Vanilla Extract

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

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Salt- Ah salt. Good old NaCl. Something so simple and unadulterated, found in nature so readily is going to get very tricky in
3 , 2, 1…..

Remember the old days when salt on your grocery list meant a can of Mortons Iodized Salt?
Well, now it’s not so simple.

Salt has come “en Vogue” if you will within the last 15-20 years, wow has it been that long? I’m dating myself.
At any rate, 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 devleoped, 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

Salt in a pastry recipes is a background note to enhance all the other flavors which it does so well.
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, generally speaking I have not had any major issues when subbing in Kosher for regular table salt.

Salt- 1 teaspoon= 6g

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Baking Powder & Baking Soda

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.

Baking powders are not all the same. But what they share is an acid leavening agent, an alkaline leavening agent and a filler. The filler is usually cornstarch and is added to keep it from absorbing moisture. Most baking powders are “double-acting” meaning they produce an initial reaction upon mixing with a batter, and then a second during the baking process.

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 wwant to mix your batter and let it sit on the counter. Bake it immediately.

Single-acting baking powder reacts with a water-based ingredient to form bubbles as soon as the ingredients are mixed. If you wait too long to bake or mix it too long these bubbles will escape and your cakes will fall flat.

Double-acting baking powder produces some bubbles when the ingredients are mixed, but most of the rising occurs once heat is applied.

Substitution for 1 teaspoon single acting baking powder: 1/4 teaspoon baking soda, 1/2 teaspoon cream of tartar plus 1/4 teaspoon of cornstarch.

Baking Powder will lose it’s power eventually, so to check if it is still good, add a teaspoonful to a half cup of boiling water. If it boils rapidly, the baking powder is still good.

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

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Butter– Now I have dedicated an entire post just for butter called Butter 101
Butter comes in salted and unsalted. With the unsalted also known as Sweet Cream Butter.
In baking we always use UNSALTED Butter, unless otherwise specified in the recipe.

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 adversly 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

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Chocolate- Once again 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-Including me!

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

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Corn Syrup

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, corn syrup  is used in most recipes to prevent crystalization, as corn syrup acts as interfering agent.

Honey, agave, and the like, don’t have the same properties.

Glucose is a great (actually BETTER) substitute to use than 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)

Glucose: Contains 15-19% water and is an invert sugar…it is manufactured in syrup form in varying concentrations…glucose with suitable concentration for baking is thicker than corn syrup.

Corn Syrup: Contains 24% water….is made from glucose with fructose added to prevent crystallization…the major difference between glucose and corn syrup is the water content, if some of the water in the corn syrup is evaporated it can be used interchangeably.

Substitute recipe for corn syrup
Yield: almost 2 cups
2 cups sugar
3/4 cup water
1/4 tsp. cream of tartar
dash of salt

For dark corn syrup add 1/4 cup molasses to the above recipe.

Combine all ingredients in a heavy, large pan.
Stir and bring to a boil. Reduce heat to simmer and put a cover on for 3 minutes which will create steam to get the sugar crystals off the sides of the pan.
Uncover and cook until it reaches soft ball stage, which is 235 degrees F on a candy thermometer.
Stir often.
Cool syrup in the jar you will store it in, but DO NOT PUT THE LID ON UNTIL IT HAS COOLED!
It will keep for about 2 months but be sure to use a CLEAN jar so no contamination will create problems for you.
I had a speck of “something” in my jar apparently and it turned moldy in about a week!


As it cools you will find it is thicker than corn syrup and it is not a true invert sugar so it may not prevent crystallization if used in candy making.   Also this does tend to crystallize easy so it should be handled gently and with clean tools. 

You may have to simply rewarm the jar in the microwave or in a pot of boiling water to get it to a pourable consistency when you are ready to use it in your recipe.

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