Master Four Common Baking Challenges
Ever notice how many New Year’s resolutions are about not doing something? This year, turn a new leaf. Resolve to keep on doing things that are fun and rewarding! If doing sounds better than quitting, we have four common baking challenges for you to master that will make your time in the kitchen more fun, relaxing and rewarding.
ART OF PIECRUST
Do you get worked up about whether your crust will achieve that magical flaky perfection? Take it from us—you’ve got to chill out. Literally.
Successful pie bakers know the key to a killer crust is using cold butter and ice water. Some will even tell you to add an ice cube or two to the water you’re using to make sure it’s super cold. Use a pastry blender to incorporate the cold butter and cold water with your dry ingredients.
Here are a few more tips to master the art of piecrust:
• Be careful not to overwork it or the crust will be tough.
• Before you put the dough into a pie pan, wrap it up in plastic wrap and refrigerate for about 45 minutes.
• Baker’s Secret metal pie pans are great for making delicious piecrust. The nonstick surface helps make it easy to remove pie slices, and their durable surface won’t scratch even when using metal servers or knives.
MUFFINS THAT RISE AND SHINE
Savory or sweet, mini or mega, a fresh batch of delicious muffins right from the oven makes any morning brighter. And judging the taste by the rise of the tops is only fair. There are two keys to making muffins rise just right:
• Grease only the bottom of your muffin pan. The batter will cling to the grease-free sides, rising higher.
• Thoroughly mix wet and dry ingredients separately, quickly and gently combine them until the dry ingredients have become moist, then stop. Overworking the batter is a surefire way to end up biting into tough terrain with a mountain-peak top instead of a fluffy muffin nestled under a gently rounded dome.
CAKE THAT’S BAKED THROUGH
You accurately measured your ingredients and carefully mixed them together, following the recommended directions for speed and duration, all while the oven heated to the required temperature. Your cake-to-be has been baking quietly, all things looking as they should.
The timer goes off and now it’s the moment of truth: Is. It. Done? Here’s how to do the “toothpick test” to textbook standards:
• Test by inserting a toothpick or bamboo skewer into the center of the cake.
• When removed, it should come out clean with only a few crumbs sticking to it. If you see bits of wet batter, you know your cake needs more time in the oven.
• While it seems like a knife could also do the trick, the textured wood of a toothpick or skewer gives the batter something to cling to, so it’s more accurate.
Sugar, chocolate chip or oatmeal raisin…baking yummy cookies that are just the right texture, shape and size can be tricky. One batch might spread out, becoming crisp and brittle, while the next attempt ends with dense mounds concealing gooey middles. Learn to master the journey between dough and done for perfect-looking (and tasting!) cookies every time. Follow these 5 easy tips (and repeat!):
1. Bring the butter to room temperature. Unlike pie crust, cookie dough is best made with softened butter.
2. Measure the same amount of batter for each cookie so they bake evenly and in the same amount of time. A cookie scoop is a foolproof way to create identically sized portions.
3. Cool your cookie sheets before placing dough on them. If you’re reusing your cookie sheets to make a big batch, wait for them to cool or the heat will cause the batter to spread even before it bakes.
4. Use the middle oven rack for an even temperature. And if you’re doing two cookie sheets at a time, position them in the center of each rack, then switch them around halfway through so they bake evenly.
5. Check your cookies at the minimum suggested bake time; if they aren’t ready yet, keep them in but check every minute or two. After you pull them out of the oven, let the cookies rest on the hot cookie sheet for a minute—they will continue to bake and take shape. Then transfer to a cooling rack.
What baking challenges would you like to master this year?