Baking 101! Tips for Baking at your Best | Tuesday’s Tip of the Day!
They say you can tell a lot about someone simply by whether they prefer to cook or bake. I couldn’t agree more! Bakers tend to be very precise, punctual, organized, patient, type A personality, and like following a plan step by step. Cooks are artistic, enjoy freestyling, going with the flow and prefer to give something a shot before following the instructions. We know both types, don’t we? So, which one are you? Regardless of where you stand, I am here to help take your baking to the next level.
Room Temperature Ingredients:
Ingredients combine better and more evenly when at room temperature. Because of this, make sure your butter and eggs are at room temperature before adding to the mix. To expedite this process, cut your butter into thin slices so they soften faster. Place your whole eggs, still in the shell, in a bowl of room temperature water for 10 – 15 minutes to help take the chill off. If the water gets too cold, refill with fresh room temperature water.
Dry Ingredients should be measured in dry measuring cups, and wet (liquid) ingredients in wet. What’s the difference? Wet measuring cups have a lip for liquid to easily pour out. Dry ingredients, like flour, have a flat top with no lip on indentation on top. Make sure you read the directions or any notes in your recipes on how ingredients are measured. For example, does the brown sugar say “firmly packed” or does the flour say “1 cup sifted flour” or “1 cup packed flour?” Those details matter and will absolutely make a difference in the overall outcome.
There are many ways to measure flour, but the most common way is lightly sifting flour with a fork before scooping with a separate scoop into your dry measuring cup. Then, using the flat side of your knife, gently tap down on top and the sides helping to “settle” and fill any pockets. Using the same knife, skim off the top removing any excess flour.
Measuring “Packed” Brown Sugar:
Recipes usually ask for “packed” brown sugar. To do this, use a separate scoop to scoop brown sugar into your measuring cup (make sure it’s a dry measuring cup). While doing this, make sure there are no lumps. If there are, pinch them with your fingers. Once your measuring cup is full, press down with your hand until the brown sugar is packed and flat on top. Use a knife to skim off any excess brown sugar from the top if needed.
Before adding all the eggs to your wet ingredients, add them to a separate bowl so you can see and remove shells if needed. Then, with a fork, gently whisk the eggs to just break the yolks. You don’t want to aerate the eggs, you just want to break the yolks so they incorporate easier in the mixer or bowl.
Adding dry to wet ingredients:
I like to add all my dry ingredients (usually flour, baking soda or powder and salt) to the wet ingredients in one addition. This way, you prevent the potential of overmixing your ingredients as you wait for each addition to incorporate. If you worry about the flour making a dust storm, cover the bowl or mixer with a clean unused shower cap or a clean kitchen towel.
Adding nuts, chocolate chips or any other last additions:
At this point, your dough is probably pretty thick, depending on what you are making of course! If you try folding in these last minute add on’s at the end, it may be hard to evenly distribute them throughout. If using a stand mixer, I like to turn it on for 2 – 4 seconds just so it turns a few times doing the heavy lifting for me. Use your best judgment here so you don’t break your machine, or spatula!
If making bars, like brownies, 7-layer bars or even fudge, consider using a parchment overhang to help lift the bars out of the pan. This will also help to protect your pan from slicing directly inside – which can scratch your pan and ruin your knife – and makes cleanup so much easier! To do this, simply trace the width of your pan. Cut a piece of parchment paper to fit across the inside width and up the sides with 2-inches of overhang on either side. Repeat going the other direction so the overhang is on all sides of the pan. When the bars have finished baking and had time to rest, simply use the overhang to lift the bars out of the pan straight to your cutting board, platter and mouth!
For other terrific tips and hundreds of recipes, including hundreds of sweets like my All American Pie, Chocolate Chip Cookies, Thyme Cornmeal Cookies, Lemon Shortbread Icing Cookies, Brown Butter Gingersnap Cookies, Gluten-Free Peanut Butter Cookies, Pumpkin Chocolate Chip Cookies, and Peanut Butterfinger Fudge, to name a few, visit my website (thetabletogether.com). While there, consider “subscribing” and I will send a new tip or blog post directly to your inbox every Tuesday and Wednesday morning!
P.S. Make sure you check out my YouTube channel, The Table Together with Tiffany Lewis, for dozens of videos solely dedicated to bringing all of these fantastic tips and recipes to life!
Cheers to starting a new tradition around The Table Together!
Founder and true believer in the power of bringing people around The Table Together!