients than the original recipe, but the rich flavor still prevails.
Fruit and Nut Cakes: Especially around holiday time, many Southerners look for those chunky fruit and nut cakes that typify the season. The most popular kind of holiday fruitcake, our version of which is called Light Fruitcake, can be baked up to three weeks in advance. Soak the cake in brandy to keep it moist and flavorful until its Christmas debut.
Start with a Mix: Keep a few packages of cake mix on hand for occasions when you're short on time and ingredients. These recipes add just a few extras to the mix that will win you compliments every time. In fact you'll probably find yourself making these recipes even when you have enough time to bake from scratch.
Examine the label of the cake mix closely before you buy it. Different brands of the same flavor of cake mix can vary greatly, and it can make a big difference in the end product if you don't use the intended brand. Make sure to choose the exact ounce size specified in the recipe, and check to see whether or not pudding is included in the mix.
Angel, Sponge, and Chiffon Cakes: Often grouped together in food textbooks under the label of "foam" cakes, these desserts are noted for their lightness and delicacy. They all depend on beaten egg whites for their characteristic texture, while subtle differences distinguish the three types of cakes.
Angel food cakes are the purest. They contain no leavening, no egg yolks, and no shortening. Sponge cakes contain yolks as well as beaten whites, and sometimes leavening; they never contain shortening. Sponge cake batters are often used for jelly roll-type cakes. Chiffon cakes contain qualities of both foam and shortening cakes. Their lightness comes from beaten egg whites, but they do contain egg yolks, leavening, and shortening or oil.
Egg whites play an important role in foam cakes, so handle them so they'll yield the best volume. Separate the eggs as soon as they are removed from the refrigerator, but allow the whites to come to room temperature before beating. Always beat the whites just before adding them to the batter; they'll lose volume even if beaten and set aside for a few minutes.
Scrumptious Cakes, The Easy Way
You can make dozens of exciting cakes from a mix--and the beauty of it is that half the job is done before you start. These basic guidelines apply:
*Whenever you add extra ingredients, a mix will tend to take 3-5 minutes longer to bake, so be sure to test for doneness.
* If you live above 3,500 feet, call the 800 number on the box for high-altitude instructions.
Here, three major mix makers give their tips.
From Betty Crocker:
*Add up to 1/2 cup of finely chopped nuts or crushed cookies.
*Add up to 1/2 cup of chocolate, preferably minichips or shaved chocoalte
to minimize sinking into batter.
*A few tablespoons of flavored coffee powder lend a punch to chocolate cakes.
From Duncan Hines:
*You can use fresh fruit juice for up to 50% of the water.
*For banana cake, add 1 cup mashed banan; cut water to 3/4 cup.
*Do not use sugar-free instant pudding mix; it cuts tenderness and won't be sweet.
*Instead of oil, use 3/4 cup peanut butter.
*Add 1 cup finely chopped nuts or curshed cookies or 1/2 cup almond brickle baking chips.
*Use coffee or soda pop for all the water, or up to 1/4 cup liqueur in place of equal amount of water.
Leavenings are ingredients that cause a food to rise in the oven or on the griddle.
Baking soda reacts with the acid in food to form carbon dioxide gas. The soda and acid begin to react as soon as liquid is added, so a product containing soda should be baked immediately.
Baking powder is a combination of baking soda and an acidic ingredient. It does not produce its full degree of leavening until heated, so the unbaked product is more stable than one with soda.
Yeast is a microscopic plant that produces carbon dioxide from starch or sugar when placed in suitable conditions for growth. It can be purchased in the active dry or compressed form.
Microwave Hints For Dough Rising
You can cut the waiting for dough by letting it rise in your microwave oven. First, check your manual to see if proofing is recommended. Or, use this test.
*Place 2 tablespoons cold stick margarinein a custard cup in the center of the oven. (Use only stick margarine, not corn oil spread).
*Cook, uncovered, on 10% power (low) 4 minutes.
*If the margarine completely melts in less than 4 minutes, you cannot proof bread dough in your oven.
*If the margarine is not completly melted in 4 minutes, you can proof bread in your microwave oven.
*While preparing and kneading the dough, heat 3 cups wter in a 4-cup glass measure on 100% power (high) for 6 1/2 to 8 1/2 minutes or till boiling.
*Move the measure to the back of the oven.
*Place kneaded dough in a lightly greased microwave-safe bowl; turn once. Cover with waxed paper; place in microwave oven with hot water.
*Heat the dough and water on 10% power (low) for 13-15 minutes or until dough has nearly doubled.
*Continue as your recipe directs after the first rising.
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