Let’s talk baking strips.

I am still on holidays but even when I am out doing errands with my family, I still find something of baking interest. Baking strips. These strips are a must have if you are baking a cake and you want to have the cake bake evenly. The desired result is a flatter top to your cake. Without the strips the cake often has a dome which you need to trim when preparing to frost the cake. These strips work particularily well with round cake pans. Now that I think of it I have not tried them on a square or rectangular pan.

To use the strips, run each strip under the tap to lightly soak them. Then I place the strip, beginning at one end, between my index finger and thumb, by pulling the strip through my fingers I can squeeze out the excess water. Then you wrap the strip around the pan keeping the light colored fabric against the outside wall of the pan. Using the pin that comes with the strip, secure the overlapping end to the strip. That is it. When the cake is out of the oven and the strips have cooled, I roll each one up and secure it with the pin. Ready for next time. I have had my baking strips for more than 10 years and they are still as good as new. When I bought mine there were only 2 per package but the package I saw today had 4 strips for $20. Using this technique you should enjoy a more evenly flat top to your cake.

Baking trends for 2013

The current issue of Bon Appetit January 2013 is focused on The Top 25 Food Trends of the New Year but there is an article “How to Cook Right Now”. The leading trend relating to baking and desserts continues to be salted sweets. This specific article includes a description of what salts should be used when baking. According to the article, kosher salt dissolves quickly in cookie doughs, pastry dough and caramels. Flaky sea salt such as Maldon, is best for finishing touches. Coarse sea salt is crunchy and described as being more assertive. The other bit of useful information in this issue was in the Prep School section which highlights “A New School Caramel”. Alison Roman, Assistant Food Editor of the magazine, suggests “there’s an easier way: adding cream of tartar to the sugar. Its acidity prevents crystals from forming for a smooth, anxiety-free caramel, every time.” I have not tried this procedure yet but the idea of not having to continually brush the sides of the pan with a wet pastry brush is appealing. I wanted to include a link to the article but I was unable to find a link to the complete text. I guess you will have to buy your own issue or check it out at the local library. The recipe with the caramel is on Epicurious – Almond Bread Pudding with Salted Caramel Sauce. When I make it, I will be sure to let you know how it turns out.

Starting the new year with a classic. Chocolate chip cookies.

Happy New Year! I started the day by strolling the baking aisle of an unfamiliar grocery store, AJ’s Fine Foods. I knew I was in the right place when I found a section of neon colored maraschino cherries. As much as I love to eat healthy clean food, I still love maraschino cherries. There were so many other great baking items plus some unusual things – condensed mincemeat. What is that?

I did buy chocolate chips that my oldest daughter used for chocolate chip cookies from Baked, by Matt Lewis and Renato Poliafito. Loved how the cookies were thicker than most versions.