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Chris Amirault

Baking 101

331 posts in this topic

Ellen -

I'm probably way over-pre-thinking this -- I've never worked with cream before, though, and I feel like every recipe I read warns against overbeating -- creams, batters, eggs.  I'm terrified of beating anything because I have no clue how sensitive any of these things are or how you can tell when you're at the right point.  I think I can figure out 'almost stiff' but I'm wondering if you could provide even a general time frame on that -- is it two minutes?  Ten?  I know it will vary depending on how you do the beating too.  Would it be possible to whisk this by hand, or totally unadvisable?  I have neither a stand nor a hand mixer, though I have an immersion blender with a few different attachments.

Unless you have strong wrists, do yourself a favor and pick up a hand mixer. If anything, those recipes should warn people not to underbeat things like meringues and whipped cream. That's what I used to do and my results often suffered because of it.

When you get your hand mixer, set aside some time to purposely overbeat some egg whites and whipped cream to get a feel for the different stages it goes through. With both, I can usually hear when the motor is straining to indicate that the cream/whites are getting stiff (this is on a stand mixer, however). There is also a very helpful thread on whipping cream.


Edited by sanrensho (log)

Baker of "impaired" cakes...

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Ellen -

I'm probably way over-pre-thinking this -- I've never worked with cream before, though, and I feel like every recipe I read warns against overbeating -- creams, batters, eggs.  I'm terrified of beating anything because I have no clue how sensitive any of these things are or how you can tell when you're at the right point.  I think I can figure out 'almost stiff' but I'm wondering if you could provide even a general time frame on that -- is it two minutes?  Ten?  I know it will vary depending on how you do the beating too.  Would it be possible to whisk this by hand, or totally unadvisable?  I have neither a stand nor a hand mixer, though I have an immersion blender with a few different attachments.

Thank you so much for all the help!  Everyone here is so fantastic.  :D

rachel! you're probably not overthinking this because I think about stuff like this all the time and that can't be just because I'm weird can it?

Here is the excellent demo on whipping cream. You can do this with a wire whip, but I think sanrensho is right. Even a cheap electric mixer will save some wrist time. I also agree that most of the time cream is underwhipped. Feel free to go for the gusto.

Edited to add: Depending on the attachments for your immersion blender, it might handle the whipping for you. Try it with a small amount of cream and see how you like it.


Edited by EllenC (log)

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My name is Mitch and I am a baking ass. I wake up in the morning and I want to bake. I think about baking all day. I bake at work even if people are watching. So far my employer has been supportive of my obseesion. I come home from work and I bake, I look through baking books and magazines. I call friends that bake and we talk about baking. I even visit many websites about baking. I have downloaded tons of images. I have spent more than my budget on baking. The photos from my honeymoon are of baked goods. My affliction interferes with relationships and responsibilities; even finances. I have waited so long to find others with the same affliction. Oh, wait a minute...............wrong thread...........it says baking dumb asses. Well, I guess that confirms it; I am a dumb ass. But I do love to bake It's the process that gives me the rush of adrenaline. Speaking of which, would you rather bake or eat baked goods? Would you rather bake all day with your back to the wall with something on the scale, something on the mixer, something on the bench, something in the proofer, something in the oven, flour everywhere....................or would you rather walk into a bakery and eat to your little heart's content. Give me the heat, the ingredients, and the equipment and get outta the way. I will not get hungry, I will not get tired, and I will not stop. Bake, bake, bake, that is how you learn and how you continue to learn. Pray for me and BAKE ON.

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I wake up in the morning and I want to bake.  I think about baking all day.

I resemble this comment. Perhaps we need another thread for Bakers Anonymous.


Baker of "impaired" cakes...

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Speaking of which, would you rather bake or eat baked goods? 

LOL, I've been known to bake non-stop for weeks in prepping for a party, and then not even sample one of everything! I'd much rather bake than eat.

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I never got the answer to my question on the pan sizes thread, so I'm posting it here, b/c I want to know!!

I  have a question about pan sizes too, not for an immediate problem, but just for future reference.

I have two recipes, one is for toffee, and calls for a "small rimmed baking sheet."  The other recipe is for brownies and calls for a "rimmed baking sheet."  What exactly are they referring to?  I've always used a 12x9 cake pan for the toffee and what we call our "Texas Sheet Cake Pan," which I think might be 11x17, for the brownies, and they both have always turned out fine.  But, I would like to know exactly what size they are talking about here.

Now, I know Wendy said to use my best judgement, but I'm also the same person that has no idea how many that 5 lb. roast is going to feed in the end either. I'm clueless when it comes to knowing how much a pile of ingredients is going to end up as. And toffee is certainly not something I would want to be messing around with while I'm searching for a pan to put it in. Also, I've tried the above brownie recipe in a regular 12x9 pan, and it didn't work! Does anyone have the answer to the above question? I'm sure it's a simple answer and I've just made a baking ignoramous out of myself! :wink:


"Many people believe the names of In 'n Out and Steak 'n Shake perfectly describe the contrast in bedroom techniques between the coast and the heartland." ~Roger Ebert

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I never got the answer to my question on the pan sizes thread, so I'm posting it here, b/c I want to know!!
I  have a question about pan sizes too, not for an immediate problem, but just for future reference.

I have two recipes, one is for toffee, and calls for a "small rimmed baking sheet."  The other recipe is for brownies and calls for a "rimmed baking sheet."  What exactly are they referring to?  I've always used a 12x9 cake pan for the toffee and what we call our "Texas Sheet Cake Pan," which I think might be 11x17, for the brownies, and they both have always turned out fine.  But, I would like to know exactly what size they are talking about here.

Now, I know Wendy said to use my best judgement, but I'm also the same person that has no idea how many that 5 lb. roast is going to feed in the end either. I'm clueless when it comes to knowing how much a pile of ingredients is going to end up as. And toffee is certainly not something I would want to be messing around with while I'm searching for a pan to put it in. Also, I've tried the above brownie recipe in a regular 12x9 pan, and it didn't work! Does anyone have the answer to the above question? I'm sure it's a simple answer and I've just made a baking ignoramous out of myself! :wink:

Without seeing the recipe, it won't be possible to answer that question. Most brownie recipes call for 8-9" square or a 13x9" pan. If you tell us what the recipe calls for, we can determine the volume of the ingredients and tell you which pan would be best. When you tried the recipe in the 12x9, what do you mean that it didnt work? Did it overflow the pan, was it thin as a pancake, did it not set?


"If you hear a voice within you say 'you cannot paint,' then by all means paint, and that voice will be silenced" - Vincent Van Gogh
 

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I'm sorry sometimes I forget which questions have been answered and which haven't...........just repost to your hearts delight, we'll notice that way.

O.k. here's a tip:

Stop greasing your pans. Stop buttering your pans. Stop STOP STOP. And........don't bother with flouring the pan over the fat or using cocoa powder.

STOP ALL OF THAT NOW! We shall set you free!

Buy a can of pan spray, use it in all applications that require greasing a pan. Forget the need to flour the pan, it's totally not needed (yes that's true!)...........just spray NO flour.

There is one small thing you do need to pay attention to though: You must buy a good pan spray that does NOT include water. Many pan spray brands used to contain water as their first ingredient. Well water makes batters stick! It's the same thing with buttering a pan. If you butter a pan, butter has water in it.........and low and behold it helps your items stick to the pan, not release.

It's a big fat ole myth that you can taste some difference in a pan where butter was used as a release coating. Poppy Kock!!! That's in your head 99% of the time. Save your butter for the item being baked, not the pan. Would you really want to eat an item coated in cold butter. I'd rather eat a item baked in a super light coating of pan spray cause you can't taste or see it.

Next tip (along the same lines), line your pans with parchment paper!:

You'll never go wrong with lining your pans with parchment paper. You'll never have a item stuck in your pan again. I still spray the bottom of my pan with pan spray, that's so the parchment really sticks down flat to the pan.........so no batter can get under it.

I line all (well most of them) my baked goods with parchment. When I make a bundt cake, I bake them in tube pans lined with parchment........and they never ever stick to the pan. Well.......we also don't own any bundt pans at work..........so I can't use them if I wanted.

A word of advice with lining your pans.........you've got to cut the paper to fit the pan. You can't fold it and cram it into the pan. It MUST lie flat against the pan to work properly. In your corners, cut the paper so you don't have any folds. Or just lay the paper along one side of the pan leaving the ends unpapered, just sprayed. You really only need the paper for the bottom part of the pan. After all you can use a knive to release the sides of your item from the pan. So when I say I'm lining my pans, I'm only ever lining the bottom of my pans, not the sides.

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My name is Mitch and I am a baking ass.  I wake up in the morning and I want to bake.  I think about baking all day.  I bake at work even if people are watching.  So far my employer has been supportive of my obseesion.  I come home from work and I bake, I look through baking books and magazines.  I call friends that bake and we talk about baking.  I even visit many websites about baking.  I have downloaded tons of images.  I have spent more than my budget on baking.  The photos from my honeymoon are of baked goods.  My affliction interferes with relationships and responsibilities; even finances.  I have waited so long to find others with the same affliction.  Oh, wait a minute...............wrong thread...........it says baking dumb asses.  Well, I guess that confirms it; I am a dumb ass.  But I do love to bake  It's the process that gives me the rush of adrenaline.  Speaking of which, would you rather bake or eat baked goods?  Would you rather bake all day with your back to the wall with something on the scale, something on the mixer, something on the bench, something in the proofer, something in the oven, flour everywhere....................or would you rather walk into a bakery and eat to your little heart's content.  Give me the heat, the ingredients, and the equipment and get outta the way.  I will not get hungry, I will not get tired, and I will not stop.  Bake, bake, bake, that is how you learn and how you continue to learn.  Pray for me and BAKE ON.

As a friend of Mitch's who regularly takes advantage of his happy affliction, I can say that all of this is true. (I've seen the honeymoon photos. "Honey, move to the left a bit. You're in the shot of the pain de campagne.") I also can say that Mitch can probably answer many of our dumbass questions along with the other kind souls here!

To that end: Wendy, can you recommend some water-free pan sprays?


Chris Amirault

camirault@eGstaff.org

eG Ethics Signatory

Sir Luscious got gator belts and patty melts

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Back to flours:

Just use the type the recipe calls for. Forget learning all about them for now. If you can't find the flour called for just start a thread and ask for help, everyone around here will help.

Back to toffee and the right pan:

Toffee doesn't need a pan with sides at all. You pour it on to you pan and it naturally spreads out free form. If you want a thinner toffee you can quickly spread it while it's very molten, spread it with a metal spatula. I pour my toffee on to a silpat pan lined with chopped salted pecans.

The 5lb roast:

No one can tell you how many that feeds either. Do your people eat like birds or pigs? You can to make a guess as some point. You can understand that it will shrink down as it cooks, you can make a questimate on how many it will feed. But how much it will feed depends on you and your guests. Cut it small and let them go back for more.

With baking recipes:

Mix up the batter first, then pick out what pan your going to bake it in. Like picking out what size box to pack your items into, judge by sight. If you wind up having too much batter for the pan, don't add all of it. Only fill your pan 3/4 of the way, never (o.k. rarely) more. If you put your batter in a pan and it doesn't even reach the sides of the pan, the pan is too big. Just scrape out the batter into another smaller pan.

If you have extra batter put it in a cupcake pan and bake it off that way, instead of over filling your pan.

It's all forgiving. There's only a few items that won't let you move the batter with-out deflating drasticly. Just don't be heavy handed and slam around a light batter, etc... treat it with respect as you change pans.

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Pam for Baking is a great oil+flour pan spray. I like it better than Baker's Joy.


"If you hear a voice within you say 'you cannot paint,' then by all means paint, and that voice will be silenced" - Vincent Van Gogh
 

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I never got the answer to my question on the pan sizes thread, so I'm posting it here, b/c I want to know!!
I  have a question about pan sizes too, not for an immediate problem, but just for future reference.

I have two recipes, one is for toffee, and calls for a "small rimmed baking sheet."  The other recipe is for brownies and calls for a "rimmed baking sheet."  What exactly are they referring to?  I've always used a 12x9 cake pan for the toffee and what we call our "Texas Sheet Cake Pan," which I think might be 11x17, for the brownies, and they both have always turned out fine.  But, I would like to know exactly what size they are talking about here.

Now, I know Wendy said to use my best judgement, but I'm also the same person that has no idea how many that 5 lb. roast is going to feed in the end either. I'm clueless when it comes to knowing how much a pile of ingredients is going to end up as. And toffee is certainly not something I would want to be messing around with while I'm searching for a pan to put it in. Also, I've tried the above brownie recipe in a regular 12x9 pan, and it didn't work! Does anyone have the answer to the above question? I'm sure it's a simple answer and I've just made a baking ignoramous out of myself! :wink:

Without seeing the recipe, it won't be possible to answer that question. Most brownie recipes call for 8-9" square or a 13x9" pan. If you tell us what the recipe calls for, we can determine the volume of the ingredients and tell you which pan would be best. When you tried the recipe in the 12x9, what do you mean that it didnt work? Did it overflow the pan, was it thin as a pancake, did it not set?

I don't really think it's a matter of volume here... surely there is a pan size that the recipes are referring to. One of the recipes is from epicurious and the other from Martha Stewart. I'm not wondering what size I need for the volume of ingredients I have... I'm wondering what size of pans they are referring to when they say "rimmed baking sheet" or "small rimmed baking sheet." Sorry if that wasn't clear.

When I put the brownies in the 12x9 the middle was underdone, and the outside was completely dried out, when I made them in the "Texas Sheet Cake" pan they came out perfectly.


"Many people believe the names of In 'n Out and Steak 'n Shake perfectly describe the contrast in bedroom techniques between the coast and the heartland." ~Roger Ebert

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I never got the answer to my question on the pan sizes thread, so I'm posting it here, b/c I want to know!!
I  have a question about pan sizes too, not for an immediate problem, but just for future reference.

I have two recipes, one is for toffee, and calls for a "small rimmed baking sheet."  The other recipe is for brownies and calls for a "rimmed baking sheet."  What exactly are they referring to?  I've always used a 12x9 cake pan for the toffee and what we call our "Texas Sheet Cake Pan," which I think might be 11x17, for the brownies, and they both have always turned out fine.  But, I would like to know exactly what size they are talking about here.

Now, I know Wendy said to use my best judgement, but I'm also the same person that has no idea how many that 5 lb. roast is going to feed in the end either. I'm clueless when it comes to knowing how much a pile of ingredients is going to end up as. And toffee is certainly not something I would want to be messing around with while I'm searching for a pan to put it in. Also, I've tried the above brownie recipe in a regular 12x9 pan, and it didn't work! Does anyone have the answer to the above question? I'm sure it's a simple answer and I've just made a baking ignoramous out of myself! :wink:

Without seeing the recipe, it won't be possible to answer that question. Most brownie recipes call for 8-9" square or a 13x9" pan. If you tell us what the recipe calls for, we can determine the volume of the ingredients and tell you which pan would be best. When you tried the recipe in the 12x9, what do you mean that it didnt work? Did it overflow the pan, was it thin as a pancake, did it not set?

I don't really think it's a matter of volume here... surely there is a pan size that the recipes are referring to. One of the recipes is from epicurious and the other from Martha Stewart. I'm not wondering what size I need for the volume of ingredients I have... I'm wondering what size of pans they are referring to when they say "rimmed baking sheet" or "small rimmed baking sheet." Sorry if that wasn't clear.

What I'm telling you is that "rimmed baking sheet" does not specify a particular size, because there are many different sizes. It could be a full sheet pan, a half sheet pan, or something else. Its like asking me how tall exactly a short tree is . . . it depends. If you want to know which one is best (i.e. which one will give you a brownies 1-2" thick), you do need to know the volume of the ingredients and how much leavening there is.


"If you hear a voice within you say 'you cannot paint,' then by all means paint, and that voice will be silenced" - Vincent Van Gogh
 

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All right, here's a good baking 101 question. RLB (I'm such a name, or initials, dropper) and everyone else talks about "building structure" by beating cake batter for a long time. What exactly is going on there? How does the cake itself manifest the benefits of that structure? Is there a point past which beating to build structure stops doing good and other, bad things start?


Chris Amirault

camirault@eGstaff.org

eG Ethics Signatory

Sir Luscious got gator belts and patty melts

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All right, here's a good baking 101 question. RLB (I'm such a name, or initials, dropper) and everyone else talks about "building structure" by beating cake batter for a long time. What exactly is going on there? How does the cake itself manifest the benefits of that structure? Is there a point past which beating to build structure stops doing good and other, bad things start?

Beating (or kneading, for that matter) anything with flour in it will start the glutens in that flour releasing and incorporating into other ingredients, which helps build structure. But going too far means you'll release too much gluten and end up with a gummy cake.


Edited by Sugarella (log)

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Question. I have seen this in several different posts: something about putting toothpicks into cakes after they come out of the oven - not to test them for done-ness, but for something else: keeping them elevated.

How? Why would you want to do this? what does it mean... :blink:

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A chiffon cake will collapse on itself if it cools rightside-up. Most of the chiffon cake recipes I have call for a tube pan, which has "feet" to lift the pan above the counter, or which you can hang upside down on a bottle.

I don't always want a hole in my cake, though, but still want my cake to cool upside-down. After taking a round cake pan out of the oven, I put six or eight toothpicks around the edge, then stand it upside-down on the toothpicks. That way, the cake itself, or most of it, is suspended above the counter.

I'd like to find toothpicks that are 4" long, though--the 3" are a little short. I've tried cutting wooden skewers in half, but that didn't work for me. (They weren't perfectly even, and they ended up skewing until both the cake pan fell and the sides of the cake were damaged by skewer-tracks.) :sad:


Life is short. Eat the roasted cauliflower first.

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A chiffon cake will collapse on itself if it cools rightside-up.  Most of the chiffon cake recipes I have call for a tube pan, which has "feet" to lift the pan above the counter, or which you can hang upside down on a bottle. 

I don't always want a hole in my cake, though, but still want my cake to cool upside-down.  After taking a round cake pan out of the oven, I put six or eight toothpicks around the edge, then stand it upside-down on the toothpicks.  That way, the cake itself, or most of it, is suspended above the counter.

I'd like to find toothpicks that are 4" long, though--the 3" are a little short.  I've tried cutting wooden skewers in half, but that didn't work for me.  (They weren't perfectly even, and they ended up skewing until both the cake pan fell and the sides of the cake were damaged by skewer-tracks.)    :sad:

I generally turn my chiffon cake pans upside down onto the regular cooling rack I use for other things. I had never heard of this toothpick method, and although it does sound interesting, I worry about the "slant" factor - ie, if the toothpicks slant a bit and the pan leans one way and collapses then I'm sure the cake would be damaged, as you mentioned.


Don't waste your time or time will waste you - Muse

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i've got one: today i was at the whole foods and i bought flour--i was out of just regular old all-purpose flour. i usually buy king arthur but today they didn't have the five pound bags, and i picked up the whole foods brand. what i noticed but didn't really register at the time is that the bag said 'all purpose baking flour.' there were separate bags of all purpose flour. i bought it anyway; i don't know why.

my question is: is this going to be more like bread flour, and make my pancakes tough, or is it going to be more like pastry or cake flour, and make me unable to make pizza dough out of it?

or is it really basically all-purpose flour, and i shouldn't even think twice about it?

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All purpose flour is the same as all purpose baking flour....it's for all baking purposes! I suspect that brand has reprinted the new packaging to "all purpose baking flour" to make it easier for some to identify, or know what they can use it for.

At least.... I'm pretty sure that must be it. :biggrin:

P.S. .... Try making your pizza dough with bread flour instead of all purpose.... more gluten = chewier dough.

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thanks sugarella. yeah, the fact that there were separate bags for 'all purpose' and 'all purpose baking' flour just caught me off guard. good to know that it's all good.

and i will do for the pizza dough--i'm very slowly learning about all this...

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One of my new year's resolutions was to learn how to cook. I've modified it to learn how to bake since the Mrs. is a kick a** cook and sharp objects are not exactly a match made in heaven for me. Not to mention early/easy successes has bred enthusiasm! So Chris, thank you for this thread.

Two questions:

1. Yeast Types and conversion rates- Active Dry -vs- Compressed -vs- cakes?

Are there different quality characteristics for each or are they generally interchangable and is there a straightforward conversion calculation I can use if a recipie only lists quantity for compressed and I have active dry on hand?

2. Freezing Egg Whites- I have used a ton of yolks lately and am wasting the whites.

I read above about this but I have a use/storage question. Do I continually add egg whites on top of already frozen ones OR do I have multiple containers with dates and number of whites written on the sides. When I need to use them do I defrost first, please elaborate about the uses for frozen whites?

Thanks!

-Mike


-Mike & Andrea

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P.S. .... Try making your pizza dough with bread flour instead of all purpose.... more gluten = chewier dough.

The only problem is that more gluten makes the dough a PITA to shape, at least if you're trying to make the dough really thin.


"If you hear a voice within you say 'you cannot paint,' then by all means paint, and that voice will be silenced" - Vincent Van Gogh
 

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A chiffon cake will collapse on itself if it cools rightside-up.  Most of the chiffon cake recipes I have call for a tube pan, which has "feet" to lift the pan above the counter, or which you can hang upside down on a bottle. 

I don't always want a hole in my cake, though, but still want my cake to cool upside-down.  After taking a round cake pan out of the oven, I put six or eight toothpicks around the edge, then stand it upside-down on the toothpicks.  That way, the cake itself, or most of it, is suspended above the counter.

I'd like to find toothpicks that are 4" long, though--the 3" are a little short.  I've tried cutting wooden skewers in half, but that didn't work for me.  (They weren't perfectly even, and they ended up skewing until both the cake pan fell and the sides of the cake were damaged by skewer-tracks.)    :sad:

I still don't get it.. I think.. by upside down you mean, the way it is when it comes out of the oven? so you leave the cake in the tin, but to facilitate cooling, you do the toothpick trick to lift the bottom of the caketin from the counter? Do you leave them in the tin until they are completely cold, isn't it hard to get them out of the tin then?

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A chiffon cake will collapse on itself if it cools rightside-up.  Most of the chiffon cake recipes I have call for a tube pan, which has "feet" to lift the pan above the counter, or which you can hang upside down on a bottle. 

I don't always want a hole in my cake, though, but still want my cake to cool upside-down.  After taking a round cake pan out of the oven, I put six or eight toothpicks around the edge, then stand it upside-down on the toothpicks.   That way, the cake itself, or most of it, is suspended above the counter.

I'd like to find toothpicks that are 4" long, though--the 3" are a little short.  I've tried cutting wooden skewers in half, but that didn't work for me.  (They weren't perfectly even, and they ended up skewing until both the cake pan fell and the sides of the cake were damaged by skewer-tracks.)     :sad:

I still don't get it.. I think.. by upside down you mean, the way it is when it comes out of the oven? so you leave the cake in the tin, but to facilitate cooling, you do the toothpick trick to lift the bottom of the caketin from the counter? Do you leave them in the tin until they are completely cold, isn't it hard to get them out of the tin then?

Nope, not the way it is out of the oven. Literally upside down -- like the bottom of the pan is facing the ceiling and the cake is "hanging" from the inside of the pan, hovering over the counter.

I've never actually done the toothpick thing (I do it differently), but you would put long toothpicks around the edge of the cake and turn it over on the counter. The picks would be holding the inside of the cake pan up off the counter and the cake would be hanging out underneath.

You don't grease a pan for a chiffon because you want it to cling to rise nice and light. When time to take it out of the pan, you slide a knife around the edge and pop it out.

Wish you could draw in the thread...


Cheryl, The Sweet Side

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