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12 Tips That Will Have You Baking Like a Pro in No Time

12 Tips That Will Have You Baking Like a Pro in No Time

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There are times when you can head into the kitchen and whip up something great to eat — no recipe needed — and then there are other times when instructions and exact measurements are absolutely necessary. Baking is based on chemistry (specifically, the science of chemical reactions), and altering even one ingredient in a recipe can dramatically change the results. So how do you guarantee baking perfection — without having to learn the science behind your recipe?

Click here to see the 12 Tips That Will Have You Baking Like a Pro in No Time (Slideshow)

When you’re baking, every ingredient in the recipe plays a specific role. Ingredients like buttermilk or sour cream add moisture to baked goods while other ingredients, like cornstarch, are used to dry them out and make them crispy. Adding flour or eggs to a recipe can help thicken batters, doughs, and custards, and these ingredients will help build structure in breads and pastries as they bake. Some ingredients even help baked goods rise; yeast, baking powder, and baking soda are all good examples of ingredients that leaven.

Because each of these ingredients plays a unique role in the chemistry behind cookies, cakes, breads, and pastries, accuracy in measuring and mixing is extremely important when you’re baking. Adding too much cornstarch to your cookie recipe, for example, will produce an overly dry and crispy cookie. Similarly, forgetting to add the baking soda when you’re mixing cake batter can result in a dense cake.

Even simple mistakes, like adding an ingredient at the wrong time, can alter the results, especially if ingredients are intended to react with something else in the mix. A good example are cake batters that call for baking soda and vinegar. These recipes usually advise you to add the vinegar right before the cake goes into the oven; that’s because the vinegar and baking soda react (much like the volcano you made for your sixth-grade science project) and the gasses that are produced help the cake rise. If you mix the ingredients too early, the batter will deflate before the pan makes it to the oven, and your cake won’t be as light and airy as you want.

If you’ve ever followed a recipe only to be disappointed by the results, chemistry is probably to blame. These 12 easy tips can help you achieve better results — no science lesson needed.

Read the Entire Recipe Before You Start Baking

Even if you’re making something basic, it’s a good idea to read the entire recipe before you start. This will give you an idea of how the individual steps progress and what you’ll need to have ready before you start baking. Many recipes call for room-temperature ingredients, for example; reading the recipe in advance will let you know that you need to set eggs or butter out on the counter to warm.

As previously mentioned, every ingredient in a recipe plays a specific role in producing certain chemical reactions. If you don’t have an ingredient (or want to substitute an ingredient for health or dietary reasons), make sure you do your research. Each ingredient in the recipe is there for a reason, and swapping it out can alter the results.

Kristie Collado is The Daily Meal’s Cook Editor. Follow her on Twitter @KColladoCook.

12 Tips from The Bread Lab, Where Baking is Like Playing an Instrument

12 tips for bread perfection from The Bread Lab, Washington State University&rsquos lauded and innovative baking program.

It offers no plump boules or yeasty baguettes. There are no loaves for sale here at all. But this squat, beige building set amid western Washington farmland is one of the most exciting places in the country for bread. Here, some of the hottest culinary names—Tartine’s Chad Robertson, Maria Hines of Seattle’s Tilth, Philadelphian pasta maestro Marc Vetri—have come to dabble with dough. And, every year, a who’s who of baking𠅊nd milling and brewing and any other work that involves the crops from which bread is made�scends for the annual Grain Gathering, a three-day conference with seminars like “Natural Leavening: Practices and Principles” and “Multi-Grain Baking.”

Here, gutsy experiments yield unheard-of loaves: a baguette containing buckwheat and, for sweetness, fermented rice a polygot “horse bread” of hard red wheat, Scottish bran, winter peas, flax and camelina and sunflower seeds.

The Bread Lab, as this place is called, is at the heart of a Washington State University research center set up to help local farmers sell what that they grow. Grains are secondary crops on the Skagit Valley’s small, diversified farms they’re planted to replenish nitrogen depleted from the soil by other crops: flowers, potatoes, cabbages. For decades, they were sold cheap on the commodities market—until 2008, when Dr. Stephen Jones came along.

Tall and bespectacled like a middle-years FDR, Dr. Jones is a plant breeder. His job is to revive the heritage grain crops and cultivate the new ones that farmers can make a profit on when sold for milling, cooking, malting, and feed. Part of that work is discerning the most nutritious and delicious application for each breed of grain.

On a recent winter afternoon, as trumpeter swans idled in the fallow experimental fields surrounding the research center, Jones showed off The Bread Lab’s latest toy. A pine𠄿ramed gristmill with a sifter attached, the Austrian-made Osttiroler looked like the engine of an enormous wooden train set. Within the would-be smoke stack was a pair of granite stones for crushing whole grains into flour. Local milling, as Jones sees it, has potential to make the grains-based part of the crop rotation in western Washington very lucrative.

“The growers wanted me to work on wheat and barley to keep value right here where they’re produced,” he said. “The farm gate value grown here”—the worth of the Skagit Valley’s crops as they leave the farm—“is $258 million. Grain is a real small part of that. Malting multiplies grain&aposs value by ten. Milling buckwheat multiplies its value by ten.”

Inside The Bread Lab, Jones’ graduate students bent over experiments in grain analysis. Across the room, beside a steam-injected Matador oven, stood a reedy young guy with a close-cropped black beard and frameless glasses. This was Jonathan Bethony, The Bread Lab’s former resident baker.

“I make it work for the farmer," said Jones. “Jonathan’s job is to make it taste good.”

Betony was elbow-deep in a bowl of dough, mixing a levain as porous as a loofah sponge with water—lots of water𠅊nd wheat flour. Like all the flours used at The Bread Lab, this one was milled from whole grains.

“We care about nutritional value,” said Jones. 𠇊 kernel of wheat is one of the most nutrient-dense foods on the planet. White flour is one of least.” That’s because to make it, the wheat bran and the nutrient-rich germ are removed, leaving the starchy endosperm and “the nutritional value of a Q-tip.” With the nutrients go the flavor. All-purpose flour is shelf-stable, because the flavorful oils in the germ, which can spoil, are gone. But it tastes like nothing.

Still, even artisan bakers have been slow to give it up because it turns out consistent loaves. Locally raised whole-grain flours vary in gluten, their flavor profiles are tied to terroir, and their moisture content changes with the seasons. Each has its own personality.

“It’s one thing to breed, farm, and mill a grain, but you’re still going to have a world of bakers who don’t know how to use it,” said Bethony. That’s where his work comes in. “These grains are like the gifted and talented. You have to find out what they’re good at.”

Renan, a French cultivar that thrives in the Skagit Valley, is his favorite for bread. Yecora Rojo, a hard red spring wheat, “has a lingering, buttery aftertaste,” he said, good for cookies and scones.

The work is full of surprises. Take Red Russian, a heritage wheat. 𠇊 local family showed me a newspaper clip from the 1910s where their farm had set the national record for yield. It was Red Russian,” Jones recalled. “So I requested it from the USDA’s National Clonal Germplasm Repository. There are 45,000 different wheats there almost any you𠆝 want have been saved.”

Probably because it lacked the gluten strength, Red Russian had failed to make adequate bread. Then the Italian-American chef Mark Vetri visited The Bread Lab and saw the wheat flour on the counter. “He sheeted it out,” recalled Jones, 𠇊nd it was beautiful and creamy. It was a complete accident that we found out it was good for pasta.”

This spirit of culinary creativity has made The Bread Lab a magnet for professionals across the country who are interested in locally grown grains. Dan Barber is a fan. He’s tapped Stephen Jones to breed him his very own Barber wheat to use at his Blue Hill restaurants.

Jeff Yankellow, chairman of the board of the Bread Bakers Guild of America, is a fan. “We need people involved who are teaching people what the bakers want and helping them grow grain and mill flour that’s good for bakers,” he said. “This is what The Bread Lab is good at.”

Chad Robertson is a fan, too. “If you’re a baker, you can’t afford to make crappy bread two days in a row. You’re wired into a schedule, so you don’t have the luxury to experiment. That’s a reason for The Bread Lab,” said Jones. 𠇌had Robertson can come up and just mess around with Jonathan and not wreck his own production.”

Bethony showed off some breads he had been working on. That buckwheat baguette had a crust that tasted strikingly like mocha. The horse bread, its moist crumb punctuated by cooked peas was savory and vegetal. It was a project for Glenn Roberts of Anson Mills. The North Carolina miller was hoping to replicate a loaf of the Old South, made with a field blend of grains and legumes that would have all been grown together. Bethony had achieved it by “respecting each ingredient” and treating them individually. He had soaked, roasted, cooked, and fermented his way to the loaf.

That’s what the baker loves about his job. Not only is he helping to give farmers options beyond the big-ag commodity market, but he gets to “really enjoy the journey.”

“It’s remarkable what you can do with whole grain and come out with something satisfactory,” he marveled, pulling apart a dark and earthy buckwheat baguette. “Literally, you take this hard, inedible seed and just crush it, add water, and𠅋oom!—look what happens. That’s the miracle of bread.”

When you’re making whole-grain bread, “it’s like you’re playing an instrument,” Bethony concluded. “You have to learn all your scales, get the muscle memory of all those notes and the relationships between tones in your fingers, ears, and brain. And then when you want to do a solo, you don’t just play scales. You know what to do on a certain level. Baking’s similar. You just play.”

When you’re learning, it helps to have a master guiding you. Here, Bethony riffs, oracle-like, on every stage of the process.

1. Ripening: 𠇊 starter will adapt to your environment, how you feed it, what your hands are like, your location, what’s in the air. It won’t be like it was in Romania five generations ago. Your starter will go through a funky stage. People think they’ve ruined their starter, but it will just do that. It’s got its moods. A ripe starter, however, should float.”

2. Milling: “Mill it yourself, or find a good mill. Most of the flour on the shelf is rancid. That’s why people don’t like whole wheat, because what they’ve known is old. It’s gross. I’ll have them smell a bag of flour that I know is totally rancid, and it seems normal to them. It’s a rotten product. Then I have them smell fresh whole wheat, and it’s a totally different product.”

3. Autolyse: “You need more water for 100% whole wheat. It’s the difference between a brick and a nice crumb. Put most of your water in, mix it together, and let it sit half an hour. It will be completely different when you come back to it, as if a thousand Smurfs funneled in and kneaded the whole time you’re away. The flour gains a suppleness just from sitting in there wet.”

4. Mixing: “In day-to-day baking, you have to act in a creative way to make adjustments in the moment. You can call it intuition, but it’s just your body reading the data. But there are certain foundational principles that need to be pretty precise. I’m still measuring.”

5. Kneading: “The wet dough is easier to knead, but it’s the kind of dough not to plop out on counter. Keep it in the bowl, and use water on your hands instead of flour. You need to fold and squeeze to develop the gluten. Don’t use a mixer it’s not as much fun. Not at all. Get in there with your hands, and squeeze through the dough, harder than you𠆝 squeeze a person.”

6. Fermenting: “It takes patience. It takes giving things their due time.”

7. Shaping: “When I’m shaping, I use very little flour. When it’s wet, it’s just a different animal. If you shape it well, it will have nice, even, open crumb. If you’re heavy-handed and clump up parts of it, you can create wierd blow outs and bread with no open, empty interior spaces. You need a lot of repetition to get it. You’re just building different layers of tension.”

8. Final Shaping: “People get hung up on the style of their final shaping, but essentially you’re just building the tension. A smooth finish is the key. It will affect your crust structure a lot if you don’t have that nice smooth membrane.”

9. Proofing: “It doesn’t have to be that complicated. This is just flour, water, and salt. The gas that’s formed, which is yeast and bacteria feeding on sugars, gets trapped in the gluten network like a balloon and causes the loaf to expand. A linen-lined basket helps to contain and structure it. It shores up the sides. Especially with wet doughs, it’s good to put them in some kind of proofing container.”

10. Resting: “It should definitely be lively. If it seems dense like Play-Doh, it’s not ready. It should be gaseous, light, lively and increased in size. When you touch it, it should dimple in and have some spring back, but not all the way.”

11. Baking: 𠇏or free-form baking, you need steam or a cloche. The best way is a Dutch oven or a Combicooker, which is like a Dutch oven, but the top is a pan. That’s the easiest way to go about it, but it’s not as fun. Giant squirt guns, lava rocks—it’s amazing what ingenuity home bakers are using. Some like to create a steam cloud, but it ruins home ovens eventually.”

12. Tasting: 𠇍on’t be too focused on perfection, yet strive for satisfaction. Reflect on what the process is teaching you. Pay attention to details take note of what you did and what was the outcome, and have fun with that. You only get better.”

Doughp's 3 Tips for New Bakers

  1. Get Your Ingredient Temperatures Right
    Did you know that different ingredients work in different ways depending on their temperature?

Example #1: Eggs. Most recipes will call for room-temperature eggs, as they mix better with other ingredients and help the cake/cupcakes/other goodies rise easily. Using chilled eggs in place can cause the cake to take longer to rise, and the cold eggs could chill the fat again, which means curdling.

Baking is a fantastic creative outlet. Follow these three tips, and you’re off to a great start. Planning on making some no bake cookie dough? Share it with us @doughp!


One of the most important baking ingredients is flour (pronounced the same as flower). Flour is in almost every baking recipe. Flour can be made from many things, but it’s usually made from wheat (a type of grain). Flour is a light, soft, white powder that is used to make bread, cookies, and other baked goods. There are many types of flour . It can be made from rice, chickpeas, or other types of grains. The kind of flour you use is different for what you’re baking. The recipe will tell you what kind to buy.

  • I was making some bagels, and only had half of the flour that I needed. I had to ask my neighbor if they had some flour I could use.
  • When you go to the store, could you please buy some flour ? I want to bake cookies tonight.

3. The Easiest Way to Separate Eggs (and Handle Difficult Situations with Friends)

When separating eggs in order to whip the whites into peaks, you can’t get a single drop of egg yolk in the egg white. Otherwise, the egg whites won’t form peaks. Meghan teaches us an extra-safe way to separate eggs during the episode Sensitive Subject Meringue. You’ll crack the egg over your open palm, cradling the egg yolk gently in your hand while letting the egg white stream through your fingers into the bowl below. Likewise, if you’re in a difficult spot with a friend, sometimes it’s best for your friendship to give them some breathing room … to separate from them and spend some time with other friends. Take time to evaluate whether they’re a positive, constructive influence in your life (or whether they’re like that egg yolk, wearing your gorgeous peaks down).

Just Ask the Baker

Photo by: Fluid Frame, Tastemade

Weigh your ingredients

Weighing your ingredients, especially when baking, guarantees consistent results (and less dishes).

For example, if you scoop 3 cups of flour, each of those cups will most likely have a different weight. That’s without taking into account how you scoop.

Straight from the bag, by tapping the cup on the counter to level it, fluffing the flour with a fork, etc. (And don’t even get me started on measuring chunky ingredients like nuts or chocolate chips in cups.)

A lot of variables come into play and the only way to always have the same quantity time after time is by using a scale. A gram is always a gram whether liquid or solid.

This will avoid you getting varying results when making the same exact recipe multiple times. It might explain, for example, why sometimes your cookies spread a lot and other times not at all. Or why sometimes your cake is drier than the last time you made it.

Let’s say you’re making a recipe that requires 2 cups of flour. One cup of flour is about 130g (depending on who you ask, it can range from 120-150) so you would need 260g total.

But each of those cups could potentially be off by 5-10g. That’s a difference of 10-20g, which can really impact a recipe.

You might think I’m being anal, but baking is a science, you’ve heard it before. And you want to understand that science, and control as many variables as you can to leave as little room as possible for error.

And, as a plus, it’s much easier to scale a recipe to your desired amount when it’s in grams rather than in cups.

Step #3 – Preheat the oven

Preheating the oven is an important step in any cooking process but it vital in baking. Part of the science behind baking includes the amount of time needed to cook.

Under baking leads to an inedible mess, and overcooking has much the same result. There is little room for guess working baking (cooking can be a little more forgiving).

Although baking times may vary due to altitude and a few other factors (the oven itself and material of baking dish, for example) the baking time specified within the recipe is based on the oven being at a particular temperature.

Pre-heating (switching on the oven at the beginning of the process) allows the oven to reach that peak temperature, as called for by the recipe. If your mixture and the baking pan are put in the oven before the temperature reaches that called for, baking times will be impossible to figure out.

How to make madeleines without mold

If you do not have a special madeleine mold , you can try to make cakes in other forms.

For example, try a silicone muffin pan that works as a madeleine pan substitute. You can even line the wells with cupcake liners .

You can also try to bake these little cakes in small rectangular or even round molds. Surely, you will not get the perfect shell look and the bump on top, but you will be able to enjoy the taste of these delicious little cakes.

Historically, it is said that a woman with the name "Madelaine" baked small cakes and even used scallops as a mold , then offered them to pilgrims to Santiago de Compostela.

Frequently Asked Questions

How to serve moist chocolate cake

Serve the cake at room temperature or completely cold according to your taste. Serve it on its own, drizzle with chocolate sauce or accompany with whipped cream or ice cream.

If you plan to serve it cold, leave the cake in the refrigerator for a few hours. However, remember to bring it to room temperature one hour before serving.

How to store this cake

You can easily store the cake for two or three days at room temperature. Keep it away from sunlight and cover with a clean tea towel in the same way as bread. If you want, you can freeze it for up to two months

6 Bakery Hacks That Will Make You Feel Like a Pro

Some say that homemade is best, but to be honest, we think those people have never been to some of the amazing bakeries featured on The Baker Sisters. Sure, some of us know how to whip up the best batch of cookies on the block, while others may boast cake-baking skills that would rival Nonna’s. But at the end of the day, it’s the tricks of the trade that really elevate a baked good to the next level.

Well, we’re ready to level up, and we’ve enlisted Jean Parker and Rachel Smith’s help to do it. Here are six genius hacks that all next-level bakeries use that will have your home kitchen smelling like a bakery in no time.

1. Make use of your freezer

Perhaps you’ve heard that freezing—or at least refrigerating—your cookie dough before baking is a surefire way to get gooey-but-crispy cookies? As it turns out freezing many of your concoctions in advance is a great way to add extra moisture and ensure a perfect bake.

“Your fridge and freezer are just as important as your oven sometimes,” Jean says. “That and giving yourself the time. For a home baker it’s hard to wait 12 hours for [something], but you do.”

Bakeries certainly seem to have the time, which is why they’ll freeze cakes or cinnamon buns before baking or decorating. Now that’s what we call a cool trick.

2. Enhance with citrus

Proof Bakery’s Peach Buckle recipe calls for 3 tablespoons of lemon zest.

One of the best ways to elevate the flavour profile of something is by hitting all of those complex layers of seasonings—that’s true whether you’re baking or cooking. But one of the most common mistakes we make is adding too much salt and not enough acidity. Well, it turns out that latter ingredient elevates baked goods, too.

“You’d be surprised how much lemon juice is in a lot of things that you don’t necessarily get that flavour,” Rachel says. “It’s like salt. They can enhance flavours and really change the flavour profile.”

You’ve seen lemon juice in apple, blueberry or strawberry pies (to name a few) but don’t be afraid to try it in chocolate cake, too.

Vancouver’s Purebread bakery marries lemon and chocolate flavours in their Lemon Chevre Brownie.

3. Invoke some flour power

How many times have you baked fruity muffins or chocolate-chip scones, only to have the fruit bleed through and sink to the bottom, or the chocolate chips melt into a gooey mess? It turns out there’s a very simple solution to all of those problems: a little flour power.

“Coating chips and berries in flour is a huge one,” Jean says. “It prevents them from sinking or melting. Blueberries, if you toss them in flour first, won’t blend into the batter.”

It’s so simple, yet makes concoctions so pretty. Who knew?

4. Swap flour for cocoa

No, as much as we love all things chocolate we don’t mean swapping out flour for cocoa powder when you’re baking in general. But when you’re coating a cake pan—especially a cake pan being prepped for a chocolaty concoction—that’s a swap the real pros make.

“A lot of the time you’ll see a baker dust their pan with flour to help prevent it from sticking,” Rachel explains. “But if you’re doing a chocolate-based cake, use cocoa powder so it actually doesn’t change the colour of the cake. I learned that at Little Bird in Saskatoon from Tasha and Kim.”

5. Get creative with jam and jelly

Not all Pinterest-worthy projects actually come out like the photos that inspire us—that’s why #PinterestFails were created in the first place. But if you’ve been eyeing a trendy birch-bark stump cake the way the bakers at Saskatoon’s Little Bird were, it’s time to get creative with your decorating to achieve the desired effect. And sometimes that means using creative ingredients like jams or jellies.

Saskatoon’s Little Bird Patisserie & Cafe makes this gorgeous Double Chocolate Birch Cake.

“I made a birch bark stump [at Little Bird]. It was insane,” Rachel says. “Watching somebody decorate a cake, you learn little tips. [They] took brown food jelly and put holes in the side of the cake, and then smeared it with an offset spatula to create those lines of the birch bark around it. When you see the finished product, you just look at it and wonder how the heck did they do that. It’s actually quite simple, those little details.”

6. Oil it up

Want to know the secret to a moist, indulgent cake? We’ll give you a hint: it’s not an extra pat of butter, despite how deliciously rich that sounds. Nope, the secret to moist cake comes in the form of a more unexpected ingredient: oil.

Giada De Laurentiis knows that secret to moist cake, too! Try her recipe for chocolate chip and marscarpone cupcakes.

“Oil doesn’t evaporate because there’s no water in it, but butter is made with water so it evaporates,” Rachel explains. “Butter is great for flavour it’s not necessarily great for a tender cake.”

Aha. So it turns out butter doesn’t make everything better. Just most things.

So what are you waiting for? It’s time to get out there and start baking like the pros.