Posts Tagged 'how to'

How To Proof Yeast

I ran into some mental and emotional issues this year. Several times, I tried to make a recipe that included yeast. Each time I tried to make a “sponge,” the yeast wouldn’t proof. Even though I was using fresh yeast!

Proofing your yeast is a way to make sure that your yeast still lives and that it will work in whatever recipe you are using. A good sponge is, indeed, the proof of this.

Anyway, I was real frustrated and, needless to say, sad that my yeast was failing me. I was missing out on delicious goodies like cinnamon rolls and braided lemon breads and brioches. Hello.

Now, I could have been failing for a number of reasons. Mostly to do with the temperature of the water being perfectly correct. But! I recently read an article that talked about how in order for yeast to properly form a sponge, it needs to have sugars to feed on. The sugars make it grow–just another way yeast and I are so similar.

I feel like milk should have enough sugar in it to help the yeast proof? But don’t quote me on that, because I’ve tried it a few times. Sometimes it works, sometimes not. But water definitely does not have sugar in it, so if that is the base of your proof, then you’ll need to add sugar.

This is what proofing yeast looks like.

Step One: Heat water until it is lukewarm. It should not be cold, but not hot. ‘Warm’ is maybe a better word thank ‘lukewarm’ to describe the correct temperature, but I don’t want you to get ideas and go on thinking you can use really warm water. It should be just warm.

Step Two: Stir in your sugar of choice according to the recipe until dissolved.

Step Three: Sprinkle yeast over the surface of the water. Some recipes call for it to be stirred in. Try and be as even as possible with your sprinkling.

Step Four: Wait 5-10 minutes until the sponge is foamy. Now you’re good to go!

You can succeed! The benefits far outweigh the three minutes of mental anguish you may have to endure as you wait for your yeast to proof. CINNAMON ROLLS.
L

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How To Manipulate Royal Icing

So I have been dying to show you how easy these are to decorate. I am actually delighted that I get to tell you. Imagine how much fun this could add to your life! Minus the somewhat finicky prep work, the actual cookie decorating process is so great. And easy. And aesthetically rewarding. I saw the technique here. It was love.

First, pipe your outline of undiluted royal frosting. You can find the recipe and tutorial for royal icing and flood icing here. Remember not to overbeat your frosting, or you will end up with pit marks and weirdness.

Fill in your outline with flood icing and spread into the corners (or arc segments, in this case) with a toothpick or fondue stick or whatever you happen to have on hand.

Next, dot a different color of flood icing onto the fill. You can use a piping bag or a squeeze bottle for less mess. I used the end of a metal kabob and a toothpick. Hey…

Now comes the fun part. Using a toothpick (or the tines of a plastic fork—can I do nothing correctly?), swirl around the dots however you would like. You can make all sorts of pretty patterns. To make a heart, draw a single line straight through the middle of a dot.

Be careful not to press too far into the icing. You could get divets like the above, or the frosting colors might mix too much.

It’s a little work, but a lot of impressiveness. Winner.

Luck,

L

How To Make Brown Sugar

So I wanted to make this caramel cake the other day, right? I mean, I really, really wanted to make it. I had my heart set on conquering caramel once again, and eating delicious cake.

As oft happens when I have my heart set on things, I start them and realize that it will be impossible for me to actually attain them. I’ll start to make a recipe and find out 2 sticks of butter, a cup of sugar and three eggs in that I don’t have what I need to finish the recipe. Which is a bummer about 30 percent of the time. The other 70 percent of the time, I can usually google up a replacement and cross my fingers that the recipe will still turn out. Case in point, making buttermilk from scratch or finnagling the caramel recipe from the cake a few days ago.

Here is another one of my discoveries that is the result of my laziness: You can make brown sugar! My dad actually told me I could do it. Who would’ve thought? But I googled it, and he was so right. And this is so easy. All you do is take 1 cup of white sugar and 1 tablespoon of molasses and mix them together. Voila!

L

Brown Sugar

1 cup sugar

1 tablespoon unsulphured molasses

Mix sugar and molasses with a fork or electric mixer until well blended. To store, put in a ziploc bag and squish all the air out of it.

How To Tier A Cake

In our previous tutorial, I demonstrated how to layer a cake. I figured I’d give you a couple weeks to sort that all out. So now you should be pros at layering, yes? Excellent. Let’s begin.

Step One: We’ll start where we left off with icing your cake. Please do that. It looks pretty.

Step Two: When you have your cake iced how you want it, stick some sticks in it. They’re technically called dowel rods, I think. Break or cut them off so they are perfectly level with the top of the icing of your tier. Then, stick them in to the cake, making sure to keep them within the bounds of the next tier so they don’t show. You can use three or four, but five is way out (name that movie). I used three because I went to jr. high shop class and learned that a triangle is the sturdiest shape. Holler.

Step Three: Being very careful not to mess up your frosting, center the second tier over the first and let it rest. To hide the cardboard layer, you can wrap a ribbon around the cake or place flowers artistically or just pipe dots or swirls.

Voila! A tiered cake. It sounds simple because it is. Have fun!

L

How To Layer A Cake

Layering cakes has become a pretty big part of my life. I mean, considering that I had never layered a cake before two years ago, they’ve pretty much taken over. I’ve layered so many cakes I should be re-named. Lauren the Layerer. Sounds sort of medieval, don’t you think? Like Franz the Ferrier or something. Ok. Moving on.

I made a two-tier cake for my friend Amber’s wedding this summer. Each tier had four layers. Please excuse me while I give myself a pat on the back for making a cake with four layers. I’ve never done it before, and splitting cake layers is a particular baking fear of mine.

Here’s how I layered it. Never mind my excessively messy hands. Please try and forget that I am not, in fact, a professional, and focus instead on my gloriously tan arms, courtesy of summer camp. Man, I’m falling more and more in love with myself as this post goes on. I feel a humbling situation coming soon.

Step One: Cut out a piece of cardboard fitted to the bottom layer of your cake. If you are doing the bottom tier of a cake, the cardboard can be a little bigger than the cake, but I tried to cut this one really close because it was a second tier. It will make your cake easier to frost later on.

Step Two: Bake individual layers to stack, or depending on what your recipe calls for, slice your baked layers in halves or thirds. That’s what I did on the cake above and it worked pretty well. There are plenty of tutorials on how to slice cakes if you cared to know.

Step Three: Pipe a big line of buttercream along the very edge of the cake tier. Make the frosting as thick as you want your filling to be else it’ll spill over, and that is no fun for anyone. Except perhaps sweet ants, who seem to have invaded the kitchen counter due to the high volume of weddings this summer. And by high volume, I mean three.

Step 4: Pick your poison. In this case, a luscious raspberry curd. Jist don’t let it spill over your frosting line.

Step 5: Add your cake layer and press down lightly to seal the filling inside. In this instance, I would have preferred a bit more filling (see how low it is?). But I was working with what I had. Improvising.

Step 6: Give your finished tier a good dirty ice and frost as desired.

This is how the final product will look. Pretty ok, eh? Layered cakes add such a delicate touch to any celebration. Go forth! You can do it!

Bye now, sweetums,

L


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