Tuesday, January 14, 2014


Hi baking world,

Baking Is A Science has moved to a new and improved real domain at bakingisascience.com.

Thanks for helping me along here and enjoy my new blog.

Happy baking,

Saturday, January 11, 2014

Baking 101: Accurately Measuring Flour

Dear baking world,

So, what's the big deal about measuring flour? Because accurate flour measuring can greatly affect the final outcome of the baked good. Too much flour means dry baked goods. Too little flour means pudding-like or flat baked goods.

Every baker uses a different method of measuring flour but every method could yield up to one tablespoon or more difference in either direction. Two of the most popular methods: one, scoop directly from the bowl then flatten (either with a knife or against the bag) and two, scoop into cup then flatten. However, depending on how hard the baker presses the flour into the cup, or even if a baker taps the measuring cup on the table or against a flour container, then the weight of flour in the cup will increase. This will further throw off the final product.

Typically, recipes indicate how much flour the recipe requires in ounces, which is a weight measurement, but also indicates the amount of flour in cups, which is a volume measurement. For example, in her book BakeWise, Shirley Corriher indicates that her Blueberry and Cream Muffins requires 8.8 oz. of all-purpose flour, or 4.4 oz./cup. Another example is Smitten Kitchen's Perfect Blueberry Muffins, which she indicates require 6.75 oz. of all purpose flour or 4.5 oz./cup. As you can see, each recipe writer has a slightly different meaning for "one cup of flour," instead of risking it with volume measuring, I would recommend that a baker buys a food scale for truly accurate measuring.

But for the sake of scientific experiment, I wanted to test the accuracy of different measuring methods, I used Gold unbleached all-purpose flour. The bag indicated that 1 cup weighs 120 grams, or 4.23 ounces. Therefore, 4.23 ounces will be my ideal measurement. The best method will be closest to 4.23 ounces. (I would like to note that traditionaloven.com says that one cup of flour is equal to 4.4 oz. This is very close to Shirley's and Smitten Kitchen's measurements for a cup of flour.)

Method 1 - Scoop directly into flour and flatten with a knife

Weigh 1: 4.85 oz.
Off from desired weight (4.23 oz.): .62 oz. or 1 Tbsp. + 1 tsp.

Weigh 2: 5.20 oz.
Off from desired weight (4.23 oz.): .97 oz. or about 2. Tbsp.

Weigh 3: 4.85 oz.
Off from desired weight (4.23 oz.): .62 oz. or 1 Tbsp. + 1 tsp.
Weigh 4: 5.00 oz.
Off from desired weight (4.23 oz.): .77 oz. or 1.5 Tbsp.

Average weight: 4.97 oz. 

Scoop directly from flour

Flatten with a knife

Method 2 - Spoon in flour and flatten with knife 

Weigh 1: 4.35 oz.
Off from desired weight (4.23 oz.): .12 oz or about 1 tsp.

Weigh 2: 4.35 oz.
Off from desired weight (4.23 oz.): .12 oz or about 1 tsp.

Weight 3: 4.35 oz.
Off from desired weight (4.23 oz.): .12 oz or about 1 tsp.

Weigh 4: 4.45
Off from desired weight (4.23 oz.): .12 oz or about a half Tbsp.

Average weight: 4.38

 Scoop flour into cup with a spoon
(Note: at the end of scooping the flour in to heaping, as seen below, some people tap the cup on the side of the flour can. This only increases the total amount of flour in the cup and will throw off the final measurement even more.)

Flatten with a knife

Hope this helps you and your baking endeavors! I know this revelation spurred me to buy a food scale from Amazon.

Happy baking!


Monday, January 6, 2014

How To Make Puffy Snickerdoodles

Dear baking world,

What a tough day for Wisconsinites. First a funnel of cold sent from the mouth of Satan himself is currently settling in to freeze everyone during the night. That's an exaggeration but it's supposed to reach -65 tonight. And on top of that, the Packers lost at Lambeau in the first round of playoffs game 23-20 to the 49ers. 

But there's a silver lining. I spent the first half of the game working on my latest kitchen experiment. 

I love Snickerdoodle cookies. There's something extra special about them. Perhaps it's the cream of tartar that gives them a bit of tang or the hint of cinnamon (but when I bake them, it's more like an avalanche of cinnamon.) Whatever it is, they're one of my favorites. I prefer fluffy, puffy, round, tall Snickerdoodles but my most recent batch didn't stand up to the test of puffiness. So what to do? Shirley Corriher to the rescue!

There are a couple of ways to increase the puffiness of a cookie and reduce spread. 

Option 1: Replace some of the butter with shortening. 
The Science: Butter melts at a much lower temperature than shortening, which means butter promotes cookie spread. If some of the butter is replaced with shortening, the cookies simply won't spread nearly as much. However, shortening lacks flavor, which is why I kept a little bit of the butter in the recipe. (I do love the rich flavor of butter.)

Option 2: Replace some of the granulated sugar with brown sugar.
The Science: I know, I know! Snickerdoodles are supposed to be white on the inside, but brown sugar gives them a darker hue but in the name of experimentation, I had to try it. Brown sugar is more moist than granulated sugar, which means that brown sugar will make for a softer cookie.

Option 3: Replace the all-purpose flour with cake flour.
The Science: Cake flour has much lower protein content than all-purpose flour. (Cake flour is at about 7.5 percent protein, while all-purpose flour is between 9.5 to 12.) All-purpose flour is much better at absorbing water, which leads to a drier, crispier cookie. Cake flour, on the other hand, has less of these water loving proteins and the water then turns to steam in the oven. Oh the joys of science!

Additional ways to reduce spread: 
One way to reduce spread is to make sure that the dough is chilled before baking. If the dough is chilled, the butter takes longer to reach its melting point, thus reducing spread. I put two pieces of the control group in the freezer so I could test what frozen cookie dough bakes like. For the experiment, all 4 groups were chilled for about 15 hours. This was to reduce spreading but also to ensure that temperature/chilling did not affect the outcome.

The Experiment:

I started with a control, which was my mom's classic Snickerdoodle cookie recipe. 

My independent variables were the modified control recipes, stated above. I also added a fifth group, which was the control group frozen overnight, instead of simply putting them in the refrigerator. I was curious about how the initial temperature of the dough itself affected spread. 

My dependent variable was how little the cookies spread. The success of the recipe, or which one I preferred, depended on a few factors, including puffiness, amount of spread and taste. (Taste is important because shortening lacks in the flavor department, so even if the shortening cookie proved extra puffy and perfect, if it sucked flavor wise, then it was a no can do.)

My hypothesis was that in general, chilled dough will spread less, but I hypothesize in terms of taste, tenderness and minimal spread, the cake flour Snickerdoodles will be the best in each category.

Other notes: I baked my cookies on convection at 325 degrees. If you're baking in a non-convection oven, bake them at the regular 350 degrees. However, Shirley Corriher recommends convection because it promotes a more even bake. The butter was at just above room temperature. I creamed the butter and sugar for about 2 minutes for each batch.

The Recipes:

Snickerdoodle Cookies
The original & the control

1/2 cup butter
3/4 cup sugar
1 egg
1 1/4 cups + 2 tbsp. flour
1/2 tsp. cream of tartar
1/4 tsp. baking soda
1/4 tsp. cinnamon

Sugar + cinnamon to roll the cookies in

Preheat oven to 350 (325 if baking with convection.) Cream the shortening, butter and sugar. Add the egg. In a separate bowl, mix together the flour, cream of tartar, baking soda and cinnamon. Chill for at least 2 hours. Form into balls and roll in cinnamon sugar. Bake for 8-12 minutes.

Snickerdoodle Cookies: Shortening
I chose to keep a little bit of butter in the recipe because I love the flavor of butter. 

2 Tbsp. butter, 6 Tbsp. shortening
3/4 cup sugar
1 egg
1 1/4 cups + 2 tbsp. flour
1/2 tsp. cream of tartar
1/4 tsp. baking soda
1/4 tsp. cinnamon

Sugar + cinnamon to roll the cookies in

Preheat oven to 350 (325 if baking with convection.) Cream the butter and sugar. Add the egg. In a separate bowl, mix together the flour, cream of tartar, baking soda and cinnamon. Chill for at least 2 hours. Form into balls and roll in cinnamon sugar. Bake for 8-12 minutes.

Snickerdoodle Cookies: Brown Sugar

1/2 cup butter
6 Tbsp. brown sugar, 6 Tbsp. granulated sugar
1 egg
1 1/4 cups + 2 tbsp. flour
1/2 tsp. cream of tartar
1/4 tsp. baking soda
1/4 tsp. cinnamon

Sugar + cinnamon to roll the cookies in

Preheat oven to 350 (325 if baking with convection). Cream the butter and sugar. Add the egg. In a separate bowl, mix together the flour, cream of tartar, baking soda and cinnamon. Chill for at least 2 hours. Form into balls and roll in cinnamon sugar. Bake for 8-12 minutes.

Snickerdoodle Cookies: Cake Flour
Because cake flour does not replace all-purpose on a 1:1 to ratio, I increased the amount of cake flour by 2 Tbsp.

1/2 cup butter
3/4 cup sugar
1 egg
1 1/2 cups cake flour
1/2 tsp. cream of tartar
1/4 tsp. baking soda
1/4 tsp. cinnamon

Sugar + cinnamon to roll the cookies in

Preheat oven to 350 (325 if baking with convection.) Cream the butter and sugar. Add the egg. In a separate bowl, mix together the flour, cream of tartar, baking soda and cinnamon. Chill for at least 2 hours. Form into balls and roll in cinnamon sugar. Bake for 8-12 minutes.

The 4 variables (+ the frozen ones in the freezer)

Rolled out and rolled in cinnamon sugar!

Two minutes left of baking.

The frozen ones at about the same time. Look at how puffy they are.

The Results

So, what happened? Well, typical me, I stood with my nose pressed to the oven the entire time they baked. (I baked the four controls separate from the frozen ones because the frozen ones would need an extra couple minutes of bake time.) It was fascinating to watch how they spread. The shortening cookies didn't start spreading until the final two minutes, whereas the other cookies started spreading almost immediately. The brown sugar did not spread as much and remained puffier than the others, but surprisingly the cake flour ones spread more than the controls.

Also, the controls never finished cooking. They were in as long as the others, but could've used an extra few minutes, but the others risked burning if I kept them in. I'm not sure if it was the oven and the side they were on was cooking differently, or if it was the cookie itself. 

Then I put the frozen control snickerdoodles into the oven for 12 minutes. Once again, I pressed my nose against the glass as I watched the cookies bake. Like the shortening cookies, these cookies did not fully spread until the last two minutes. In fact, they more resembled the shortening cookies while baking than the control at fridge temperature. Also, they remained really puffed throughout cooking with nice, puffy rounded edges.

I let the cookies cool, after admiring their beauty, and my little sister (who is more of a "Nickerdoodle" fiend than I am), my mom and I taste tested them. Each cookie had a distinct flavor. 

Control Snickerdoodle: The controls were classic Snickerdoodles. Cinnamony and sugary but for some reason they were a few minutes under baked. However, I couldn't leave them in because the other cookies would've been too crispy. A game is afoot!

Shortening Snickerdoodle: The shortening had that shortening flavor. There's really no other way to describe it, except it simply isn't butter. But it wasn't bad. But just less flavorful.

The inside of the shortening Snickerdoodle

Brown Sugar Snickerdoodle: The brown sugar snickerdoodles simply weren't Snickerdoodles. The brown sugar overpowered the cinnamon flavor. But it was none the less delicious.

Inside of the brown sugar Snickerdoodle

Cake Flour Snickerdoodle: These had a distinct cake taste about them. It was weird, but delicious. And they were very tender, almost melty. 

Inside of the cake flour Snickerdoodle

Frozen Control Snickerdoodle: These were hands down the winner. They had the best flavor and they stayed much, much thicker than the regular controls. They were as thick, if not thicker, than the shortening cookies. And they had that classic, unmistakable Snickerdoodle taste.

Same cookie dough, but totally different thickness.
Disclaimer: After a little bit of thinking, yesterday I rolled these out without a cookie dough scoop. The frozen dough may have been slightly bigger, but freezing still reduce spread significantly. Although there may have been more dough, the frozen cookie spread as much as the smaller, chilled cookie. Interesting!

Best Looking: Shortening
Least Spread: Shortening/Frozen Control
Most puffiness/thickness: Frozen Control 
Best taste: Frozen control (unanimous)

My concluding remarks: The Frozen control Snickerdoodles were by far closest to my most desirable Snickerdoodle. They were thick and gooey, but crispy on the edges. They also had that classic taste. It's funny how my favorite Snickerdoodle didn't even involve altering ingredients, but rather playing with phase changes. What fun.

Further experimentation? Well, yes. One way to reduce spread is to reduce the amount of fat and sugars in the cookie. It would be simple to reduce the sugar amount from 3/4 cup to 1/2 cup without affecting too much about the cookie. But for now, my family and I need to finish the Snickerdoodles in the fridge...

CookWise by Shirley Corriher (Thanks Shirley! If you're reading this, which I really hope you are, this book is a god-send)!

Friday, January 3, 2014

Meltaway Cookies

Dear baking world,

Isn't it funny that when life slows down, so does everything else? That's what has happened this break. I worked like a mad rabbit during finals week and I managed to squeeze in lots of baking. But since I got home, I've had no time to bake and no time to blog because I'm working on remodeling  my blog and possibly switching some things around. 

Here's my first New Years gift to you and hopefully more to come sooner than later. These are called Melt In Your Mouth Cookies but I rechristened them Meltaway Cookies. 

This recipe is from a close family friend whose house we go to every year for Christmas Eve. Every year, I look forward to these delicious cookies. I eat these by the fistful and all thoughts of fitting into my jeans when I return to school are lost to the wind of my sweet tooth. Instead of waiting a year for these cookies, I snagged the coveted recipe and whipped these up for my mom's New Years Party.

These cookies really melt in your mouth. This is due to the large amount of corn starch and powdered sugar, which produce the "melting" sensation due to their fine texture. A little dab of frosting adds the perfect touch. Oh, and then a dash of gold colored sprinkles to celebrate the festive New Years spirit. 

When I returned to my plate of cookies after a long night of feasting on my mom's chili, they were all gone and rightfully so.

Meltaway Cookies

1 cup butter
1/3 cup powdered sugar
1 tsp. vanilla
1 ¼ cup flour
¾ cup corn starch

Mix all ingredients well. Form into ½ tsp balls and place on cookie sheet. Bake at 350 degrees for 12-15 minutes.


1 cup powdered sugar
2 tsp. butter
1 tsp. vanilla

Thursday, December 26, 2013

Cranberry Snowball Cookies

Dear baking world,

Sorry about the belated blog post. It's been a busy week due to Christmas festivities and such. My older sister and her husband are visiting from Germany, so I've spending as much time as possible with them.

This post is technically a Christmas post, due to the Christmas tree that posed in the background of my pictures. However, I thought the cookies and pictures were too good not to sure.

I love snowball cookies, but when I was little I hated pecans. (I've outgrown that and now I think the snowball cookies are fabulous.) I decided to make snowball cookies with finely chopped cranberries and the results was delicious. The cranberries are a little tart and the cookies are extra sweet. It was a perfect combo and a delicious twist on a classic Christmas cookie.

But then again, these would be lovely for Valentine's Day, too!

Cranberry Snowball Cookies

1 cup cold butter
1/2 cup powdered sugar
2 cup flour
1/2 cup frozen or fresh cranberries, finely chopped

Preheat oven to 325 degrees. In a bowl, mix together the powdered sugar and flour. Cut in the butter. Mix with hands until blended. Roll into balls. Bake for 12-15 minutes.

After completely cooled, roll in powdered sugar. (I made a mistake of being overexcited and I rolled them in powdered sugar too soon. That makes it melt to the cookie and form a sugary shell around the cookie. It's not bad tasting, I mean it's sugar, but it doesn't look the same.)

Thursday, December 19, 2013

Oatmeal Pie or Poor Man's Pecan Pie

Dear baking world,

I am in the throes of finals, but somehow I have found time to continue baking. I think it's a stress reliever/an excuse not to study. So far, I've done well on my exams, but my biggest one is in 13 hours and I'm shaking in my boots.

So, recently I found a recipe for Oatmeal Pie. Naturally, due to my love of anything oatmeal/oatmeal for breakfast every day, I have a ton of oats in the cupboard. Also, even though I never have corn syrup, somehow I had a bottle in the back of my cupboard. And so it goes. I had to make it because I had all of the ingredients.

But I cheated a little bit. I used store bought pie crusts. (Ducks as people start throwing fists.) However, let me explain, please. My mom loves Pappy's pie crusts, which are store bought and possibly better than my grandma's homemade pie crust. (She would argue with this, but there's a famous story about how my grandma thinks store bought pie is the devil's handiwork. Anyways, one day my mom brought a pie over to grandma's house and she said that it was one of the best pie crusts she's ever had. It was Pappy's and it was store bought.)

Alas, this is not Pappy's, but two not as deep mini pie crusts from the Madison grocery store. They aren't great, but they do the job. I always think that pie is about the filling and the crust, while a delicious added bonus, is a vessel for an excellent filling.

And this pie is truly excellent. It really is like a pecan pie, but instead of pecans, there's oatmeal. I love pecans, but I also love oatmeal, so  I'm not sure where I stand about oatmeal instead of pecans, but it sure is a sweet deal. (My roommate hates nuts in food, she likes them plain, but not in pies, so she loved this.)

Pause for science! So, what does the oatmeal, like pecans, "float" to the top of the pie even though its mixed in? It creates a lovely layer of oatmeal on the top and then a gooey, sweet, brown-sugary filling. Well, both pecans and oatmeal are less dense than the liquid filling that includes butter, corn syrup, sugar and a little bit of flour. As a result, even before baking occurs and after you pour it into the pie crust, they immediately float to the surface. So when they bake, you get these lovely layers. It's beautiful and genius and amazing.

So here is this wonderful pie. I don't think it's a poor man's pecan pie, because I think it's delicious and a little breakfasty but also seasonal and something a little extra.


Oatmeal Pie 
or The Poor Man's Pecan Pie

4 eggs
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1/2 cup brown sugar
2 Tbsp. flour
1 tsp. cinnamon
1/4 tsp. salt
1 cup corn syrup
1 tsp. vanilla
2 Tbsp. butter
1 cup quick cooking or old fashioned oats

Preheat oven to 350. Beat eggs until frothy. In a separate bowl, mix together the sugars, flour, cinnamon and salt. Add to the eggs. Then, add the melted butter, corn syrup and vanilla. Mix well. Finally, add the oats.

I baked my pies for about 38 minutes, but a bigger pie should require 45-50 minutes.

How do you know when it's done?
The center should be slightly wobbly and a tooth pick should come out clean.

Tuesday, December 17, 2013

Acorn Squash Cupcakes + Browned Butter Cream Cheese Frosting

Dear baking world,

I've had an acorn squash sitting in the kitchen for almost two months now. (Who knew those things lasted so long, but apparently they do.) Last night, as I lay me down to sleep, I realized that why couldn't I make cupcakes with acorn squash puree?! How delicious would that be?

Science stop here: acorn squash is a winter squash, just as pumpkin is. All I would have to do is take my favorite pumpkin cupcakes recipe (which I haven't been able to make and post on this blog) and substitute the pumpkin for freshly pureed acorn squash. 

So I sliced that baby open (It sounds way quicker than it was. I hacked at it for a solid fifteen minutes before it finally split open.) I scraped out the seeds and gunk, like in a pumpkin. Then I placed the two halves, pointy end up, on a pan and baked them for 60 minutes. After I baked them, I let them cool for about ten minutes. Then I scraped out the soft innards and whipped them with my hand mixer. Lo and behold, before my eyes, I had about a cup of fresh acorn squash puree.

Despite the fact that it sounds odd, the results were almost pumpkin-like in texture and taste and they smelled delicious while baking. They are delicious. They're a light orange and very, very moist.

My only complaint: I incidentally do not like browned butter (I've never made it before) and these cupcakes could use a little extra flour. I intend on trying them again and updating, but for now, here is what I did. Because there were a lot of liquids in this recipe, I think that a reduction in milk and a little more flour might help with the gumminess. (Although, a baker tends to criticize their work way more than someone else might. So, I have yet to see what my roommates say.)

Acorn Squash Cupcakes + Browned Butter Cream Cheese Frosting

6 Tbsp. butter
3/4 cup granulated sugar
1/2 cup packed brown sugar
1 egg, 1 egg yolk
1 cup acorn squash puree 
1 cup flour + 2.5 Tbsp. flour 
1/4 tsp. baking soda
1/2 tsp. baking powder
1 tsp. cinnamon
dash of cloves
dash of ginger
dash of salt
1/2 cup buttermilk (I used almond milk and then added some lemon juice)

Preheat oven to 350. Cream the butter and the sugars until light and fluffy. Add the egg and egg yolk, beating well. In a separate bowl, mix together the flour, baking soda, baking powder, cinnamon, cloves, ginger and salt. Mix into the wet ingredients, alternating with the buttermilk. Start and end with the flour. Evenly divide the batter into cupcake pan (they should come out to about twelve) and bake for 20-25. Mine took exactly 23 minutes.

Browned Butter Cream Cheese Frosting

1/4 cup butter for browning
1/4 cup butter, room temperature
8 oz. cream cheese, room temperature
3 cups powdered sugar

For browning the butter: Place in pan on medium heat. Melt until bubbling. Small brown flakes should appear, but don't let it burn. It took about 6 minutes for the flakes to appear.

Let cool for 30 minutes.

Then, cream together the cream cheese, browned butter, and the butter. Add the powdered sugar one cup at a time.