I assume sometimes that everyone knows how to toast nuts, but you know what happens when you ass-u-me, right? Well, I came across a short blip in a cookbook and it had a blurb about toasting nuts and since I make a lot of my recipes with toasted nuts I thought I would write a short piece about it. I actually learned something new myself. I did not know that you can actually toast nuts in a microwave. Say what?! I know, right? Purists will scoff a bit with this one. I mean, “serious cooks aren’t supposed to be using a microwave”. Yeah-whatever…Well it made me think about the time I was in pastry school. The school didn’t even have a microwave on the premises. I thought it was kind of overboard; especially since we were fed by the remains of the day students from the culinary school. We always had to warm up our food by using the oven only. Anyway…I digress. My point is why should it be a crime to use the microwave if you want. This might be esp. handy since we are coming up on Thanksgiving and a lot of times there is NO oven room or stove top room left.
How To Toast Nuts 3 ways
Oven: Spread the nuts in a shallow baking pan (pie plate, 1/4 sheet pan, tart pan etc.) and bake in a 350° F (180° C) oven for 5-10 minutes. Open the oven and shake the nuts gently once or twice and WATCH them as this is not an exact science. Check often to make sure they don’t over brown.
Stove Top: (This is best for small nuts or those that are chopped). Toast chopped or ground nuts in a dry skillet over medium heat. Stir often so they don’t burn. Remove from the skillet immediately to stop the cooking process. Note; this is usually how I toast pine nuts if you have a recipe that calls for toasted pine nuts as they tend to go really fast and the stove top method you can watch them more closely.
Microwave: Spread a single layer of nuts on a microwave safe plate. Cook on 100 % power (high) at 1 minute intervals until nuts have a crisp crunch, toasted flavor and become fragrant. The amount of time varies, so watch and check closely.
A word about baking substitutions. Baking is as we all know, a science and sometimes you can “fool” a recipe by substituting another ingredient in the recipe if you don’t have one. Below are a few common substitutions you can do instead of running to the store if you are hard pressed for time. I hope you find this list helpful and if you like it’s handy to print out and tape to the inside of your cupboard of baking supplies to use as a handy reference. Happy Baking~ Suzie
Baking Powder (1 tsp): 1/4 tsp. baking soda+ 1/2 tsp. cream of tartar
Cream of Tartar (1/2 tsp): 1/2 tsp. white vinegar or lemon juice
Buttermilk (1 Cup): 3 choices here~
a) 1 Cup plain yogurt, [greek is even fine] OR
b) 1 Tbsp. white vinegar or lemon juice in a liquid measuring cup then fill to the 1 Cup line with whole milk or 2 % milk and let stand for 5 minutes, OR
c) 1 Cup milk + 3/4 tsp. cream of tartar
Half -n-Half [for baking- 1 Cup]: 1 1/2 Tbsp. butter + enough milk to = 1 Cup
Super Fine Sugar (1 Cup): Take granulated sugar and process in food processor for ~ 30 seconds (I personally never buy super fine sugar- what I do is whir up a big batch of granulated sugar in my processor and then keep it in a labeled container separately).
Light Brown Sugar (1 Cup): 1 Tbsp. unsulfured molasses + 1 Cup white granulated sugar. (combine in a bowl with a fork or handheld mixer)
Dark Brown Sugar (1 Cup): 2 Tbsp. unsulfured molasses + 1 Cup white granulated sugar. (combine in a bowl with a fork or handheld mixer)
Flour Substitutions: I don’t have a cute picture or story today. Just a couple quick tips on flour. Just the facts Mam.
You may notice sometimes recipes will call for “Self rising flour”. I notice a lot of Southern recipes call for self rising flour. I’ve heard you can make your fried chicken extra crunchy if you use self-rising flour. Have not tried it, that’s just what I’ve heard. You can make a quick batch by taking 1 Cup flour and adding baking powder and salt. If you need cake flour and don’t have any, you can also make a quick batch and here is the recipe below.
Self Rising Flour:
1 Cup All-purpose flour
1/2 tsp. salt
1 1/2 tsp. baking powder
(whisk to combine)
3/4 Cup + 2 Tbsp. All-purpose flour
2 Tbsp. cornstarch
(whisk to combine and voila~ you have 1 Cup of cake flour)
People always ask me how I get perfect looking cuts on brownies or anything where you have to cut the cookie or baked good that you made in a pan. The secret is the “sling”. You can sling almost anything that goes into a square, or oblong pan. This goes for brownies, fudge, banana bread, key lime bars, marshmallows etc. Sometimes I do a single sling; like the picture above, or a double sling if the contents are very sticky. If in doubt; double sling; which means to have a sling going both directions. Keep the sling long enough so that the overhang has about at least 2 inches so you have ample area for grabbing when it comes time to lift it out of the pan. If the item you are bakng is very heavy; such a a heavy brownie batter, you can also sling with heavy weight tinfoil or double tinfoil. You may have to spray the parchment paper or tinfoil; it will depend on the recipe. Basically if the recipe calls for you to spray the pan, then that means you better spray the paper/tinfoil. If it is something where there is a lot of butter in the crust, for example, a shortbread recipe; then you can get away without spraying your sling. Just follow the recipe guideline.
I’m sling addicted.
[well, I have this box that I bought 4 years ago from Smart and Final of about 1,000 sheets of paper so that might explain it a little 🙂 but don’t fear, it is very reasonably priced. Maybe share with a friend].
I rarely bake anything that calls for a square or oblong pan without putting in a sling first. The sling helps the whole mass come out in one piece where you can simply lift it out of the pan, peel away the paper, set it on your cutting board, and cut your perfect little slices or bars. Perfect square brownies with no weird edges. 😉
I know…the whole sling thing sounds rather OCD, but it also helps in the dreaded cleanup and wear and tear on your pans.
I buy parchment paper in bulk from Smart and Final and it comes in a large flat box. The sheets are the size of a whole sheet pan, so if you make the commitment to buy a box, you have to keep it somewhere where the box can lay flat; which leaves me with my next disclaimer:
Keep the box out of the hands of your Mother in Law who will be way too tempted to move that sucker!
I’m just sayin’…. 🙂
I learned a long time ago that parchment paper is key to any good baking, so go get your sling on!
People ask me all the time, what are some good tips for creating a great cake or baked good.. 🙂 In actuality, all you really need is a proven recipe and make sure to follow the directions. You will notice a lot of recipes, especially cake recipes; call for room temperature eggs. What should you do if you forgot to take the eggs out ahead of time and you don’t want to wait forever? Here’s the solution: Take a large measuring cup or bowl and put your [unbroken] eggs in the cup and gently fill it up with hot tap water; high enough to the cover the eggs by an inch or so. Let the eggs sit in the water for about 10 -15 minutes and after the first few minutes, change the water again to refresh it with hot water. The eggs will come closer to room temperature so that they are not shocking cold. The reason why you want room temperature eggs is that it helps ensure the emulsion in the recipe and this helps the cake or baked good rise better.
The two major ingredients in cakes- which are fat and water (including the water content in the eggs) are by nature “unmixable”. When I say liquid this also means the liquid in the recipe such as milk etc. As my son would say,… ” Uh, Hello Captain Obvious!” 🙂 A uniform mixture of two “unmixable” substances is an emulsion. Having too cold an ingredient makes it much hard for the ingredients to emulsify. So….try to plan ahead a little and take out the eggs ahead of time and you’ll be fine, and if you forget because you are multi tasking, now you have a solution.