Ricotta Cheese

Ricotta Cheese– Is a cheese that is made from cooking whole milk with vinegar, which causes the milk to curdle, separating the curds and whey. I prefer to use ricotta cheese brands that are more dry to avoid excess water to my recipe. If your ricotta cheese brand seems to be watery, it is wise to strain it before adding to any recipes. You can do this by letting it sit in a fine mesh strainer over another bowl for several hours.
Ricotta literally mean “re cooked”.
Ricotta curds are creamy white in appearance, slightly sweet in taste and have a texture that resembles cottage cheese.

1/4 c = 62g

To Make Your Own Ricotta Cheese:
Yield about 2 Cups (496g)
6cups whole milk (48 fl oz)
1 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt (9g)
3 tablespoons white wine vinegar

Mix Method:
Pour the milk and salt into a large pot.
Bring to a full boil over medium heat, stirring occasionally.
Turn off the heat and stir in the vinegar. Allow the mixture to stand for 1 minute until it curdles. It will separate the curds from the whey.
Pour the mixture into the cheesecloth-lined sieve that it set over a parge bowl to collect the drainage.
Let it to drain into the bowl at room temperature for about 30 minutes.
The longer you let it drain, the thicker the ricotta will be.
Discard the cheesecloth and any remaining whey liquid.
Use immediately or transfer to a clean container and cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate.
The ricotta will keep refrigerated for 4 to 5 days.

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Blueberries

Blueberries– We mostly think of Blueberry Muffins when we say Blueberries. But there are plenty of other applications for blueberries in baking. I will say this though, blueberry flavor is probably the hardest flavor to achieve when using it to enhance a cake batter or a buttercream; as it has such a neutral flavor that is hard to identify when it is not in its whole, natural form. Sure we can add colorings to give the consumer the mental affirmation that what they are eating is indeed Blueberry! But I find it is more mental suggestion than a true flavor of blueberry.

So when I use blueberries in baking I will always keep them in their natural state, which is whole. (And of course dried)

Add them to cobblers, fresh fruit tarts, scones, muffins, decorate the top of a summer cake or even blue velvet to really make a statement, but I find that fresh whole blueberries just can’t be beat.
Now you have heard me say to use FROZEN Blueberries when making muffins, scones etc. I do feel that this is the best way to keep your berry from bursting in the batter as we work the recipe, because blueberries are considerably delicate. It is not necessary to freeze them, it will not make a taste difference in your final product it is simply for aesthetics. But if you like “Smurf”Berry muffins, then go ahead and use fresh berries. You will have lovely BLUE colored muffins and scones by the time you are done working it!

Another note on Frozen Blueberries vs Fresh- You can stock up on blueberries during the height of the season. Freeze them in a single layer on a baking pan and once frozen store them for months in a ziploc bag. Great way to save money! Blueberries in the winter can get expensive!
Fresh or Frozen Blueberries- 1 cup = 112g
1 U.S. Dry Pint= approximatley 2cups of berries

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Gretchen’s Baking Ingredients

ingrdients 2015

Agar

Agar is a vegetarian subsitutute for gelatin. The name is derived from Red Algae.
It is white and semi-translucent made from cooked and pressed seaweed, is available flaked, powdered, or in bars. For best results, grind the agar-agar in a coffee grinder or food processor and then cook it.
It must be broken into pieces and softened by soaking in cold water for about 10-15 minutes.
Heat over low flame to melt completely. Never heat on a high or even medium flame.
Stir continuously or the flakes will set in the bottom.
Do not over cook the agar agar mixture as it tends to set while cooking.
The agar mixture has to be added to another hot mixture immediately. Both the mixtures have to be HOT for the agar agar to set properly.

Substitute powdered agar for gelatin using equal amounts.
1 Tbsp. of agar-agar flakes is equal to 1 tsp. of agar powder.
Set 2 cups of liquid using 2 tsp. of agar-agar powder, 2 Tbsp. of agar-agar flakes, or one bar.
*Highly acidic ingredients, such as lemons, strawberries, oranges, and other citrus fruits, may require more agar-agar than the recipe calls for. Also, enzymes in fresh mangoes, papaya, and pineapple break down the gelling ability of the agar-agar so that it will not set. Cooking these fruits before adding them to a recipe, however, neutralizes the enzymes so that the agar-agar can set.

Almond Paste

Is a confection that resembles a very dense but pliable dough, almost like play-doh. It is used mainly in baking recipes and is made from blanched roasted almonds, sugar and water or corn syrup. Some brands will vary with specific ingredients, but for the most part it contains at least those three. You may find some with added sugars and even oils, and potassium sorbate for a preservative.
Almond paste is similar to marzipan except it has less sugar and does not contain any egg whites(as the recipe for marzipan does.)

Anise

Or “Star Anise” as t is sometimes referred.  The whole pod looks like a star. I prefer to use the whole pods when steeping the flavor into a recipe, but ground anise seeds are wonderful spice additions to many recipes as they impart a licorice or anise flavor.  The seeds, whole or ground, are used in a wide variety of regional and ethnic confectioneries including black jelly beans and Italian Pizelle.

Apples

There are so many apples to choose from in baking, but I have said it before, “I tend to be of the Granny Smith variety”. Call me old fashioned, but I do prefer the good ol’ Granny in baking. They are firm and tart and hold up well in a baking situation.
There are of course other varieties that are great for baking such as Macoun, Golden Delicious, McIntosh, Mutsu, Nothern Spy, Rome Beauty and the Stayman Winesap. This list is not final, it simply includes the most readily available to me here in the USA and in my opinion, the best for baking.

Apples in baking normally require peeling and discarding the skin, and then slicing or dicing the apple meat.
Diced Apples- 1cup= 112g
Sliced Apples- 1cup= 112g

 

Arrowroot-

is a starch that is obtained from tropical plants.
It thickens at a lower temperature than flour or cornstarch and is not weakened by acidic ingredients like cornstarch can be. It has a more neutral taste, and is not affected by freezing. It does not mix well with dairy though as it can form a slimy mixture.
Overheating tends to break down arrowroot’s thickening property so I prefer to use arrowroot in pies and strudel where lower temperatures are occurring throughout the process rather than the high heat boiling of a custard recipe.

Two teaspoons of arrowroot can be substituted for one tablespoon of cornstarch.

Baking Powder & Baking Soda

Both baking powder and baking soda are chemical leavening agents that cause batters to rise when baked. Always add your leavening ingredients to the other dry ingredients such as flour and spices that are in your recipe and be sure to sift all of those ingredients together before adding to the recipe.
Baking powder consists of baking soda, one or more acid salts (cream of tartar and sodium aluminum sulfate) plus cornstarch to absorb any moisture so a reaction does not take place until a liquid is added to the batter. Most baking powder used today is double-acting which means it reacts to liquid and heat and happens in two stages. The first reaction takes place when you add the baking powder to the batter and it is moistened. One of the acid salts reacts with the baking soda and produces carbon dioxide gas. The second reaction takes place when the batter is placed in the oven. The gas cells expand causing the batter to rise. Because of the two stages, baking of the batter can be delayed for about 15-20 minutes without it losing its leavening power.
Baking soda, also known as sodium bicarbonate is about four times as strong as baking powder. Baking soda starts to react and release carbon dioxide gas as soon as it is added to the batter and moistened, so you will not want to mix your batter and let it sit on the counter. Bake it immediately.
Substitution for 1 teaspoon baking powder: 1/4 teaspoon (1.25 grams) baking soda, 1/2 teaspoon cream of tartar plus 1/4 teaspoon of cornstarch.
How Do I Substitute Between Baking Powder and Baking Soda? You will use 2-3 times more baking powder than baking soda. The extra ingredients in the baking powder will have an effect on the taste of whatever you are making, but this isn’t necessarily bad. Eliminate the salt in the recipe if you are subbing in baking powder for soda.
So, if the recipe called for 1 tsp baking soda, you would use 3 tsp baking powder.
Baking Soda & Powder- 1 teaspoon= 5g

Blueberries

We mostly think of Blueberry Muffins when we say Blueberries. But there are plenty of other applications for blueberries in baking. I will say this though, blueberry flavor is probably the hardest flavor to acheive when using it to enhance a cake batter or a buttercream; as it has such a neutral flavor that is hard to identify when it is not in its whole, natural form. Sure we can add colorings to give the consumer the mental affirmation that what they are eating is indeed Blueberry! But I find it is more mental suggestion than a true flavor of blueberry.
So when I use blueberries in baking I will always keep them in their natural state, which is whole. (And of course dried)
Add them to cobblers, fresh fruit tarts, scones, muffins, decorate the top of a summer cake or even blue velvet to really make a statement, but I find that fresh whole blueberries just can’t be beat.
Now you have heard me say to use FROZEN Blueberries when making muffins, scones etc. I do feel that this is the best way to keep your berry from bursting in the batter as we work the recipe, because blueberries are considerably delicate. It is not necessary to freeze them, it will not make a taste difference in your final product it is simply for aesthetics. But if you like “Smurf”Berry muffins, then go ahead and use fresh berries. You will have lovely BLUE colored muffins and scones by the time you are done working it!
Another note on Frozen Blueberries vs Fresh- You can stock up on blueberries during the height of the season. Freeze them in a single layer on a baking pan and once frozen store them for months in a ziploc bag. Great way to save money! Blueberries in the winter can get expensive!
Fresh or Frozen Blueberries- 1 cup = 112g
1 U.S. Dry Pint= approximatley 2cups of berries

Butter

I have dedicated an entire blog post just for butter called Butter 101.
Butter comes in salted and unsalted. We always use UNsalted in baking,  also known as Sweet Cream Butter.
Unsalted butter has a shelf life of about 12 weeks refrigerated.
Salted butter will stay for about 5 months! because the salt acts as a preservative. However, salt can adversely affect the naturally sweet flavor of the butter, not a really great characteristic in baking! The amount of salt added to salted butter can vary from manufacturer to manufacturer and it is hard to know how much extra salt to add to your recipe. This is why we always stress UNSALTED butter in baking.
Butter- 1 cup (2 sticks)= 226g
1 Tablespoon = 14g

Buttermilk

Originally, buttermilk was the liquid left behind during the process of churning butter out of cream.
The term buttermilk also refers to a range of fermented milk drinks. This fermented dairy product known as cultured buttermilk is produced from cow’s milk and has a characteristically sour taste caused by lactic acid bacteria. Commercially available cultured buttermilk is milk that has been pasteurized and homogenized and then inoculated with a culture of Streptococcus lactis plus Leuconostoc citrovorum to simulate the naturally occurring bacteria in the old-fashioned product. The tartness of buttermilk is due to acid in the milk.

To make a close resemblance of buttermilk for use in a baking recipe, simply add 1 tablespoon lemon juice or vinegar (white or cider) plus enough milk to make 1 cup. (let stand 5-10 minutes)
Or substitute 1 cup plain or low fat yogurt or sour cream as a straight up substitute in the recipe.
If you buy powdered buttermilk found in most supermarkets, you will add 1 cup water to 1/4 cup buttermilk powder.
And lastly if you happen to have Cream of Tartar you can add 1 3/4 teaspoons to 1 cup milk.

1 Cup Buttermilk = 8fl oz

Chocolate

I have dedicated an entire blog post just for chocolate. Check out Chocolate 101.
The simplest way I can explain about chocolate in recipes is to keep your Chocolate Chips for your cookies, and use your BAKING chocolate for melting and using in recipes such as Mousses, Chocolate Cakes, Brownies. Then use your Merckens Coins or Wilton Candy Coatings for just that- CANDY COATINGS. Of course if you are skilled chocolatier and you know how to TEMPER – by all means go for that wonderful Couverture and you will have the admiration of many-myself included!!

Chocolate Chips- 1 cup= 175g
Baking Chocolate is typically sold in bar form and the measure is in ounces. Check the packaging! I promise you it is written in ounces!
6oz = 170g

Cornmeal

is ground dried corn. It can be ground to fine, medium and coarse consistencies but never as powdery fine as wheat flour. Cornmeal has an almost gritty mouth feel. It does not contain gluten so whenever we are baking with cornmeal and a bread or cake like structure is desired, an addition of wheat flour is always necessary.
In the USA fine ground cornmeal is referred to as Corn Flour, however in the UK this same word (corn flour) is Cornstarch. Do not confuse the two, since they are both very different ingredients.
Cornmeal in the UK is called Polenta.
I have seen some brands of cornmeal labeled as Polenta here in the USA and this is also fine to use since it is indeed Cornmeal.                                                      Cornmeal – 1 cup = 147g

Corn Syrup

Is a liquid sugar that is made from the starch of corn. Corn syrup is an alternative sweetener and in the United States, high cane sugar prices determined the switch to domestically produced corn syrup and high-fructose corn syrup as a less expensive alternative often used in American-made processed and mass-produced foods, candies, soft drinks and fruit drinks to help control cost.
As for the baking application, I do not use corn syrup in very many recipes except when wanting to add a sweetener that will not crystalize, as corn syrup acts as interfering agent, which ‘interfere’ with that process. Honey, agave, and the like, don’t have the same properties.
I have added it to my Ganache recipe to add a shine and a smoothness, but not for the purpose of interfereing with crystallization so you can in fact sub in honey or agave there. Whereas in a Pecan Pie you will want to stick to Corn Syrup. Same goes for candy making. Always stick to the recipe when it calles for corn syrup.
High-fructose corn syrup goes through an additional process to make it sweeter than standard corn syrup.
Corn Syrup- 1 cup (240 ml)(8Fl oz)

Cranberries

Cranberries make their debut in late October through December and then virtually disappear. Like the blueberry, I like to stock up during their peak season and then store them in the freezer so I can enjoy them year round.
Cranberries freeze especially well, they hold their shape nicely and are basically unaffected by the deep freeze.
Unlike the blueberry though, as I explained above, it is not necessary to freeze for any other purpose except to ensure its availablilty year round.
Your cranberries do not burst upon handling nor will they discolor your recipes of scones or muffins simply from mixing them in.
You can interchange fresh and frozen in a recipe though just the same.
1-12 ounce (340 grams) bag = 3 cups whole
Cranberry- 1 cup= 112g

Cream Of Tartar

is a bi product of winemaking. It is the sediment that is left behind after the fermentation process occurs in the wine caskets. This sediment is then scraped, purified and then ground into what we know as Cream Of Tartar, or tartaric acid. Cream of tartar is used as a component in commercial Baking Powders. Typically 2 parts cream of tartar to 1 part baking soda.
Because cream of tartar is an acid, it is used in many baking and confectionery applications. Most commonly in meringues where it acts as a stabilizer for the egg proteins to ensure better volume and prevent over whipping.
1 teaspoon = 4g

Eggs

Egg sizes ranges from jumbo, extra large, large, medium, and small.
In baking I always use Large Eggs, but for a more consistent end result you are wise to weigh your eggs in a recipe.
In baking it is best to use eggs that are at room temperature. To do this quickly you can simply submerge your eggs (IN THE SHELL) in very warm-hot water for about 20 minutes.
When deciding to use a white shelled egg or a brown shelled egg, there is no difference in the egg yolk and white inside. The color of the shell is determined by the breed of the hen.
Eggs must be refrigerated and will be good for up to one month.
A quick test to see if your egg has spoiled, place it (in the shell) in some salted water- if it floats, it’s gone bad.
To store unused egg whites, I find the best way is to keep each one in an ice cube tray. Once frozen you can store each “cube” in a ziploc bag for up to 2 months
Egg yolks are not that easy. The gelation property of egg yolk causes it to thicken or gel when frozen, so you need to give yolks special treatment. If you freeze them as they are, egg yolks will eventually become so gelatinous that they will be almost impossible to use in a recipe. To help retard this gelation, beat in 2 teaspoons sugar or corn syrup per 1/4 cup of egg yolks (about 4 yolks). Then freeze in a container labeled with how many yolks are inside.
1 Large Egg- 50g
1 Egg Yolk- 18g
1 Egg White- 30g

Evaporated Milk- 

Exactly as the name implies, evaporated milk is cooked until both the fat milk solids are twice the original level. Meaning: Milk contains both fat and non fat milk solids. Those levels are doubled due to the evaporating of the liquids.
So this product takes up half the space of fresh milk. This makes evaporated milk attractive for shipping purposes as it can have a shelf life of months or even years. This made evaporated milk very popular before refrigeration as a safe and reliable substitute for perishable fresh milk.
It is most often used today in desserts due to its unique flavor which is that of a slight caramel.
You can use evaporated milk in place of any liquid cream or milk component in a recipe, for example cheesecake would be a wonderful substitution to use evaporated milk rather than heavy cream in recipes.

Flour-

I am talking specifically about wheat flour. Now of course there are many other types of flours such as nut flours and flours ground from seeds. Some types of flours available are: barley, buckwheat, chickpea, corn, oats, potato, rice, rye, and soy. But here in my recipes I use only a few of the main wheat flours: All Purpose, Cake Flour, Bread Flour, Pastry Flour and at times, Whole Wheat Flour.

All-purpose flour has a 10-12% protein content and is made from a blend of hard and soft wheat flours. They can be bleached or unbleached. And whether it is bleached or not it is interchangeable in your recipe. You will notice I use AP flour a lot in cake recipes that I find need more strength and structure. Good for making cakes, cookies, breads, and pastries.
Cake flour generally has 7% – 8.5% protein. It is beached so therefore weakens the proteins and results in a more delicate flour, in turn offering more delicate products like chiffon and angel food cakes.
Pastry flour contains 8.5% – 9.5% protein. It is used in delicate cakes and pastries, pie crusts, cookies and muffins. Absorbs less liquid in recipes. It is from soft red winter or soft white winter wheat for use in biscuits, pancakes, pie crusts, cookies, muffins and brownies.
Bread flour has a 12-14% protein content and is made from hard wheat flour. The high gluten gives it shape and structure. Good for making breads and some pastries.
Self-Rising flour has 8-9% protein and contains flour plus baking powder and salt. I do not use this type of flour. If you choose to use this flour in place of the flour I recommend in my recipes, you can omit the baking powder and the salt from the recipe, but also understand that you still may get slightly different results than if you use the EXACT ingredients and quantity I suggest in my recipe.
Note: If you do choose to use self rise flour you run the risk of it being stored too long both in the market and in your own pantry, causing the baking powder to lose its power and your baked goods will not rise.
Whole Wheat Flour– protein levels are higher for whole wheat flour than white flour, but about 3 to 4 points of that percentage is in the germ and the bran, so it doesn’t add to the dough strength. Whole wheat flour is brown in color, and is derived from the complete wheat kernel (the bran and germ). When used in bread baking, it gives a nutty flavor and a denser texture when compared to all-purpose flour. Bread does not rise as high in whole-wheat breads, which is why a mixture of both whole-wheat and white flour is often used when baking.

1 cup AP flour= 130g
1 cup Bread Flour= 160g
1 cup Pastry and Cake Flour = 130g
1 cup Whole Wheat Flour= 150g

Gelatin

is a translucent, colorless, brittle (when dry), flavorless substance, derived from collagen obtained from various animal by-products. It is commonly used as a gelling agent in food.
Household gelatin for cooking and dessert preparations come in the form of sheets or powdered granules.
Gelatin Powdered-Sprinkle the granules of gelatin over the surface cold water or liquid (sometimes fruit purees are used).
Use 1/4 cup water per envelope. Let stand for 5 to 10 minutes. This is called the “blooming” process. Then gelatin granules are like tiny molecular balloons that fill up with the liquid. Once all the liquid has been absorbed, you are left with a slushy mixture that will need to be heated to dissolve the gelatin to then use in your recipe.
Heat gently on the stove or in the microwave for just about 15 seconds at a time, stirring until dissolved. Do not boil.
Gelatin Sheets- Gelatin sheets are primarily used in recipes that call for a warm or hot liquid preparation such as Panna Cotta, but can be used in cold preparations also.
Soak sheets of gelatin submerged in a bowl cold water for 5 to 10 minutes. The quantity of water is not important, as you will discard the water that has not been absorbed.
Once soft, remove sheets from the cold water and wring gently to remove excess water then add to warm liquid in the recipe stirring until dissolved. If adding to a cold mixture, melt the softened sheets in a saucepan or microwave over very low heat, stirring just until melted completely. Then stir in the cold mixture gradually.

1/4 ounce envelope of plain gelatin = 2 1/2 teaspoons (10g)
1 envelope of gelatin will set 2 cups of liquid in a recipe
1 envelope=3 sheets
Certain tropical fruits, such as pineapple, kiwifruit, and ginger, have an enzyme (bromelin) that can prevent gelatin for setting. Heating the fruit completely through before using will destroy the enzyme.

Heavy Cream

Also known as Heavy Whipping Cream. Due to the fat content of 36-40%
Not to be confused with plain Whipping Cream which only has a fat content of 30%
So the best for making Whipped Cream for piping and decorations is the Heavy Cream or Heavy Whipping Cream. You can go for the Whipping Cream for folding into recipes such as Chocolate Mousse or making Ganache.
Cream – 1 cup (8fl oz) (240 ml) = 232 grams

Milk

Regular cow’s milk. In baking I always use whole milk (sometime referred to as full-fat. It’s fat content is 4-4.5%.) Other types of milk available include 3%, 2%, 1% and Skim (non-fat or 0%).

Milk Powder

Powdered milk is made by spraying it into the air in a vacuum and removing the water. There are different types available here too. Instant non-fat dry milk powder, low-fat dry milk powder (2%), dry milk powder (4% or whole milk), buttermilk powder. Powdered milk is used in some recipes when you want some of the milk properties without the added moisture.

Molasses

To make molasses, the sugar cane plant is harvested and it’s juice is extracted by crushing or mashing. The juice is boiled to concentrate it, which promotes the crystallization of the sugar. The result of this first boiling is first molasses, which has the highest sugar content because comparatively little sugar has been extracted from the source.
Second molasses is created from a second boiling and sugar extraction, and has a slight bitter tinge to its taste.
The more boiling you have, the less sweet molasses becomes until you get down to three or more boilings. By this time, the molasses known as “blackstrap” has almost no sweetness, but the highest nutritional value.
In baking we rely on molasses because it adds a lot of brown sugar flavor without making a recipe too sweet.
Molasses attracts moisture so your recipes that call for it, will tend to stay moist for longer periods of time.
Molasses can be sulphured or unsulphured. In the past sulphur was added as a preservative and to kill unwanted bacteria although it is uncommon now.
Molasses: 1 cup (liquid measure) = 9 ounces = 260 grams

Nuts-

I mainly use almonds, hazelnuts, pecans, and walnuts in my recipes.
The Peanut happens to not be a nut at all, it is a legume, so therefore I will not include it in this discussion for both reasons.
Technically, acorns, chestnuts and hazelnuts are the only “true” nuts by definition.
Almonds, cashews, macadamias, pecans, pinenuts, pistachios and walnuts are “seeds”.
In baking, whenever nuts are used in a recipe it is almost always desirable to toast them to bring out their flavors and also gives them a bit of a crunch.
Unless otherwise specified in the recipe, it is nice to roast the nuts. In a single layer on a sheet pan at a low oven temperature of about 300 degrees F for anywhere from 10-20 minutes, depending on the nut and the degree to which you want it toasted. Always cool the nuts before adding them to your recipe.
Almonds 1 cup Whole = 140g / 1 cup slivered = 120g / 1 cup sliced = 85g / 1 cup coarse chopped = 85g / 1 cup fine ground = 100g
Hazelnuts 1 Cup Whole = 140g / 1 cup coarse chopped= 80g / 1 cup fine ground = 95g
Pecans 1 cup halves = 100 grams / 1 cup coarse chopped = 110 grams / 1 cup fine ground = 75g
Walnuts 1 cup halves = 100 grams / 1 cup coarse chopped = 110 grams / 1 cup fine ground = 75g

Peaches

are classified 2 ways. You may have heard the term Yellow Cling Peaches which are most commonly found in cans or preserves. Then there is the Freestone. The names (Clingstone and Freestone) refer to how easily the flesh of the peach separates from the stone. The Clingstone is true to its namesake, the flesh clings stubbornly to the pit. Whereas the Freestone’s flesh is easily separated from the stone. Freestone peaches are the ones most often found in grocery stores during the summer in the USA. Their flesh is juicy, sweet and flavorful which makes them ideal for baking and cooking. Be sure to always use either fresh or frozen peaches for baking applications. Canned peaches are processed with heat and preservatives so not only does it change the nutritional value of the fruit, but sugar is also added which will throw off the entire balance of your recipes.
Again I am an advocate on the frozen peach which has never disappointed in taste and/or texture. The ease of use is also ideal, as you are saving time and labor from peeling and pitting yourself.

Pine Nuts-

also known as Pignoli Nuts, are actually seeds of the Pine Tree, specifically harvested from the pine cone. The pine cone seeds are protected by a hard shell, that must be removed before eating. Once the shell is removed the seed is highly perishable and can easily go rancid if not stored in proper conditions. Be wary of buying pine nuts from a store that does not move this item quickly.
Use Pine Nuts within a week of purchase, or store them in a very cool, dry place for up to 2 weeks. Or freeze them in an airtight container for up to 3 months.
depending on where the Pine Nuts were harvested, they will range in shape and size from a small kernel of corn (if from China) to a shape that is more slender and narrow like a sunflower seed, if from Europe, and the American Pine Nut is the largest.
Due to their small window of harvest time and the conditions that are necessary for a good growing yield, Pine Nuts are very expensive. It will take 18 months for the cone to come to complete maturity; and then it takes about 20 more days until the cone fully opens. Once it is fully open and dry, the seed is extracted.

 

Pumpkin

In baking recipes we will always be referring to what’s known in the USA as Solid Pumpkin Pack. This is simply the flesh of the fresh pumpkin that has been roasted, scooped out, pureed and then commercially canned.
I have a brand preference in pumpkin and that for me will always be Libby’s.
I have tried other brands and in my opinion they just haven’t made the grade. Perhaps due to the fact that it turns out that some canned pumpkin is actually squash. Some manufacturers make “pumpkin” puree from one or more kinds of winter squashes such as butternut, Hubbard, and Boston Marrow, which can be less stringy and richer in sweetness and color.
You can of course make your own Pumpkin Puree  I do find however that the homemade version is alot more liquid than its canned counterpart.
Either way you choose, you can’t go wrong with Pumpkin Desserts!

1 – 16 ounce can of pure pumpkin = 448g (2cups)

Ricotta Cheese

Is a cheese that is made from cooking whole milk with vinegar, which causes the milk to curdle, separating the curds and whey. I prefer to use ricotta cheese brands that are more dry to avoid excess water to my recipe. If your ricotta cheese brand seems to be watery, it is wise to strain it before adding to any recipes. You can do this by letting it sit in a fine mesh strainer over another bowl for several hours.
Ricotta literally mean “re cooked”.
Ricotta curds are creamy white in appearance, slightly sweet in taste and have a texture that resembles cottage cheese.

1/4 c = 62g

Rhubarb

is a vegetable that resembles celery in that it grows as stalks. It has leafy green that are not consumed, but the red stalks are prepared in jams, compotes and pies. An addition of sugar is necessary due to its distinctly tart taste.
Northern growers will harvest in early Spring, whereas Southern growers will harvest in early- late fall making Rhubarb available for us here in the USA basically all year round.
I typically buy Rhubarb when I first see it hit the market and I cut it into 1″ pieces and freeze it for later use in pies and jams.

 

Salt-

Salt is no longer just plain old salt. Not to mention since it is not produced in a factory, well it is packaged there of course, but it is not chemically developed, it is found in nature, it is difficult to “control” its consistency as far as where it came from, who manufactured it and how.
Check out this blog written the SmittenKitchen she writes Not all Salts are Created Equally
So with this being said, in my recipes I use regular old table salt, yep the Mortons Iodized in a can will be fine.
If you are of the Kosher Salt genre, (which I am faithfully at home when cooking and baking), you may have heard to double the amount of salt in a recipe when you are using Kosher. I do not do this.
I feel that salt in a pastry recipes is a background note to enhance all the other flavors which it does so well. If I feel to adjust the salt called for in a recipe going forward I would note that in my recipe book. But generally speaking I have not had any major issues when subbing in Kosher for regular table salt.
Salt- 1 teaspoon= 6g

Strawberries

I am an advocate for freezing my berries. Of course you cannot always use frozen berries for all baking applications such as Fresh Fruit Tarts and Chocolate Dipped Strawberries and garnishes. Nor can you use frozen strawberries inside cake fillings as the moisture content will break down your cakes and cause a soggy slice. Strawberries are 85-90% water content in their fresh natural form, so the freezing process tends to break them down and creates a more liquid mass.

Frozen strawberries tend to be sweeter than fresh strawberries, especially during off season months. You can buy strawberries already frozen in the supermarket, or you can freeze fresh berries yourself during their peak. Either way, in my opinion you are getting the best “tasting” strawberry because they are frozen during their peak, which when it comes to any type of produce PEAK SEASON is the KEY.
So do not be turned off from this frozen product, as I find that the ugliest strawberries (which always get turned into frozen during manufacturing as they cannot be sold in the market due to aesthetics) will be the best tasting berry!
1 U.S Dry Pint = 1 pound = approx 2 cups sliced = approx 305g (hulled berries)

Sugar-

The topic of sugar can tend to get lengthy as there are many different sugars available today from granulated in all of its forms ranging from superfine to coarse grain crystal sugars for decorating, to liquid forms of corn syrup and molasses to artificial sweeteners such as Splenda and Stevia. The list will go on and on.
But as far as we are concerned here we will talk only about
White Granulated Sugar and Brown Sugar and Confectioners’ Sugar.
See Corn Syrup and Molasses separately for more info on those kinds.

White Granulated Sugar– or table sugar has fine to medium-sized granules and is the sugar most often used in recipes. There is a science that takes place in recipes , mainly the recipes asking for the Creaming Method that require granulated sugars to get the job done. Which is why it is difficult in Creaming Method recipes to substitute any other type of sugar. This mix method forces the sugar granules, which if you look under a microscope have pointy jagged edges, to pierce the fat in the recipe in turn producing air bubbles. If you were to substitute a liquid sugar such as corn syrup or honey, or even a superfine sugar you will not acheieve the same result that you would had you used the superior granulated variety. Sugar is hydroscopic, meaning it is “water loving”. It attracts moisture in the batter which reduces the amount of gluten formed in the flour. Less gluten in the batter makes a baked good with a more tender crumb and a lighter end result. Not to mention its preserving properties.
Granulated Sugar 1 cup = 200 g / 1 teaspoon = 4 grams / 1 tablespoon = 12 grams

Light Brown & Dark Brown SugarsOriginally brown sugar was made in the process of fully refining white sugar. In the refining of white sugar there is a number of steps from the start of the harvest of the sugar cane stalks to the end result of the refined sugar that you buy in the store.
At one time brown sugar was just one step in the process of making white sugar where some of the natural molasses was still left in. Nowadays though Brown Sugar is simply fully refined white sugar that has molasses added back into it. The darker the color the stronger the molasses taste.
Equal weights of brown and white sugars have the same sweetening power. But because white sugar is denser than brown sugar we must firmly pack the brown sugar in the cup when using volume measures in order to get the same sweetness of that same amount of white sugar.
Substituting brown sugar for white sugar in a recipe will produce a baked good that is a little bit more moist with a very subtle butterscotch flavor.
I tend to use light brown sugar vs dark brown sugar more in my recipes all the way around. I am not against dark brown sugar, I have used it, I guess I just prefer to have one less ingredient hanging around that has a shorter shelf life. (Brown sugars can dry out if not stored properly)(Proper storage of brown sugar is in an air tight glass jar or plastic bag.)
If I wanted to hike up the molasses flavor in my recipe, I usually just do so with molasses.
Light Brown Sugar (packed):1 cup = 215 g
Dark Brown Sugar (packed):1 cup = 230 g

Confectioners’ Sugar– Also known as Icing Sugar Or Powdered Sugar. You may have heard me refer to confectioners sugar as 10X sugar. I do this because in my shorthand way of speaking and writing recipes, it truly is 10X sugar! Meaning it has been processed (or sifted down) 10 times!
It also has cornstarch added to it to prevent clumping.
Confectioners Sugar– 1 cup = 115 g / 1 pound box = approx 4 cups

Sweetened Condensed Milk

Is simply cow’s milk and sugar which when heated, approximately 60% of the “water” has been removed, creating a sticky, sweet mixture. Due to the viscosity of this canned milk product it is very often used in desserts that do not rely heavily on another thickener to bind the recipe. It also imparts a slight caramel taste to it as a result of the cooking and canning process.

Storage- Unopened, a can will keep for 6 months. Once opened, 5 days in the refrigerator in an airtight container.

To Make Your Own Recipe for Condensed Milk:
3/4 cup powdered milk 3/4 cup sugar 1/2 cup hot water Blend until smooth. This recipe equals one can of store bought condensed milk.
1 Can= 14oz by weight (397g)

Vanilla Beans

Bourbon, Tahitian and Mexican. The three top origins of Vanilla Beans.
Bourbon: Does not mean it has Whiskey in it. It refers to the I’le de Bourbon, now known as Réunion. Most Bourbon vanilla is now grown on the island of Madagascar, the largest vanilla-producing region on the world. Bourbon vanilla is the strongest and most full-flavored of all the vanillas.
TahitiTahitian vanilla has a more delicate flavor, are the thickest of the three and almost black in color. They are very aromatic, with floral accents. The most expensive variety but not necessarily the best for baking, as they have a subtle impact and quite honestly are used more in the cosmetics industry to make all things vanilla scented.
Mexico Real Mexican vanilla can be considered the best in the world. The Mexican vanilla bean is a thicker and darker bean that has a smooth, strong, rich fragrance and flavor
Purchasing & Storing Vanilla Beans: Never buy hard, dry and shriveled beans because they are past their prime. Beans should be plump and somewhat moist. Wrap your vanilla beans in either wax paper or plastic wrap and store in an airtight glass or Tupperware container. Be sure to squeeze out as much air as possible from the container to prevent the vanilla beans from drying out. You should never store your vanilla beans in the refrigerator. Refrigeration will dry out your beans and excess moisture can promote a particular type of mold specific to vanilla. In a cool dry place they will stay fresh for about 8-12 months.

Vanilla Extract

If you have ever taken the time, to research and read about the way Vanilla Beans are obtained, you will surely appreciate why it is regarded as such a magical ingredient from natures harvest and also why it is so expensive!
Today about 70 – 80% of the world’s vanilla comes from the islands of Madagascar.
Mexican vanilla beans are a thicker and darker bean that has a smooth, strong, rich fragrance and flavor. Some say they are the best.
Tahitian vanilla beans are the thickest of the three and almost black in color. They are very aromatic, with floral accents.
Vanilla Extract is produced by steeping the vanilla beans in an alcohol and water solution for several months, sometimes with sugar added. The FDA requires that pure vanilla extract contain 13.35 ounces of vanilla beans per gallon of liquid and contain 35% alcohol.
The imitation vanilla extracts are made with synthetic vanilla.
To make your own vanilla extract, place 1 whole vanilla bean, cut in half lengthwise, into 3/4 cup (180 ml) of vodka in a mason jar and let steep for 6 months in a cool dark place before using.
1 whole vanilla bean = 3 teaspoons of vanilla extract and vice versa

Wheat Berries-

are the entire wheat kernels that exist before processing into flour.  Whole wheat berries are used in various culinary applications, such as in salads and in breads to add texture and crunch; but the main application in the bakery though, is for the Italian Easter Wheat Pie Cooked like rice, the berry absorbs the cooking liquid and any flavors that are added.  The texture when cooked is very similar to rice.

Yeast-

In baking, yeast, is used to leavened baked goods. The difference between yeast and baking powder/soda, is that these two latter ingredients react chemically whereas yeast is a living organism and the carbon dioxide it produces while feeding on the sugars and starches in the dough is what makes the dough rise.
Yeast is available in compressed cake which is what most professional bakers use, but it does have a much shorter shelf life of just about 3 weeks after the date of manufacture, which doesnt leave much time for it to sit on the shelf at the grocery store. Fresh yeast needs to be stored in the refrigerator away from moisture, heat, and light because once yeast is exposed to air it deteriorates rapidly.
So we are much better off as home bakers to use dry yeast.
There are two types of dry yeast: regular active dry and rapid-rise. The two types of dry yeast can be used interchangeably. The advantage of the rapid-rise is the rising time is half that of the active dry and it only needs one rising. However, you do sacrifice flavor and texture in order to save time as the yeast does not have time to develop its own flavor.
When speaking of yeast in my recipes here I will always be using Regular Active Dry.
Yeast is temperature sensitive:
– at less than 50 F (10 C) the yeast is inactive.
– at 60 F – 70 F (15 C – 21 C) the yeast action is slow.
– at 90 F – 100 F (32 C – 38 C) the yeast is at its optimum temperature for fermentation.
– at greater than 104 F (40 C) the yeast action starts to slow.
– at 138 F (58 C) the yeast is killed.

1 cake of fresh yeast(.06oz) = 1 envelope of dry yeast
1 package of dry yeast = 1 scant tablespoon
1 package of yeast or 1 cake of fresh yeast will leaven about 4 cups of flour

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Apples

Apples- There are so many apples to choose from in baking, but I have said it before, “I tend to be of the Granny Smith variety”. Call me old fashioned, but I do prefer the good ol’ Granny in baking. They are firm and tart and hold up well in a baking situation. There are of course other varieties that are great for baking such as Macoun (my second favorite- especially for eating yummm), Golden Delicious, McIntosh, Mutsu, Nothern Spy, Rome Beauty and the Stayman Winesap. This list is not final, it simply includes the most readily available and the best for baking.

Apples in baking normally require peeling and discarding the skin, and then slicing or dicing the apple meat. Diced Apples- 1cup= 112g Sliced Apples- 1cup= 112g

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Sweetened Condensed Milk

Sweetened Condensed Milk – Is simply cow’s milk and sugar which when heated, approximately 60% of the “water” has been removed, creating a sticky, sweet mixture. Due to the viscosity of this canned milk product it is very often used in desserts that do not rely heavily on another thickener to bind the recipe. It also imparts a slight caramel taste to it as a result of the cooking and canning process.

StorageUnopened, a can will keep for 6 months. Once opened, 5 days in the refrigerator in an airtight container.

To Make Your Own Recipe for Condensed Milk:
3/4 cup powdered milk 3/4 cup sugar 1/2 cup hot water Blend until smooth. This recipe equals one can of store bought condensed milk.

1 Can= 14oz by weight (397g)

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Milk

Milk – Regular cow’s milk. In baking I always use whole milk (sometime referred to as full-fat. It’s fat content is 4-4.5%.) Other types of milk available include 3%, 2%, 1% and Skim (non-fat or 0%).
Milk Powder – Powdered milk is made by spraying it into the air in a vacuum and removing the water. There are different types available here too. Instant non-fat dry milk powder, low-fat dry milk powder (2%), dry milk powder (4% or whole milk), buttermilk powder. Powdered milk is used in some recipes when you want some of the milk properties without the added moisture.

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