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Ingredient Baking Tips

Helpful tips, how-to's and useful information about various baking ingredients.

To test whether your baking powder is still good, combine 1 teaspoon baking powder with 1/3 cup hot water. If it bubbles, it is still good. If not, replace it. Never buy baking powder that is past its expiration date printed on the bottom of the can.

Always keep chocolate at room temperature to prevent it from splintering and flying around when chopped; cold chocolate is too hard to cut and the knife may slip and cut you. To chop chocolate in a food processor, chill the chocolate slightly and pulse it just until chopped.

Sometimes a grayish color develops on chocolate. This is called "bloom", and it is a sign that the cocoa butter has risen to the surface. Flavor and quality will not be lessened, and the grayish color, or bloom, will disappear when the chocolate is melted.

Measure 1 tablespoon granulated yeast for each 1/2-ounce called for in a recipe.

Semisweet chocolate morsels and semisweet chocolate squares can be used interchangeably when a recipe calls for this type chocolate melted.

If you like baking, keep two kinds of white flour on hand, one with high gluten content for bread and one with low gluten content for cakes, cookies, and quick breads.

Melt white chocolate over very hot water -- never boiling or even simmering. White chocolate will scorch at a lower temperature than bittersweet chocolate.

It's generally recommended that for best results you should use Grade AA eggs. Bring them to room temperature before using, however, it's easier to separate eggs when they're cold, so if a recipe calls for separating the whites from the yolks do that first then bring them to room temperature.

Never buy eggs that haven't been refrigerated because they are potentially hazardous to consume. Reach back in the refrigerator case to select the coldest dozen you can. Ditto that for butter and dairy products.

For maximum flavor and the best results when nuts are called for in a recipe, toast them before incorporating into a batter or mixture.

For best results, always use whole milk rather than skim or reduced fat milk in your pastry recipes.

Working with phyllo dough can be tricky. For ideal results keep the box refrigerated until you are ready to use it. If you buy it frozen, thaw it in the refrigerator overnight. When ready to use, unroll the pastry onto a work surface and keep it covered with a slightly damp towel (moistened with a mister rather than drenched under the facet.) If it gets too wet the moisture will cause the sheets to stick together.

Whirl granulated sugar in a processor or blender until powdery, then roll cut brownie squares in it for a delightful, sparkling white coating.

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