You need to know these 5 tips for baking.
- I love having fun in the kitchen baking up new recipes. And sometimes it takes a special trick or technique to really get a great baking recipe. I want to share five methods that I use that have made my baking recipes so much better.
One of the biggest things that can go wrong when you're baking cookies is over spreading. Here's the important part. Cookie dough, you'll want to chill this. A chilled cookie dough will give you better cookies when you're baking. This will help solidify the fat, which will melt a lot slower in the oven. This helps prevent over spreading of your cookies, and they'll bake more evenly.
Chill the dough at least 30 minutes in the refrigerator or 15 minutes in the freezer. Chilling helps the dough be less greasy and easier to handle. If you're doing cut-out cookies, chilling your dough will give you a huge advantage. Your dough will be sturdier, which will make it easier to cut out shapes. If you've left your cookie dough in the refrigerator for more than a couple hours, it may be too stiff to work with. Just let it sit on the counter until it's easy enough to work with.
You want your cookies to bake consistently, which means they all should be the same size. This is sometimes difficult to do with measuring spoons, or by hand, or eyeball, or even trying to weigh each of your cookies. A simple tool that you can use for uniform cookies is a cookie scoop or something similar to an ice cream scoop.
This cookie dough has been chilled at least for 45 minutes. You can keep it in the refrigerator for a couple of days or use it right away. If your cookie dough is a little too firm from the refrigerator, just let it sit out a few minutes. And it should be scoopable, but still firm enough that it'll bake up perfectly.
A cookie scoop is such a valuable tool in the kitchen. It'll portion these cookies perfectly. They'll all be the same shape and size. And the lever mechanism helps for easy release.
When it comes to baking cookies, you may not want to bake them all at once. Hot, fresh cookies are always better. Cookies are great because you can portion them on a plate, put these back in the refrigerator, and bake them off as you want them. Or even freeze them for later baking.
Cookie dough can be really thick, especially with a lot of mix-ins, so make sure you have a very sturdy cookie scoop. A medium scoop like this holds about a tablespoon and a half of cookie dough. You can get different sized scoops to give you bigger cookies or smaller cookies. Different portions that'll be perfect for your recipe.
Scoops like these, you don't just have to stop at cookies or ice cream. These are also super handy if you need to fill batter in a muffin tin or for pancakes. They're easy to use, very little clean up, and the batter comes right out. As an added advantage, you can spray the inside with a nonstick spray, which will help for easier release.
Vanilla extract is a typical ingredient, but you may not want to use it in everything. The dark color could tint some recipes, and it also contains alcohol, which you may not want in your recipe. You can use vanilla bean paste as a one to one substitution for vanilla extract. It has the same flavor, the same taste. If you do get vanilla bean paste, check the label. Some do contain sugar and other ingredients that you may not want. But if you get a pure vanilla bean paste, you can use it just like vanilla extract.
Vanilla bean paste is good because it's a concentrated vanilla flavor. And it also has the seeds, so you can use it and replace the vanilla bean pods. Unlike vanilla extract, vanilla bean paste doesn't contain alcohol. When you use vanilla bean paste, you'll be able to see the seeds in the recipe. So this is great in recipes like sugar cookies, ice cream, frosting, and white cakes.
Vanilla powder is also an alcohol-free alternative. With the powder, you can add vanilla flavor to just about anything. You sprinkle it on. Think of it as, like, a vanilla seasoning. Vanilla bean powder is perfect for recipes where you don't want to add any extra liquid, but you want vanilla flavor. It also won't color any recipes like vanilla extract may. You can put this in your coffee, smoothie, protein shakes, sprinkle it on cereal, on fruit, or even toast.
Biscuits and pie crust depend on super cold ingredients and especially cold butter. But if you're working it by hand, that's going to heat the butter up. Sometimes pastry cutters and forks takes a little bit more time and effort to incorporate the butter properly. A technique that I found that I love is to grate your butter. You'll get even, little flakes of butter all throughout your pie crust or your biscuit dough.
What's key here is cold butter. You can grate the butter straight out of the refrigerator, but I like to freeze it first so it's really firm. I just grabbed this butter out of the freezer. When it comes to biscuits and pie crust, cold ingredients makes all the difference. You really want the butter to be firm and as cold as you can while you're making the dough.
The technique here is a cheese grater. You want small little bits of butter incorporated all throughout your pie dough or biscuit dough. And grating it works so easy. Grating the really cold butter will get small flakes of butter all throughout. Work quickly so your hands don't warm up the butter too much. If I haven't said cold enough, you want all your ingredients to be cold. I even like to put the bowl and the dry ingredients and freezer for a little bit to keep everything super cool.
This also is a great alternative if you don't have a pastry cutter. This way, you'll have cold bits of butter incorporated all throughout the dough. Cold ingredients makes for more tender and more flakier dough. Those little bits of fat will steam and create layers and flakiness. Grating the butter into your dry ingredients will give you uniform pieces of butter all throughout. You'll have to work the dough a little bit by hand. But the goal is to not heat it up too much and handle it as little as possible. I'm going to throw this in the refrigerator to solidify all that butter inside the dough.
Sticking is one of the worst problems when you're baking. All the ingredients, the sugar, the butter, the eggs, all sticks. Parchment paper is a great nonstick solution. Aluminum foil helps with clean up. But they're also messy and can be a challenge to use. I've switched over to a silicone baking mat. These can be found in a variety of sizes to fit all sizes and shapes of pans.
You can also find versions with templates, like circles for rolling out pie crust, or dimensions for macarons. A silicone baking mat will preserve your pans, keep food from sticking, and they're so easy to clean. These mats can handle the stickiest of recipes, even candy making. When you're making something like cookies, these mats will also help to give you better results. You'll have less browning on the bottom and less chance of burning. The mat will also help them from spreading too much.
These mats are really durable, so you can have one preloaded for your next batch of cookies. Chocolate oatmeal cookies, anyone? These silicone baking mats come in handy for more than just baking. Use the mat on your countertop just as a work surface if you're kneading or working with dough on your countertop. Using the baking mat as a work surface is so handy. You can just pick it up, rinse it off, and your countertop is saved.
I could go on and on about all the ways that these mats are great. They're easy clean up. There's less waste. They're super durable and super versatile. I use these mats for all sorts of things, not just baking. Even when I'm heating up food in the oven. Silicone is already nonstick, so there's no need to use any extra grease or sprays. With these mats, you don't need parchment paper or aluminum foil. These are reusable and much more sustainable.
These tips can be used by anybody, from beginner bakers to more experienced bakers. So I hope you can use these the next time you're in the kitchen making something special.