We’re excited to introduce a new blog series to you called Bakers’ Basics with Marcy Goldman! Marcy is a professional pastry chef and master baker. She’s authored several books and hosts the popular baking magazine Better Baking. Marcy will be sharing her tricks and techniques via recipes and special baking tips every other month in this space. We hope you’ll find it helpful and entertaining! Here’s Marcy:
Welcome to Bakers’ Basics! In this new bi-monthly column, I will provide a mini baking lesson and some especially created recipes to go with the lesson.
Bakers’ Basics is your place; a cozy and floury oasis where you’ll be learning the unique joys of both classic and contemporary American baking. We’ll be chatting about recipes that are seasonal, traditional, and trending, as well as foundational, teaching recipes. It’s all geared to help you improve your baking skills.
I’ll be sharing my expertise as well as my own passion for this wonder ingredient, Clabber Girl baking powder, while you hone your home baking craftsmanship.
Despite the plethora of great free recipes, food sites and blogs, and expert videos on baking, many professional techniques are omitted. Consequently, home bakers don’t always have the advantage of recipes that are designed to make them shine, along with the insider’s tips to help them improve. Nor do they get to appreciate the low-down on baking powder baking, which is, in essence, the full spectrum of American baking. Want the techniques and tricks only the pros know? Here’s the place to find out about them and once you do, just watch your baking soar!
A Baking Powder Primer
As familiar as our modern baking powder is now, there once was a time when the sole baking leaveners were wild yeasts and sour dough starters, frothy mounted egg whites, or the somewhat unpalatable and unreliable early baking sodas of yesteryear, also known as saleratus. This gravelly, early sodium bicarbonate had to be used in conjunction with an acid ingredient, usually sour milk or buttermilk. It was unreliable, and oftentimes baked goods had that unmistakable yucky taste of soda in them.
When commercial double-acting baking powder was first introduced around 1855 (just before the Civil War!), it offered home bakers a reliable, consistent leavener that already had its acid component (cream of tartar, phosphate or alum powders) mixed in with the alkali ingredient, namely soda. Homemakers no longer had to labour at the butter churn to produce some extra buttermilk needed to make their soda active.
As city life evolved and homemakers no longer predictably had access to farm-churned buttermilk, this attribute of the new “yeast powder,” aka baking powder, had huge appeal. In fact, the first baking powders were known as “Yeast Powders” to somewhat dupe or appease the consumer into thinking this was a derivative yeast product.
Some home bakers (as well as pros) bemoaned the new product, concerned it would see the disappearance of old-fashioned yeast bakery. But what did come to pass, and what we can all appreciate, is that modern baking powder gave rise to a whole new spectrum of totally fabulous baking, from quick breads to cupcakes, muffins, scones, biscotti, pancakes and tender layer cakes. It’s hard to think of any great baking, aside from yeasted breads, that doesn’t begin with a can of Clabber Girl Baking Power, who by the way, has been here from the beginning of this baking journey. To read more on Clabber Girl’s own special history, check out http://www.clabbergirl.com/history.php/
Now you know just what a wonder product baking powder is and how integral it is to American baking. Knowing Clabber Girl is perfectly formulated and recipe-tested to be the best, you can join me on this very special baking adventure.
To start us off this month, I’ve included a trio of recipes that are quintessentially summery and showcase Clabber Girl’s baking powder in three very delectable ways. They are also blue ribbon examples of baking powder-based baking that kitchens have enjoyed for generations.
Blueberry Raspberry Buckle
Buckles, grunts, crisps, pandowdy’s and deep dish fruity things are both summery easy and a perfect lesson in seeing how baking powder and some pantry ingredients make for as sumptuous dessert. This is a golden, fruity buckle with an addictive streusel topping. Dense with deep berry freshness and flavor, it slices easily, making it oh-so-easy to serve. This is summery country elegance in its finest hour and no wonder! A ton of extra testing and perfecting went into this quintessential buckle recipe. It’s not too cakey nor gummy; it’s neither muffin, nor a quick bread, and too unique to be just a coffee cake. It’s just the best buckle possible and a wonderful example of the marvels of the broad realm of baking powder baking.
1860 Secret Trick Baking Powder Biscuits
Pioneer cooks being baking savvy knew to rely on farm fresh buttermilk for extra light biscuits. The acid in the buttermilk makes the biscuits especially high-risin’. My extra trick is to add soured (lemon juice helps do that) whipping cream for an especially high, baking powder biscuit that is both tender and crusty. This is an all-butter biscuit; if you prefer shortening, use the new non trans fat one.
Caramel Sticky Pudding
This is a rustic but still decadent dessert that’s whipped together in minutes. A simple cake batter gets spooned into a pan, doused with brown sugar and maple concoction. The magic of the oven (and baking powder) transforms it into a golden brown cake atop a luscious sticky syrup bottom.