1.) Salt. I didn�t know that there was a variety in which to choose until a couple of years ago. Generally, I use sea salt for my baking, sea salt does not have an aftertaste, and seasoned salt, kosher salt, and some time just plain Morton salt for my cooking.
2.) Use unbleached all-purpose Flour. With the possible exception of pastry flour or other specialty flour, like whole wheat, rice, oat, etc., unbleached all-purpose flour is the staple that I use for my rolls, cakes and meats. I see and taste no difference in the final results in using unbleached flour when compared to bread flour or cake flour. Unbleached flour is kinda beige in color and has not been processed to death like regular all-purpose flour. The following link is to the King Arthur Flour folks. I’m a regular shopper at the King Arthur site. It’s a baker’s haven. Items from dried fruit, salt, baking equipment and of course King Arthur flour are available and for sale, items that is not readily available in my neck of the woods. http://www.KingArthurFlour.com.
3.) SIFT THE FLOUR PEOPLE! Not only is it more economical, but your bake goods will come out lighter and airy. Don�t forget, that when you sift, hold the sifter a little way above the bowl (or if you want to save on time and cleanup wax paper is wonderful). It will give the grain more air.
4.) Butter DOES NOT EQUAL Unsalted Butter. There are many cookbooks that do not make the distinction between salted butter and unsalted butter, especially when it comes to baked goods where it makes a huge difference. When it comes to bake goods like cakes, etc. and if the recipe says butter AND you�re adding salt to the mix as well, substitute the unsalted butter for the butter. The only way to control the amount of salt in your bake goods is to use unsalted butter, for there is no way of knowing how much salt is in the salted butter. Too much salt in breads and cakes leaves a real dull flavor. Its cool to use salted butter for your macaroni and cheese, your roux, and all that other stuff, but when it comes to rolls and cakes go with the unsalted butter for the dough.
5.) Check the date of your Baking Powder. Believe it or not, it can get old and lose its power. Your biscuits and cakes will go flat and hard on you. There’s an expiration date printed on the baking powder can, so check it out.
6.) Keep your yeast in the refrigerator. This will insure that your active yeast keeps longer.
7.) Here’s a helpful conversion: 1 pkg. of active yeast - 2 1/4 teaspoons of yeast. There are still many recipes that will call for one package of yeast and not say 2 1/4 teaspoons. I don�t know why. I buy my yeast in bulk. It’s cheaper and more convenient. This little conversion is real handy.
8.) Seasonings are better freshly ground. That includes black pepper, cinnamon, nutmeg and any seasoning that can be grounded. It’s a little more work, but baby it’s worth it. I buy my seasonings at Penzey’s Seasonings. I like �em. Here’s their link: http://www.penzeys.com/index.htm
9.) Cast iron cookware Since most of our dishes that we enjoy was probably first cooked in a cast iron pot, I use my cast iron cookware regularly. I love cast iron cookware. I find that it holds the seasoning of the food better, I don�t have to use as much. There’s the even heating that cast iron provides, I prefer it. The best way to get cast iron cookware is to inherit it or get it from a garage sale, thrift store or used furniture store, cast iron cookware that has already been ’seasoned�. If you�re like me and have to start from scratch, the ’seasoning� is where the mystery and trouble begins. If you can�t find any cast iron cookware in the manner I described above, I’m providing a link to Lodge Manufacturers, the leading producer of cast iron cookware: http://www.lodgemfg.com/index.htm. Since of the major downfall of getting new cast iron cookware is that many of us don�t know how ’season� it and care for it. Lodge has provided instructions explaining just that. http://www.lodgemfg.com/care.htm.
10.) Use the best, freshest, vegetables for your cooking, especially soups and stews. If you use wilted vegetables, your stews will have a wilted, bland, blah taste to it.
11.) The last and most important tip is write in your cookbook. Speaking from the child standpoint, I would love to know the little things that my grandmother did to make her cakes or her frostings turn out the way that they did. Fortunately for us, she wrote in the margins of her cookbook, or she crossed out a measurement or ingredient and wrote what she put in place of the printed choice. Quiet as it’s kept, sometimes we tend to forget what we did to get that dish just the way we want. Leave a legacy, write down your changes.