The key to good baking is to realize the science behind each recipe, that is, the how and why for each ingredient and the process of baking.
For example, butter and lard maybe used interchangeably, but often yield different results. Butter has a certain moisture content as it is made with water. Lard has very little, resulting in very flakey and crumbly pie crusts, while butter is richer in taste. Measurements, time and temperature are just as important as the ingredients — with the best results achieved through methodic technique and careful execution.
If I were to list my top five ways to acheive great baking results, they would be:
Pre-heat the oven.Every oven has hot and cold spots, so it’s important to know where they are and what to do to minimalize un-even heating. Get the oven nice and hot at least fifteen minutes prior to inserting food.
- Bring all ingredients to room temperature. I can’t state this enough. The exception, of course, is when stated otherwise in a recipe, such as with biscuits or pie crusts which usually call for cold butter. In other cases, I say gather your ingredients (particularly milk, butter and eggs) and let them sit out for at least an hour before starting your recipe.
- Use the right tools. Baking requires a certain amount of tools in order to be done correctly. Liquid and solid measuring cups are just the beginning, with the proper spatula, beaters and sheet tray required. Also, paper products, such as parchment, foil and plastic wrap are used in various ways, so it’s important to know which will perform best with the tools you have.
- Set a timer. Baked goods typically have a designated cook time and the best way to track that is with a kitchen timer. During baking time, it is important to leave the food un-disturbed in the oven. Just opening the door a crack can alter the oven temperature and produce un-even heat distribution. If you must check on an item, I suggest waiting until five minutes prior to the end of the designated cook time.
- Know your techniques. For example, if you are told to fold an ingredient, know this is different from mixing or beating. The same goes for piping, scooping and plating. Become familiar with all kinds of techniques (and their differences) and know when to apply appropriately.
This weekend, I’ll be sharing baking tips like these and more during HSN’s Spring Baking shows. Some of the products you’ll see me talk about include the Nordic Ware Bunny and Lamb pans and the fantastic Very Different Cake Ladybug and Cupcake Blooms kit. These products are perfect for Spring time baking, so please tune in for my baking tips and ideas!