I have never considered myself a baker, but have always enjoyed the art of baking. And an art it is. But there are a few learned tips. Over the last 30-plus years of trial and error, here are my top five tips to better baking:
Always use a dry measure for dry ingredients and a liquid measure for liquids. This sounds self-explanatory, but it is crucial to correct measuring. If you don't have a good set of either, buy them. A set of reliable dry cup measures is less than $10, and a set of two or three (1-cup, 2-cup and 4-cup) glass liquid measures is usually less than $15. The same goes for a set of measuring spoons. Do not use your tableware for measuring.
Always spoon your dry ingredients into your cup measure by sifting or shaking lightly. Swipe away the excess ingredients with a smooth edge and never scoop the ingredients — especially flour. You can get 1/4 cup to 1/2 cup too much flour if you scoop instead of spoon and sprinkle. The exception to this rule is brown sugar, but follow the directions closely. They should indicate whether the sugar is loosely or tightly packed. If it doesn't specify, go with loosely packed.
Do not overmix cakes, cookies, breads or other flour-based baked goods. Overmixing can cause dry, tough and dense results. Most recipes warn against this with instructions that say "just until mixed" or "gently fold." The directions may give an exact mixing time.
Make sure your oven is fully preheated before placing the pan inside. Changes in temperature can vastly affect the results.
Use an oven temperature gauge/thermometer. Remember: The oven may read 400 degrees, but the only way to know is with a thermometer. If your oven is off by 25 degrees, consider getting it professionally calibrated.
Today's super-easy recipe has minimal measuring and will wow anyone. Follow the tips above and you'll never be disappointed! Enjoy!
Super-Easy Cinnamon Twirl Biscuits
Start to finish: 20 minutes
2 1/4 cups biscuit mix, such as Bisquick
2?3 cup low-fat milk
3 teaspoons sugar, divided use
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
All-purpose flour for rolling dough
1 cup powdered sugar
3 tablespoons low-fat milk
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
Preheat oven to 450 degrees. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper and set aside.
In medium bowl, gently mix together the biscuit mix and milk just until a soft ball of dough forms.
Turn the dough out onto a smooth, generously floured surface. With floured fingers, gently pat the dough down and sprinkle with 1 teaspoon of sugar. Using a floured rolling pin, roll the dough into an 8-by-8-inch square that is 1/2-inch thick.
Combine the remaining sugar and cinnamon in a small bowl and sprinkle over the dough, covering the entire surface. Carefully roll the dough from one end to the other, jelly-roll fashion, forming an 8-inch log. Flour fingers as needed to keep dough from sticking. Cut the log into 8 (1-inch-thick) slices and place flat on the prepared baking sheet. Bake 10 to 12 minutes, until lightly browned.
While the biscuits are baking, mix ingredients for icing in a small bowl. Set aside until ready to use. Remove biscuits immediately and drizzle with icing. Serve hot.
Yield: 8 servings
Approximate values per serving: 215 calories, 5 g fat (1 g saturated), 2 mg cholesterol, 3.5 g protein, 38 g carbohydrates, 1 g dietary fiber, 421 mg sodium.
Alicia Ross is the co-author of "Desperation Dinners!" (Workman, 1997), "Desperation Entertaining!" (Workman, 2002) and "Cheap. Fast. Good!" (Workman, 2006). Contact her at Kitchen Scoop, c/o Universal Uclick, 1130 Walnut St., Kansas City, MO 64106, or send email to firstname.lastname@example.org. Or visit the Kitchen Scoop website at www.kitchenscoop.com. Dist. by Universal Uclick for UFS.