Back Roads Bakery

Your little slice of heavenly homemade foods in the countryside

Basic Baking Techniques and Tips

For the first time bakers, knowing these basic baking techniques and these baking tips will make your journey in the amazing world of baking more fun and easy. You will find that these baking techniques will crop up again and again and so it is best to master these basic baking techniques so you can be ready to bake anything from cookies, to tarts, to pies and puddings, to cakes!

Preheating the Oven

Almost every baking recipe requires you to preheat your oven before you begin the actual baking. This is so your oven can gather enough heat before it can bake your goodies; think of it as a warm up before the workout, but with ovens. This baking technique is simple and straightforward: you just turn on your oven according to the temperature stated in the baking recipe. Ten minutes of pre-heating seems to work best if you are a little bit concerned of the time.

Sieving

In baking, the dry ingredients (for example, flours, sugars, baking powder) almost always need to be sifted over the dough or the batter. And for a good reason! Aside from separating clumps of unwanted elements, sieved flour is also important to aerate the dough or the batter, yielding more volume. Baking tip for sieving: use a sifter that is completely dry and when sifting over your bowl, tap the sifter gently and slowly from a good distance.

Folding

Air is important in baking, especially for baking recipes such as cakes and cookies. Air makes your finished product softer and more chewy. And so folding can be a delicate baking technique because its main goal is to mix ingredients without deflating your dough or batter. So, one of the baking tips in folding is to do it one step at a time. Do not fold in huge amounts of ingredients into the batter all at once to keep your folding gentle.

Rubbing in Method

For this baking technique called rubbing in method (or rub in method), you are simply combining the butter into the flour, but instead of creating a creamy or runny texture, you want the mixture to resemble chunks or crumbs. This baking technique is often used in baking breads and pastry. Baking tip for the rubbing-in method: you should keep a light touch so as not to put pressure on the butter.

Creaming Method

The creaming method aerates the batter and is often used for baking cakes and cookies. In this baking technique, the butter and sugar are creamed or blended together before any other ingredient can be mixed in. You know you are done once the butter and sugar mix is pale, light, and of course, creamy. Make sure that you will not under-cream as this may result to a tough and dry texture in the finished product, which is the complete opposite of what you are trying to do. 

Piping

This baking technique is most often used for baking meringues as well as decorating your cakes with pretty shapes. Before you can perfect this baking technique, piping takes a lot of practice and patience. Baking tip: explore different sizes and shapes of corner snips to find what works best for you – the smaller ones are good for slow and steady while the larger ones are quicker. Also, squeeze the bag instead of pinching the corner opening for more even flow.

Blind Baking Method           

Blind baking works best for baking recipes where the casing takes longer to bake than its filling, such as in pies and tarts. What you do when you blind bake is you pre-cook the pastry casings before adding the filling and baking it again. This is to prevent your pastry (especially the bottom part) to be under-cooked and soggy.

Why People are Hungry for Cooking Shows

Americans and people around the world have watched cooking shows since they first aired in the 1950’s. Since then, the genre has evolved to capture a broader range of viewership, and today, shows about cooking and baking are some of the most popular on TV.

In the last few years, an avalanche of cooking and baking shows have flooded TV and streaming channels. There are dozens of titles on Netflix alone, and one would be hard pressed to watch every series available.

In 2010, 8 in 10 Americans watched a cooking show of some kind. In the years since then, the number of shows has only grown. In 2016, more people spent time watching cooking shows than actually preparing their food.

There has always been a culture surrounding food, but in today’s world, food culture is evolving, and the way people are learning how to cook is changing. Thanks to social media and the thousands of food blogs on the internet, there is no end to the amount of food culture that can be consumed and digested by hungry viewers.

Cooking shows offer a mix of several genres of popular television, while entertainingly educating the viewer. They can act as a cooking class in the comfort of home. Having a recipe explained step by step aloud and visually following along makes it easier to understand and follow the process.

Additionally, those who watch cooking shows get to learn about new cuisines from around the world. Cooking shows have helped popularize ethnic foods in America, sparking an interest in other cultures worldwide.

Cooking and baking shows can be funny, relaxing, dramatic, or anything in between. Whether the viewers are learning the basics of cooking or are pro chefs, the appeal of cooking shows continues to broaden, attracting new viewers.

One thing that many cooking shows do is instill a sense of delight in watching a dish come together. They can be inspiring for viewers who want to cook for themselves. The curiosity of wondering if one can complete a recipe can and the confidence to begin cooking in the first place help drive viewers off the couch and into the kitchen.

A study about attitudes towards cooking showed that the majority of tweets about baking in 2009 were negative, but by 2016, that number decreased by 4%. This change in attitude can be attributed to shows that break down the cooking process into doable steps.

Even shows about kitchen disasters can benefit viewers. Maybe it’s funny to watch someone’s blunder, or relief to know you’re not the one having to clean up the mess. But cooking shows that highlight mistakes can also have a positive effect on viewers, by proving that even experienced chefs make mistakes.

Besides instilling a sense of confidence and inspiring, cooking shows also inform viewers about how to correctly cook, eat right, and cook the same thing in a myriad of different ways.

How to Fix Your Bakery’s Ventilation

Proper ventilation is one the primary concerns of any baker because without it, the bakery overheats and create a very unsafe environment for employees and patrons inside.  Smoke and fumes float in the air and can be toxic to your health, so they must be removed as soon as possible.  In addition to removing dirty air, appropriate aeration helps keep humidity at reasonable levels.  Both humidity and temperature need to be controlled to bake effectively.  If either piece of the puzzle is off, the products may not come out as expected and can negatively impact business.

We highly recommend commercial vent hood installation to improve the air extraction and replacement in your kitchen.  Air should only flow one way – into the exhaust system and out of the building.  Contact your local HVAC professionals to discuss your options.  Through a combination of well-placed vent hoods and fans, you can drastically improve air circulation, promoting a safer work environment.  You’ll need to consider the appropriate sizing of the equipment based on how small or large your space is.  You’ll also need to be aware of local fire safety codes, which is why it’s best to simply hire an expert.  A couple hundred bucks is a small price to pay for a review of your systems and solid advice for moving forward.

Once the commercial vent hood is installed, maintenance becomes the next most important element.  We advise cleaning the vent hood and ducts on a regular basis.  If you don’t have the manpower to do it yourself, call a professional hood cleaner to do it for you.  Greasy residue cannot remain on the surface of the exhaust system because it decreases its performance and is also a fire hazard.

Finally, train your workers on what to do in case of emergency.  If a fire starts, there are special fire extinguishers that should be used.  If the fire spreads, leave the building and call the fire department as soon as possible.

saffron most expensive spice in the world

Saffron: The Most Expensive Spice in the World

Saffron is a coveted spice with a price tag that will make many do a double-take. One pound of this spice can cost anywhere between $500 and $5,000, depending on its quality.

What does the world’s most expensive spice taste like? Saffron has been described as subtle, something between a floral and honey flavor. Some think it is pungent. It is used primarily in rice, vegetables, and baked goods.

It has a long history of being the costliest spice per weight. While it has its origins in Southwest Asia, the Greeks were the first to harvest saffron. Estimates for the first uses of saffron began nearly 3,000 years ago.

Cleopatra is said to have bathed in a tub laced with the spice before she met men as she believed it would heighten sexual pleasure. Thousands of years later, when the Pennsylvania Dutch settled in the New World in the mid to late 18th century, they grew saffron with an exchange rate to that of gold.

Why is this spice so expensive?

For one, it is extremely labor intensive to harvest saffron. Secondly, it is very rare. Saffron flowers are composed of 3 stamens or threads. These flowers are picked and then meticulously de-threaded by hand.

For just one kilo of saffron, it requires 150,000 flowers. For this reason, as well as the intensive labor involved, saffron remains a valuable and costly spice.

Attempts to automate the process have proven unsuccessful. Also, saffron production across the globe is in decline due to a variety of reasons, including poor water management, and loss of fertile lands.

Currently, Iran is the largest producer of saffron. Saffron production is also found in India, parts of Spain, and New Zealand.

The market for saffron is full of imposters. Some vendors offer low-quality saffron (or something entirely different) at the same price as premium saffron. When purchasing this spice, it is essential to know where it comes from and where it was harvested.

If saffron is cheap, then it is possibly a fake version of the spice. One trick to know if you are handling real saffron is to sniff it. If it smells sweet but doesn’t taste sweet, then you most likely have the real deal in your hands.

Many will agree that real saffron is worth the price and can make or break a dish. Besides just creating a great-tasting meal, there are numerous health benefits that this spice contains.

It acts as a powerful antioxidant and can help improve inflammation in the body. Additionally, it is thought that saffron is an effective agent against mild to moderate depression. Perhaps this is where the nickname of “the sunshine spice” came from.

It’s no wonder that saffron is such a sought-after ingredient. As long as the demand for saffron remains and the process of harvesting and preparing this spice for production continues to be done by hand, saffron will maintain its status as the world’s most expensive spice.

Coconut Oil: A Culinary Controversy

Coconut oil is considered one of those wonder foods that have an unlimited amount of uses in and out of the kitchen.

Besides cooking with it, coconut oil makes for a great skin moisturizer, can boost the health of your hair, and is even useful for removing stains off of certain things, such as hair dye from skin.

Consuming a little bit of coconut oil every day can contribute to a long list of benefits. It acts as a stimulator for weight loss, can improve sleep, and even improve symptoms of depression and anxiety.

The list of benefits is extensive and seems to make coconut oil look like the be-all-end-all of superfoods.

Despite the praise coconut oil has received, the American Heart Association and other nutritionists emerged lambasting this ingredient, namely because of its high saturated fat content.

The AHA took a staunch stance opposing coconut oil, saying it should never have been called a health food in the first place.

Several other nutritionists and scientists who took an interest in the debate over this ingredient also agreed with the organization to varying degrees.

Some believe that the public’s opinion about coconut oil is slightly misguided, led by influencers and food bloggers who were excited to share their thoughts the food.

While it is true that coconut oil is high in fat, it should be used in the same moderation like any other fat and oil in the kitchen.

The harmful effects that some food experts warn about include higher levels of heart disease and more plaque in arteries that coconut oil can bring.

However, if consumed in large quantities in addition to a sedentary lifestyle, coconut oil will be no better than butter.

Likewise, if coconut oil remains part of a high-carb, high-sugar diet, contributes to higher cholesterol levels.

On the other hand, people who include it as a part of their daily food intake in small quantities saw a number of the benefits coconut oil is known for.

That is because in combination with a balanced and healthy diet, the healthy saturated fats in coconut oil function better within the body.

So, why would the AHA release a warning about coconut oil, despite numerous studies showing otherwise?

One reason could be the financial ties that many AHA members have with corporations that sell canola oil, vegetable oil, and other products that are less healthy than coconut oil.

Many AHA members receive checks from companies like Kellogg’s, Pepsico, General Mills, to name a few.

It is important to understand the reasons behind the AHA’s declaration of coconut oil as a sham while promoting the supposed health benefits of canola oil as a way to shed belly fat.

Researchers from Framingham Heart Study, one of the most influential investigations of heart disease, could not find a correlation between coconut oil and increased cholesterol levels.

Despite the warnings from the AHA, doctors, scientists, and health enthusiasts alike continue to promote the benefits of coconut oil. It doesn’t seem like people will stop buying this superfood any time soon.

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