Greetings fellow foodies,
It is the start of the new year! Some of you may be taking a break from all the holiday baking, others have new years resolutions to make you a baking master by the end of the year. Whether you are starting from scratch or want to brush up on your pastry skills, these tips will help you improve your baking game.
1. Use the right pan size
This is key especially to cakes, bars, and sheet cakes. Why? If there is too much batter, it will over flow, be over-baked on the edges, and cause quite a mess in the oven. If there is not enough batter and the pan is too large, the cake can easily be overly baked and mis-shaped.
This tip is also true when you're stove top cooking any sweet component, like lemon curd or pastry cream. Making 8 oz of lemon curd? Use a small sauce pan instead of a 8 qt dutch oven.
2. How to test for a finished baked good
4 big factors go into to see if a baked good is finished:
-Time: Small, quick baked goods like cookies and muffins take less time versus large cakes. Have your snicker doodles been in the oven for over 30 minutes? Or 3 minutes?
-Smell: Baked goods are, almost, finished when your kitchen starts smelling like the baked good itself
-Knife test: Especially for bar cookies, brownies, and cakes, insert a small paring knife into the baked good and if it comes out clean, it is finished.
-Color: Since baked good contain sugar, sugar will aide in sweetness and color. Your baked good will be golden to the color (unless it has cocoa and/or chocolate in it)
3. Cool baked goods on the pan itself, and cool cakes upside down
Cool cookies on the cookie sheet, cool brownies in the pan, and cool cakes upside down on a cooling grid. Does your cake a dome on to? Carefully cut the top off with a serrated knife and cool.
Why? This ensures softness to the edges of your baked goods and, well, ease of cleaning too.
4. Have eggs and egg whites be room temperature
Are you baking with eggs? Of course! Eggs aides in flavor, richness, color, and taste in all baked goods out there. Take the chill of 'em when baking by simply microwaving them for 5-8 seconds in a microwave safe bowl. Room temp eggs will ensure a uniform batter (think: no lumpy and separated eggs in your cheesecake batter) and also add in volume (think: whipped egg whites for souffles and meringues).
5. Toss your old ingredients, keep only what you regularly bake on hand
Keep the dry ingredients you use regularly on hand, on hand! How do you do this: buy in large containers/bags what you bake with on a normal basis such as all purpose flour, sugar, salt, etc. Buy what you use on a not-so-regular basis in the bulk section and seasoning section, such as holiday spices, special flours, and unique ingredients.
If you are baking a new recipe with new ingredients, make sure you use the remaining special ingredients in another recipe. Not only does this use up the ingredient, you get a chance to be creative with your baking brain.