Renny Darling's

Tips For Baking



Baking Powder
All recipes were tested with double-acting baking powder.

Recipes calling for 100% Bran refer to the packaged ready-to-eat
cereal. Unprocessed Bran Flakes cannot be substituted.

Brown Sugar
Brown sugar should be packed when measured. Be certain to sift
it, if it has become lumpy.

Sweet (unsalted) butter was used in testing the recipes. Lightly
salted butter can be substituted. In most cases, margarine can be
substituted, but check the label for preservatives, artificial colors
and other additives.

If a recipe calls for Buttermilk, Sour Milk can be substituted.
To make Sour Milk, place 1 tablespoon lemon juice in a measuring cup
and then add milk to measure 1 cup. Stir and allow to set for 1 minute;
then add to the recipe as indicated. If you need less than 1 cup, then
use proportionate amounts of lemon juice and milk. Milk that has gone
sour is never to be used.

Always use pure chocolate, not flavored chocolate. If you happen to be
out of chocolate, 3 tablespoons of cocoa and 1 tablespoon of butter can
be substituted for 1 ounce of unsweetened chocolate.

To melt chocolate, place it in the top of a double boiler, over hot, not simmering, water. Make certain that the water does not touch the upper pan. If you own a microwave oven, place chocolate in a bowl and microwave for 1 minute on High. Turn the bowl 1/2 turn and microwave for 1/2 minute longer. Do not overdo it, or chocolate will become a stubborn mess.

Cinnamon Sugar
To make Cinnamon Sugar, place 1 cup sugar and 3 teaspoons cinnamon in a glass jar, with a tight-fitting lid, and shake until
blended. If you like it spicier, add more cinnamon to taste.

When cocoa is called for, it refers to unsweetened powdered cocoa.
Cocoa should be sifted, for it has a tendency to lump.

Where cream is indicated, use heavy cream or whipping cream.

All recipes were tested with Large Grade AA eggs.

Always use pure domestic vanilla. Pure almond and maple extracts
are far superior to any imitations.

When Flour is called for, it refers to all-purpose white flour. Bleached
or unbleached can be used. In practically all the cake and bread
recipes, 1/2 of the flour called for in the recipe can be substituted with
whole wheat pastry flour. If you use stone-ground or milled whole
wheat flour, the finished bread or cake will be a little denser. There
is no need to sift flour.

Chop prunes, raisins, apricots in food processor, with a little sugar taken from the amount in the recipe. This keeps the dried fruit from
getting gummed together.

If dried fruits are extra hard, they should be plumped. Raisins, currants, apricots can be plumped overnight in orange juice, sherry
or liqueur. Or they can be soaked for 5 minutes in boiling water and

As a general rule, fresh is better than frozen, and frozen is better than
canned...with the exception of canned crushed pineapple, which adds a
lovely moistness and flavor to cakes and breads.

Tips on Ingredients

Grated Orange or Grated Lemon
When a recipe calls for Grated Orange or Grated Lemon,
it means to grate the whole fruit, which includes the peel, juice and
fruit. The orange or lemon can be grated on the 3rd largest side of a
4-sided hand grater, by using short, quick strokes. If the orange or
lemon is very thick-skinned, peel off the zest (the yellow or orange
part) and remove the pith (the white part). Finely chop (not puree)
the zest with the fruit in the food processor. As a general rule, 1 medium
orange will yield about 6 tablespoons of grated fruit, juice and peel.
Cakes and breads using the whole fruit are far more flavorful than
those using only the peel.

Nuts and Seeds
To roast walnuts, almonds, pecans, sesame seeds, place them in a thin
layer of a shallow pan and toast in a 350° oven for 8 minutes, stirring
now and again.

If you have any doubts as to the freshness of the nuts, it is important
to taste one or two to make certain nuts are not rancid. Nuts that have turned rancid will spoil your cake or bread, for the bad taste can
never be camouflaged, even with the most delicious ingredients.

Quick-cooking oats were used wherever oats or oatmeal is called for.
Do not substitute instant-cooking oatmeal.

Use a bland, unflavored vegetable oil.

Powdered Sugar
Also called Confectioner's Sugar, is best sifted. Little unsightly lumps can ruin a glaze or frosting.

Notice that very few recipes contain salt. The breads and cakes are
sweet and delicious without it. However, if you must, you can add
a few shakes of salt, and it will not spoil the taste.

Sour Cream
If a recipe calls for sour cream, unflavored yogurt can be substituted,
with a slight variation in taste.

Always use good cinnamon, nutmeg or cloves. Do not use cinnamon
sticks or whole cloves.

Vanilla Sugar
To make Vanilla Sugar, place 1 pound of sifted powdered sugar in a
canister or jar with a tight-fitting lid. Snap 2 vanilla beans sharply
in thirds and bury them in the sugar. Use on pastries, cakes and wherever powdered sugar is called for. Sugar will take on a gentle hint of vanilla.

Wheat Germ
In recipes calling for Wheat Germ, either the sweetened or unsweetened can be used.

If a recipe calls for yogurt, sour cream can be substituted.



You will find that there are 5 basic methods used in preparing cakes and breads.
I will recap them here briefly, as they are fully described in each recipe.

1. The Bread Method: Basically, start with 2 bowls. In one, blend the wet
ingredients. In the 2nd, mix the dry ingredients. Combine the contents of the 2 bowls and stir, just to blend.

2. The Cake Method: In this instance, cream the butter with the sugar; beat in the eggs and then the liquids. Beat in the dry ingredients until nicely blended.

3. Biscuit and Scone Method: Beat dry ingredients with butter until mixture resembles coarse meal. Add the liquids, all at once, and stir until just blended. Do not overmix. As most catastrophes occur from improper handling or kneading, the recipes in this book eliminate this step. Biscuits are dropped and scones are cut after baking.

4. Brownie Method: There are several ways to prepare brownies. Some are mentioned above. But in this method, the eggs are beaten with the sugar until light and foamy, and then the chocolate and butter are folded in. Dry ingredients are folded in at the end.

5. Processor Method: Except for the incredible tortes, where all the ingredients are processed together, cakes and breads can be prepared in the food processor, using a light touch. Liquid ingredients can be processed until blended. Dry ingredients are then added and blended with an on and off pulsing action. Do not overprocess.


As you read on, you will notice my personal preference for baking breads in smaller pans. There are many reasons for this. Smaller loaves can be individually frozen, and you can defrost only those that you plan to use. It is far more attractive to serve a small loaf than 1/2 of a started one. Little loaves never look like leftovers. Also, most of the basic recipes (4 mini-loaves) will yield 16-20 servings. So, unless you are expecting lots of friends, you will surely have leftovers. Baking the smaller loaves, you can immediately freeze those you do not plan to use. Little loaves are also great for sharing. A small loaf from your kitchen looks so much nicer than a few slices of bread.

The breads and cakes can be baked in so many interesting shapes. Today, one can find the most beautiful and unusually shaped baking pans. Aside from the traditional round, square and rectangle pans, you will find heart-shapes, cloverleaves, flowers, animals,...the list is endless. Except for the tortes, the cakes can be baked in many shapes, right down to cupcakes. Similarly, the breads (except the savory dinner breads), can be baked in any number of shapes, right down to muffins. Simply grease and flour the pan and fill 2/3 with batter. Any leftover can be made into muffins.

To easily remove cakes or breads from baking pans, pans should be greased with shortening and dusted with flour. Bread pans can also be dusted with wheat germ, bread crumbs, nuts, oats (depending on a complimentary blend with the recipe). Cake pans can be greased and dusted with cookie crumbs or nuts.

To avoid too-peaked-a-crown, which will create a deep crack, pour batter into the pan and, with a spatula, build up the sides a little, leaving the center indented. This will result in a more level cake or bread.

If top is browning too quickly, tent the cake loosely with foil. (This means to simply lay a piece of foil loosely over the cake.)
Bake small loaves on a cookie sheet for easier handling in and out of the oven



It is important to know when a cake is "done" to avoid the problem of overbaking, which will make the cake dry ... or underbaking, which will leave the cake soggy or gummy. Use the suggested baking time only as a guide, as oven temperatures vary. Use a cake tester. In absence of one, a long wooden toothpick can be used. Look at the color. After a few trials, you can almost tell by the appearance when a cake is done. When a cake or bread is crusty, the crust may scrape the tester clean. To avoid this, probe a little circle in the center of the cake (about 1/16th-inch will do), so that when you test, the tester does not touch the crust. Except for brownies, tester should come out clean.



Always refrigerate breads or cakes made with fresh fruit, to retard the formation of bacteria or mold.

To store breads, cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate. They can be stored in this manner for several days. For longer storage, cakes and breads should be frozen. To freeze breads or cakes, wrap in double thicknesses of plastic wrap, then with foil. I find it far more satisfactory to remove wrapper while defrosting to avoid the accumulation of moisture on the cake.

Do not glaze breads or cakes until after defrosting, for purely cosmetic reasons. Glazed breads or cakes can successfully be frozen but they look prettier and fresher when glazed on the day of serving.



There is never any need to throw away a single crumb. Any leftover cake or bread can be toasted to produce the finest tasting crisp cookie, very much like Mandelbread. These crisp cookies are a treat to serve. They are great for munching and dunking. Slice any leftover bread or cake into 1/3-inch thick slices. Place in one layer in a baking pan, and bake at 350° for about 15 minutes, or until bottom is toasted. Turn each slice and continue baking until lightly browned on both sides. These can be frozen for months in double freezer bags, or stored for weeks in a canister. They are lovely served with coffee, tea or hot cider...and are a joy for dunking in milk.


Rather than suffer the embarrassment of excess, I had to use colossal restraint not to include about 200 more wonderful cakes and breads that I tested. Many, many of the coffeecakes, quick breads and muffins ( not tortes), can be transformed into new versions by the substitution of flavors. Again, at best please keep in mind that the following can only serve as a guide. I would recommend that you first prepare a recipe as indicated, and then, when you are familiar with its performance, experiment with it to include other fruits or vegetables. This will be expanded upon in the different chapters.

If a Recipe Calls For: You Can Use:

Fruit-Chopped, Diced, Sliced -
Apples, pears, peaches, apricots plums, cherries, papaya
Fruit-Mashed, Pureed, Pulp - Pumpkin, applesauce, mango
avocado, persimmons, bananas
cooked rhubarb, papaya, crushed
pineapple (with a little juice)
Berries -Raspberries, strawberries
blueberries, blackberries,
cranberries, boysenberries
Dried Fruit -Dates, apricots, raisins, prunes
currants, figs, glaceed fruits
Nuts -Walnuts, pecans
Vegetables-Grated -Carrots, zucchini, apples
Orange-Grated -Tangerine, Grapefruit
Lemon-Grated -Lime


You can achieve exciting and new combinations by mixing and matching fruits or vegetables with dried fruits or nuts. For example, a carrot cake can be enhanced with the addition of dates or apricots or a zucchini cake can be enriched with currants or figs.



Many of the coffeecakes, quick breads and muffins can be dressed up with a Streusel Topping. Find a recipe that pleases you (see Toppings in index) and sprinkle tops lightly before baking. Bake for a minute or two longer.

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