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Here are a few tips and techniques to make your baking more successful! I will occasionally add more to this page, so check back often.
1.Invest in a scale and weigh your ingredients! This is my number one tip. Always always always weigh your ingredients. Weighing your ingredients gives you precise measurements and ensures consistent results. Baking is a science! Too much or too little of an ingredient may throw a recipe off entirely. I found my OXO brand digital scale at Kohls for less than $30. I love using King Arthur Flour’s recipes because they give ingredients in ounces. If I have a recipe that does not give me weight measurements, I can convert them myself, or I am sure to scoop my flour into my measuring cup with a seperate scooper then level it.
2. Always use the finest ingredients when baking. A few ingredients I am a stickler about:
Vanilla: I use Nielsen-Massey madagascar pure bourbon vanilla extract and vanilla bean paste. I bake so often, so I order a 32oz bottle of vanilla extract from Amazon. However, you can buy the standard size at Amazon Here or at William-Sonoma and Sur La Table. Whatever you use, make sure it is pure vanilla extract and not imitation vanilla.
Vanilla Beans: I order whole vanilla beans from Beanilla through Amazon HERE. It is much cheaper than buying them individually at the grocery store. I get 16 vanilla beans for less than $1 a piece. I also love using Vanilla Bean Paste. You can also purchase this from amazon, Williams Sonoma, or Sur La Table. You can use 1 TBS of vanilla bean paste in place a one whole vanilla bean in any recipe. The vanilla bean paste is a little bit sweeter, but it adds an amazing vanilla flavor to any baked goods. It is also a little but more cost effective to use the paste in place of a vanilla bean if you do not tend to use vanilla beans often enough to buy them in the large quantity I mentioned above.
Chocolate: I love using Ghirardelli brand chocolate chips and baking bars. I can’t tell you how much of a difference good quality chocolate makes! This brand is great because it can be purchased at most grocery stores. I stock up when it is on sale! If I am making chocolate candy of any sort, sometimes I spring for Guittard chocolate. This can be found on Amazon and at Sur La Table. If I am making a chocolate cake and need cocoa powder, I use Valrhona 100% cocoa powder. I have purchased this on Amazon and at Sur La Table.
Butter: When baking cakes and croissants, I use a high quality european butter such as Plugra and Kerry Gold. Land O’Lakes just came out with a European butter as well. I have heard good things about it, but have not tried it myself.
Flour: I always use King Arthur brand flour. It is a great quality flour with very consistent results. I always find it the cheapest at Target or if you use Amazon Pantry, this is a great price as well. King Arthur Flour@ Amazon Pantry
3. Always use softened butter whenever a recipe calls for it. If I know I am baking something that needs softened butter, I take it out of the refrigerator first thing in the morning. If I forget to do so, or did not realize I needed it, I cut the butter into very small pieces and let it sit for 30 minutes to soften. Do not ever microwave your butter to soften it!
4. When making scones, be sure to keep your ingredients as cold as possible. I cut my butter up into cubes and put it in the freezer while I prepare and measure my dry ingredients.
5. I always use parchment paper or a silpat when I bake. I use a silpat or parchment paper to line my sheet trays and cake pans.
6. Cold pie crust dough Is best! Let the pie dough rest in the refrigerator for 15-20 minutes after you have rolled it and placed it into your pie dish while your oven preheats. A cold pie crust dough will yield a nice flaky crust and the rest will prevent your dough from shrinking.
7. Eggs should be at room temperate when used for baking. This is especially important for cakes, cookies, and brownies. I usually take my eggs out of the refrigerator first thing in the morning the day I am baking. If I forget, or I decide to bake last minute, I put my eggs in a bowl and fill the bowl with hot tap water. I let them sit for about 5 minutes and they are good to go!
8. How to Measure Flour
I always recommend weighing ingredients, especially flour. However, when you come across a recipe that does not give ingredients in volume, here is the best way to measure flour. Be very careful when measuring your flour with a dry measuring cup. DO NOT use your measuring cup to scoop your flour.
You will most likely pack the flour and end up with too much flour in your batter. This can lead to an end result that is more dense and not as moist. To measure the flour, use a second measuring cup to scoop the floor into the appropriate measuring cup.
You will end up with a lot of extra flour in your cup.
You need to level the flour without packing it down into the cup. I use the handle of my spatula ( how cute is this personalized handle? It was a housewarming from two of my very good childhood friends. I absolutely love it!) to gently sweep across the measuring cup. I always do this over my flour container. The extra floor will fall into the container.
You now have a perfect cup of flour!
9. Scone Tips and Techniques
Keep the ingredients as cold as possible. I chop my butter and place it in the freezer while I prepare my wet ingredients. The wet ingredients are then placed in the refrigerator while I measure out my dry ingredients.
Do not overwork the dough. this can lead to tough, dry scones. Mix until the dough just comes together.
While the oven is preheating, I place the already shaped scones (on the cookie sheet) in the refrigerator to chill
Scones are the perfect make ahead item. Shape the dough and place Freeze for an hour. Then place the scones in a freezer bag. Bake them straight out of the freezer. They may need an extra few minutes to bake all the way through.
10. Essential Baking Tools-Click HERE to see 18 of my favorite baking tools
11. How To Temper Chocolate-
To dip any dessert such as caramels, madelines, or cake pops in chocolate, you will need to temper it. Why do you need to temper the chocolate? Tempering the chocolate assures that your chocolate will harden and look shiny. If you do not temper it, it will look dull and will not completely set. I was so afraid of tempering chocolate until I learned how in a baking class I took. It is actually quite simple. I got this awesome infared thermometer for Christmas which makes tempering the chocolate a breeze!
- Melt 9 oz of high quality chocolate wafers (do not use chocolate chips) in the microwave until it reaches 115 degrees. Reserve 3 oz of chocolate wafers to use as seed chocolate. To melt the chocolate, I microwaved it for 30 second at a time on half power until it reached 115 degrees.
2. Add half of the reserved chocolate wafers to the melted chocolate and stir until It melts. Check the temperature. You will need the chocolate to be between 90-92 degrees to be in temper. Continue to add chocolate wafers, stirring until they melt until you reach 90-92 degrees.
3. Once you reach the proper temperature, you can now dip your madelines. If your chocolate dips below 90 degrees, warm it back up to 90-92 degrees to keep it in temper.