Ask the Cook is a weekly segment where AbbyLee Cook takes students on a culinary journey with tips, tricks, and recipes to help them overcome their fear of the kitchen and teach them the basics of cooking and baking.
Baking and cooking are two very different things. While they both usually happen in a kitchen, cooking is an art whereas baking is a science. The recipes for baked goods are a lot like formulas, and you need to follow them accurately to ensure the proper reactions which will create the perfect end product.
Quick Tips for Baking
- Try to use recipes that go by ingredient weights rather than ingredient volumes. Weight is more accurate and will give you a better, more consistent product.
- If you or someone you know loves to bake, a kitchen scale is a great addition to your kitchen tools.
- Substitutions are usually a no-no. As aforementioned, accuracy is key and recipes are formulated after a lot of testing, so switching flours or types of fats can end up ruining your baked good.
Knowing Your Breads
There are two types of breads: yeast breads and quick breads. Quick breads are, as their name suggests, quick. This category includes baked goods such as muffins, biscuits, loaves, and scones. They are easier to make than yeast breads and are generally more forgiving for new bakers.
When preparing breads, it is important to note that there are two different mixing methods: the Biscuit Method and the Muffin Method:
The Biscuit Method
This method is used for baked goods like biscuits, scones, pastry crusts, and corn breads. All of your dry ingredients are mixed together and your fat is cut in afterward, using a shortening cutting tool, a fork, or even your hands. The fat is cut in until your mixture looks like small pearls of dough. This method creates the flaky and tender texture you will notice in a baked goods like biscuits. These items usually contain less wet ingredients, which is why the cutting method is necessary. Something else to note is that, when making baked goods this way, you tend to produce less than when using the muffin method.
The Muffin Method
This method is used for baked goods like muffins, loaves, pancakes and waffles. These baked goods generally include more wet ingredients than those made with the biscuit method. When using this method, you will first need to combine all of your wet ingredients, including your fat. Afterward, add your dry ingredients and mix them together until you have a lumpy dough, which leaves you with a finish product that will have risen due to the airbubbles throughout it. These baked goods will be very soft.
It is important to know the difference between these methods to ensure the best product possible. Whichever you choose will depend on what type of quick bread you plan to make.
Recipe of the Week: Chicken Fat Biscuits
This recipe comes out of Milk Bar Life by Christina Tosi. Tosi is one of the most famous pastry chefs in the world, running the Momofuku Milk Bar in four different cities, and she is a judge on MasterChef and MasterChef Junior.
Recipe contains dairy and gluten. This can be made vegetarian-friendly (with substitutions).
2 cups all purpose flour
1 tsp sugar
½ tsp kosher salt
1 tsp baking powder
¼ tsp baking soda
¼ cold rendered chicken fat (substitute butter, lard or vegetable shortening)
¾ cup buttermilk
1. Preheat oven to 450°F
2. Combine the flour, sugar, salt, baking powder and baking soda in a large bowl. Squish the chicken fat into your dry ingredients by rubbing it between your fingertips until the fat is in pea-sized pieces and is well distributed. Add the buttermilk and mix together until a shaggy dough forms.
3. Dump out the contents of the bowl onto a countertop and knead 5 to 8 times, until the dough is a solid mass. If you touch and work the dough too much, your biscuits will not turn out as light and fluffy as desired.
4. Gently flatten the dough into a 1 inch thick slab. Using a knife or sharp square cutter, cut the dough into 2 inch squares. Transfer to a greased or lined baking sheet, 2 inches apart.
5. Bake the biscuits for 7 – 8 minutes, until golden brown. Brush a little extra chicken fat on top if you want your biscuits to be shiny.
6. Eat them warm out of the oven!
Ask the Cook is an 8-week segment by AbbyLee Cook. Abby has a diploma in Nutrition and Foodservice Management from the College of the North Atlantic and is currently in her third year studying Applied Management in Hospitality and Tourism. She is a trained cook who has worked under award-winning chefs in St John’s, Newfoundland. Abby has a passion for cooking and baking and enjoys educating her peers and younger generations about food and tourism. She also does custom-order baking in her free time. Any suggestions or questions relating to the culinary world can be sent to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Gisslen, W. (2011). Professional Cooking for Canadian Chefs. Hoboken: John Wiley & Sons, Inc.
Tosi, C. (2015). Milk Bar Life. Hong Kong: Clarkson Potter.