Wednesday, February 6, 2013

Baking With Altitude - Sugar


Welcome to Week 6 of How to Fix Common Baking Disasters.  

Week 1 How to Fix Common Baking Disasters
Week 2 Baking With Altitude - Flour
Week 3 Baking With Altitude - Leavening Agents 
Week 4 Baking With Altitude - Fats
Week 5 Baking With Altitude - Eggs

Chicago, IL (USA) 625 feet above sea level 
Santa Cruz (Bolivia) 1365 feet above sea level  
La Paz (Bolivia) 13,000 feet above sea level    


Sweeteners do more than give a sweet taste to baked items. The type of sweetener you use and the quantity you use can also change the texture and appearance of baked items. Depending on how sweeteners are incorporated they can inhibit gluten development which increases the tenderness of the baked item. Sweeteners also caramelize when they cook which helps turn baked goods the appealing golden brown that makes our mouths water. 

At high altitudes liquid evaporates more quickly. Sugar, when heated, melts and is treated as a liquid in baking. Because of faster liquid evaporation, sugar solutions become more concentrated. This affects the texture of baked goods. The increased concentration of sugar can weaken the structure of your baked goods causing cakes to cave in the center or to be too dense. Sugar quantity and concentration can also affect the crust of your baked goods.  

TYPES OF SWEETENERS

 
Granulated Sugar
The most common sweetener in home baking.

Superfine Granulated Sugar/Baker's Sugar 
Slightly finer grains then regular granulated sugar. You can make your own superfine sugar by processing granulated sugar in a food processor for a few pulses.



Powdered Sugar/Confectioner's Sugar
Ultra fine granulated sugar. The tiny grains of sugar are typically mixed with cornstarch to keep the sugar from clumping together. Often used to garnish baked goods especially fried dough. Used to make icing and glazes.




 
Brown Sugar
Comes in light and dark versions. Brown sugar is granulated sugar and molasses combined together. The amount of molasses in the sugar determines whether it is classified as light or dark. Brown sugar gives baked items a chewy texture and a rich flavor.



Honey  
Adds sweetness and flavor to baked goods. The color and flavor of honey depends on which flowers provided the nectar that the bees used to produced the honey. 
 




 

Molasses  
Is a thick dark syrup that is the byproduct of sugar making. It is what is left over after granulated sugar is made. It is very dark brown and syrupy. Adds flavor and color to baked goods but can be a bit bitter if used in large quantities. 


 
 
Agave 
Is a natural sweetener that is sweeter than regular sugar. If using agave you might want to use less than if you were using one of the other sweeteners.





 
Corn Syrup 
Is available in light or dark versions. Caramel coloring and molasses are added to dark corn syrup to give it a darker color and a more robust flavor. In home cooking, corn syrup is often used in making candies and brittles but it is sometimes used in baked goods and frostings. Corn syrup is more often used in commercial baking.

There are sweetening choices but for the purpose of this post and converting recipes to high altitude I will focus on granulated sugar.

Chicago, IL (USA)
When converting a recipe from a high altitude recipe to a low altitude kitchen (Chicago) reverse the instructions below by decreasing sugar quantity.

When converting a recipe from a low altitude kitchen (Chicago) to a high altitude kitchen try the following:
 
Santa Cruz  (Bolivia)
For each 1 cup of sugar, decrease 1 teaspoon up to 1 tablespoon
 
La Paz (Bolivia)

For each 1 cup of sugar, decrease 1 to 3 tablespoons
Thank you for visiting my blog.

Chef Noly
To order saltenas please visit Noly's World Cuisine at http://www.nolys.vpweb.com
To read more about Bolivia please visit our friend Bella at
http://www.boliviabella.com



Wednesday, January 30, 2013

Baking With Altitude - Eggs


Welcome to Week 5 of How to Fix Common Baking Disasters.  

Week 1 How to Fix Common Baking Disasters
Week 2 Baking With Altitude - Flour
Week 3 Baking With Altitude - Leavening Agents 
Week 4 Baking With Altitude - Fats

Chicago, IL (USA) 625 feet above sea level 
Santa Cruz (Bolivia) 1365 feet above sea level  
La Paz (Bolivia) 13,000 feet above sea level    
Brown Eggs

For the purpose of this post all eggs mentioned refer to chicken eggs. Eggs come in a variety of sizes from small to extra large. If a recipe does not specify the egg size I default to the large size. Brown eggs and white eggs are interchangeable.

 

Eggs are composed of two main parts, the yolk and the white. The egg yolk is all fat (refer to the week 4 post for more information about baking with fats) and the white is all protein. Inside the yolk is also an emulsifier which helps stabilize mixtures and keep them from separating. The protein in egg whites add strength but too much egg white can dry out a batter.

White Eggs
Eggs create support and structure by helping the batter to set. Eggs also add moisture which helps keep your baked items from drying out to quickly during the longer cooking times of  high altitude baking. In high altitude baking changes in egg quantity are more critical in helping cakes and quick breads maintain structure but not as critical for cookies, bars/brownies or pies.

In addition to containing fat and protein, the moisture contribution of an egg needs to be taken into consideration when contemplating the overall liquid needs of baked goods. Liquids will be discussed in detail in a future post. The ratio of yolk to white may differ slightly but the total egg will usually total 4 Tablespoons.

1 large egg equals approximately 4 Tablespoons.
1 large egg yolk equals approximately 1 Tablespoon.
1 large egg white equal approximately 3 Tablespoons.

  
Recipes calling for stiffly beaten egg whites, such Angel Food cake, might expand too much and too quickly initially then collapse. You can help remedy this by beating eggs only to the soft peak state.
 

Chicago, IL (USA)
When converting a recipe from a high altitude recipe to a low altitude kitchen (Chicago) reverse the instructions below by decreasing egg size or quantity.

When converting a recipe from a low altitude kitchen (Chicago) to a high altitude kitchen try the following:
 
Santa Cruz  (Bolivia)
- Increase by 1 egg white or increase to an egg one size larger (example, switch from large to extra large)
- Beat eggs to soft peak stage rather than stiffly beaten stage
 
La Paz (Bolivia)

- Increase 1 whole egg plus one white
- Beat eggs to soft peak stage rather than stiffly beaten stage


Thank you for visiting my blog.

Chef Noly
To order saltenas please visit Noly's World Cuisine at http://www.nolys.vpweb.com
To read more about Bolivia please visit our friend Bella at
http://www.boliviabella.com



Wednesday, January 23, 2013

Baking With Altitude - Fats

Welcome to Week 4 of How to Fix Common Baking Disasters.  

Week 1 How to Fix Common Baking Disasters
Week 2 Baking With Altitude - Flour
Week 3 Baking With Altitude - Leavening Agents

Chicago, IL (USA) 625 feet above sea level 
Santa Cruz (Bolivia) 1365 feet above sea level  
La Paz (Bolivia) 13,000 feet above sea level    


The first time I truly realized how critical fats were in converting recipes from one altitude to another occurred when I was trying convert a high altitude (La Paz) recipe for Rollo de Queso to a low altitude kitchen (Chicago).

Rollo de Queso is a rich Bolivian cheese bread that contains a lot of butter. The butter is one of the ingredients that makes this bread so deliciously rich and tender. I didn't want to reduce this ingredient because I didn't want any deterioration in flavor. I soon realized though as my rollo de queso spread and flattened in the oven that reducing the butter was necessary if I wanted my rollo de queso to hold its shape.

Little by little I reduced the butter measurement until I achieved a good balance between flavor, texture and shape.

Fats are wonderful additions to baked goods. Fats can take a plain bread or cake and turn them into tender, flavorful treats. What fat you use and how you use it can make all the difference. Fats melt when heat is applied. As the fats melt they start to release water. Water then turns in to steam. The steam along with the gas from leavening agents helps the baked product rise. 

Fats have a melting point between 90 to 130 degrees F. The quicker a fat melts, the quicker the water is released and turned to steam, the less the baked product will rise. So if you don't want your fat to cause your product to spread too much and be flat, controlling the melting point is key. 

Another result of the steam released from the water in fats is the formation of a crust. Liquid evaporation helps to form the crust on the outside of your baked product. Controlling the fat melting point and water evaporation can create a tender or crunchy crust.

Fats, like the structure of flour and eggs help trap air bubbles and gas from leavening agents helping your baked goods achieve loft. Its the balance of all these ingredients that cause the rising of your baked items to achieve beautiful heights or deflating lows.
  
THREE MAIN FATS
The three main fats I use in baking are butter, vegetable shortening and oil. You will notice that lard is not mentioned in this post. That is because lard is an ingredient I do not typically use. Lard certainly does play a role in tamales and other savory dishes. For baking I prefer to use vegetable shortening instead of lard. This though is personal preference so if lard is a staple in your kitchen then by all means continue to use it.

Butter:
Butter vs. Margarine? This is a personal preference. I choose to use butter whenever possible but both are interchangeable. In baking, always use unsalted butter. Most baking recipes have added salt. When you use unsalted butter you can better control the saltiness of your baked goods. Save the salted butter for buttering your toast.

Butter has a lower melting point then shortening. The quicker water evaporation from butter causes cookies to spread more quickly creating a flatter, crisper cookie.

If you like the taste of butter in your cookies but want to prevent your cookies from spreading too quickly try this trick - measure out your cookies onto the cookie sheet then pop dough and cookie sheet into the freezer for several minutes. The freezing of the dough will help it hold its shape.



Vegetable Shortening
Shortening:

Shortening has the highest melting point. When using shortening, dough is able to hold its shape for longer before the fat begins to melt. This allows the flour and eggs to build the proper supporting structure before the fat can possibly collapse the structure.



 



Cooking Oil

Oil:
Oil is a liquid at room temperature. Oil adds lovely moistness to baked goods but at higher altitudes it could cause your baked items to be too crispy.







When converting a low altitude recipe to a high altitude recipe you may need to increase the fat content of the recipe. When converting a high altitude recipe to a low altitude you may need to decrease the fat content of a recipe. Increase or decrease fats 1 Tablespoon at a time until you achieve the correct rise, texture and crust.

I originally thought I would do seven posts on baking disasters but as you can see so far in these posts its not a simple question of increasing or decreasing ONE item. All the ingredients in baked goods work together. Changing one ingredient may or may not be enough to achieve positive results. 

I've decided to add a Week 8 post where I bring all the information together in one spot to help you better tackle your baking.   

Thank you for visiting my blog.

Chef Noly
To order saltenas please visit Noly's World Cuisine at http://www.nolys.vpweb.com
To read more about Bolivia please visit our friend Bella at
http://www.boliviabella.com



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