Results tagged baking from David Lebovitz

Galette des rois

galette des rois recipe

Starting in late December, pastry shops in Paris start jumping the gun, and windows and showcases begin filling up with Galettes des rois, or King Cake, in anticipation of the celebration of Epiphany, on January 6th.

Galette des Rois

Because it’s such a popular treat, and lucrative for bakeries, the period of availability seems to extend a few more days every year and it’s not unusual for find bakeries peddling them until the end of the month of January. It’s hard to blame them (and those of us who buy them) because they’re so good. Years ago, I used to bake them when I worked in restaurants, and they’re called Pithiviers, named for the town in the Loiret (south of Paris) where they allegedly originated.

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Almond Flour FAQs

almond powder

Is almond flour the same as almond meal or ground almonds?

Yes. If you are unsure, check the ingredients on the package; the only ingredient listed should be almonds. If there are other ingredients, it’s not the same thing and should not be used in a recipe that calls for almond flour. Other names for almond flour are powdered almonds, almond meal, and almond powder.

(Some say that only blanched almonds are used for what is called almond flour, but I’ve seen unblanched almond “flour” listed as such, so that’s not always the case.)

What is the difference between natural and blanched almond flour?

Blanched almonds have had theirs skins removed. This is done by dropping them in boiling water for about a minute. Draining them in cold water, and slipping the skins off. Unblanched almonds have their skins on. Both kinds of almonds are then ground up for almond flour. A majority of almond flour you’ll come across is made from blanched almonds since most people prefer the lighter crumb and appearance in cakes and other baked goods. Some bakers say that unblanched almond flour can make baked goods heavier, but I’ve not found it to make a tremendous difference. So you can use either, unless one is specifically called for in a recipe.

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Whole Wheat Croissants

Homemade Croissants

Although there’s some dispute as to where the croissant was invented, it’s become an iconic symbol of Paris. Or at least of Paris bakeries. The most popular story claims that croissants were invented in Austria, during (or after) a period of conflict with Turkey in the 1600s, whose symbol is a crescent. And people were happy to bite into, and chew, a pastry representing their nemesis.

Homemade Croissants

Food everywhere is wrapped up in lots of “who made what,” and there are endless discussions about what belongs to whom, who made it first, who makes is better, who is allowed to claim it, and who has permission to use it. (And so far, I haven’t seen any signs of an international organization overseeing all of that.) So depending on who you believe, it may have been the Austrians, the French, or another butter and pastry-loving country. But it’s hard to imagine Paris without croissants.

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Gluten-Free Baking and Substitutions

I’m thrilled when folks want to make recipes from this site and my books, including those who are gluten-intolerant or have celiac. However I’m the first to admit that gluten-free baking is not my area of expertise. So I can’t usually say how and what to substitute in recipes that call for wheat flour.

Wheat flour acts as a binder in recipes and gives cakes and cookies, the gluten gives doughs and batters structure. Broadly speaking, if a recipe has just a small amount of wheat flour, such as 2 to 4 tablespoons (20-40 g), you can often just swap out another flour. I like flours such as buckwheat, chestnut, quinoa, corn, and oat flours, because they are “natural” tasting and go well with most other flavors and ingredients used in baking. Note that some of those flours may be processed in a facility that processes wheat flour, so always check and make sure that the flours you are purchasing are gluten-free, especially oat. Other substitutions include nut flours (also called nut “meal”) as well as corn and potato starch. If the recipe calls for more flour than that, I recommend using one of the work-arounds, listed below.

I generally assume that people who are gluten-free, and bake frequently, know better than I do how certain ingredients and substitutions will behave in recipes. So I often defer to gluten-free bakers since most have work-arounds that they have success baking with. Here is a round-up of tips, suggestions, and recipe that should help gluten-free bakers find an appropriate swap-out for wheat flour.

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Can I Freeze Cream?

creme excellence

I was recently at Metro, a members-only store that sells things for professionals in large quantities with lots of food items. However unlike “members-only” stores elsewhere, you need to have some professional affiliation to join. Excitedly, I stocked up on lots of the things that I use a lot of, including cassonade sugar sold in bags close to 5-pounds, hazelnuts, tin containers for giving away treats from recipe-testing, and I picked up a few cases of wine, just because there happened to be a little extra room in the trunk of the car that needed filling.

(I like to think my wine consumption is somehow tied to my professional activities, too. But maybe it’s just because of them?)

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My Timer

kitchen timer

I wasn’t planning on writing about my kitchen timer. But I was in the middle of a couple of baking projects yesterday, and realized that I was gazing at it lovingly. Like, a little too much, perhaps. And as the tears welled up in my eyes, I decided that I’d share my affection for my new buddy in the kitchen.

One of the hardest transitions for me – from being a professional baker, to writing recipes for folks at home baking in their jammies – was figuring out precise baking times. In the restaurant, you just kept checking in the oven, or used that special sense that bakers develop when things are ready to come out. Sure we used timers, but they were more back-up reminders; a majority of pro bakers just know when things are done, or simply keep checking and pull things out when they’re ready.

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Candy Thermometers

candy thermometer

A friend once told me that the one word which terrifies people, enough to dissuade them from tackling a recipe, was the word “thermometer.” Candy making generally requires the use of a thermometer and I’m not sure why people get uneasy around thermometers because like kitchen scales, when things are in precise measurements – like degrees, pounds, or grams – it’s pretty straightforward. In fact, when you think about it, grilling meat or fish to the right point require far more savvy than simply reading the numbers on a thermometer.

Candy (also know as deep-fry thermometers) are readily available in houseware stores and almost every supermarket in the states. So there’s no reason to be wary of them as some baking, and candy making projects really do require the use of one. But sometimes recipes don’t turn out as intended and although candy making is famously persnickety (factors such as temperature of ingredients, weather, and variations in ingredients, like various chocolates, butters, and sugars can affect the results) many candy making issues can be resolved by verifying the accuracy of your thermometer.

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How to tell if baking powder is still good

baking powder test

Baking powder does not last forever. Because it’s sensitive to moisture and humidity, it generally has a shelf life of between six months to one year. Baking powder should be kept in a cool, dry place, such as inside a cabinet, and should be discarded when it is no longer active. (Its cousin, baking soda*, has an indefinite shelf life, although some manufacturers recommend changing it every three years.)

baking powder

To test if baking powder is still active, spoon 1/2 teaspoon in a bowl and pour 1/4 cup (60 ml) of boiling water over it. Right away it should bubble up violently. If it does, it’s still good. If it doesn’t, discard it and open a new tin.

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