Greg Patent was born in Hong Kong, spent his early childhood in Shanghai, and immigrated to the United States with his family when he was 11. He earned a Ph.D. from the University of California at Berkeley and became a full professor of zoology at the University of Montana before leaving to pursue a career in cooking, his first love. He is a veteran baker, cooking teacher, and cookbook author whose books include the James Beard Award-winning Baking in America. He lives in Missoula, Montana, with his wife, Dorothy.
To hear a podcast with Greg Patent on Culinate, go here.
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I’m often asked how much one should blend ingredients when mixing up batters. In some cases — such as muffins, pancakes, and waffles — the rule is, the less stirring, the better. But for most cakes, vigorous beating is the norm. Why?
Many quick breads — so-named because they’re leavened with fast-acting baking powder and/or baking soda instead of yeast — are made in a bowl simply by stirring dry and liquid ingredients together. The aim is to create a tender result, and to do that, the gluten proteins in the flour must be activated as little as possible. Once liquid — usually water or milk — comes in contact with the flour, the proteins glutenin and gliadin begin knitting together to form elastic gluten.
Continue reading Batter averages »
One of my pet peeves over the years has been the guesswork we bakers face when it comes to measuring flour. A recipe might say, “1 cup flour.” But how did the flour get into that cup? If we just weighed our dry ingredients, there’d be no problem — and in the first half of the 19th century, weighing is what home bakers did. Then somebody decided to use cups, and all sorts of problems began.
What size cup might be meant? And would you use the same cup to measure liquid and dry ingredients? Some authors said to use teacups, others tumblers, but no guidelines for what amounts these measures represented were given. By the time Fannie Farmer published her first cookbook in 1896, the shift from weighing to measuring was complete, and measuring cups were standardized to contain 8 ounces — by volume! And we had cups with spouts to measure liquids and smooth-rimmed cups to measure flour and the like.
Continue reading How did that flour get into the cup? »
I spent the first years of my life living with my mom and dad with Granny, my mom’s Iraqi mother, in her one-room apartment in Shanghai. Granny baked and cooked all our meals. I don’t know how she managed to make all that she did in that tiny corner of a kitchen, with its small gas stove and oven, but I do remember loving to eat her delicious food.
Continue reading Why I bake »
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