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Better Baking Tips:

   Start with the best and the freshest ingredients.

   Baking powder: Check the date on the bottom of your baking powder can, and, if it’s more than a year old, buy new. It’s a minimal investment in the ingredient that makes muffins, cakes, and cookies rise (leaven). Check the country of origin listed on the can. American-made baking powder must meet a strict standard for leavening action. And choose a brand with a built-in leveling edge on the can for easier measuring.

   Dried figs add moisture, flavor and texture to a wide variety of baked goods. You’ll find them in handy pouches or plastic wrapped crowns. Be sure to keep leftover figs tightly wrapped, so they won’t dry out.

   Spices too should be fresh. If there’s a can or bottle that’s been in your drawer since you can’t remember when, it’s time for a new supply.

   Accurate measuring is another key to successful baking. Do use measuring spoons for ingredients such as baking powder, baking soda, salt, and spices. And measure all the white ingredients before getting to the spices. That way you don’t carry the dark colors of the spices into the light-colored baking powder. Use dry measuring cups for dry ingredients—flour, sugar, oatmeal, etc. No need to sift flour, but give it a good stir to loosen it up before measuring. Spoon lightly into the measuring cup and level the top with a knife.

Use liquid measures (usually glass) for milk, oil, molasses, or other liquids.

And here’s an easy trick for measuring sticky stuff such as molasses or honey: first measure the oil in the cup, then the molasses. The molasses or honey will slide right out. Or spray the measuring cup with cooking spray.

More Tips For Successful Baking:

   Oven temperature is another key to success. Invest in an oven thermometer and check it after the oven has had at least 20 minutes to preheat. If hotter than the temperature you selected, adjust the setting downward. Vice versa if oven is too low.

   Timing, too, is important. The recipes here give you a description of doneness as well as a time range, so you have an additional way to judge when the baked goods are done.
Good pans make a big difference. A good pan is an investment for good results. Be sure to use the pan size given in the recipe.

About California Dried Figs

   These sweet little ripened and dried-on-the tree fruits add so much to baked goods—flavor, moisture, sweetness, and crunch from the tiny seeds. You’ll find dark Black Mission figs or honey-colored Calimyrnas either in pouches, in plastic wrapped crowns, or in bulk. Either variety works in the recipes here. Because the figs dry on the tree they still have their stems attached and you’ll need to cut or pinch the stems off before using.

   To chop figs, use a chef’s knife and a cutting board, snip them with kitchen shears (dip shears in hot water as you cut to prevent sticking), or pulse on and off in a food processor just until all pieces are chopped.

 


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