Tuesday, April 7, 2015

I Have Some Strong Feelings About Food

A while ago I read a post about 100 tips and tricks for baking. It wasn't too bad. I learned something cool: if you're going to put something in the oven and will need to keep the door open for a while, preheat hotter than needed so your food goes in at the right temperature. That's awesome advice.

 But some of the advice was wrong. A lot of people get these baking things wrong and I just want to set the record straight.

 1. Humidity does not really effect what you're baking. Any moisture that batter or dough absorbs from the air is too little to make a difference in your baked goods. But ingredients like butter often have different water content depending on brand. That's waaaaay more important to pay attention to than the weather.

 2. Please, use salted butter if you like it. There is this idea that you need to use unsalted butter so you can control the salt content. But look, one stick of butter contains a quarter teaspoon of salt. Adjust if a quarter teaspoon of salt is a big deal to you. To me, it isn't. I try to use as much salt as I can get away with. Salt makes things taste good! Plus, unless you use a really high quality brand of butter, unsalted butter contains some sort of butter flavor stuff that makes it taste like margarine to me.

 3. You don't need to be really careful with how much you stir batter. Unless you really go at it, you're not going to develop enough gluten to make the batter stiff.

 4. You don't need to proof yeast unless you're unsure if it's still alive. I just dissolve it but I think other people just mix it in and it's fine.

 5. This wasn't in the list, but seriously, don't use that Cook's Illustrated vodka pie crust. Cook's Illustrated is obsessed with overly elaborate fancy tweaks that are ultimately unnecessary, and the guy who developed the recipe doesn't even like it. He developed a much better one.

 And then, in that blog post, there was one piece of advice there that was completely unforgivable: using a fork to remove pieces of broken eggshell. What?!? A fork? It's one thing to do this out of ignorance, but it's another thing to recommend it as a "tip or trick." Forks don't work unless you a) are dealing with a big piece of shell or b) get lucky. To get out a piece of eggshell, save yourself ten minutes of your time and a whole lot of stress and use another piece of eggshell.

 Okay, I feel better now. I actually have way more "tips and tricks" in my head that I would love to go off on, but really everyone should just read The Food Lab. That's the one and only tip and trick you need to improve your baking.