Butter, unbleached flour, and sugar have long been the cornerstones of home baking, but now they have some exciting company on supermarket shelves: less-processed grains, natural sweeteners, and nondairy options that enhance classic recipes. This modern approach inspired Martha’s latest book, "A New Way to Bake," which comes out on March 28 and features 130 sweet and savory treats that are as rich in better-for-you ingredients as they are in texture and flavor. Here are a handful of the tome’s rules for baking in a fresh way.
1. Seek out the best ingredients
Whole-grain flours, alternative milks, and seeds are more widely available than ever. You can also look for smaller-batch artisan-quality ingredients -- like freshly milled heirloom grain flours and traditional-style buttermilk -- at farmers’ markets and specialty shops.
2. Keep freshness in mind
Most of the recipes in the book indicate how far ahead a recipe can be prepared. Sometimes that means making different components at different times, then combining and assembling just before serving. Follow these suggestions, so you are sure to enjoy baked goods when they taste their very best.
3. Store ingredients properly
Whole-grain flours, nuts, and seeds all contain fat, which makes them prone to turning rancid. To extend their shelf lives, store them in resealable bags in a cool, dry place (or, better yet, the freezer or refrigerator). To check for freshness, take a sniff; they should smell sweet.
4. Make it your own
The tenets of baking are always being rewritten. Don’t be afraid to play around with different ingredients -- try replacing a small amount of one type of flour or sweetener with another, and pay attention to the differences. Slowly increase or decrease the proportions as you like.
5. Let batters rest
Whole-grain flours can take longer to hydrate than all-purpose. If you have time, let muffin and quickbread batters rest for 15 minutes before baking for moister and less coarse-textured results.
Now that you've got the new rules down, you're ready to bake!