Every day in January I am sharing my best Tips for Better Baking. These are tips that have made my kitchen life easier and helped me become a better baker. Follow along on Facebook or check back here each Sunday for a roundup of the week’s tips.
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Tips for Better Baking #19 – Give Pie Dough 1/8-turns for a Perfect Circle
I learned this trick when I took the ‘Baking Pies A Plenty’ Class at Zingerman’s Bake! in Ann Arbor, Michigan. To roll pie dough out in a perfect circle, give the dough 1/8-turn after each pass with the rolling pin. Most recipes say to give the dough a 1/4-turn which often leads to a oblong or more square shape. With a little practice, the 1/8-turn works.
Tips for Better Baking #20 – Use a Cup to Easily Fill a Pastry Bag
I remember making an absolute mess the first few times I tried to use a piping bag. It can be really awkward to try to fill and when you’re working with sticky ingredients, all bets are off. This trick makes life so much easier. Once you get comfortable, you can also fold the bag over your non-dominant hand and fill it that way. The key is making sure you fold over at least 3-4 inches of the top of the bag.
Tips for Better Baking #21 – Make Buttermilk with 1 Cup Milk + 1 Tablespoon Lemon Juice
I love buttermilk. It’s actually one of my favorite ingredients in the kitchen, but I don’t usually have it on hand. If I only need a couple tablespoons or I don’t feel like running to the grocery store, I make this substitution. You can also use white vinegar instead of the lemon juice.
Tips for Better Baking #22 – Quickly Soften Butter by Dicing it into Small Pieces
Earlier this month, we talked about the best way to soften butter; leaving it out on the counter at room temperature overnight. Sometimes, we decide to bake at the last minute or even if our intentions are good, we forget to get the butter out early. Or sometimes, we are just impatient. This is what you do when you need to soften butter in a hurry. The smaller the pieces, the quicker it softens.
Tips for Better Baking #23 – Store Yeast in an Airtight Container in the Freezer
I prefer to buy yeast in bulk (1 pound is only $6) rather than messing around with the tiny packets. You can buy the yeast and the pictured container in this set from King Arthur Flour. They also sell the container separately and smaller quantities of yeast, a good option if you don’t do much yeast baking. Keep it in the freezer and it will be good for up to one year.
Tips for Better Baking #24 – Date Spices with a Permanent Marker to Track Freshness
I have two problems with spices. The first is that they get lost in my cupboard and I completely forget where they came from or when I bought them. The second is that I never remember what spices I have or I can’t find them, and then I end up buying duplicates. If you have a good way of organizing spices, please share. In the meantime, I’ve started dating my spices with a permanent marker so that I have an idea of when I bought them. If any of your spices are over two years old, they are no longer fresh and should be thrown away.
Tips for Better Baking #25 – Turn Whisk Attachment Upside Down to Check Firmness of Whipped Cream
Whipped Cream is not only a great garnish for desserts, it’s also an integral part of recipes such as chocolate mousse or some fluffy frostings. While it’s simple to make, there are some tricks to getting it right and one such trick is making sure you know what it means when a recipe says, ‘whip to soft peaks.’ Check out this great article from Fine Cooking that shows pictures of each stage of peaks and then use this tip that shows you how to check the firmness of your whipped cream. I prefer soft or medium peaks for a whipped cream garnish, or folding into chocolate mousse, but stiff peaks are best for piping and decorating desserts.
As always, please share your Tips for Better Baking. What makes your life easier in the kitchen? What do you struggle with? Are there any tasks you hate? Let me know and I’ll try to find solutions. Comment below or reach out on Facebook.