Cookbook explains the `technical stuff'


Tome demystifies baking for novices

August 28, 2002|By Jill L. Kubatko | Jill L. Kubatko,SUN STAFF

Baking for Dummies (Hungry Minds, 2002, $19.99), part of the "For Dummies" series for beginners, demystifies the technical aspects of baking and attempts to bring old-fashioned techniques to nonbakers in the 21st century.

Reading this book takes time and commitment. Author Emily Nolan, baking expert and pastry chef, reminds readers to prepare, prepare, prepare before lifting a spatula to bake cakes, cookies, muffins, breads or other desserts.

She begins by explaining all ingredients needed to stock the baking pantry and moves on to describe essential baking equipment, basic baking terms and how to store baked goods and to give information on leaveners and fat.

To break up the voluminous information, each chapter begins with a humorous cartoon of culinary disasters. Oh, and the 334-page book offers 100 recipes, each with calories, fat content, cholesterol, carbohydrate and protein per serving.

Nolan does a nice job of highlighting timesavers, reminders, tips and "technical stuff" through graphics next to the pertinent text of the recipe. The timesaver is shown as a clock, and a tip is depicted as a bull's-eye.

For example, in the cake recipe listed below, the author offers this tip: "If you find your cakes continually come out with domed centers, decrease the flour in your cake recipe by 1/4 cup and spread the batter from the center to the sides of the pan. Domed centers are caused by thick batters cooking the edges first, allowing the centers to continue to rise higher than the sides."

After sifting through the cake recipes, I chose the Light and Fluffy Yellow Cake. It turned out nicely textured and buttery, but one must watch the oven so as not to over-bake.

Basic Vanilla Buttercream Frosting

This all-purpose buttercream frosting is smooth and sweet. It goes well with just about any cake you make. You can add many different flavors, including almond or lemon extract, or use sour cream instead of heavy cream.

Preparation time: 10 minutes

Makes 3 cups

3/4 cup (1 1/2 sticks) butter, softened

5 to 6 cups confectioners' sugar

6 to 7 tablespoons heavy cream or milk as needed

2 teaspoons vanilla extract

pinch of salt

Cream the butter in a mixing bowl. Slowly beat in 2 cups of the sugar until smooth and creamy. Alternate adding the remaining sugar and the cream in batches, and beat until smooth and creamy, about 2 minutes.

Add the vanilla and salt and beat until smooth. Refrigerate the frosting if you're not using it immediately.

Vary it: Beat in 4 to 6 ounces melted semisweet chocolate with the vanilla and salt if you want a chocolate buttercream frosting.

Per serving: (1 tablespoon): 50 calories (26 from fat); 3 grams fat (2 grams saturated); 8 milligrams cholesterol; 1 milligram sodium; 6 grams carbohydrate (0 grams dietary fiber); 0 grams protein

Light and Fluffy Yellow Cake

Preparation time: 20 minutes; baking time: 25 to 35 minutes

Makes 16 servings

2 1/2 cups cake flour

1 teaspoon baking soda

1 teaspoon baking powder

1/2 teaspoon salt

1 teaspoon ground ginger

1 cup (2 sticks) butter or margarine

1 1/4 cups sugar

3 eggs

2 teaspoons vanilla extract

3/4 cup sour cream, plain yogurt or buttermilk

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Grease two 8- or 9-inch cake pans.

In a medium bowl, combine the flour, baking soda, baking powder, salt and ginger. In a separate mixing bowl, cream together the butter and sugar using an electric mixer.

Add the eggs and vanilla. Scrape down the sides of the bowl occasionally.

Alternate adding the flour mixture and the sour cream to the butter mixture, beginning and ending with the flour. Stir just enough to combine, but don't over-mix. Divide the batter evenly between the pans.

Bake until golden-brown around the edges and the center springs back when you touch it, 30 to 35 minutes for the 8-inch pans, 25 to 30 minutes for the 9-inch pans. Cool for 10 minutes before removing the cakes from the pans. Cool completely before frosting.

Trim both the tops, if necessary, with a serrated knife to even out the layers.

Per serving: 263 calories (134 from fat); 15 grams fat (9 grams saturated); 76 milligrams cholesterol; 195 milligrams sodium; 30 grams carbohydrate (0 grams dietary fiber); 3 grams protein

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