HumpDay Help : Ageing Egg Whites

I haven’t posted a Humpday help post in a while but I thought that it was time to repost one of my most popular ones, the one that brings all the bakers to the yard ( yes, that’s a very corny reference to Kelis’ Milkshake)… This one is macaron related… Ageing Eggs Whites.

There are a lot of macaron recipes that call for aged egg whites, including my own, and you may be like I was and ask what the heck an aged egg is.

Well, aging egg whites basically means separating your egg whites and yolks, and storing your egg whites in a loosely covered container in a cool dry place for 24 – 48 hours. Thereafter you can put it in a fridge in an airtight container.

So why do you have to do this?

The reasoning behind it is to dehydrate the egg whites as much as possible. This adds elasticity to the egg whites and helps you gets a stiffer meringue and the right consistency of batter for the perfect macarons. Just remember, that if you have had the egg whites in the fridge, you need to take them out and let them come to room temperature before using them.

Now I’m sure you’re thinking to yourself that there must be a shortcut, because really, who has 2 days to wait for your egg whites to dehydrate when the macaron craving calls.

Luckily, there is! After a bit of research I found out that if you haven’t had time to leave your egg whites out to age you can pop them into the microwave for about 10 seconds. This mimics the aging process to a degree, but you have to be careful not to put them in for too long. You want dehydrated eggs, not cooked.

I’ve used this method more times than I can count and I have to say that my macarons have actually, on many occasions, turned out better than with just traditionally aged egg whites. There are also a lot of sites that say you don’t have to age your eggs at all. In the end it’s all up to you to try it out and see what works best for you.

So that’s the low down on aging eggs.

Happy Baking!

My Favourite Vanilla Sponge Recipe

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When I was younger I was never into baking. I really can’t say that I was one of those people that you would always find in the kitchen with my mother, trying to help and picking up tips. This comes as a surprise to a lot of people, especially considering it’s the way I pay the bills these days, and that its such a huge part of my life.

I do have one very clear memory of being around 7 and deciding that I was going to bake cupcakes for my mother and surprise her when she got home from work. Needless to say, with a batch of ingredients that was limited to flour water and sugar and a whole lot of blue food colouring I ended up with not so yummy blobs of blue dough. My mother, being the amazing mother that she is, still took a bite and ooohed and aaahed at how delicious they were. (She still does that!)

These days my recipes are a bit more structured and my cakes and cupcakes taste a heck of a lot better. One of the recipes that I first used to bake cakes is a Vanilla Sponge Cake recipe.

The sponge is light and fluffy and tastes amazing even with a simple vanilla buttercream. I still use this recipe for my vanilla layer cakes and it’s a winner every time.

Vanilla Sponge Cake

480g flour (4 cups)
2tsp Baking Powder
1.5 tsp Baking Soda (Bicarb)
Pinch of Salt
225g of Unsalted Butter
400g (2 cups) Sugar
2 tsp Vanilla Essence
4 Large Eggs
2 Cups of Buttermilk

Method

Preheat the oven to 180C
Sift together the flour, baking powder, baking soda and salt and set aside.
In an electric mixer or using a hand mixer to cream together the butter and sugar until smooth, light and fluffy.
Add in the vanilla essence and mix
Add in the eggs one at a time, making sure that you scape down the bowl properly after each egg is beaten in
Add the buttermilk. Don’t be alarmed if the mixture looks curdled, it’s meant to 🙂
Add the flour in 3 batches, mixing until it’s just combined. Be careful not to overmix. The batter does not need to be perfectly smooth.

Empty the batter into 2 10″ lined cake tins and bake for 40 minutes.

The cakes are done when a skewer comes out clean or the sponge springs back when gently pressed in the centre.

Leave the cakes to cool before removing from the cake tins.

Frost as you like or enjoy like I do, with some ice cream !

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Humpday Help; Flat Top Cakes made Easy

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With all the ‘naked’ cakes around these days, I went on a mission to find out the best way to get a  flat top cake.

The big secret is that most bakers cut the tops off the cakes to make them level. I bet that’s not the answer you were expecting! I did however find a tip that I tried. While it did work, my cake was not completely flat, but I would attribute that to my own haste in trying to get it done.

Here is the post on the tip from A Cozy Kitchen . It involves a strip of towel, some water and a couple of pins.

I personally have no problem with the domes and cutting them off to level the cakes, mainly because it gives my kids something to snack on and out of my hair while I do what needs to be done.

Let me know if you try this trick out and how it goes!

Happy Baking!

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HumpDay Help: How To Get Perfect Cupcakes

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While “working” on Pinterest I came across this tip that I think is awesome and I thought would be perfect for today’s post.

So, for all the cupcake lovers, here is a simple way via Foodista, on how to get the perfect cupcakes every time.

kellyneil.com 2011

For those of us baking in the land of Degree Celcius: 350F = 180C / 325F = 160C

If those perfectly risen cupcakes are still evading you, you may want to check out my post on My Top 5 Reasons Your Cakes May Be Flopping.

Here is also a simple Cupcake Recipe that you may want to try.

Please leave me a comment and let me know if you are enjoying these HumpDay Hints and finding them useful. I would love to hear from you xxx

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HumpDay Help: Why do sweet recipes call for salt?

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I’m sure you’ve been baking some sweet treat and while looking through the recipe you were baffled by the fact that this sweet recipe was calling for salt as one of the ingredients.

Basically salt enhances all flavours both savoury and sweet. It adds dimension to your sweet baked goods rather than them just being flat and  overly sweet tasting.

If you are baking and you find yourself using salted butter, be sure to halve the amount of salt called for in the recipe of you may end up with over saltiness. The idea is that you should not be tasting the salt, that is unless you’re adding in too much of it.

If you’re still not satisfied and you’re looking for a scientific answer you can find it here.

Happy baking!

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Photo Credit : http://www.telegraph.co.uk

Hump Day Help: Almond flour vs Almond powder

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I was out shopping the last week, getting supplies for my weekly orders, and the cashier at the store that I was buying my almonds from asked me if almond flour and almond powder were the same thing. They apparently have a lot of people coming in to buy almond flour but only stock powdered almonds and had no idea if there was a difference

So here are the facts.

Almond flour, almond powder and almond meal are all the same thing. If you look on the packaging the only ingredient listed should be almonds. If there is anything else besides almonds flour listed you cannot use it in a recipe that calls for almond flour.

I go through kilograms of almonds a month, making macarons, so here are a few tips on how to store and even make your own almond flour/ powder/ meal if you’re having a problem finding it in stores.

Almond flour can be stored for up to a year in an airtight container in a cool dry place. Almonds are very oily nuts and storing them in a hot area is going to bring out the oils, which you don’t want.

If you do find that your almond flour becomes oily you can rectify the problem by running the almond flour with a tablespoon of the icing sugar or other dry ingredient that you’re baking with in the food processor.

You can freeze your almonds to keep them fresher for longer but remember to bring them to room temperature before using them.

If you want to make your own almond flour all you need are almonds and a food processor. Be sure to Blanche the almonds.
This means
1. Bring a pot of water to the boil
2. Drop in your raw almonds
3. Remove immediately and drain
4. Rinse them in cold water to cool them
5. Dry the almonds with paper towel
6. Squeeze the skin off the almonds
7. The end 🙂

Happy baking

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Humpday Help : Buttermilk Cheat

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There are many recipes that call for buttermilk as one of their ingredients. Now the average person doesn’t (I’m assuming ) have a carton of buttermilk hanging out in their fridge, and if the urge to bake strikes and you are using a recipe that needs buttermilk I’m sure that a trip to the store just for one ingredient may cause some of us to put our baking off for another day.

I’ve been in the situation many times and with some research I found that there is a cheat that you can use AND it’s so simple.

For every cup of buttermilk you need : 1 cup of milk + 1 Tbsp of vinegar                                    Let the vinegar sit in the milk for a few minutes so that it can work it’s magic and you’re good to go.

You may ask why you cant just add the milk. Well my guess is that your recipe also asks for baking soda/ bicarbonate of soda and like I explained in my post about baking powder vs baking soda , you need an acid for the baking soda to react with. The milk alone is neutral, so that alone will not work and your cake won’t rise as it should, hence you need the vinegar as well.

I’ve used this countless times and it’s worked great for me.I hope this hint helps and if you try it, please leave me a comment about how it worked for you.

xxx Viveshni

Humpday Hints: Are Baking Powder and Baking Soda/ Bicarbonate Of Soda The Same?

The short answer to this question is no.

The long answer is this.

While baking powder and baking soda look the same and both basically do the same job of helping our baked goods to rise beautifully, they do this under very different circumstances and conditions.

So, baking soda is pure bicarbonate of soda or sodium bicarbonate. Because it’s a base, it needs moisture and acid to react, so ingredients like buttermilk or yoghurt are used when baking with baking soda. They also balance the flavour of the baking soda. The baking soda reacts with the acidic ingredient and forms bubbles. These are what expand in the heat of the oven and cause your cakes and other baked goods to rise. The reaction between the baking soda and acidic ingredient happens immediately, so if your recipe calls for baking soda, you need to be using the batter straight away or whatever you’re baking is going to flop. ( sad but true)

Baking powder on the other hand does contain sodium bicarbonate but also other things as well. Namely, the acids that it needs to react with, and because the baking soda needs moisture to react, there’s also a drying agent like cornflour mixed in as well. Most baking powders are ” double acting”. This means that there will be a reaction at room temperature first and then while in the oven. The more bubbles created, the fluffier the texture of the cake or whatever it is you may be baking. Important to remember , is also that baking powder has a shelf life of 6 months, so be sure to check the expiry date on the packaging.

So the big question… Can I substitute baking powder for baking soda and vice versa if I’m too lazy to go out and buy it? Well…substituting either will affect the flavour, texture and even colour of your baked goods, but here are some cheats from About.com 🙂

xxx Viveshni