A guide on tips and tricks for becoming a great home baker!
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Today I wanted to share something different! Instead of a recipe, I thought since we are approaching the Holliday season (baking season) it was time to talk about some guidelines, tips, and tricks to being a good home baker. I have been baking from scratch now for over 15 years, I know this doesn’t make me an expert but I have definitely learned a lot and picked up some tips and tricks along the way!
Home Baker Guidelines
First and foremost always read the recipe before starting. Whose ever recipe you are following it doesn’t hurt to read it more than once to make sure you understand it and clarify anything you don’t. For example one of my trickier recipes is Double Crumb Cake From Scratch, there are a lot of steps and a particular point in which you add the crumbs, always read the recipe first!
Make sure you have all of the ingredients needed for your recipe and measure your ingredients prior to baking. Have you ever started a recipe to find you are out of an ingredient? Well measuring and prepping ingredients prior to baking will stop you from having to stop mid recipe to go to the store for that ingredient. Stopping during mid recipe can also make your baked good come out wrong because of the temperature, always measure and prep prior to starting your recipe!
The order in which ingredients get added into the bowl is important as well as how long you whisk or mix. There is an order for a reason, this goes back to following your recipe properly. Make sure you are mixing the butter or eggs at the proper time the recipe states. Mixing at the wrong time or not enough mixing and your ingredients may not be incorporated properly, too long and you may have over mixed and added too much air, always follow what the recipe states. For example, all of my madeleine recipes call for you to mix until just combined, if you over mix the batter you risk the texture of the madeleines.
If a recipe calls for cold butter, use cold butter. If a recipe calls for melted butter use melted. Same for room temperature ingredients or soften butter make sure you are following the recipe and use ingredients as directed. The reason for this is if you don’t follow the recipe correctly chances are your baked goods will not bake properly. This can cause baked goods to be dry, under baked, odd textures, fallen centers. Different baked goods call for different temperatures in baking. For example, pies or biscuits usually call for cold butter, this is what makes your pie or biscuit come out flakey. A good example here is my Spiced Pumpkin Pop-Tarts, the dough in this recipe is a pie dough and the cold butter is needed to achieve that sought after flakey texture!
Just like butter, eggs and milk can be of concern as well. You want to make sure if a recipe states room temperature eggs or milk that they are in fact at room temperature. Eggs or milk at the wrong temperature for a recipe can also cause baked goods to be dry, under baked, odd textures, fallen centers. You will want to ensure your ingredients are at the proper temperature your recipe sates. For example, adding a cold egg to hot milk can start to cook the egg and cause it to scramble which would make you have to start over.
Small Kitchen Appliances
A kitchen aid stand mixer is key in baking, it can do a lot of the “heavy lifting” so to speak. It can do so many things including making batters, doughs, whipped cream, stiff peaks for meringue. Maybe you might want to make pasta, well you’re in luck there is an attachment to do that.
If you are tight on space a hand mixer is pretty amazing as well. It may not be able to do as much as the stand mixer but it can definitely come in handy. I personally own both a kitchen aid stand mixer as well as a kitchen aid hand mixer, sometimes in baking, you’ll have a recipe that calls for separating the eggs where you whip the white into stiff peaks and set them to the side but then you have to use the yolks in another bowl. Having both of these products for anyone really into baking is a must-have for a home baker.
A food processor is another favorite, you can’t make nut butter without it! I personally love to use it for purees, nut butter, and pie dough. There are many more uses for a food processor which is another key piece of equipment when being a good home baker and is very useful even in cooking!
You may not always need a small kitchen appliance, sometimes all you will need is a bowl and a whisk but certain recipes will specifically call for you to use an appliance to achieve the correct texture.
Bakeware and Small Equipment
If you are a cookie baker you NEED cookie sheets and having quite a few makes it so much easier to crank out hundreds in a day even with just 1 oven! Take my word for it because around Christmas time I bake over 1,000 cookies in 2 days all by myself with just one oven!
Cookie and cupcake scoops may seem like an item you’ll want to skip but trust me, don’t! Cookie scoops really make your cookies look uniform and the same size every time, so whether you’re doing a drop of dough or a rounded ball of dough a cookie scoop or two can be your best friend! The same goes for a cupcake scoop If you want cupcakes or muffins to be uniform don’t skip the scoop!! I also have multiple scoops in multiple sizes for my Christmas baking!
Rolling pins are essential when rolling cookie doughs, pie doughs, and pizza dough. Yes, you can try doing things as they did in the olden days but your results will be much better and more uniform using a rolling pin. I absolutely love my rolling pin and it is not only nice and solid but it is super pretty as well! Roll out cookies definitely need a good rolling pin and this too will help you become a good home baker!
Cookie cutters may not be essential but they are great if you want to add a fun shape to baked goods. There are even other uses if you don’t roll out cookies often. You can easily use them for decorating cakes by placing them over the cake and sprinkling confectionary sugar to get a really cute but simple design.
Have proper measuring equipment and understand your measurement equivalents. In baking there is no eyeballing, baking is a science, and when you alter a recipe you normally need to alter the other measurements as well. Measurement equivalent magnet and measuring cups/spoons are a must-have in a home bakers kitchen.
Don’t skip the scale. It is definitely good to have a food scale. Some recipes call for oz or grams instead of a cup, when this happens you need the food scale!
Quality of Ingredients and Substitutions.
Does it matter what quality of ingredients I use? I feel like this is a personal preference. I would say yes when it comes to butter, If you want to WOW people with your desserts I always use the better brands, with that being said the only butter or margarine I EVER buy is Land O Lakes, for me, it makes a huge difference. I had an issue in the past around the holidays where I could not find land o lakes and unfortunately, I had to try a different brand and I had absolutely horrific results. The desserts were just not the same. The other butter just made things taste odd as well as give the wrong texture. I do understand though if you are on a budget then buy what you can afford.
Substitutions, be very careful when substituting, always make sure you check to see what you are trying to substitute can in fact be substituted. For example, Greek yogurt and sour cream are interchangeable in baking on a 1to1 ratio. Buttermilk has many different substitutions. Replacing eggs also has a lot of substitutions but beware when you are subbing coconut, almond, and tapioca flour, when subbing in those flours it can bet very tricky and it is never a 1 to 1 ratio, but I’ll talk about substitutions on another post!
Alright if you are new to baking you will see a lot of recipes calling for LIGHT AND FLUFFY when it comes to creaming butter and sugar. Don’t get scared because when I first started I didn’t know what this meant, Below is a photo showing the wrong and the right ways to cream butter and sugar with a description below. Knowing what your butter and sugar should look like once creamed properly is a big need to know for a home baker!
Side by side comparison of light and fluffy butter and sugar. From left to right if your butter is too cold then the mixture sits in a lump. The middle photo shows butter that’s too warm, and the butter/ sugar mixture spreads out and has an oily layer. Finally (all the way on the right), properly creamed butter and sugar, this is when your butter is room temperature and soften but not too soft, this mixture sits up tall and has visible fluffy peaks.
Lastly, a garbage pile. It’s something you probably don’t think of but have an area where you can just plop your garbage off to the side rather than continually going into the actual garbage. If you don’t want a pile set aside a bowl that you can just toss the garbage later.
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I hope you found this post helpful and learned something new! Comment below, what is your favorite baking equipment?
Hey there! I’m the owner & author of Life Is Homemade (the blog), as well as Mad About Madeleines. I hope you enjoyed some of the delicious recipes, how-to’s, DIYs, & product reviews I blogged about. Thank you for your previous support I hope you stick around on my new journey with Mad About Madeleines.