MEASURING CUPS AND SPOONS
TIP: Be sure to use nested metal or plastic cups to measure dry ingredients, and graduated glass or plastic cups to measure liquids. Never use liquid measuring cups for flour, as you could end up adding an extra tablespoon or more per cup!
The accurate measuring of ingredients is essential to baking and cooking success. And the key to accurate measuring is the use of basic measuring cups and spoons.
When measuring dry ingredients such as flour, sugar, and oatmeal, always use dry measuring cups. Available in sets that usually include 1- cup, 1/2-cup, 1/3-cup, and 1/4-cup measures, these cups allow you to spoon or scoop up the ingredient and then level it off with a straight edge--a metal spatula or knife--for greatest accuracy. Never use a liquid measuring cup for this purpose as it will make precise measuring impossible. When measuring liquid ingredients such as milk, applesauce, or melted butter, be sure to use liquid measuring cups, which are clear cups with markings that indicate 1/4-, 1/3-, 1/2-, 2/3-, and 3/4-cup levels. For greatest accuracy, place the cup on the counter and bend down to check the amount at eye level.
Always use measuring spoons--not the teaspoons and tablespoons you use to set your table--to measure small amounts of spices, dried herbs, and the like. These inexpensive tools come in sets that usually include 1-tablepoon, 1-teaspoon, 1/2-teaspoon, and 1/4-teaspoon measures. When using dry ingredients, if possible, dip the spoon in the container until it overflows, and then gently shake the spoon to level it off. When measuring wet ingredients, pour the liquid until it reaches the top edge of the spoon.
TIP: Mixing bowls can be made of a variety of materials, including stainless steel, glass, ceramic, and plastic. While all of these are good choices, tempered glass bowls have an added advantage-they allow you to easily see when the ingredients are well mixed furthermore, you can microwave ingredients, such as chocolate, in them.
Especially when preparing the doughs and batters for your Mason jar cakes, cookies, and other baked treats, you'll need just a few different mixing bowls. A small bowl of about 1 quart in size will be called for just occasionally to hold a sugary topping or another single ingredient. More commonly, you'll want a medium-sized bowl (about 2 quarts) and a large bowl (about 3 quarts).
Mixing bowls can be made of a variety of materials, including glass, stainless steel, plastic, and ceramic. If you don't already own a set of bowls, consider buying tempered glass. Glass bowls not only allow you to easily see when the ingredients are well mixed, but also make it possible to microwave ingredients such as chocolate.
While an electric mixer is not a baking necessity, if you do have one on hand, it will make quick work of creaming butter, and, in some recipes, mixing batter or dough. Either a portable (hand-held) or a stationary (stand) mixer can be used--although I personally like a portable model. If you don't have a mixer, just use a sturdy wooden spoon or whisk--and a little elbow grease, of course.
BAKING (COOKIE) SHEETS
TIP: Composed of two sheets of metal with a layer of air in between, air cushion baking sheets reduce hot spots so that cookies bake beautifully all across the sheet.
Every baker has personal preferences regarding baking sheets. For cookie baking, I feel that I get the best results with air cushion sheets, which are made of two layers of metal with a "layer" of air in between. The dual layered sheets allow air to better circulate under the cookie-baking surface, reducing hot spots so that cookies bake beautifully all across the sheet, and not just in the middle. These sheets come with both nonstick and regular surfaces. Either surface will yield great results.
To insure even baking, use a cookie sheet that fits in the oven with at least one inch to spare around each edge. Whether or not your sheet is nonstick, it is not necessary to grease the baking surface unless it is called for in the recipe. When greasing is recommended, either coat the pan lightly with cooking spray, or rub a small amount of butter or shortening evenly over the bottom.
BAKING (CAKE) PANS
TIP: Whenever a cookie recipe directs you to grease the baking sheet, a great alternative is to line it with baker's parchment paper. Available in supermarkets and specialty stores, this paper not only prevents sticking, but also saves on clean-up time.
Baking pans come in all sorts of shapes and sizes. Over the years, I have accumulated quite a variety however, I find that I get the most mileage out of just a few. The cake and bar cookie recipes in this book require an 8-inch square, a 9-inch round, or a 9-x-13-inch rectangular-shaped pan. Bundt cakes need a 12-cup (10-inch) bundt pan, and the breads are baked in 9-x-5-inch loaf pans. For the muffins, a standard tin for making 3-inch muffins is required.
Baking pans come with both nonstick and regular surfaces. Whether or not your pans are nonstick, it is not necessary to grease the baking surface unless it is called for in the recipe. As with the cookie sheets, when greasing is recommended, either coat the pan lightly with cooking spray, or rub a small amount of butter or shortening evenly over its bottom and sides.
Most of the instructions for baked goods in this book direct you to first allow the freshly baked cookies or cakes to cool on the baking sheet or in the pan for about five minutes. (If removed too soon, hot cookies fresh from the oven may lose their shape, while cakes and muffins have a tendency to crack or break apart.) Once they have cooled a bit, these baked treats should be removed and placed on a baking rack for further cooling. Made of wire, these racks speed the cooling process by allowing air to flow around both the tops and bottoms of freshly baked items. In most cases, your Mason jar creations will be ready for serving or storage within twenty minutes.
If you don't own cooling racks, you can, of course, simply transfer the cookies or cakes directly to a plate. Be aware, though, that the moisture from the heat may cause these baked goods to slightly adhere to the plate.
TIP: Because they promote even heat distribution and minimize scorching, stainless steel or cast iron pots with heavy bottoms are the optimal choice for cooking soups and slow-simmering stews.
When preparing soups and stews, choosing the right cooking vessel is important. One key to determining quality stovetop cookware is weight. Heavy-gauge pots and pans distribute heat more evenly than thinner ones, which tend to scorch food more easily. When it comes to preparing soups and slow-cooking stews, stainless steel or cast-iron pots with heavy bottoms are the best. The recipes in this book call for either a medium-sized (4-quart) or large (6-quart) pot or Dutch oven, depending on the yield.
From "The Mason Jar Soup to Nuts Cookbook." Copyright 2004 by Lonnette Parks. Used with permission of the publisher, Square One Publishers. All Rights Reserved.
"I must say this is the best recipe software I have ever owned."
"Your DVO cookbook software saves me time and money!"
"I saw lots of recipe software for PC computers but I was having a hard time finding really good mac recipe software. I'm so glad I discovered Cook'n! It's so nice to have all my recipes in a computer recipe organizer. Cook'n has saved me so much time with meal planning and the recipe nutrition calculator is amazing!!!
My favorite is the Cook'n Recipe App.