Baking Tips  Hints, Tips and Tricks  1102 reads

Bars & Cookies:

  • Foil-line pans for baking bars. Once bars have cooled, you can lift the foil right out and cut the bars cleanly. There's an added bonus: The pans will need only a quick rinse and dry.
  • Always bake bars on the middle rack in the oven and cookies on the top rack. If baking more than one pan at a time, place them at different angles on different racks to allow maximum circulation of heat. Alternate their placement on the racks halfway through the baking time.
  • You should cool cookie sheets between batches to keep unbaked cookies from melting and thinning at the edges before they can be set by the heat of the oven.
  • Don't have a "baker's" supply of cookie sheets? Spoon cookie dough onto large sheets of greased aluminum foil. When a cookie sheet becomes free, allow to cool, then lay the foil with the cookie dough right on the sheet.
  • Whirl granulated sugar in a processor or blender until powdery, then roll cut brownie squares in it for a delightful, sparkling white coating.


Breads:

  • Yeast will last longer than the specified date printed on the packet if kept in the refrigerator, or even longer in the freezer, for up to a year. If you bake a lot, it is wise to purchase larger amounts and freeze. Place in a tightly sealed plastic or glass container and mark the date of purchase. Bring to room temperature before using.
  • There's no law that says biscuits have to be round. Roll the dough into a rectangle and cut out square shapes so you don't have to keep rerolling it.
  • Use nonstick cooking spray to grease the inside of the bowl you'll be using to raise yeast dough, then spritz the top of the dough itself - a much neater method than spreading with oil.
  • If you're interrupted in the midst of bread-rising, set the dough in the refrigerator. A long, cool rise develops texture and flavor.



Cakes:

  • When a cake recipe calls for flouring the baking pan, use a bit of the dry cake mix instead, no flour mess on the outside of the cake.
  • For perfect shaped cakes or jelly rolls, first grease the pan, then line it with greased waxed paper. After baking, invert pan and peel off the waxed paper. No more broken corners or edges! Great for fudges and bars!
  • When frosting cakes, always anchor the bottom cake layer to the serving plate or lazy Susan with a dab of frosting. That way, the cake won't slide about as you frost. This also helps keep a cake from sliding on its plate during transit. The frosting will hold the cake in place deliciously and your dessert will arrive in perfect shape.
  • In a pinch, a large bowl makes a handy cake cover!
  • To prevent icing from running off your cake, try dusting the surface lightly with cornstarch before icing.
  • When filling and frosting a cake, place first layer(s) with bottom side up; place last layer with the top side up.
  • For best results in cake baking, let eggs, butter and milk reach room temperature before mixing.
  • A handy substitute for cake flour: 1 cup minus 2 tablespoons of all-purpose flour equals 1 cup cake flour.
  • To prevent nuts and fruits from sinking to the bottom of a cake during baking, warm them a bit in the oven and toss them with flour. Shake off excess flour before mixing them into the batter.
  • If cake flour is hard to find, you can make your own with all-purpose flour: for every cup of cake flour called for in a recipe, substitute a cup of all-purpose flour but replace 2 tablespoons of the flour with cornstarch.


Ingredients:

  • Always keep chocolate at room temperature to prevent it from splintering and flying around when chopped; cold chocolate is too hard to cut and the knife may slip and cut you. To chop chocolate in a food processor, chill the chocolate slightly and pulse it just until chopped.
  • Sometimes a grayish color develops on chocolate. This is called "bloom", and it is a sign that the cocoa butter has risen to the surface. Flavor and quality will not be lessened, and the grayish color, or bloom, will disappear when the chocolate is melted.
  • Measure 1 tablespoon granulated yeast for each 1/2-ounce called for in a recipe.
  • Semisweet chocolate morsels and semisweet chocolate squares can be used interchangeably when a recipe calls for this type chocolate melted.
  • If you like baking, keep two kinds of white flour on hand, one with high gluten content for bread and one with low gluten content for cakes, cookies, and quick breads.
  • Melt white chocolate over very hot water -- never boiling or even simmering. White chocolate will scorch at a lower temperature than bittersweet chocolate.
  • It's generally recommended that for best results you should use Grade AA eggs. Bring them to room temperature before using, however, it's easier to separate eggs when they're cold, so if a recipe calls for separating the whites from the yolks do that first then bring them to room temperature.
  • Never buy eggs that haven't been refrigerated because they are potentially hazardous to consume. Reach back in the refrigerator case to select the coldest dozen you can.
  • Ditto that for butter and dairy products.
  • For maximum flavor and the best results when nuts are called for in a recipe, toast them before incorporating them into the batter or mixture.
  • Always use whole milk rather than skim or reduced fat milk in your pastry recipes.
    Working with phyllo dough can be tricky. For ideal results keep the box refrigerated until you are ready to use it. If you buy it frozen, thaw it in the refrigerator overnight. When ready to use, unroll the pastry onto a work surface and keep it covered with a slightly damp towel (moistened with a mister rather than drenched under the facet.) If it gets too wet the moisture will cause the sheets to stick together.



Miscellaneous:

  • Anchor ramekins in a hot water bath (bain-marie) by placing them on a folded dish towel. That way they won't skitter around when you lift the hot water bath in and out of the oven.
  • For the ideal disposable pastry bag, use heavy-duty, quart-sized self-sealing plastic bags fitted with a cake decorating coupler and tip. The filling can't work its way out of these bags because they're sealed tight.
  • When a recipe calls for sifting, it works just as well to put all dry ingredients in the mixing bowl and stir with a whisk.
  • Line baking pans such as cookie sheets, loaf pans and layer cake pans, with waxed or parchment paper to prevent sticking and simplify clean-up.
  • The sharp open ends of clean cans make great biscuit, scone, and cookie cutters.
  • When a recipe calls for a "greased" pan, be sure to grease the pan with solid shortening or an oil unless otherwise specified.
  • Remember cooking and baking times specified in most recipes are merely guidelines. Since oven temperatures can vary from oven to oven it's best to check your dish a few minutes before recommended. For instance, if a recipe instructs you to bake a batch of cookies 10 to 15 minutes check it 7 or 8 minutes into baking. But don't belabor it and keep the door open for a long period of time or you'll lose a great deal of heat.



For Pies:

  • Prevent soggy crust when making a custard-style pie, such as pumpkin, by carefully breaking one of the eggs for the pie filling into the unbaked pastry shell, swirling it around so the egg white covers the entire surface and then pouring the egg into the filling mixture.
  • Brush beaten egg white over pie crust before baking to yield a beautiful, glossy finish.
  • Baking a pie on a pizza stone absorbs excess moisture and makes the bottom crust crisper, especially if you use a pie tin with a hole in the bottom.
  • For a two-crust pie, brush a little water around the edge of the bottom crust before placing the top crust. This creates a good seal once the two are crimped together.
  • For a decorative top pie crust, us a thimble to cut holes, then replace the cut-outs back in their holes. The holes will get bigger as the pie bakes, making an interesting pattern.
  • Two sure-fire ways to keep meringue toppings from shrinking. First, spread on the pie while the filling is hot. Second, make sure the meringue touches the crust all around.
  • Cut out rounds of leftover pie dough. Turn a muffin pan upside down. Press dough rounds onto bottoms of muffin cups. Bake at 425* F (220*C) for 7 to 8 minutes or until lightly brown. Invert pan onto a wire rack. Use tart shells for pudding and other desserts or fill with creamed sauces.
  • Use waxed paper to measure pie dough. The standard pie pan is 9 inches in diameter so you'll need a 12-inch circle of dough. Since wax paper comes in a 12-inch width, simply tear off a piece 12 inches long, then roll your circle of dough so it touches the center of all four sides of the square.
  • Always chill pastry dough before rolling and cutting, and always chill it again afterwards, before baking, to further relax the gluten.
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