Question: Every night I lie in bed dreaming of wearing a neatly tied apron and taking trays of heavenly smelling, perfectly crisped cookies out of the oven. But reality is far from my dreams. When it comes to the kitchen, I have two left hands. My family and friends usually just nibble on my creations to be polite, and leave most of it untouched on their plates. How do I become a better baker?
Pointers from the Professionals:
Let’s see what tips we can obtain from the baking pros. Believe me, their advice takes the cake!
Bruchie started baking professionally as a teenager. Today she manages a business based in Brooklyn, New York, which provides specialty baked goods to caterers and party planners. Bruchie also runs the School of Baking Arts where she provides a variety of classes for women and girls.
Here is Bruchie’s recipe for success in baking:
“Mise en place” is a French term that means “putting in place” or “everything in its place.” When it comes to baking, the key ingredient is making sure that everything is in its place before you begin. Unlike cooking, baking is a science, not an art. Ingredients, technique, and temperature all interact in a chemical process to create the perfect baked good. While you can play around and be creative when you cook, when it comes to baking you need to play by the book.
Here are Bruchie’s five key elements for successful baking:
1. Recipe: Read the recipe in its entirety before you begin. Make sure you have all of the ingredients. And make sure you understand the techniques involved, whether the instructions say to “whip,” “beat,” or “cream” the ingredients. If you’re not sure what something means, find out before you begin.
2. Checklist: A clean environment ensures a more enjoyable baking experience. Protect your clothing with an apron, and tie your hair back. Nobody wants to find your hair in their cookie! Keep a garbage bag handy. And clean up spills as you go. If you leave all of the mess for the end, you will be overwhelmed.
3. Ingredients: Line them up on your counter in order, and measure and prepare all of the ingredients before you start mixing. Peeling your carrots for your carrot cake, sifting your flour, and measuring your sugar before you begin will result in a smooth and quick process. Also remember that baking powder and baking soda have expiration dates, so be sure to check them before you add them to your recipe. Eggs and butter should be at room temperature for optimal incorporation into your batter. If your butter is cold, you can warm it in the microwave for just five seconds, (but not longer, because you don’t want it to melt). Eggs can be dropped in hot (but not boiling) water for a few seconds.
4.Oven: Every oven is unique and bakes differently. Depending on the brand and model, there can be a 10- to 15-degree difference in the oven temperature. Therefore, it’s handy to have an oven thermometer to measure the exact temperature of your oven. Always preheat your oven before inserting your pastries, and check the temperature with a thermometer to verify it’s accurate. Also remember that hot air rises, and the hottest part of your oven is the top. Don’t put your trays there because they are more likely to burn. Instead, place your rack slightly below the center of the oven.
5.Pans: Prepare your pans in advance so you can pour your batter straight in. Non-disposable pans are preferred because they conduct heat better. But if you are using disposable pans, make sure they don’t have any holes or bumps.
See, baking is not that complicated after all. Enjoy your delicious creations!
(Excerpted from Mishpacha Jr., Issue 749)
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