Since I went to culinary school, people often ask me if I have any tips on how to be a better baker. Here are some of my tips that separate a good baker from a great baker.
1. Follow the recipe: This sounds basic, but I would say this is the number one thing that people don’t do correctly. You are baking, not cooking, when you cook you can play with the recipe, when you bake follow the directions. And not just the ingredient measurements it is also the instructions. There is a reason you are supposed to cream the sugar and butter before adding the flour. Follow the instructions!
2. Under-bake things: I claim to have a sixth sense that I know when the things I am baking are done. The only time this doesn’t work is with the last batch of cookies (anyone with me?). Brownies, cookies, cookie bars, should be under baked. They are better that way. Cakes and pies should not be under-baked, however cakes should be taken out the second they are done. Under-baking some of your items will mean that your baked goods are more moist and tender.
3. Liquid and dry measures: Remember in Jr. High Home-ec class when you learned the difference between a wet and dry measuring cup? There IS a difference. Don’t use a wet measuring cup to measure flour our sugar, you won’t get a nice even measurement. A dry measuring cup wasn’t meant to measure wet ingredients, you will spill and have a mess. A dry cup is a little less than a wet cup measure. So use the proper measuring cup for the job.
4. Saran Wrap is your best friend: In professional kitchen there are always large film wrap. They wrap everything, A LOT! As soon as your items are cool wrap them up well. That means over and under. This goes for cakes, pans of brownies and breads. If you are going to freeze something, wrap it over and under 4 times. Also I will often freeze something the same day I make it. When I get it out of the freezer it tastes as fresh as the day I made it, because it was properly wrapped.
5. Aluminum foil is NOT the same: People seem to easily confuse Aluminum foil for film wrap, this drive me CRAZY! Seriously, aluminum foil is for the oven. Don’t use aluminum foil to keep your items fresh. It doesn’t work and might leave a funny taste on your items.
6. Cakes, cookies and brownies, DON’T belong in the fridge: This drive me a little less crazy than aluminum foil. Cakes, cookies and brownies have no need to be chilled. The fridge doesn’t keep them fresh. The only reason a dessert needs to be in the fridge is if it is filled with an egg or milk based filling. (Butter doesn’t need to be refrigerated.) One time I found a plate of brownies and cookies in the fridge covered with aluminum foil, I almost lost my mind!
Some of these things may seem a little too too, but like I said this separates the good from the best! Anyone have a tip to add?