As a first post, it seems appropriate to go over some of the basic ingredients, components, techniques, and kitchen gadgets I work with on a regular basis. I can see linking back to this post for future reference and updating it as my blog grows. For now though, this is not a comprehensive list of dos and don’ts so much as a few caveats I’ve learned about my own baking habits over the years that readers may find helpful.
There are four common types of bakers flours: all-purpose, bread, cake, and self-rising (this is, of course, to say nothing of whole wheat, almond, and other types of flours). Each type has a specific purpose, but other than all-purpose flour, I use bread flour most often. Both in homemade bread and cookies, the high-gluten content of bread flour adds a pleasant, chewy texture.
I should also note, that I do have brand loyalty with flour: King Arthur brand flour is easily my favorite for its quality and consistency.
You will find browned butter in my cake recipes, in my frostings, in my cookies, breads, and tarts. While I don’t use browned butter in absolutely everything I bake, I do use it quite a bit. The toasty quality it lends to baked goods compliments so many other flavors so well that it’s hard not to justify using it. Here’s a quick tutorial on how to brown butter.
In a medium saucepan set over medium heat, melt 1/2 cup butter. Use a silicone spatula to stir the butter constantly. Around the 7 minute mark, you should begin to notice the milk solids darkening. Once you reach an amber color, turn off the heat and continue stirring until the butter is an even, dark brown. Transfer to another bowl immediately to halt the cooking process. Start to finish, browning butter should take about 10 minutes, plus extra time to cool.
Notes and tips:
- Keep stirring. Not vigorously, just constantly. Stirring ensures that all of the milk solids brown and that they brown evenly. Notice the dark amber in the photo.
- After it melts, it may foam a bit or bubble. Typically, the butter changes from melted, then to a milky consistency, then to a clarified state, and will then foam up a bit before it’s browned. However, all of this depends on the type/brand of butter you use.
- If you brown butter in advance, you can refrigerate it for future use. However, make sure to warm the butter to a liquid before proceeding with any recipe.
Whether kosher or sea salt is your favorite, I always make sure to keep a canister of iodized table salt on hand. In baking, salt is almost always added with dry goods, and disseminating the salt among powdery flours and leavening agents is easier when the salt is finely ground. I reserve kosher salt for meats and vegetables, and sea salts for finishing touches on dishes and desserts.
For a long time, I remember hearing about why to use unsalted butter in recipes: it allows the baker to control the salt content of their goods. At the end of the day though, I’ve never found a recipe that adjusts its salt content for salted vs unsalted butter. In fact, tasting sweets side by side, I’ve only found a few recipes where one can even tell a difference. In those cases, like buttercream frosting, I even prefer salted butter.
Without a doubt, I have put a lot of miles on my Kitchen Aid stand mixer since my parents got it for me as a graduation gift from grad school. Unless otherwise specified, I’m using a stand mixer in my recipes. If you use a handheld mixer, creaming and mixing ingredients may take a little bit longer.