Wednesday, February 18, 2015

{Tips} To Be a Better Baker

I will admit, I am not the best baker in the family. Nor do I think I will ever be.
But I am getting better. Nothing fabulous and prize worthy, but my cookies and cupcakes are edible now!

My mother hates baking, all she has to do is look at the flour and its everywhere.
My sister is an amazing baker, hence the reason she makes my kids' birthday cakes every year!


Occasionally, I would bake. And occasionally it comes out well. 
Let me back up. I can bake a mean banana bread,  or bundt cake.
But cookies and cupcakes? I'm just starting to get better.
I am finding that practice is making perfect! 

Since finding out my oldest son, Carter, is severely allergic to peanuts I have stepped up my game in the baking department. This way I know exactly what is going into the cookie or cupcake, reading all the labels in the store was making my head spin! 
Processed in a facility with nuts, Processed with same equipment, so frustrating.
Nuts, Peanuts, Tree Nuts. They are not the same. The labels just aren't always clear. 

Our allergist explained to us that a company can label their product that way, and change their manufacturing techniques and not have to change the label. So Carter could be fine with a product one week, then the  next week it could be deadly because the label doesn't have to be changed.


I am in heaven though when I see this, Made in a NUT FREE FACILITY. Plain and simple. 
Huge sigh of relief. 


Since I am probably not the only person struggling with cookies and cupcakes, 
I thought I would share some tips and tools I have figured out along the way.

{Patience}
Yes. It's not a tool, and you certainly cannot buy it. But when it comes to cookies and cupcakes you need patience. A sweet bread or cake you whip up the batter and that's it. No fussy liners, cutting or dropping spoonfuls.  So if your not in a good mood, don't decide to bake 8 dozen cookies.



{Proper tools}
Don't get me wrong, having a stand mixer is nice, but not important!
I'm talking simple tools. Like a cookie scoop, measuring cups and a thin metal spatula.
These have made my cookies so much better! 
Who knew baking the same size cookie dough ball makes a difference!
And that dollar store metal spatula? Not a single broken cookie.

{Recipe with Directions}
And stick to it! 
Baking is more of a science than cooking. One incorrect amount, or missing ingredient and the entire batch will fail. You don't want to know how many times I have forgotten an ingredient.
I've been given recipes that say a little of this, lot of that. And they haven't worked. Sigh.



{Sift your Flour}
Recently, I found that sifting flour makes a huge difference. Some recipes call for it, some don't. I've been sifting all my flour and seeing a difference! Airy, loaves of bread or pizza and not dense!

{Don't Skip Steps}
If your dough needs to be chilled before you cut or scoop, chill it.

If your recipe calls for butter, don't even try to use margarine or shortening, it's not the same. 
Trust me.It does make a difference! 


{Uniform Cookies, Cupcakes, Etc}
Once you decide what your making, make them uniform.
For cookies, I use either a cookie scoop, or a measuring spoon (tablespoon or 1/2 tablespoon) depending on size.
For cupcakes, muffins I use a measuring cup to put the batter into the baking cups.
Typically I use the 1/4 size full, but recently I used it only 3/4 full and they were perfect!
  For mini cupcakes, I actually use a gallon ziploc bag! I cut the corner off (just a tiny bit, for a tiny hole) and pipe it into the mini baking cups. I just eyeball how full the cups are.



{Pipe your Frosting}
I never thought it was a big deal, but after bringing cupcakes to school a couple times,
 I've gotten several compliments at how nice my cupcakes look. 

I use a star tip that came with a  cookie press I think.  For my bag, I clip a small hole in the bottom of a ziploc bag (big enough for all the frosting) push the tip through the hole, you want to have to push it through so it is tight, and frosting can't get out the sides, just the tip hole. Add your frosting to the bag. Here is where it gets tricky. Twist the bag closed, keeping the frosting in.  You don't want your frosting cold for this, or it will be hard to get through the tip.  I start making a circle on the outside of the cupcake and work my way in.   I don't use the white press pictured. It doesn't hold much frosting or else I would! Perfect, pretty cupcakes each time. And I think it takes less time that frosting with a knife!

What baking tips do you have? Anything I missed?