Introduction: Finest Recipes Begin With the Purest Ingredients!

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One of the most important things when you go out to shop for food, it is to read the labels. Don’t just for calories and fat, which can be important, however there’s also a section that is essential to you and your family’s well being, the ‘INGREDIENTS’ section. Even when buying “organic”, or “natural” products, it’s very important to read the ingredients. As a general rule of thumb, when shopping, avoid any product that has more than a handful of ingredients. Also, avoid a label with a lot of ingredients that you cannot pronounce or understand… Sometimes, I believe I need a PHD in science just to figure out what particular ingredients are!

Step 1: ​Butter:

Both butters are made of the very same Grade AA quality butter, but salted butter has salt added to it. The ingredients: Sweet Cream, Natural Flavoring. Contains: Milk. The rule of thumb is that one stick of salted butter (4 ounces, 115 g) has 1/4 teaspoon of salt added.

* Unsalted butter: Unsalted butter is especially important in certain baked goods, allowing you to control the amount of salt in a dish, where the pure, sweet cream flavor of butter is key (like in butter cookies or pound cakes), or in cooking to let the real, natural flavor of your foods come through.

* Salted Butter: Salt acts as a preservative and prolongs the shelf life of butter. Salted butter is all-purpose, and perfect for spreading on bread, topping veggies and pasta and using in recipes where you are not looking to have so much control over the amount of salt in a recipe.

* Plugrá Butter: contains less water than average table butter. Lower moisture helps you create cakes that rise higher, cookies that crisp more evenly, and flakier pastries. The ingredients: Pasteurized Cream, Natural Flavor. Contains: Milk.

Step 2: Margarine

* Margarine: is an imitation butter spread. It is made mainly of refined vegetable oil, hydrogenated or partially hydrogenated oils, water, artificial flavor and may also contain milk.

Margarine can be used for spreading, baking, and cooking, but no thanks in my opinion. It is also commonly used as an ingredient in other food products, such as pastries and cookies, owing to its versatility

Step 3: Flours:

* All Purpose Flour: Is a combination of hard and soft wheat is milled to produce all-purpose flour. The resulting medium protein content (between 9% and 12%) offers just the right balance of strength and tenderness for the everyday baker to make chewy breads, delicate tarts and everything in between.

* Bleached Flour: has less protein than unbleached. Bleached is best for pie crusts, cookies, quick breads, pancakes and waffles.

* Unbleached Flour: Is best for yeast breads, Danish pastry, puff pastry, strudel, Yorkshire pudding, éclairs, cream puffs and popovers.

* Bread Flour: Bread flour is a high protein flour that is intended to be used in yeast breads and designed to give you a better result in those breads than you would get with another type of flour. The high protein content means that the flour has more gluten in it. The increased amount of gluten allows the dough’s made with bread flour to be extremely elastic, and that elasticity leads to lighter and chewier yeast breads. Use it for all your yeast baking, from bread (including bread machine loaves) to rolls to pizza.
The best way to substitute for bread flour is by adding a small amount of vital wheat gluten (which is just pure protein/gluten) to all-purpose flour to increase its protein content. Remember that a higher protein content will lead to a more supple dough. If you directly substitute all purpose in a recipe that calls for bread flour, you may end up with a bread that doesn’t rise quite as well or has a slightly more crumbly texture than it would otherwise have

* Cake Flour: Using cake flour in recipes creates the lightest cakes with the most tender crumb. King Arthur Cake Flour, specifically is very unique because it is unbleached (the only unbleached cake flour on the market), with a protein content of just over 9%. In this way, the flour is free of super-gross bleaching chemicals yet has the structure and goodness of a light wheat flour, making it strong enough to hold together the tender crumb of a cake without adding toughness. Cake flour is excellent is used in some quick breads, muffins and cookies.
The best way to substitute for cake flour is by combining 1/4 cup cornstarch and 1 3/4 cup all-purpose flour in a bowl. Whisk gently to sift the mixture together.

* Self-Rising Flour: Self-rising flour has an even lower protein content that all-purpose flour because it’s made using a soft wheat flour rather than the hard wheat flour that makes up all-purpose flour.
Self-rising flour is great for making biscuits. It is a softer, lower-protein (8.5%) wheat flour that creates a wonderfully tender Self-Rising flour is not only for biscuits, but also pancakes, muffins, and quick breads, but never for yeast breads. Because self-rising flour also contains non-aluminum baking powder and a dash of salt, so omit adding any to recipe.
The best way to substitute for self-rising flour is for each cup of all-purpose flour, add 1 1/2 teaspoons of baking powder and 1/2 teaspoon of salt. Mix to combine.

Step 4: Sugars:

* Brown sugar (light and dark): Brown sugar retains some of the surface molasses syrup, which imparts a characteristic pleasurable flavor. Dark brown sugar has a deeper color and stronger molasses flavor than light brown sugar. Lighter types are generally used in baking and making butterscotch, condiments and glazes. The rich, full flavor of dark brown sugar makes it good for gingerbread, mincemeat, baked beans, and other full flavored foods.

Both brown sugars can harden if left open to the air, so it is best stored in an airtight container. If your brown sugar has hardened, you can microwave it for a few seconds, or place a piece of bread in the bag and leave it for a day.

* Coarse or Sparkling Sugar: Is larger (comparable to size of small hail), than that of “regular” sugar. Coarse-grained, sparkling white sugar is a must-have for your pantry. It’s the perfect topping sugar: large-grained enough that it won’t melt and disappear, as it bakes, yet not intrusively coarse. This sugar adds sweet crunch (and sparkle) to all your bake goods, through brushing your pie crusts, sweet breads, scones and muffins with cream, half and half, or milk before sprinkling the sugar over the top.

* Confectioners or Powdered Sugar: This sugar is granulated sugar ground to a smooth powder and then sifted. It contains about 3% cornstarch to prevent caking. Powdered sugar is ground into three different degrees of fineness. The confectioners sugar available in supermarkets – 10X – is the finest of the three and is used in icings, confections and whipping cream and, glazes.

* Regular Sugar or White Sugar: These sugars are known to consumers, is the sugar found in every home’s sugar bowl, and most commonly used in home food preparation. White sugar is the sugar called for in most cookbook recipes. The food industry stipulates “regular” sugar to be “extra fine” or “fine” because small crystals are ideal for bulk handling and not susceptible to caking.

* Superfine or Ultrafine: This sugar’s crystal size is the finest of all the types of granulated white sugar. It is ideal for delicately textured cakes and meringues, as well as for sweetening fruits and iced-drinks since it dissolves easily. In England, a sugar very similar to superfine sugar is known as caster or castor, named after the type of shaker in which it is often packaged.

* Turbinado Sugar: This sugar is raw sugar, which has been partially processed, where only the surface molasses has been washed off. It has a blond color and mild brown sugar flavor, and is often used in tea and other beverages.

* Sugar Substitutes And Artificial Sweeteners: Are nonnutritive artificial sweeteners that are approved by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA). Nutritive and nonnutritive sweeteners enhance the flavor and/or texture of food. Nonnutritive sweeteners are very low in calories or contain no calories at all. They can both be added to food and beverages.

Step 5: Vanilla:

1 Vanilla Bean = 2 teaspoons Pure Vanilla Extract

1 teaspoon Vanilla Paste or Powder = 1 teaspoon Pure Vanilla Extract

Step 6: Pure Extracts Verses Imitation Extracts:

One of the most striking differences between pure and fake vanilla’s involved alcohol flavor. While federal guidelines require 35 percent alcohol in pure vanilla extract, there’s no minimum for alcohol in imitation vanilla, and manufacturers have an incentive to use as little as possible to make synthetic vanillin soluble: If they use more, it costs more to make. This explains why tasters kept describing real vanilla as “boozy,” an adjective rarely applied to fake vanilla. But they also found the real stuff nutty, spicy, and more complex.

* Pure Almond Extract: Is made from three primary ingredients: alcohol, water, and bitter almond oil.

* Imitation Almond Extract: Also starts with water and alcohol, but it get its flavor from synthetic benzaldehyde, created in a lab.

* Peppermint Extract: Peppermint extract a liquid alcohol flavored made from the essential peppermint oils. It has a distinctive minty flavor and aroma that can be used in a variety of ways. Peppermint extract is traditionally used in holiday cooking to flavor candy, beverages, cookies, cakes and other baked goods.

* Peppermint Oil: Oils are more powerful than the supermarket extracts, made of pure natural peppermint oil. Concentrated oils are stronger than extracts. As a general rule, peppermint oil is about four times as strong as peppermint extract.

* Pure Rum Extract: Will give your desserts and sauces a distinctively warm and buttery flavor. Use this extract in Rum sauce to pour over warm bread pudding and in rum cakes for the holidays. The ingredients: sugar, rum, propylene glycol, (preservative), and water.

* Imitation Rum Extract: Is made of alcohol (29%), Corn Syrup, Propylene Glycol, Water, Artificial And Natural Flavors, Caramel Color, and FD&C Yellow 5 And FD&C Red 40.

* Pure Vanilla Extract: A process of steeping vanilla beans in water and ethyl alcohol, with the exact proportions of each mandated by the government makes pure vanilla extract.

* Imitation Vanilla Extract: Is a byproduct of paper production or a derivative of coal tar, chemically manufactured through fairly simple and inexpensive processes. Because it’s so cheap, annual global demand for imitation vastly outstrips that for natural vanilla, at 16,000 metric tons to just 40 metric tons for natural vanilla.

Step 7: Rose Water

* Rose Water: Is made by steeping rose petals in water. It has a sweet with delicate floral notes. It is essential to buy a good quality Rose Water to accomplish the best flavor Start out using a small amount at a time and tasting in order to achieve the right flavor balance. Rose water can be used for cooking, risottos, flavoring your drinks, pastries, cakes, and icings.

Step 8: Leavening Agents:

Both Baking Soda and Baking Powder are leavening agents, they are added to baked goods before cooking to produce carbon dioxide and cause them to 'rise'. Baking powder contains baking soda, but the two substances are used under different conditions.

* Baking Soda: Is a chemical compound with the formula NaHCO3. Sodium bicarbonate is a white solid that is crystalline but often appears as a fine powder. It has a slightly salty, alkaline taste resembling that of washing soda (sodium carbonate). The natural mineral form is nahcolite. It is a component of the mineral natron and is found dissolved in many mineral springs

When baking soda is combined with moisture and an acidic ingredient (e.g., yogurt, chocolate, buttermilk, honey), the resulting chemical reaction produces bubbles of carbon dioxide that expand under oven temperatures, causing baked goods to rise.

This reaction begins immediately upon mixing the ingredients, so you need to bake recipes, which call for baking soda immediately, or else they will fall flat.

(Baking soda is also great for killing those pesky cockroaches. Once consumed, it causes internal organs of cockroaches to burst due to gas collection).

* Baking Powder: Is a dry chemical leavening agent, a mixture of a carbonate or bicarbonate and a weak acid, and is used for increasing the volume and lightening the texture of baked goods. Baking powder works by releasing carbon dioxide gas into a batter or dough through an acid-base reaction, causing bubbles in the wet mixture to expand and thus leavening the mixture. It is used instead of yeast for end-products where fermentation flavors would be undesirable‪[1] or where the batter lacks the elastic structure to hold gas bubbles for more than a few minutes,‪[2] or for convenience. Because carbon dioxide is released at a faster rate through the acid-base reaction than through fermentation, breads made by chemical leavening are called quick breads.

Some baking powders contains cornstarch as a filler, sodium bicarbonate, calcium phosphate, and sodium aluminum sulfate. Calcium phosphate is Ca(H2PO4)2, and sodium aluminum sulfate (inorganic compound with the chemical formula NaAl (SO4)2·12H2O (sometimes written Na2SO4·Al2(SO4)3·24H2O). Also known as soda alum or sodium alum, this white solid is used in the acidity regulator of food (E521) mainly in the manufacture of baking powder). Aluminum consumption has been linked with the development of Alzheimer’s Disease. Use of aluminum based acid salts to leaven the dough can also sometimes give a slightly metallic taste to the final product.

To make your own Baking Powder, for each TBLS baking powder, simply mix together, 1 tsp. baking soda and 2 tsp. cream of tartar.

* Single-Acting Baking Powder: The acid in a baking powder can be either fast-acting or slow-acting. A fast-acting acid reacts in a wet mixture with baking soda at room temperature, and a slow-acting acid will not react until heated in an oven. Baking powders that contain both fast- and slow-acting acids are double acting; those that contain only one acid are single acting.

* Double-Acting Baking Powder: By providing a second rise in the oven, double-acting baking powders increase the reliability of baked goods by rendering the time elapsed between mixing and baking less critical, and this is the type most widely available to consumers today. Double-acting baking powders work in two phases; once when cold, and once when hot.

Rumford Baking Powder is a double acting consumer product that contains only monocalcium phosphate as a leavening acid. With this acid, about two-thirds of the available gas is released within about two minutes of mixing at room temperature. It then becomes dormant because an intermediate form of dicalcium phosphate is generated during the initial mixing. Further release of gas requires the batter to be heated above 140 degrees F.

* Cream Of Tartar (Potassium Hydrogen Tartrate): It is a white, odorless powder; it is used to stabilize delicate foods like meringue toppings and other egg-white products. Cream of tartar is used in candies or frostings, giving them a creamier texture because it can help to prevent the crystallization of cooked sugar. It is also used in cooking water to prevent potatoes from discoloring.

Cream of tartar, when mixed into a paste with hydrogen peroxide, can be used to clean rust from some hand tools, notably hand files. The paste is applied and allowed to set for a few hours and then washed off with a baking soda/water solution. Another rinse with water, a thorough drying and a thin application of oil will protect the file from further rusting.

Step 9: Yeast

Yeast, a microscopic, one-celled organism belonging to the group of organisms called fungi. Yeasts obtain food from fructose, glucose, and other monosaccharides (simple sugars), which are found in most fruits. Yeast enzymes chemically break down the sugars into products that the cell can use. Other yeast enzymes can make simple sugars out of disaccharides (double sugars), which are found in certain organisms.

Due to its moisture content, compressed yeast must be refrigerated. It remains fresh for up to five weeks. Dry yeast is made by removing over 90 per cent of the moisture from the yeast mass at a low temperature. It does not need to be refrigerated, and has a shelf life of six months. Both compressed and dry yeast are classed as active yeast because they are made up of living yeast. The yeast is in a dormant state when packaged but becomes active when combined with hot water or milk.

Yeast comes in different forms, liquid, crumbled, dry or pressed. Baker's yeast is the common name for the strains of yeast commonly used as a leavening agent in baking bread and bakery products

* Active Yeast: Means the yeast is alive and active. It is found in different forms to satisfy bakers' requirements: fresh, but also dry or liquid. The drying process in its manufacture reduces moisture content, giving it a longer shelf life than cake yeast while retaining optimum activity. When activated, it provides ultimate baking activity in all yeast dough- low sugar to highly sweetened breads. In the case of dry yeast, dehydration is never pushed below 40°C in order to maintain its fermenting power!

* Deactivated Yeast: Means the yeast is dead, (or inactive, i.e. beyond 40°C). The yeast cream has been pasteurized and sterilized, so that the yeast is dead, with no leavening power, but leaving. The yeast keeps its vitamins and minerals properties behind but it cannot be used to make bread: it is an inactive yeast! Used in pizza and bread to increase the extensibility of a dough. When inactive dry yeast is mixed into a pastry formulation or bread dough it acts as a reducing agent on the gluten network breaking the sulphydril bonds and provides a protein barrier on the outside of baked doughs and pastries and helps support glazes and fillings stopping the finished product from collapsing and going soggy.

* Compressed Yeast: It is a fresh or compressed yeast, soft solid, and beige in color. Compressed yeast is very perishable, requiring constant refrigeration to retain its freshness and activity. It has a short self life, due to it is a live yeast!

* Instant Yeast: This yeast appears similar to active dry yeast, but has smaller granules with substantially higher percentages of live cells per comparable unit volumes.‪ It is more perishable than active dry yeast but also does not require rehydration, and can usually be added directly to all but the driest doughs. In general, instant yeast has a small amount of ascorbic acid added as a preservative.

* Rapid-Rise Yeast: Is cake yeast in a semi-dormant state. The drying process in its manufacture reduces moisture content, giving it a longer shelf life than cake yeast while retaining optimum activity. Smaller granular size, it dissolves faster in dough, and it provides greater carbon dioxide output to allow faster rising. When activated, it provides ultimate baking activity in all yeast dough- low sugar to highly sweetened breads. This yeast is also for use in bread machines.

Step 10: Expiration Date Codes

The Federal Government states that, "The FDA only requires expiration dates on baby foods and infant formula. Other dating on food products is voluntary". If that is so, then why is it, when I previously (8/5/2015) to three different grocery stores, I checked out the baby formulas, Enfamil, Similac, and Gerber. Looking at the products labels carefully, and None of the baby formulas had the word "Expiration" on them. Instead, the Enfamil had the “Use By” date, Similac the "Use-By" and Gerber the "Best By". I think the FDA needs to be honest with the consumers!

Step 11: Best Before, Best If Used By, and Sell by Dates

* Best Before: Is also called a Quality Date, Appear on a wide range of frozen, dried, tinned and other foods. These dates are only advisory and refer to the quality of the product, in contrast with use by dates, which indicate that the product may no longer be safe to consume after the specified date.‪ Food kept after the best before date will not necessarily be harmful, but may begin to lose its optimum flavour and texture. Eggs are a special case, since they may contain salmonella, which multiplies over time; they should therefore be eaten before the best before date, which is, in the USA, a maximum of 45 days after the eggs are packed.

* Best If Used By: Is not a safety-related date, but instead is the recommended date for best flavor or quality. Even if the “best if used by” date has passed on a food you have at home, it should be safe if stored and handled properly.

Step 12: Sell By, Use By, and Open Dating Dates

* Sell By: Is also called a Pull by Date, found on perishables, stamped on perishable products (such as baked goods or dairy products) after which they should not be sold. Indicates how long a store should display a product on its shelves. But foods are still flavorful and safe to eat several days after this date if you store them properly.. This is the manufacturer's recommendation for when the food will be at peak quality. These dates are intended for consumer use, but are typically the date the manufacturer deems the product reaches peak freshness. It's not a date to indicate spoilage, nor does it necessarily signal that the food is no longer safe to eat. Bottom line: Let your senses of sight, taste and smell guide you.

* Use By: Usually refer to best quality and are not safety dates. Foods that have a use by date written on the packaging must not be eaten after the specified date. It’s the last date for peak quality. After this date, taste, texture and quality may go downhill, even if food safety does not. This is because such foods usually go bad quickly and may be injurious to health if spoiled. It is also important to follow storage instructions carefully for these foods (for example s raw meat, poultry, fish, eggs, milk, fruit and vegetables., specifying that the product must be refrigerated).

* Open Dating: Food product is a date stamped on a product's such as meat, poultry, eggs and dairy products to help the store determine how long to display the product for sale. It can also help the purchaser to know the time limit to purchase or use the product at its best quality. It is not a safety date. After the date passes, while it may not be of best quality, refrigerated products should still be safe if handled properly and kept at 40 °F (4.4 ºC) or below for the recommended storage times listed on the chart (see below). If product has a "use-by" date, follow that date. If product has a "sell-by" date or no date, cook or freeze the product by the times on the chart below.