Tips and Tricks

We know baking can be intimidating and frustrating. Since baking truly is a science, we have compiled these tips and tricks to help you avoid some of the common baking mistakes.

1. Familiarize yourself with the recipe before you start. Read it over two or three times to make sure you understand the steps and the order in which you should perform them. This is especially important when a recipe requires chilling.

2. Practice proper "mise en place". This is a french culinary term for "everything in it's place". Have all of your tools, equipment and ingredients ready before you start a recipe. There is nothing worse than being in the middle of a recipe and realizing you don't have one of the ingredients (ask my husband who has had to make a run to the store for me many times) : )

3. Always use the best quality ingredients. Taste is important and the quality of the ingredients you use will be reflected in the end results. This is especially important when buying Extracts. Imitation Extract has an artificial flavor and should not be used in place of real Extracts even though you will be tempted to buy them because they're less expensive.

4. Always use fresh ingredients. Some ingredients have expiration dates, be sure to check them. Dry ingredients have a shelf life as well, especially Baking Powder and Yeast. Do not use old Baking Powder or Yeast or your baked goods will not have the proper rise.

5. Make sure your ingredients are at room temperature unless otherwise specified in the recipe. Room temperature ingredients incorporate better than cold ingredients.

6. The exception to rule # 5 would be when you are making pastries like pie crusts, biscuits and scones and when you are whipping cream. In this case, some of the ingredients need to be kept cold to ensure your pastry is flaky. Be sure to follow the instructions in the recipe.

7. When making homemade whipped cream, make sure your bowl is very clean and place the bowl and beaters in the freezer for 15-20 minutes to chill them before whipping.

8. Be careful not to overmix, especially bread doughs such as muffins, scones, cakes and biscuits. Follow the directions. If the directions specify to mix just until incorporated, you want to mix just until the ingredients come together.

9. To create uniform cookies, use a cookie scoop.

10. Invest in insulated baking sheets. They are my secret weapon when baking cookies, especially drop cookies. They ensure even baking with no more dark bottoms! :

11. Know your oven. Even though a recipe may specify a baking time, actual baking time needed may vary depending upon your oven. Some ovens run hot and bake faster than others. Always use the baking time in recipes as a guideline and check your baked goods before the baking time given in the recipe and adjust as needed.

12. Practice, practice, practice. Don't be afraid to try a new recipe or technique. The more you bake, the more confident you will become.

13. Use the Internet as a learning tool. There are so many great Food Blogs out there with lots of great information.

14. Using proper baking tools and pans is essential. Read these great  tips on which baking pans you should use.

15. So you've tried making Swiss Meringue Buttercream frosting and haven't had success. Don't give up or throw it out! Here are some great tips for saving your SMB