These baking tips and techniques will help you improve your baking skills.
The following guidelines will help you get the best results from my recipes:
- Weighing your ingredients will give the most consistent results.
- Practice “mise-en-place”, which means gathering all your ingredients and tools before you begin the recipe. This helps ensure you have everything you need to complete the dish in a timely fashion.
- The eggs are always Grade A large.
- The butter is always unsalted.
- Room temperature butter is pliable, but not melting. The ideal temperature is between 65°-70° F.
- Cake flour, all-purpose flour and bread flour are not interchangeable. To replace 1 cup of cake flour with all-purpose flour use 3/4 cup of all-purpose plus 2 tablespoons corn starch.
- You’ll get the best results with baking powder and baking soda if they are fresh. Buy in smaller containers and replace every 6 months.
- For cake batters, the eggs and all dairy products should be at room temperature.
- If you have a convection setting on your oven, use it. I bake almost everything on convection. Unless a recipe specifically says not to use convection, you can. I don’t use convection for meringues, custards and sponge cakes.
Here are some basic baking techniques are are useful:
- How to bloom gelatin: Always use cold water. Use 4 times the amount of water to powdered gelatin. Place the water in a bowl. Sprinkle the gelatin in an even layer over the water. After about 5 minutes the gelatin should be “bloomed”.
- How to whip egg whites: Start the egg whites on medium high speed and allow them to come to a “soft peak”. Soft peak means the whites will hold their shape, but loosely. Slowly add the sugar on low speed and then increase the speed to medium high. Whip to full peak, which means the whites will hold a peak without drooping.
- How to temper or “liason” eggs for a custard: Pour some of the hot milk into the eggs and whisk to combine. Then add the tempered eggs back to the pan. This will prevent the eggs from scrambling in the hot milk.
- How to tell if your yeast dough is proofed: Most recipes will tell how long to proof your dough, but that’s just an estimate because the time can vary based on the temperature of the dough and of the room. If you think the dough is ready, gently press your finger into the dough. If the dimple quickly springs back the dough is not proofed enough. If it leaves a dimple that slowly fills in, the dough is ready for the oven. If the dimple stays and the dough deflates a little it’s probably over-proofed. Depending the the type of dough, you may be able to re-shape and re-proof the dough.
- How to tell if bread is baked: Tap the bottom of the loaf of bread and it should have a hollow sound, meaning most of the moisture is absorbed into the bread. The internal temperature of the loaf should be about 190° F.
- How to prep a cake pan: I never butter and flour my cakes pans. I only use a parchment round at the base of the pan. Just run a small knife or spatula around the baked cake and it will come right out.
- How to blind bake a pie crust: Line the chilled unbaked pie shell with foil. Fill the foil with pie weights or dried beans that you keep just for this purpose. Bake at 375°F until baked and lightly brown.
- How to blind bake a tart shell: (For a tart pan with fluted edges) Prick the chilled tart shell several times with a fork. No need to line the pan with foil and pie weights since the fluted edges will hold the dough in place. Bake at 375°F until baked and just beginning to brown.