My cake came out flat and dense. Why? A flat, dense cake may have too much liquid in the recipe.
Flour mixtures need a ratio of dry to wet ingredients. Liquids can be water, milk, fruit juice, fruit puree, or yogurt. Wet to dry is the key.
Batters are stirred and can be either poured (pancakes) or dropped (muffins). A pour batter needs 1 cup of liquid to 1 cup of flour. A drop batter needs less - ½ cup of liquid to 1 cup of flour. If your cake calls for 1 cup of milk you could use 1 cup of mashed banana or apple juice instead.
Dough is handled or kneaded. Soft dough (biscuits or bread) has 1/3 cup of liquid to a cup of flour. Stiff dough (pie crust) can be rolled and may need even less liquid.
Can I omit the oil from my muffin recipe? Not all of it.
Fat acts as a lubricant in baking. It melts with the heat of the oven and allows the gas bubbles formed from baking soda or baking powder to gently expand and let the muffins rise. If you take out all the fat your muffins with expand and explode. Fat also tenderizes the batter and produces a moist crumb.
If your muffins call for a ½ cup of oil you can cut this amount in half but remember the dry to wet ratio needs to be maintained. Use a little milk, juice, yogurt or applesauce to make up the difference.
I'm trying to cut back on sugar. Can I leave out the sugar in my banana bread recipe? You can cut the sugar by half but it isn't wise to omit it altogether.
Sugar adds taste. It also helps to make the batter brown as it caramelizes in the oven. Sugar tenderizes the batter giving it a soft texture and pleasant mouthfeel. Without sugar the batter will be tougher and chewier.
I'm watching my cholesterol. Can I leave out the eggs in a cookie recipe? You could substitute a cholesterol-free egg substitute or use 2 egg whites + 1 tablespoon oil to replace 1 large egg.
Eggs provide a framework in baking. Use too much egg and a baked recipe will be tough, spongy, rubbery, and may have a gummy egg layer at the bottom of the food. If you omit the eggs from your cookie recipe they will be crumbly and may fall apart.
Are baking powder and baking soda the same thing? They are both leavening agents producing gas to make batters rise and become light and airy. They cannot be substituted for each other.
Baking soda is used when there are acidic ingredients in a recipe - fruit purees, yogurt, fruit juice, kefir, vinegar, honey, molasses or chocolate. These ingredients react with baking soda and the liquid in the recipe to make the food rise.
Baking powder was first marketed in the US in the mid-1850s to "decrease baking failures and reduce the nervous tensions of housewives." Most baking powders on the market today are double acting. They react the first time when the batter becomes wet. You see tiny bubbles in the batter when you are stirring. Double acting baking powder reacts the second time when the batter is heated in the oven. The double action produces a light, tender crumb. You should not leave a batter on the kitchen counter for an extended time before baking because you will lose the first action of the baking powder and the end result will be flatter, denser dough.
© NRH Nutrition Consultants, Inc.
Jo-Ann Heslin, MA, RD, CDN is a registered dietitian and the author of the nutrition counter series for Pocket Books with sales of more than 8.5 million books.
The Most Complete Food Counter, 3rd ed., 2013
The Calorie Counter, 6th Ed., 2013
The Complete Food Counter, 4th ed., 2012
The Diabetes Counter, 4th Ed., 2011
The Protein Counter, 3rd Ed., 2011
The Ultimate Carbohydrate Counter, 3rd Ed., 2010
The Fat Counter, 7th ed., 2009
The Healthy Wholefoods Counter, 2008
The Cholesterol Counter, 7th Ed., 2008
Your Complete Food Counter App: http://itunes.apple.com/us/app/your-complete-food-counter/id444558777?mt=8
For more information on Jo-Ann and her books, go to: www.TheNutritionExperts.com.
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