December 7, 2016

Tis The Baking Season: 13 Tips and Tricks

Tis the season for an increase in baking! Fa la la la la! Being a self taught Cooking/Baking 101 girl, I thought I would share thirteen (a baker's dozen) tips. These are tips that have helped keep me sane in the kitchen baking. I still have not been able to make my own pie crust. So obviously not a greatly skilled baker, but for simple baking, these are the tips and tricks that work. Oh, and anyone who thinks they have a fool proof crust recipe for me may come forward. 

Yay tips!
Use Room Temperature Ingredients
Unless otherwise stated, all ingredients should be room temperature. It will tell you if it wants cold eggs, butter, sour cream, water, etc...

There Are A Lot Of Flours
Seriously. Bread flour and all-purpose flour are sometimes interchangeable on a 1:1 ratio, but sometimes they are not. Bread flour has a higher protein content and has more gluten for more chew. If you are in a crunch and do not have time to experiment interchanging flours, just go with what the recipe calls for. You can make a lot of your own flours, but I usually buy my all purpose, bread flour, and whole wheat flour. Cake flour on the other hand is easy to make! Remove 2 teaspoons of all purpose flour for every cup you need for your recipe and replace it with cornstarch. Sift it together four or five times and BAM, you have cake flour.

Gravity Happens
A lot of people say to give berries or fruit a good toss in flour before adding them to batter. If you really do not want them to sink, add them to the top of whatever you are baking. I have tried  the berries or fruit pieces a good toss in a couple tablespoons of flour before adding them to the batter. I have heard people say this is not necessary, but I find it massively successful. Not 100%, but it doesn't take much more work for me to do them. If you really don't want chocolate chips or fruits sinking in your muffins, but the batter in your cups and add the fruits/chips to the top of it then.

Help your Dough Rise
I can’t promise you this will work every single time, but this method has worked really well for me. When it is a little cooler in your kitchen (below 70 degrees), wrap a heating pad in a thin towel, then turn it on low and place it on a counter top. Place your dough, in its bowl or loaf pan and covered, on top of the heating pad. That little extra bit of heat makes some serious magic happen. If you don't have a heating pad, then you can place it near the oven/stove where it is often warmer. Do not put it on top of the stove or oven while using. That can get too hot for the dough. I have been told that you can also just let it rise in the microwave.

How to Store Breads
If it is a crusty bread, store it in a paper bag and if it is soft or enriched (baked with eggs or milk), store it in an airtight container or plastic. When I make my own breads, and am not going to eat them fast enough, I like to refrigerate my breads to extend their shelf life. I know is sacrilege to some but it is just how I roll (get it, roll, bread?!? haha!). I have never frozen my homemade bread, but I have frozen store bought bread. I wrap it tightly in plastic wrap and then in aluminum foil before sticking it in the freezer bag.

Frost Your Cake Like A Pro
Most baked goods are domed. Your bread loaf, your cupcakes, but NOT your cake. Everyone wants flat cakes because it makes it easier to frost. Try this, if your cake recipe calls for 350 degrees, try baking it at 325. It will take longer, but it will bake more evenly. Then refrigerate your cakes so that they firm up making them easier to frost. I'll let you decide if a crumb layer is worth it to you.

Butter Me Up
Generally I use unsalted butter for everything. This way I can add salt and better control how much salt is in my recipe. That is nit picky though. You can really generally use whichever butter you have.

Store Your Ingredients Correctly
When in doubt, throw it out. But here is a short little guide on how to store and how long your ingredients keep:

Vanilla: My favorite, because it does not spoil!
Brown Sugar: Store in an airtight container. It has the tendency to become very hard. If it does, follow these instructions to soften it because you never want to use those clumps.
Powdered and Granulated Sugar/Flours: I have never seen those go bad. Most people will say to store in cool, dry, and an airtight space. I follow two of those. I keep my sugars in beautiful glass stores and they have been perfectly perfect!
Honey: They say it expires in 12 months. I would just smell it. Toss it (or anything) really if there is an odor. But if your honey crystallizes, warm it up back into a liquid again and then re-store it!
Baking Powder: Store in a dry, cool place. To test if it is still good, mix 1 teaspoon with 1/3 cup of hot water. If it foams, it is still good.
Baking Soda: Store like baking powder and to test if it is still good, place 1 1/2 teaspoons with 1 tablespoon of vinegar. If it fizzes, then it is good. On the plus side, if it doesn't, you can place the baking soda in the fridge and it becomes an odor catcher!

Follow Instructions
Don't believe anyone that says you can substitute butter with any kind of oil or margarine are fools. Substitute at your own risk. I find often, it does not come out like it should. Oh and let your oven preheat all the way. I know after you have put all the work into brownies, you just want to throw them in, but let the oven preheat completely. Baking is a science and cooking an art. So while you may be able to throw some food into an oven not completely preheated, I would not do it with your baked goods.

Fix Your Frosting
I cannot tell you how many times I have messed up frosting. If it is to thick, stir in 1 spoonful of milk until you reach the right consistency. If it is too thin (my usual problem) add powdered sugar.

Chocolate Rules
Chocolate chips often come in milk chocolate, semi sweet, and bitter sweet. Semi sweet is dark chocolate and bitter sweet is extra dark chocolate. But when melting chocolate, use bars not chips. Chips have additives that help them hold their shape while baking. So obviously you can see how great this is for cookies, and not so great it is for making a ganache.

Fake It Till You Make It
I mean, we are all really busy. Sometimes we need to resort to a store bought pie or a store bought brownie mix. There are so many ways to elevate those! Here are three of my favorite ways to elevate them:

Brownie Ice Cream: Because yum.
Fruit Pizza: I mean making your own sugar cookies is easy, but if you don't have time, decorate them with bright fruit!
Brownie Cookies: I love how easy and yummy these are. I may make them for the neighbors again!
Two Ingredient Cookies: Because what says easy and yummy more than canned pumpkin and spice cake mix?!
Updating Pumpkin Pie: Some of these from the Kitchn look really good!
When In Doubt, Have Your Go To Baking Resources
Ingredient Substitutions from Life Love Lauren
Cutting Recipes in Half from The Nest
Baking School from The Kitchn

What are some tips that have served you well in the kitchen?

1 comment:

  1. This is such an awesome post-- I love baking, but am definitely a newbie! I always add way too much powdered sugar to my frostings, so thats a great tip if it gets too thick. I've always wondered if the type of butter makes a difference in flavor or texture of things!


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