Just close your eyes and picture yourself in Grandma’s kitchen. Can you smell those fresh baked cookies or those scrumptious pies? Just the thought of baking gives anyone that warm to the toes feeling. Baking doesn’t have to be a culinary art. It’s simple, fun and can make a cold winter chill vanish in a blink of an eye.
When Grandma baked it was usually from scratch. No box mixes or canned pie filling could be found in her pantry. In today’s hustle and bustle world a prepackaged mix brings a quick reality to most kitchens. There’s nothing wrong with that, but a day of scratch baking can also bring a little relief from a stressful life.
Baking is not really an art. The hardest part of baking is making sure you have all the essentials needed. This list is a good place to start when checking for items that are necessary to turn the kitchen into a baker’s delight.
Flour: All purpose flour is a must but depending on what you are baking you may also need self rising flour, wheat flour or millet flour. Just be careful not to substitute in a recipe. Flours consist of different properties and can make or break the easiest of recipes.
Sugar: White and brown sugars are a must when baking. Brown sugar can be found in light or dark. Light brown sugar usually works best when baking because it gives those baked goods a delicious flavor. Use dark brown sugar when the recipe calls for it.
Butter or Margarine: Which is better? In most cases one can be substituted for the other, but if a recipe calls for butter specifically, do not substitute margarine. Regular butter will give your recipe more flavor and when used sparingly won’t cause as many health problems. Sweet, unsalted butter is best because the salt can mask the flavor of food. Be careful with salted butter because it masks the smell and taste of the butter which means it could easily go rancid without your knowledge.
Cooking Oils and Sprays: When it comes to baking, oils rank at the top of important items to have on hand. They help to make our baked items moist and tasty. Non stick cooking sprays make greasing those pans easier and more economical.
Baking Powder & Baking Soda: These leavening agents are an important ingredient in order for your baked items to rise during the baking process.
Eggs and Dairy Products: Eggs are the “glue” that hold your baked goods together. They are also a large part of the rising process. Most recipes will call for large eggs and these are the best bet for consistent results. Dairy products like milk and creams are a staple in many baking recipes as well.
Spices: These can make or break a recipe. Spices add flavor to those baked goods. Be sure to add only spices that will give the flavor you need. Apple pie spice, pumpkin pie spice and other specialized spices include many different spices combined saving you both time and money.
Bakeware and Cooking Utensils: Measuring cups and measuring spoons are very important to ensure you add just the right amount of ingredients to batters. A whisk, pastry blender and rubber spatulas are also necessary in preparing those batters. An electric mixer, blender or food processor can help in cutting down preparation times.
Cookie sheets, cake pans, muffin tins, pie pans and brownie pans are all necessary when baking. Cake pans come in round or rectangular shape and in all different sizes. Brownie pans are usually square and come in 8 inch or 9 inch sizes. Depending on just how in depth you want to take your baking you may also need tube pans, spring form pans or Bundt pans.
Baking is a simple pleasure that anyone can enjoy. Baking is a great way to introduce children to the kitchen too. It is definitely a way to make your home feel warm and cozy when it’s cold outside. Take the chill off and bake a batch of cookies or a loaf of bread this afternoon.
Strawberry Filled Cookies
What You Need:
1 C of butter, room temperature
1 (3 oz.) pkg. cream cheese, room temperature
1 C of sugar
1 egg yolk
3 t of vanilla extract
2 1/2 C of flour
Seedless strawberry jam
How to Make It:
Place the butter, cream cheese and sugar in a bowl. Cream the mixture with an electric mixer until light and fluffy. Add the egg yolk and vanilla and beat until blended in well. Stir in the flour until well combined. Cover the bowl and chill for at least 1 hour to firm up the dough. Preset the oven temperature to 350 degrees. Remove the dough and shape into 1 inch balls. Place the balls 2 inches apart on an ungreased cookie sheet. Use the handle of a wooden spoon to make 1/2 inch indentations in the center of each cookie ball. Fill each indentation with strawberry jam. Bake 10 minutes or until the cookies are set. Cool on the cookie sheet 2 minutes then move to wire racks to finish cooling. Makes 5 dozen cookies. These cookies make a pretty addition to any buffet. They are easy to prepare and fun to eat. Any type of seedless jam works great in this recipe.