Though I’ve had little to no formal training when it comes to baking, I’ve been experimenting in the kitchen for years. And I’ve learned a ton along the way… from family members, reading and research, and from making lots of mistakes! That’s not to say that I don’t have anything more to learn – there’s an endless amount of information out there, and I’m still learning new things every day. But, here are ten of my favourite tips and tricks for baking, that make my life easier in the kitchen.
1. When measuring molasses, honey, agave nectar, or syrups of any kind – use oil.
This is something I learned years ago from my Nannie. Before measuring something sticky, just spray your measuring cup with a little cooking spray. It’ll slide right out, no scraping or sticky mess required.
2. Use silicone (or paper) baking cups when decorating with sprinkles.
These little cups make great sprinkle holders, and also make it much easier to return unused sprinkles to the bottle. There’s nothing worse than crunching little sprinkles under your feet for days, because they’ve bounced all over the floor…
3. Brown bananas are best.
When you’re baking with bananas, the brown ones will make whatever you’re making so much better. If you’ve got brown bananas lying around, toss them in the freezer until you’re ready to use them (so that they don’t go totally mushy and gross). If you’re ready to make your banana bread right now but only have yellow bananas, you can ripen them in the oven! Just pop them in at 250F for 20 to 30 minutes, until they’re browned to your liking.
4. Room temperature ingredients are really important.
As much as it can be a pain, you really want your eggs and butter at room temperature before you combine them. This is because eggs are water based and butter is fat based, so they’ll naturally separate if they’re not at room temp and mixed really well (i.e. beat your butter-sugar-egg mixture on medium-high for several minutes). If they’re not at the right temperature, you’ll end up with a broken batter, and if you use the broken batter to make a cake, the texture just won’t be right! But don’t worry if it breaks – you can make it come back together by wrapping a warm, wet tea towel around the bowl, while beating on medium high speed (before adding any flour).
5. Cheat to get eggs up to room temperature.
So what if you forget to take your eggs out of the fridge in time? (Actually, I love that this isn’t an issue in France, because the eggs aren’t refrigerated.) Just place them in a bowl of hot tap water for a few minutes, and they’ll warm up really quickly.
6. And cheat with your butter too.
Waiting for a large chunk of cold butter to warm up can be the worst. Just cut it into small pieces, and microwave it on 30% power in 30 second intervals. It’ll soften without melting.
7. Save your leftover melting chocolate.
Just squeeze or spread any leftovers onto parchment, keeping it fairly thin. It’ll harden quickly, and then you can just break it up and put it back in the bag. No wastage!
8. Keep the dust down.
Some things make a big, dusty mess when you add them to your mixer, no matter how careful you are. I’m looking at YOU, icing sugar. But by placing a clean tea towel over your mixer before you turn it on, you’ll keep it from flying all over your kitchen.
9. For buttering and dusting muffin tins, use a pastry brush.
Generally I’ll just use cupcake liners, but sometimes you might not want to for what ever reason. I use a small block of cold, hard butter in my hand to grease the tins, and then add a little flour or cocoa powder to each one with a spoon, and spread it around with a pastry brush. You’re cupcakes will pop out easily, and and it really cuts down on the mess of trying to dust each little tin.
10. If you’re impatient and just want some pie, use a little vinegar.
After you make your pastry, it should really rest for an hour or so in the fridge to relax the gluten. But honestly, I hate waiting, and rolling out cold pastry really sucks. But you can achieve basically the same result by adding a 1/4 teaspoon of cider vinegar to your ice water when you’re making your pastry. No waiting and easier rolling!
I’d love to hear if you have any tips and tricks to share :) Leave a comment! Send an email!