by Amy Bradley
Baking is a little bit of art and a little bit of science. Taking your baked goods to the next level takes patience and practice. I’m not perfect myself, but I have learned a lot over the years that have helped my baking improve. I wanted to share the tools and tricks I’ve learned, which helped to improve my skills as a home baker.
This is an investment that is worthwhile if you plan on baking a lot. I use my stand mixer constantly and it really comes in handy when I’m making large quantities of dough or batter, such as Christmas cookies. It’s also great if you have little upper body strength (like me) because the dough hook does all the kneading for you! I know it can be pricey, but to me it is worth the expense. KitchenAid mixers tend to last a long time, so you will definitely get your money’s worth if you use it regularly.
It was astounding how inaccurate the temperature was on our oven. It was off by 25 degrees! I got so frustrated with my bakes being overdone or underdone, so I finally purchased an oven thermometer. It has made a world of difference.
★ Tip: Stay Diligent
Just because you get an oven thermometer does not mean you should leave your bakes up to chance and rely on the timer alone. Start checking your items a few minutes ahead of the minimum bake time by peeking through the oven window. I use the toothpick test for cakes and brownies (done if the toothpick comes out clean). Cookies are typically done when you see them begin to turn light golden brown around the edges.
Improve Your Cookie Baking
These handy mats help you to achieve even baking of your cookies (or other goodies like bread, buns, etc.) with NO STICKING! They are easy to clean and reuse, reducing paper waste associated with parchment paper.
Cookie scoops help to ensure uniformity and accurate sizing for your cookies. These scoops also have multiple uses, like scooping cupcake or pancake batter.
★ Tip: Refrigerating Dough
Some cookie recipes recommend refrigerating the dough for several hours prior to baking. This helps to create a thicker cookie and often more flavorful. I’ve had issues with the dough being too hard to scoop if refrigerated as a large single mass. Based on experience, I recommend scooping the dough first and forming into balls, then refrigerate. That way, you can immediately bake the formed dough after you take it out of the refrigerator.
Achieve Cake Excellence
There is so much I can tell you about cakes, but I will leave that for another day and another post. For now, I will give you a few basic tools and suggestions to improve your cakes.
I went several years avoiding leveling my cakes, thinking “does it really matter?” I tried using a serrated knife to level my cakes, creating off-kilter cakes. I watched as my sprinkles toppled off the top of my cakes and other decor slid down the edges. Then, I got a cake leveler and it made a HUGE difference. If you want professional looking cakes, please get one. They are easy to use and inexpensive.
If you have one piping tip in your arsenal, make it the 1M. It’s simple, yet creates professional and elegant designs with minimal effort. Use it for decorating cakes or cupcakes. Create the ice cream-style tall swirl, rosettes, ruffles or stars. Here’s a great video on how you can use the 1M.
★ Tip: Pan Prep
A lot of people say to “grease and flour” your baking pans when making cake. I’ve tried this a few times. It never works. Ever. My cake always sticks. Instead I use Pam Baking Spray (which contains flour) and sometimes also line the bottom of my pan with parchment paper. I have little – if any – sticking!
If you are having a specific problem with your baking, please let me know by leaving a comment. I’m happy to help if I can!
Look out for more tools, tips, tricks and techniques as we explore the world of baking together…
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