Showing posts with label Cooking 101. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Cooking 101. Show all posts

Types of Flour and Their Uses

Thursday, November 8, 2012

With so many types of flour available in stores, how do you know which type is the best one to use for your recipe (other than the called for “all-purpose” flour)? Names vary among countries, and uses vary among recipes. It is what holds body and structure to baked goods, thickens sauces and creams, and even helps prevent batter and dough from sticking to surfaces. But how do you know what type of flour to use for your bread and which kind to use for your pastry?


The first difference between the flour types is the nature of the product they are milled from. All flours are derived from grains, fruits, vegetables, beans, or nuts. These are then milled differently to a fine powder, known as flour. A second difference is the protein present in each flour. For example – cake flour has the smallest amount of protein content (5-7%) whereas bread flour has the highest protein content (12-14%). Flours with high protein content are best used for bread making due to the large amount of gluten content, which helps to trap in carbon dioxide that is released by the yeast fermentation process that results in a stronger rise of the dough while still holding its shape. Flours with low protein content are best used for cakes and pastries since the low protein content produces tender and fine crumbs. For regular day to day baking, and to avoid purchasing different types of flour, stick to the all-purpose flour which has an “in-between” protein content of 7 to 12%.

Below I have compiled easy reference guides, one of the common flour types and one comprising the rest of the flour types, along with their uses. Hope you find this useful, and don't forget to print it off (at the bottom of the page) for your recipe needs!

Common Flour Types
Flour Type
Protein Content
Common Uses
100% Whole Wheat Flour
13 to 14 All baking purposes. Can be used to substitute all-purpose flour. Due to the content of the outer skins of the wheat grains, the colour of the end-product will have a brown colour.
Bread Flour
12 to 14 Bread, pizza crust, and doughs/pastries that contain yeast as an ingredient.
All-Purpose Flour
8 to 11 Cookies, cakes, quick breads, pastries, noodles.
Pastry Flour
7 to 9 Pie crusts, delicate pastries, biscuits, cookies, some cakes.
Cake Flour
5 to 7 Angel food cake, chiffon cake, some muffins and cookies, other tender, sponge or foam cakes.

Other Flour Types
Flour Type
Common Uses
Almond Flour
Made of ground almonds. It is gluten free, low in carbohydrates, and best used in baking. It has a consistency of corn meal, and with a nutty flavour it is perfect for pastries, pies and cakes.
Arrowroot Flour
Texture is similar to that of corn starch. Provides no flavouring to foods. Best used as a thickener and can be substituted for corn starch to avoid the carbs.
Barley Flour
This flour is ground from barley grains. Because barley flour has a low gluten content, it should never be used for breads. Due to its nutty rich flavour, it is ideal to use it for cakes, bisquits and pastries, and to thicken sauces and stews.
Buckwheat Flour
Gluten and wheat free, since buckwheat is a seed and not a grain. Use it in multi-grain breads, pancakes, muffins.
Corn Flour
A gluten free flour made from ground yellow corn. Use it in cakes, cookies, pastries and other baked goods having no yeast content.
Oat Flour
A fine flour ground from dried oats. It is low in gluten, but is not gluten free. Use it in combination with wheat flour for making breads, muffins, and cookies.
Potato Flour
A gluten free flour made from cooked, dried and ground potatoes. It is used as a thickening agent for stews, sooups and sauces.
Rice Flour
A gluten free flour. It can be made from either white or brown rice. Commonly used for noodles, dumplings, cookies, breads, delicately textured cakes, pancakes. Note that brown rice flour is high nutrients and fibre than white rice flour, but should be stored in the refrigerator to remain fresh.
Self-Rising Flour
Contains salt and a leavening agent (usually baking powder). Good for using in cookies, sweet breads, biscuits, scones, pancakes, waffles, light pastries.
Spelt Flour
Has a nutty and slightly sweet taste similar to that of whole wheat flour. Spelt flour contains gluten. It can be substituted for whole wheat flour in recipes - breads, cakes, muffins, pancakes, cookies, pastries.
Tapioca Flour
Extracted from the root of the cassava plant. It is used as a thickener for fruit fillings, cobblers, crisps, stews, sauces, soups.

Is there any flour type that was not included? What type of flour do you commonly use?

Printable Kitchen Conversion Chart

Tuesday, November 6, 2012

Happy Tuesday! Hope everyone enjoyed their extra hour of sleep this weekend. I sure did! :) I spent most of Saturday cooking up a storm in the kitchen, which I will share with you those recipes this week. Also, for those of you in the US, today is your big day - the great election! I'm excited to see the turnout (even though I don't live in the US!). Today I thought I would share with you a free conversion chart that I made to help you with your cooking and baking. Especially with the holiday season coming up, a chart like this will help! I am planning on making another chart for the weight, so keep an eye out for that! I also converted this chart into PDF form, which you can print and keep in your kitchen. Mine is stuck to the side of my fridge! Print it, share it, pin it! Enjoy!

Linking up with:

Top 12 Pantry Staples You Should Have

Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Happy Tuesday! Hope everyone on the east coast are safe and sound after getting a hit from Hurricane Sandy yesterday, and praying for those that are waiting for what will come today. We had a very windy and rainy night last night, and although we had a bit of a power outage, nothing too major to report in this area.

Today in my series of Cooking 101, I wanted to list some of the pantry must-haves. These are the essential items you should have in your pantry to avoid any claims of "there is nothing to eat" in your home, as well as to avoid running to the store to buy these items. These items have a longer shelf life, do not need refrigeration, and can be easily whipped up with other ingredients you have to make a quick and easy meal. All of these items can be purchased when they are on sale, so make sure you stock up when you see a sale for them!

1. Pasta
Having pasta on hand is always ideal to whip up a quick lunch or dinner meal. Pasta is inexpensive, easy to cook, and virtually has no expiry date. You can make a multitude of dishes as it is very versatile to incorporate with meat or vegetables. Toss in some spaghetti sauce for a quick lunch, add some grilled steak or chicken along with spices for a yummy dinner, or mix pasta with olive oil and vinegar for a simple pasta salad or easy snack. I always buy a few pounds of pasta when it's on sale for those lazy days.

2. Beans
Either canned or dried, beans are very inexpensive, nutritious and filling. Beans can be added to soups and stews, tossed in cold salads, ground into homemade hummus, made into chili, and even added to ground beef or pork. Stocking up on dry beans is beneficial since you avoid the additives and preservatives that come with canned beans. But if you do stock up on canned beans, note the expiration date.

3. Rice
Along with pasta, rice can also be a great grain to stock up on and be used for it's versatility. Add rice to just about any dish you are preparing, such as casseroles, stir-fry, sushi rolls, or as a side dish to meats. Add steamed or grilled veggies and spices for a healthy lunch, or grilled chicken cubes with some peppers for a yummy dinner.

4. Peanut Butter
Peanut butter isn't only great for the good ol' PB&J sandwich, it is very versatile in what it can be used for, much more than people think. Use it in Asian-inspired dishes to add that nutty taste. Add to sauces and dips for a new take on taste. Use it in desserts, spreads or smoothies. Or, for a quick light snack, dip some fruits or veggies in peanut butter. My fave snack: apples dipped in peanut butter. Yum!

5. Stock or Broth
Using stock or broth in place of water will add so much flavour and taste to your dishes. Use in homemade soups and stews, casseroles, and pasta sauce. Grill your meat in the pan with an added splash of stock to maximize the flavour. Cook rice, couscous or quinoa for an added flavour.

6. Canned Tomatoes/Tomato Sauce
If you have stocked up on pasta, why not add tomato sauce to your pantry as well? You can find a large variety of sauce flavours to use in many of your dishes. Canned tomatoes are a great alternative to fresh tomatoes to make your own homemade pasta sauce, chili, or meat dish. Keep a few cans of diced, crushed, and whole tomatoes to fill any recipe that calls for tomatoes.

7. Flour
Flour is a key ingredient in most baked goods, and so should be kept in the pantry at all times. You can also use flour along with eggs to coat and bread chicken, thicken sauces, or make homemade bread.

8. Oats
A great substitute to flour, oats can be used in a wide number of dishes for any meal. Use oats to make your own homemade granola, oatmeal pancakes, add oats to ground meat for meatloaf or meatballs, or make a crumble topping for your dutch apple pie.

9. Sugar
Along with flour, this is another key ingredient in many cooking and baking dishes, sauces and drinks. Use it to sweeten your coffee or tea, add to your brownies recipe, or make sweet and sour sauce for your chicken.

10. Fresh Onions and Garlic
Many recipes call for onions and/or garlic to add taste and spice up a dish. A small clove of garlic can pack a whole lot of flavour, and when you add onions to the mix, your sauces, meat dishes, salads and stews will  taste delicious. You can even caramelize onions to add to pork tenderloin, grilled chicken or steak, or toss in your pasta.

11. Cooking Oil
Whether you prefer vegetable oil or olive oil, having cooking oil on hand is a must when cooking as you need some sort of fat to cook. Extra virgin olive oil is a healthier choice, as it is packed with antioxidants, is loaded with health benefits to fight off heart disease and cancer, and is packed with flavour and taste.

12. Vinegar
Vinegar can be used both as a kitchen staple and a household staple. Aside from its benefits to cleaning and deodorizing, it is also a powerful flavour booster. Add white vinegar to sweet and sour dipping sauce or homemade barbecue sauce, balsamic vinegar to make your very own balsamic vinaigrette, or red wine vinegar for your fresh garden salads.

What staple items would you add to this list?

Common Cooking Spices

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Hello all! As part of my mini-series Cooking 101, I have decided to compile a small list of spices and their most common uses in dishes. I decided not to give background information on each spice, as you can find so much online. Instead, I simply listed the most common dishes you can use each spice in. When I fist started cooking, my go-to spice was always black pepper and salt, but over time with more cooking experience I have developed a sense for what spices should go in what dish. You don't want to add paprika in a pasta dish or nutmeg to your salad (unless you prefer those tastes!). I briefly listed the top common spices used in many dishes, since these are widely used in many recipes but is hard to know when NOT to use them. Over time, I will be adding to this list to include other spices that are widely used but not as common, such as nutmeg and ginger, so check back!
Soups, salads, vinaigrettes, marinades, grain dishes, tomato-based dishes like tomato sauce and tomato soup
Bay Leaves
Soups, stews, marinades, tomato sauce, and dishes containing tomatoes, beans, corn and/or potatoes
Black Pepper
One of the most versatile spice to add heat and aroma to any dish, from pork and chicken to salads and soups
Both dry and fresh chives give a mild-onion flavour to many dishes such as omelets, baked potato, potato salad, fresh vegetable salad, dips, dressings, soups, sauces
Pizza, pasta, beef, chicken, herb breads, eggs, fish, potatoes, salads, tomato soup, tomato sauce
Tomato-based sauces, paprikash, goulash, beef, pork, poultry,stews, soup, rice, cheese dishes. Sprinkle it to garnish casseroles, vegetable pies, hummus, and dips
Fresh parsley has a better taste in dishes than dried, so use in salads and salad dressing, soups, bean dishes, casseroles, stews, pasta, potatoes
Rosemary has a strong piney taste, so use it to season poultry such as chicken and turkey, lamb, beef, fish, stuffing, stews, herb breads, tomato soup, tomato sauce, potatoes
Soups, vinaigrettes, bean dishes, soups, cheese dishes, chicken, corn, eggs, fish, lamb, potatoes, salads, tomato sauce, tomato soup


I created this table into a PDF so now you are welcome to print and use it at home. I have a print out taped to the back of the door where I keep my spices. Easy and convenient as a quick reference when I'm cooking!

Potatoes 101 - How to Pick a Potato

Thursday, October 18, 2012

Potatoes, America's favourite starch, are prepared in numerous ways, from mashed potatoes to baked potatoes to homemade chips. While there are hundreds of varieties available on the market throughout the world, there are usually only a few common varieties that are widely known and sold in the supermarket or at your local farmer's market. However, choosing the type of potato for the right dish may be a daunting task. Potatoes are classified by their starch and moisture content. There are three categories of potatoes: waxy (new), starchy (mature), and all-purpose.

Waxy Potatoes (New Potatoes)
Description: Waxy potatoes tend to be high in moisture and sugar but low in starch. Thus they tend to hold their shape when prepared. These potatoes are the immature potatoes that are harvested in the spring and early summer. They tend to be smaller in size and have a rounder shape.
Variety: White, yellow, red-skinned (White Finn, White Rose, Russian Blue, Cal White)
Best Dish: Salads, soups, stews, hashed browns, scalloped potatoes

Starchy Potatoes (Mature Potatoes)
Description: Starchy potatoes are high in starch content but low in moisture and sugar content. These types tend to bake and fry well since they don't hold their shape well. These potatoes are best used for mashing and frying.
Variety: Russet, Idaho
Best Dish: Mashed potatoes, french fries, baked potato

All-Purpose Potatoes
Description: As their name suggests, these potatoes can be used in many potato dishes. If you are not keen on purchasing the different varieties of potatoes for your different dishes, then this potato is your go-to potato. They are irregularly shaped and the most cost-effective alternative.
Variety: Yukon Gold, Red Gold, Kennebec
Best Dish: Easy potato recipes such as mashed potatoes, baked potatoes, french fries, potato salad, hashed browns

Cooking 101

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Good day all! As you can tell from my blog posts - aside from decorating and crafts - my biggest love is for cooking and baking. I love the tastes and smells of food, and the comfort and joy it brings when you bite into something delicious. I can make a really good New York style cheesecake, but I believe we can all increase our cooking knowledge and skills. No I didn't go to the best culinary school nor do I have a dad that is a top chef. But I have learned (and still continue to learn) many kitchen skills from cook books, cooking shows, family and the internet as I am sure many of you have as well. But let me tell you I am no professional (FAR from it actually). Yes I have burned cookies, made a lava cake (accidentally!), and forgot to add salt to my main course. But as in any field, mistakes do happen and we do learn from them. When I started cooking at the age of 15, I didn't know what I was doing. I just followed a recipe. But over time my cooking skills have evolved. And I am hoping that they continue to expand.

Thus to share with you, I am happy to announce that I will be offering a mini series, "Cooking 101", where I will post tips, articles, and techniques on cooking and baking. Please, feel free to join in on this series by posting comments or questions at the end of each article and we can all learn a few good things. If you would like to see an article on a specific topic, email me your ideas and suggestions. I am as excited as you are! I have an ever-growing list of topic ideas for this series that I can't wait to share!
I kicked off my mini series yesterday by filling you in on the gadget must-haves in your kitchen. If you missed my first article then read it here.

The Top Useful Cooking Tools and Utensils

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

In this day and age we have all become so obsessed with the latest and greatest cooking gadgets. Everything and anything that can slice, dice, chop, and blend better than the rest of them. Everything from the Magic Bullet to the Ninja Blender, from the Super Grill to the Big Boss Grill, and from the Robo Stir to the Slice-o-Matic. We as consumers have seen it all! And how many of us are guilty of owning at least one of them? Forget about these fancy-shmancy things that only bring clutter to your countertop or cupboards. I am here to share with you the basic cooking utensils you need to have in your kitchen before you go out to buy these fancy gadgets that you will use once (okay...maybe a few times) and just shove in the back of your cupboards.
This is an essential and versatile utensil to have. It easily allows you to drain pasta from the water, drain canned veggies from the juices they were canned in, strain tea leaves for your tea, and rinse your fruits and veggies. They come in different sizes, shapes and materials. Strainers called colanders, which have larger holes, are used mainly to drain larger items from liquid, such as pasta and veggies. Smaller holed strainers, such as mesh strainers, not only help to drain liquid but also serve many different purposes. You can easily separate larger elements such as chunks from tomato juice, fat out of gravy, and seeds from raspberry puree. You can also use it to sift dry ingredients when making sweets or sift powdered sugar on top of your cakes.

Spoons – Solid, Slotted and Perforated
This is a must have in your utensil drawer. Wooden spoons are so beneficial as compared to the other types of kitchen spoons. It is probably the most essential hand tool for any cook. They don't scratch non-stick pots and pans when you stir and they don't conduct heat. Make sure you choose a spoon that is made of hard wood to ensure it won't absorb the taste or smell of your dish.  Solid spoons can also be made of either stainless steel or silicone, which are great for stirring, mixing and serving. Make sure that the handle is insulated though, so you don't end up burning yourself. Slotted and perforated spoons are great for draining foods from liquid.

Sometimes it is hard to tell if your meat is cooked appropriately or if the sugar for your candy apples is at the right temperature. A thermometer is like your best friend – it will always tell you when it’s enough!  An instant-read thermometer works wonders as it can instantly tell you what the temperature of your meat is. However, make sure you don't cook or bake with the thermometer inside, or else it will ruin it.

A peeler is another must-have in the kitchen. Two things that everyone wants to achieve in the kitchen: reduce food waste and reduce time spent. Imagine the amounts of food and time waste that might go into peeling a sack of potatoes. They are great at peeling apples, carrots and potatoes. Use them to cut thin slices of cheese for your appetizers or salads. Cut thin slices of potatoes to make homemade chips. So many things to use for such a small and efficient gadget!

There are different types of whisks, ranging from balloon whisks, to flat whisks, ball whisks and even gravy whisks. Of course, you do not need to have all of these if you won't use them. But the ideal kind to have is the balloon whisk. Different than a mixer, a whisk helps you control the amount of air you add to your meringue batter or how well-combined your dry ingredients are for your cake batter. A whisk is easy to have on hand, if you ever need to beat some eggs or combine oil and water. The one I use at home is the OXO 9" stainless steel whisk.

Mixing Bowls
A good set of mixing bowls is very useful for adding your dry and wet ingredients together. It would be preferable to have mixing bowls in a variety of sizes such as small, medium and large. If you tend to make larger quantities of food, then include an extra-large size in your collection. Usually mixing bowls tend to come in a set of 3, 4 or 5 sizes. They can be plastic, glass, porcelain, wood, silicone or stainless steel. I use a glass mixing bowl with a handle, for easy gripping while stirring and whisking.

Measuring Cups and Spoons
There are two types of measuring cups: dry measuring cups or liquid measuring cups. Dry measuring cups are designed to stack within each other for easy storage and tend to come in sets of six: 1/4 cup, 1/3 cup, 1/2 cup, 2/3 cup, 3/4 cup and 1 cup. They are designed to easily level off the dry ingredients at the top. Liquid measuring cups are made of clear glass or plastic, come in large cup sizes, and have a spout for easy pouring of liquid. Ensure a sturdy handle and marked labels on the side for the measurements. Measuring spoons come in a set and are used for measuring small quantities of an ingredient, such as spices and baking powder or soda. Ensure clear markings on each spoon so as to not confuse tablespoon with teaspoon.

Having tongs in the kitchen is like having a nice extension of your fingers! Having a sturdy pair of tongs is great for turning tender or big food your have frying or baking away. They are also versatile, and can be used for flipping burgers, serving salad, mixing pasta, lifting steak and moving cookies onto a tray.

Metal Spatula
There are many things that tongs just cannot do, such as flipping those pancakes. Which is why you need a spatula. These are handy to have, since they can easily slide under your burgers to check if that side is good to flip, or use to easily transfer those delicate cookies onto a cooling tray. Look for spatulas that have a thin front edge to easily glide under food.

Cutting Board
Having a good and large enough cutting board is essential in the kitchen. You can either buy wooden or plastic cutting boards, but opt in for the wooden ones as they are more softer on your knives and won't dull them as quick as plastic cutting boards do.

Cooling Rack
Not a must, but definitely a good tool to have, a cooling rack allows your cookies and cakes to cool evenly. It also prevents from moisture build-up that tends to happen when you let your cakes cool in their pans, which produces softer and moist bottoms of cakes.The Wilton 3-tier Stackable Cooling Racks are perfect for large quantity of baked goods, or can be used separately if only making one batch of cookies.
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