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baking

When I cook, it seems I’m always looking up things like converting cups to grams or ounces, a simple brine for poultry, ratios for baking, bread dough conditioners, internal temps for baked goods, conversions for not-sugar sweeteners, or how to cook with gluten-free flours, etc.

If only I had that information in one file that I could print out and plaster to my refrigerator door or put in a sheet-protected notebook.. Hmmm. I’m so brilliant sometimes, I scare myself. Maybe others, too but not for the brilliant part.

Let’s start with… RATIOS

scale antique

scale

Baking is science and alchemy all rolled into one. But, the amazing thing about baking is that there are simple formulas to help you bake without a recipe.

Recipes are relative. Weather, humidity, air temperature, measuring methods, oven temperature quirks, bakeware materials, how old your ingredients are, different techniques for mixing and combining ingredients, elevation, and more can all affect how your cake, brownies, bread, cookies, pie, and such will turn out.

The FAB four – Not the Beetles

Any baked good has a foundation. Almost all baked goods consist of varying amounts of:

  • Flour
  • Liquid
  • Eggs, Fat

 

For those of you who like Memes, think, FLEB.

There is often also salt, yeast, and sweetener

You also need to know how to combine the ingredients and the finer points of baking, such as kneading, cutting butter into flour for pie crust, oven temperature, rolling out dough, doneness temperature, and such. But if you know your ingredient ratio half or more of the battle for baking amazing goodies is done.

RATIOS ARE BY WEIGHT, NOT VOLUME.

BREAD:

bread

5 parts flour – 3 parts liquid – 2% of the flour weight for salt – 1 Teaspoon yeast for each 454 Grams of flour. Internal doneness temperature is 190 – 210° F, depending on whether the dough is “rich”— contains a lot of fat such as eggs, milk, butter, etc., and sugar or honey, or is “lean”—just flour salt, water, yeast.

Test recipe from Kingarthurflour.com, – White Sandwich Bread

361g unbleached, all-purpose flour

227g milk

2 teaspoons instant or rapid rise yeast

1 1/4 teaspoon salt

28 grams butter

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5 parts Flour at 361g = 71.2 as 1 part. (361 divided by 5)

3 parts Liquid at 227g =72.2 as 1 part.

1 teaspoon yeast for each 447g. Here they are calling for 1 1/4 teaspoon

Pretty close. A little more salt than required, but really close.

PIE PASTRY

piec crust-1

There are quite a few kinds of pastry for pies, some with sugar, baking soda, vinegar, eggs, and so forth. Basic Pie crust is 3 parts flour, 2 parts fat, and 1 part liquid (usually water). Usually, there is a tiny bit of salt, too. Pie dough should have all cold ingredients and worked as little as possible to avoid coming out tough.

Test Recipe from kingarthurflour.com – Classic single pie crust

3 parts flour at 177g = 59g as 1 part

2 parts fat (butter and shortening) at 117 = 118

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1 part liquid at 43-71g ice water = somewhere in the middle. How much liquid is added to pie crust depends on so many variables that a baker just has to know what it should look and feel like. 43-71g is about right since 59g is within that range

BISCUITS

biscuits

That’s, American biscuits, not the British biscuits that are the same as our cookie.

Although there are several versions of biscuits, and every family seems to have their own “secret” recipe, basically they are 3 parts flour, 1 part fat, and 2 parts liquid, 1 teaspoon baking powder per each 225 grams of flour and sometimes a tiny bit of salt and sugar. The fat is usually butter.

Test Recipe from kingarthurflour.com – Baking Powder Biscuits

 

361g King Arthur Unbleached all-purpose flour

1 teaspoon salt

14g baking powder

12g sugar

85g butter

227g milk (whole)

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3 parts flour at 361g = 120.3g (round to 120)

1 part fat at 85g = 35g less than the ratio calls for.

2 parts liquid at 227g whole milk = more than the ratio calls for since 2 parts would be 240.6

NOTE: Since whole milk has a high percentage of fat, the shortfall in butter is made up for in the milk fat.

12g sugar (for tenderness)

14g baking powder works out okay.

 

COOKIES

sugar cookies

I’ll bet no one has ever discovered how many cookie recipes there are. Thousands, is my guess. Although ratios, mixing techniques, and baking time vary depending on whether you want chewy or crisp cookies, a basic cookie dough is 3 parts flour, 2 parts fat, and 1 part sugar. Butter is the usual choice for fat.

Test recipe from kingarthurflour.com – Sugar Cookies

361g all-purpose flour

227g butter

57g cream cheese

248g sugar

3/4 teaspoon salt

1 teaspoon baking powder

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

1/4 teaspoon almond extract

1 large egg

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3 parts flour at 361g flour = 120.3g for 1 part

2 parts fat at 227g butter and 57g cream cheese = 284, a little higher than the 240.6g in the ratio

1 part sugar at 248g is pretty close to the 240 called for in the ratio.

 

There is a note to leave out the cream cheese for a crunchy cookie. That would take the cookie closer to the ratio.

MUFFINS

muffins

Again, oodles of variations for flavor and additions, but the basic ratio for muffins is, 2 parts flour, 1 part fat, 2 parts liquid, and 1 part egg, plus a little baking powder.

Test recipe from kingarthurflour.com – The Simplest Muffins

227g flour

92g quick cooking oats

99g sugar

1/2 teaspoon salt

2 teaspoons baking powder

2 teaspoon cinnamon

142-227g dried fruit, nuts, or chips

227g whole milk

1 teaspoon melted butter or vegetable oil

3 large eggs

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2 parts flour at 227g = 113.5 as 1 part

1 part fat at 57g melted butter + 3 eggs (15g fat) = 72g. Less the ratio but is made up for with whole milk (7.5g fat). Total is 79g fat. Still short.

2 teaspoons baking powder

1 part egg at 85g for 3 eggs. A little short of the 117g in 1 part.

1 teaspoon cinnamon

2 teaspoons baking powder

NOTE: This recipe seems a bit lean to me. Fat adds tenderness so this one might be on the firm side, except that oatmeal holds in moisture so maybe they would be good after all.

PANCAKES

pancakes

So many varieties to choose from. For light, tender, and fluffy pancakes use 2 parts flour, 1/2 part fat (oil or melted butter), 2 parts liquid, and 1 part egg, plus a little baking powder or soda.

Test recipe from Kingarthurflour.com – Simply Perfect Pancakes

2 large eggs

283g milk

43g melted butter or vegetable oil

184g King Arthur Unbleached all-purpose flour

3/4 teaspoon salt

2 teaspoons baking powder

25g sugar or 43g malted milk powder

___________________________________________

2 parts flour at 184g = 92g for 1 part

1/2 part fat at 43g butter or vegetable oil is really close to the 46g called for in the ratio.

2 parts liquid at 283g is a little more than the 184 called for in the ratio. The recipe does say to use less milk if the weather is hot and humid or if the batter is going to rest longer than 15 minutes.

3/4 teaspoon salt

2 teaspoons baking powder.

NOTE: When I cook pancakes, I almost always end up having to use more liquid than called for to get the thick but pourable batter that makes tender, fluffy pancakes.

How to Make Great Bread

Anita Burns baking bread

For more in-depth information on using ratios for cooking, see the book, Ratio: The Simple Code Behind the Craft of Everyday Cooking from Amazon.com .

I’d love to hear your experiences and experiments using ratios.

Disclaimer: I am not a mathematician. My skills in that department are somewhere in the high-school freshman range so my numbers might be off in the ratios. I did my best. If you find mistakes. I’d love to hear so I can correct them.

Happy cooking,

Anita Burns

anitasrealfood.com

 

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