Being a home baker is not as easy as some would think. Kids, spouses and siblings are some of the harshest critics. Not to mention, you have to do all of your own dishes.
The best perk of being a home baker today, as compared to years past, is that so many tools and ingredients that professionals use are now available to us, thanks to the world wide web.
Ever see a glossy cake in a bakery window and wonder how they accomplished that? All you have to do is look it up and the odds are good that someone, somewhere, has gotten insider industry knowledge on how you can recreate it at home. Recreating things at home also means that you can add your own spin to it. Don't like dark chocolate? Add milk chocolate. Not enough powdered sugar? Food process granulated sugar until it becomes a powder. There are so many ways that today's home bakers have an advantage.
Baking became a respected profession many years ago and hasn't lost traction to this day. That doesn't mean that you have to be a professional to be respected for your baking, although there are certain things that every home baker should know.
Take this quiz to find out how many baking questions you can answer!
There are many different types of rolling pins. A wooden one is good for things like cookie dough that doesn't need to be chilled. A marble rolling pin is good for pie dough, as it helps keep the temperature of the dough cool, which is key in pie dough.
Lady finger cookies are the classic base for tiramisu. They are light, crispy cookies that soften when soaked in coffee, espresso or liquor. Other ingredients in tiramisu include mascarpone and whipped cream.
A springform pan allows you to remove a tart from the pan without having to dig around the sides of the crust to loosen it, if you've greased the pan enough. Place the bottom of the pan on top of an upside-down glass, and the pan should fall away, leaving those clean, dramatic edges.
Cinnamon is the bark of a tree that is stripped and curled. There are two varieties of cinnamon, Cassia and Ceylon. This spice can be used in sweet or savory baking, but is most common in sweet rolls and quick breads.
Lavender is somewhat new to the baking world, but even inexperienced home bakers have seen at least one recipe that uses the dried, food grade flower in baking. Earl grey is a great compliment because of its subtle yet powerful flavor.
White sugar becomes brown sugar with the addition of molasses. The amount of molasses added will determine if you have light or dark brown sugar. You will also notice a texture difference, and that is because as more molasses is added to the sugar, so is more moisture.
When making pie dough, you want the heat of your hands to come into contact with the dough as little as possible. The pastry cutter is designed to "cut" the butter into your flour until it is the consistency of crumbs. Using your hands would cause the butter to melt.
Pound cake is traditionally made with a pound of butter, a pound of sugar, a pound of flour and a pound of eggs. Since there is no leavening agent, the volume comes from beating the batter until it is full of air.
Cacao nibs are the dried and fermented bits of cocoa beans, and they add the perfect amount of chocolatey crunch to smoothies, cookies, pancakes and more. They aren't sweetened, though, so don't confuse them with chocolate chips.
Linzer cookies are traditionally an almond-flavored sugar dough with a cutout top and jam in the middle. Sometimes the tricky part is remembering to sprinkle the tops in powdered sugar BEFORE they go on the jam-coated bottom half of the cookie,
Yeast is used mostly as a leavening agent for breads, and the dough needs to rest to let the yeast help the bread rise. A good way to tell if your yeast is still active is to try blooming it in warm water and sugar. If it foams after about 10 minutes, you're good to go. If not, time to toss it.
Vanilla is an absolute staple for baking. Some recipes call for vanilla bean, but most call for extract. If you are looking to swap one for the other, switch out one teaspoon of vanilla extract for about a two-inch piece of vanilla bean. For great flavor, vanilla is an absolute must in your pantry.
It is best to use dry measuring cups for dry items like flour or sugar. Level off the top with a straight edge, such as a spatula. Use liquid measuring cups, which typically have a pouring spout, for measuring liquids.
Silicon mats are the best option out there for nonstick surfacing, especially if you are making things like caramel, toffee or marshmallow. They even work brilliantly for cookies and sheet cakes. While they may seem pricy, they are totally worth it. They won't curl in the oven or blow all over the place if you are baking in a convection oven.
Any time a recipe for baked goods calls for flour, you should sift it before you measure it. If you measure compacted flour, you will end up with a dense final product. Sifting helps to keep things light and airy.
There is no ingredient that can replace the flavor and consistency that butter provides. Making sure it is at room temperature before attempting to cream it with your sugar is crucial. Let the butter sit out on your counter for a bit before mixing, and you should be good to go.
Strawberry rhubarb is a classic combination for muffins, tarts and pies. But keep in mind that both strawberries and rhubarb give off a lot of water, so cook them down before using them to prevent a soggy bottom - which would disappoint Paul Hollywood.
Madeleines are often called cookies, but they are actually made out of sponge cake. Traditional madeleines are baked in a special madeleine pan, which produces small, shell-shaped cakes.
Pain au chocolat, basically a chocolate croissant, is one of the most popular versions of the croissant family. They can be made a few ways, but the classic way is to wrap puff pastry around a long, thin bar of chocolate. You can also spread mini chocolate chips over the entire surface of the puff pastry, then fold.
There are a few reasons why your cake might come out unevenly baked. It is important to read the recipe carefully, weigh ingredients when necessary, and make sure to always preheat your oven. Make sure your oven is functioning properly and blend your batter thoroughly.
The dough hook attachment for your stand mixer is a great way to knead your dough, so you don't have to do it by hand. However, if you're kneading with the dough hook, keep an eye on the texture and feel of the dough. You don't want to under-knead or over-knead your dough.
Muffins have a lot going on in them. They can be dense, light, full of fruits, nuts and other fillings. Because of this, they need some serious support. The sides of muffins, or walls, keep everything held inside the muffin, and also create a nice crunch compared to the moist interior.
Quick breads are leavened with chemical agents such as baking soda and baking powder, as opposed to yeast. Yeast takes time to develop, whereas baking powder and soda work quickly, while the dough is baking.
Eggs, when whipped and beaten, accumulate a lot of air, and this helps to add volume to many dishes. There are many varieties of sponge cakes that have no leavening agents whatsoever and just rely on the air from beating eggs with sugar or fat.
A wash can consist of eggs or milk, or both. Brushing the tops of unbaked rolls or buns with an egg wash or milk will help the tops get color in the oven, and also create a nice shine.
Scoring dough is serious business. Scoring before baking can create lovely designs on a loaf. Scoring also allows air to escape from inside the dough, which produces a more uniform crumb structure and crispier crust.
The creaming method is a classic mixing method for most cookies and cakes. In this process, you beat together softened butter and sugar until the mixture is light, fluffy and pale yellow. This ensures a soft texture in whatever you're baking.
Lattice crust isn't just placing strips over each other. You are basically weaving them through each other to create the classic look. It is a great option to show off the pie filling inside, so your guests will know what dessert they're choosing.
There are four types of fats and oils that are used in baking. They are butter, margarine, shortening and lard. Butter is used most often, but margarine is used in a lot of vegan baking, while shortening and lard are seen most often in pie and pastry doughs.
Baking flourished in Ancient Rome and became a respected profession because pastries were considered decadent. The Ancient Romans loved festive celebrations.
Since no animal products can be used in vegan baking, people have had to get creative. One of the things they found is that mixing ground flax seeds with water provides enough moisture and strengthening to work as an egg substitute. Of course, it will not be exactly the same as using an egg, but for vegan baking it does the trick.
A cheese grater is a great multi-purpose tool. When making pie dough and biscuit dough, or really any dough in which the butter needs to be mixed in cold. grating the frozen butter with a cheese grater is a neat trick.
For a smooth, bakery finish on your cakes, opt for fondant. You can make it yourself, but store-bought is actually fine. Roll it out thin enough so that it won't overpower your cake, but thick enough to hide any imperfections underneath. You can also use food grade paint to decorate it!
A balloon whisk is the best tool for whipping cream and egg whites. Since it is bigger, it allows for more air to get through the whisk and into whatever you are whipping. If you don't have a stand or hand mixer to do these things, a balloon whisk is the next best thing.
Flour is a field food. If pathogens get into the wheat crop while it's growing, they will remain in the wheat through the milling process. If uncooked, these bacteria, such as animal waste, could cause illness.
Cooking dough all the way through ensures that you will get the height you desire. If a dough is undercooked, it will remain heavy, which is why you will see visible sinking in any spot that is not thoroughly baked. To prevent underbaking, knock on the bottom of the loaf. If it sounds hollow, it's done.
A rubber or silicon spatula is the best tool for scraping because it is bendy and can form to the side of whatever bowl you are using. It can also get into the paddle or whisk attachment to get all the bits out of there. Silicon has a somewhat sticky texture to it, which helps pull dough or batter away from the sides and bottom of a bowl, to reincorporate those ingredients into the main mixture.
Millionaire bars are a classic and decadent treat made up of a shortbread crust, a caramel layer and layer of chocolate on top. To enhance it even more, make sure the caramel layer is salted caramel.
An offset spatula is an invaluable tool when it comes to cake decorating. It allows you to smooth the frosting, get sharper edges, and keep your hands and fingers from getting into the frosting while you're going for that bakery-window finish.