When you spend a lot of time baking and cooking, you pick up some tricks of the trade. Some of them seem pretty obvious once you hear them, while others aren't nearly as intuitive. I've learned a lot of things just from experience, but I also have some really great personal resources. My grandma is the source for the really basic things you have to learn. My mom, the more updated versions of recipes and where things live in the grocery store, and my Uncle Frank is the guru of everything else. I stumbled on a graphic the other day that dealt with the good and bad of cooking and it made me think about the things that I've learned. Here it goes:
1. When separating eggs, there are two things to remember. The first is that a cold egg will separate easier. The yolk is less likely to break when it's cold. The second is that you should always crack your egg, regardless of if you're separating it or not, into a separate cup or bowl. If your recipe calls for more than one egg, do this for each individual egg. Not only can you easily pick out bits of shell if they get in there, but you can also tell if some yolk is in there when separating. In meringues, the tiniest speck of yolk will not let your meringue get fluffy and beautiful. This message comes from my grandma.
2. Dry herbs should be rubbed awake. Put them into your hand and then rub them with the other palm or with your fingers. This will break them up and release the flavors. It also helps to tell them to wake up. "Wake up herbs! It's time to flavor my food!" is one of my favorites. Learned from Uncle Frank.
3. Speaking of flavors, adding cinnamon to your banana bread will help wake up the other flavors. Ask my grandpa about this. He says it with a little grin and then looks at my grandma because he's antagonizing her.
4. If a recipe calls for room temperature butter and you have forgotten to take it out of the fridge, you can save that recipe! You're going to need a microwave. Unwrap your butter and put it in your bowl. Nuke it for 10 seconds. Now rotate your stick of butter. Nuke for 10 more seconds. Rotate butter. 10 seconds. Do this until your butter is the correct softness. Be careful though, if your butter is too soft, it won't cream correctly with the sugar and your cookies will get flatten out and won't get all soft and lovely.
5. Keep the brown sugar in the freezer. Brown sugar is brown because it contains molasses. If you don't keep it in an airtight container, it will get hard and dry. That's not something you want to bake with. I use brown sugar every day in my oatmeal so the light brown sugar stays in a sealed container on the counter. The dark brown sugar lives in the freezer because I don't use it nearly as much. Just pull it out maybe half an hour before you need it to let it thaw and you'll have your sugar all set.
6. Read the ENTIRE recipe, twice, from beginning to end. Read it all. Read the ingredients. Read the directions. Read the directions again. You might miss something. I did that today. I was all ready to make orange sesame chicken today, until I realized that I needed a deep fryer. I'm already leery about frying things because I've been burned with oil and seen some bad oil burns. I had to scrap the recipe. :( Now I have an orange to find something to do with.
That's it for this week. Time to figure out what's for dinner this week. I'm staying away from baking for a little while I think. I'm still recovering from the Valentine's Day sugar rush two weeks ago. Though chocolate is always awesome.