12 Secrets to Take Your Baking from Good to Great
Doesn't it seem like some people have a knack for turning out incredible baked goods every time? We're sharing the best baking tips from our kitchen so you'll have that baking knack, too!
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Play with Add-Ins
The ratios in baking recipes are crucial, but that doesn’t mean you can’t be playful with some add-ins. For a chewy texture, sub in oats for up to a third of the flour. Make a blend of chocolate chip flavors in cookies, brownies and quick breads (I always add more than what the recipe calls for!) or add dried fruit or candy. Throw some rainbow sprinkles into cake and cookie batters, too.
Experiment with one of these favorite cookie recipes.
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Cut Bars Like a Pro
It’s easy to get nice, square slices of your brownies and bars if you cut them out of the pan. Use parchment paper to line the pan with extra extending over the sides to serve as handles. Lift the baked slab out of the pan and cut it into squares on a cutting board, slicing away hard or tapered edges.
Try this with the best brownies you haven’t baked (yet).
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Line Your Baking Pans
Lining your baking pans with parchment paper is more reliable than greasing and allows you to transfer cookies, breads and cakes without them tearing or falling apart. On a greased sheet, cookie bottoms can over-brown, but on parchment they bake perfectly. Cut parchment paper (or buy pre-cut sheets) to fit loaf pans and cake pans. Silpat silicone liners are another great option.
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Use Only Fresh Ingredients
We get it—those expiration dates sneak up on you! It’s tempting to use up old ingredients like spices, chocolate and flours, but the result will be lackluster or off-flavor. Using expired leaveners like baking powder, baking soda and yeast will also hurt the rise and texture of breads and cakes. Ditch ’em and replace with something fresh.
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Use the Right Pie Plate
To get the most reliable browning of pie crust bottoms, metal pie pans are your best bet. The metal is thinner than glass and is a better conductor of heat. If you’re using a glass pie plate, position the oven rack down closer to the heating element so the bottom can cook through more easily. Ceramic pie plates are beautiful but poor conductors of heat, and more likely to give you a soggy bottomed pie.
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Bake for Less Time
Check the minimum bake time called for in your recipe and set your timer for 5-10 minutes less. Oven temps vary and you never know if your treats will bake faster! In addition to preventing dry or burned baked goods, some things like fudgy brownies and gooey chocolate chip cookies will be more delectable if taken out early.
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Know your recipe and have the ingredients and equipment ready to go. Does the butter need to be chilled or softened? Take eggs out of the fridge in advance to warm up.
Consider the environment when choosing a recipe, too: hot, humid days are tough for making pastry dough, croissants or buttercream. Make sure you have a way to keep ingredients at the proper temp, or choose a different recipe like one of these no-bake desserts.
Don’t rush ahead with ingredients that are not the right temperature. Also, be patient with bake times, rising times for breads and cooling times before you slice into just-baked pies, loaves and bars.
Test Kitchen tips: Place cold eggs in a bowl of warm water, changing the water every 5 minutes until the eggs are no longer cold; microwave butter in 5 second bursts, rotating the stick, until it is softened.
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Scoop Perfectly Sized Cookies
When cookies are “dropped by the tablespoonful,” you will likely end up with a range of cookie sizes. Get a spring-loaded cookie scoop and you will never look back. Not only will your cookies be uniform, the scoops make the work faster, neater and more fun. They’re great for portioning muffin batter, too.
Perfect Your Cup of Flour
You can weigh flour like professionals, but if you’re accustomed to using measuring cups (and your recipes are written for measuring cups) then practice your dry measure. Here’s how to measure flour the right way. You’ll get it in no time!
Sift Your Dry Ingredients
For some, sifting flour and other dry ingredients may seem like an unnecessary step, but it’s a lot easier than trying to get lumps out of your mixed batters. Get in the habit of sifting flour, cocoa powder and confectioner’s sugar to break up clumps before they hit your mixing bowl. And use your sifter to blend baking soda, baking powder and salt evenly into dry ingredients.
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Don’t Rush the Rise
When it’s time to let bread dough rise, many home bakers put it in the warmest place possible to get speed up the process. Acclaimed British baker and author Paul Hollywood says this is a mistake. The best possible bread flavor is developed during a slow, natural rise. Leave your dough to rise in a room-temperature spot, and don’t rush it.