To keep the edges of your muffins and quick breads nicely rounded, grease the muffin cups or baking pans on the bottoms and only 1/2 inch up sides
After adding the liquid mixture to the flour mixture, stir just until moistened. If you stir until the batter is smooth, your muffins and quick breads will have a tough texture.
Be sure to bake muffin and quick-bread batter right away. Batters with baking powder and/or baking soda lose leavening power if the batter is not baked immediately.
To avoid soggy sides and bottoms, cool muffins and quick breads in baking pans only as long as directed in the recipe.
Avoid over-mixing the fat with the flour; this produces mealy biscuits and scones rather than flaky ones. Always use chilled margarine or butter because it's easier to cut into the flour and coarse crumbs.
Do not over-knead the dough. Folding and pressing the dough gently for 10 to 12 strokes is enough to distribute moisture.
Cut as many biscuits and scones as possible from a single rolling of the dough. The extra flour needed for rerolling will cause biscuits and scones to be dry.
Biscuits and scones are done when both the bottom and crusts are an even golden brown.
Baking with yeast can be tricky even for experienced bakers. Yeast dough that is too hot or too cold won't rise properly. For best results, use a thermometer to check the temperature of the liquids before mixing and choose a warm, but not hot, area for raising dough.
Kneading dough can be messy when you use too little flour or difficult if you use too much. We give a range for the amount of flour to use. Just start with the minimum amount and add a little at a time until the dough is easily kneaded.
Let the dough rise in a draft-free area with a temperature range of 80 degrees F to 85 degrees F. Your oven is a great place for raising dough. Place the bowl of dough in an unheated oven and set a large pan of hot water under the bowl on the oven's lower rack.
An easy way to check the bread for doneness is by tapping the top of the loaf with your finger. If it sounds hollow, the bread is done. Rolls and coffee cakes are done when their tops are golden brown.
The right stiffness of the dough is important. Knead the dough for the suggested amount of time and identify the right dough stiffness for the recipe.
Moderately soft dough is slightly sticky and may be kneaded on a floured surface. It's used for most sweet breads and coffee cakes.
Moderately stiff dough is not sticky but yields slightly to the touch. It kneads easily on a floured surface and is used for most unsweet breads.
Stiff dough is firm to the touch and kneads easily on a lightly floured surface. This type of dough is used for a chewy-textured bread.
Kneading: Place dough on a lightly floured surface. Knead by folding the dough and pushing it down with the heels of your hands, curving your fingers over the dough. Turn, fold, and push down again.
Rising: Check if the dough has doubled and is ready for shaping by pressing two fingers 1/2 inch into the dough. Remove your fingers. In the indentations remain, the dough has doubled and it is ready to be punched down.
Punching down the dough: Push your fist into the center of the dough, pressing beyond the surface. Pull the edges of the dough to the center. Turn the dough over and place it on a lightly floured surface.
You can substitute quick-rising yeast for active dry yeast in equal measures in practically every yeast recipe in this book. Exceptions are recipes made with sourdough starter, a sponge, or recipes requiring refrigeration before baking. Quick-rise yeast dough should rise in about a third less time. Check the manufacturer's directions for the water temperatures to use because it might differ from the recipe using active dry yeast.
Store packets of dry yeast in a cool, dry place and the yeast will stay fresh until the expiration date stamped on the package. If you buy jars of loose yeast, store in a cool, dry place until they're opened, then refrigerate tightly covered.