I love to cook, to me it’s relaxing. I love trying new things and new recipes. Baking is one of my favorites because I love the smell from cookies or pies in the oven. It makes your home smell so inviting. Over the years I have learned several things about baking, some from my grandma and some on my own. Below are my top 10 Baking tips followed by one of my favorite recipes.
1). Know your oven: when I first started baking I thought when my oven preheated to 350, it was in fact at 350. I also thought that if it’s supposed to take 10-12 minutes to bake, the cookies would be finished by 12 minutes. Your oven could bake faster than mine or slower for that matter. And when you preheat it, it doesn’t mean that it gets that hot, or it may even get warmer than the temperature in you intended.
2). Chill!! I know when we get that pie or those cookies out of the oven we want to rush and get them off the pan and get more in. But let them chill! Set the pan on a wire rack and let the cool off before poking at them. If you try to move them while they are too hot than you risk breaking that cookie in half or the pie crust falling apart. This is true except where cupcakes are involved. I like to get them out of the pan and onto a rack immediately out of the oven.
3). Find a trusty recipe source: I personally use many recipes from http://www.allrecipes.com I can always find something on that website. I also love to just type in what I am looking for on Pinterest or Google and see what I can find as well.
4). Who needs a timer: I hardly ever go by a timer. I may set my stove for ten minutes as a reminder to myself to check on what’s in the oven, but I don’t go by what the box says or the recipe calls for. If it says it takes 15 minutes, I don’t take that to heart. The food is ready when you want it to be. DO you like you cookies chewy or crunchy, maybe crunchy around the outside and chewy in the middle? You know what you like so let the food cook until you want to take it out. And this also goes back to knowing your oven.
5). Comfort Zone: A few years ago I worked with a woman who was always baking. I loved the food she made and she would have brownies that looked like something out of a box, but with a raspberry center. She was always exploring with different ingredients. Sometimes you will make something that will be disgusting and sometimes you will make something your entire family will love.
6). Room Temperature: I honestly find it best when all ingredients are at room temperature. I try to set out everything I am going to need for a recipe before I begin. It’s important if you are using cream cheese or butter that you let it get to room temp and not try melting it some in the microwave or using it straight out of the fridge. It makes a difference in your flour, sugar, icing(if making homemade) You won’t have the fluffiness you need. If you cut your butter or cream cheese into small cubes it should take about 15 minutes to reach room temperature.
7). Measuring Utensils: I suggest investing in measuring spoons instead of trying to measure it out of a tablespoon or teaspoon. Also measuring cups instead of using a coffee cup. Or by not measuring at all. I still have one grandma who never measures, if she tells you a recipe she says a little of this, a pinch of that, a dab of this. And then I have one grandma who measures everything out. I have to measure everything out or I get lost.
8). Too hot, too cold: This goes back to knowing your oven. But here is a tip on how you can judge your true temperature. If your cakes always rise too much in the middle (with a dome) your oven is too hot. If your cakes fail to rise and sink your oven is too cool.
9). When making buttercream beat the butter first before adding the icing sugar – you will get lovely smooth butter cream.
10). Check that all your ingredients such as baking powder and bicarbonate of soda are in date especially if you don’t use them often – this will really affect their ‘raising’ properties.
I really hope these tips help you. Some I have learned on my own and some from doing research online or asking a friend or family member who cooks.
Classic Vanilla Buttercream Frosting
Classic American Buttercream frosting. This recipe uses powdered sugar, butter, vanilla and milk. This is a great recipe for decorating and piping on cupcakes and cake.
- 1 cup unsalted butter (2 sticks or 1/2 pound), softened (but not melted!) Ideal texture should be like ice cream.
- 3-4 cups confectioners (powdered) sugar, SIFTED
- 1/4 teaspoon table salt
- 1 tablespoon vanilla extract
- up to 4 tablespoons milk or heavy cream
- Beat butter for a few minutes with a mixer with the paddle attachment on medium speed. Add 3 cups of powdered sugar and turn your mixer on the lowest speed (so the sugar doesn’t blow everywhere) until the sugar has been incorporated with the butter. Increase mixer speed to medium and add vanilla extract, salt, and 2 tablespoons of milk/cream and beat for 3 minutes. If your frosting needs a more stiff consistency, add remaining sugar. If your frosting needs to be thinned out, add remaining milk 1 tablespoons at a time.
What are some of your tips for baking? Anything you’ve learned over the years? Have a favorite recipe or a question? Feel free to leave it in the comment section.
Until next time,