Baking How-To’s (Part 1): The Famous Five

There’s no such thing such as a stupid question. All your baking fears, queries, mysteries – demystified, here and now:
Ingredients
Butter
1 cup of butter = 225g
Amul Butter it is. I intensely dislike using Nutralite or other such brands. It’s the best, it’s cheap and I’ve never faced any trouble with it. I always buy them in 500gm packs but they are also available in 10g packs to make them easier to measure.There is a lot of talk of using unsalted butter in all recipes, especially on those blogs that you see from US, UK etc. But here, unsalted butter is hard to find plus its expensive – for addicted bakers, its simply not practical to use expensive butter. Because we go through a LOT of butter. However, there are certain recipes that I’d go all lengths for – for example this heavenly caramel sauceor when and if I decide to make Swiss Meringue Buttercream.

Sugar
1 cup of caster sugar = 200g
1 cup of icing sugar (sifted) = 115g
1 cup of brown sugar = 218g
I’ve been getting a lot of emails about the use of sugar in all my recipes. Let’s take it from the top – the primary difference between grain, caster, brown and icing sugar.
– Grain sugaris coarser – like the cousin of sea salt. It’s good to use in tea etc but impractical to use in baked goods. The coarser it is, the harder it is to melt into the butter. I reserve this for making sponge cakes, syrups etc. I also use it coat the base for this awesome cake.
– Caster sugar– my favorite kind! It’s a ground up version of grain sugar. It melts quickly into butter and is my only choice for baking. I have a huge canister of it filled with vanilla pods and keep refilling the sugar whenever needed. That way, I’m never really out of vanilla sugar. I use that for an extra vanilla laced punch in everything I bake. I always use Bluebird Caster Sugar.
– Brown sugar – I love the use of it in this cake but I’m not particularly fond of its texture in cookies. I always scale down the amount of brown sugar required in the recipe to make them less soft and chewy and more crisp. Although, I wouldn’t dream of eliminating it. I detest the chunky demerrera sugar that Bluebird has. Instead I buy a cheaper and more suited version of ground brown sugar called Trust.
– Icing sugar – Used in a few fridge set desserts and frostings, icing sugar is the least used in my kitchen. It undergoes a grueling process of grinding – so you simply can’t attempt this at home with your gadgets. I buy Bluebird Icing sugar. It’s also called confectioners sugar or powdered sugar.
Flour
1 cup = 120g
Quintessential to baking, flour is the most versatile – its used across sweet and savory. I always sift my flour as many times as I can. Here, all purpose flour = maida (NOT cornstarch), I usually pick up an unbranded packet of 1 kg from any grocery store. However, I sift it before emptying into the canister and sift again after measuring it to use in baking. I haven’t seen cake flour here and it seems difficult to obtain. I have seen 00 flour (pricey though) that I’m dying to use when a good pizza or fresh pasta recipe comes my way.
Eggs
1 = 50g
The infamous egg is sort of like the Dr Jekyll & Mr Hyde of the baking world – while the whites dry out, the yolks add creaminess, volume and texture. I know that while some recipes are naturally eggless, there is a huge demand of egg free recipes. Hopefully, someday there will be plenty here to choose from!

Vanilla Essence
1 tsp = 5ml
1 tbsp = 15ml
I love vanilla essence! In most recipes, you can’t really taste it unless you use a stronger extract but there’s no doubt about it – it’s my absolute favorite flavor. I like to use Foster Clarks Vanilla Essence (now available at Arife! Yay!) but I’m dying to get my hands on Nielsen Massey! I haven’t experimented too much with vanilla paste and prefer not to use the beans but never say never! I store the pod scraps (after I’ve scraped the seeds out) along with my sugar to permeate it with added vanilla flavor.
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