Okay, so am I the only one who is stressed about this year’s Christmas countdown? It could be because I am one handed at the moment (ridiculous accident) and it feels like I am literally taking hours to do things that would take me minutes…ughhh!
But, for those of you that are really jumping right into the holidays, you may have felt the baking bug – because that’s what makes the holidays magical…am I right??
Smells that bring back memories of childhood – like brown sugar caramelizing and cookies baking -are always a way to get us in the mood for the season.
Whether you are a cookie creator, a loaf lover or a pastry perfectionist, there are some things you need to know to make sure your baking game is on point!
Let me share some basic info that might help you perfect your treats:
Flour: Many recipes will still, believe it or not, call for all-purpose flour – most original recipes start with white flour. Although you can substitute some flours (see this post on the differences in flour types) or even try this gluten free blend, it often takes many attempts to get the ratio right, as you can’t generally substitute any flour measure for measure. Remember to always store flour in a cool dark place (and use a dry measure when measuring!!) or even in your freezer if you have the space.
Butter: As with any perishable item, make sure you’re buying butter from a reputable store. Unsalted butter is best, but since salt is a preservative, unsalted butter tends to lose freshness faster than it’s salted counterpart. During the holidays (when more people are baking), butter tends to go on sale so pick up a bunch and store it in your freezer (yes you can freeze butter). And, if you need softened butter fast, check out this post!!
Eggs: Always, always, always use fresh, room temperature eggs when baking (if they’re cold, just place them in a bowl with warm water for a few minutes) but remember that cold eggs separate easier! If you want to know the best way to get all the white separated from the yolk, check this out! And the colour of the shell doesn’t have any bearing on the inside -.even though some people will buy brown eggs from factory raised chicken and assume they are better. If possible, try to find a local farm to get the freshest eggs (just keep in mind chickens lay less eggs in the winter so it may be harder to find). When a recipe asks for eggs, it is always an egg that has been graded “large” unless otherwise noted.
Extracts: Although vanilla extract is probably the most popular extract, others include almond, maple, rum, lemon and so many others. Try to look for natural extracts that are made without artificial additives. There are also a lot of blogs that show you how to make our own (they make great gifts!)
Salt: Salt actually defines the sweetness of many baked goods and will deepen the flavour of the finished product. And, don’t think that if you use salted butter, you can take out the salt (it doesn’t work that way!). A pinch goes a long way…without it, your baking may taste one-dimensional.
Sugar: As well as providing sweetness to baked goods, sugar will also add texture and colour. Many recipes will call for granulated sugar or brown sugar (which should always be firmly packed when being measured, even if that isn’t stated) although many healthy recipes are now substituting date sugar or coconut sugar (which is much less sweet) or xylitol which is a healthier (naturally found in the fibres of fruits and veggies) substitute for regular sugar.
Leavening agents: Baking powder and baking soda should always be fresh to ensure that it leavens (replace them every 6-8 months). They are both used to create carbon dioxide in baking products to make them light and airy while they bake. Baking soda is a strong ingredient (about 3 times stronger than baking powder) and needs an acid (like buttermilk, yogurt, vinegar, lemon juice) to activate its leavening capabilities…using too much won’t give you a fluffier cupcake, it will just give you a cupcake that tastes like metal. Baking powder is actually a mixture of baking soda, cream of tartar and sometimes cornstarch. It is activated in two stages…the first when it gets wet and the second when it gets hit with a blast of heat from the oven.
Can we also talk about this gorgeous watch? It’s made of wood (yes, you heard right…wood)….wow, right??? I’ve already worn it and have gotten so many compliments on it. It’s totally the coolest watch and it’s so lightweight and incredibly unique!! Thank you JORD for my fab early Christmas gift!! And for many of you that might cross my path in the next few days, the people at JORD also sent me some gift cards that I’ll be handing out!! But, if you’re nowhere close to me, here is a $25 instant e-gift code:
This post was sponsored by JORD watches
Luxury Wooden Watch