Baking and cooking are NOT the same – where you can improvise in general cooking more, when baking, your measurements of ingredients must be far more precise, or you may be heading for a culinary disaster. Here some basic guides, techniques and tools to get you started and get you in touch with your inner cake, cookie, pie and pastry chef.
I recommend reading them all the way through before beginning, not only to make sure you have all the ingredients, but to make sure you understand the instructions and the conversions for ingredient amounts.
Dry Ingredient Measurements:
1/16 teaspoon = dash
1/8 teaspoon = a pinch
3 teaspoons = 1 Tablespoon
1/8 cup = 2 tablespoons (or 1 standard coffee scoop)
1/4 cup = 4 Tablespoons
1/3 cup = 5 Tablespoons plus 1 teaspoon
1/2 cup = 8 Tablespoons
3/4 cup = 12 Tablespoons
1 cup = 16 Tablespoons
1 Pound = 16 ounces
US liquid volume measurements:
8 Fluid ounces = 1 Cup
1 Pint = 2 Cups (or 16 fluid ounces)
1 Quart = 2 Pints (or 4 cups)
1 Gallon = 4 Quarts (or 16 cups)
1 cup liquid – use liquid measuring cup and get down to eye level with make sure you’re at the correct measuring mark
1 cup dry ingredients – use dry measuring cups filled to overflowing, then leveled off with a knife or spatula
Common Baking Terms
PACKED (as in brown sugar) – be sure to pack the ingredient into the measuring cup for correct portions
SOFTENED (as in butter) – let stand at room temperature for about an hour
CUT IN – working solid shortening into dry ingredients with two knives or a pastry blender until well mixed
CREAM – to rub or work soft shortening, sometimes with sugar, against the sides of a bowl until creamy or fluffy
GANACHE – a combination of chocolate and cream, melted together slowly. When used warm, ganache is poured over cakes or cookies to form a smooth glossy coating. If chilled, it can be formed into chocolate truffles.
KNEAD – for bread dough, pick up the far edge of the dough and fold over the bottom edge. Press down with the heels of your hands, pushing the dough away from you. Turn the dough one quarter turn and repeat the process.
SCALD – heating a liquid, usually a dairy product, in a saucepan until it almost boils. Used in custards, puddings and sauces.
Testing if it’s Done
Cakes: Insert a toothpick in the center of the cake. If it comes out clean, the cake is done. If it comes out with uncooked batter or a lot of damp crumbs on the toothpick, return the cake to the oven and continue baking.
Pies: The crust should be golden brown and the filling warm and bubbly
Cookies: Should be golden brown
Breads: Will pull away from the side of the pan and sound hollow when you tap them.