Although I’m not a trained pastry chef or baker, I’ve learned a few things along the way! I’m often in the company of people whose careers and passions surround the art of baking and patisserie. Through some obvious eavesdropping while I’m watching these artists at work, here are six things I’ve learned recently:
- If you want to make a “signature” recipe for yourself, take good notes – Write down baking times for your home oven, temperatures, brands of ingredients, etc. You want to be able to duplicate it exactly from event to event. Write it down! Even the humidity of the room can change the outcome of some products.
- Invest in quality tools and pans – There’s a reason why there’s a disparity in costs on pans, molds, brushes and tools … the Dollar Store probably isn’t the place to go to purchase these things. If you’re not sure this is something you want to invest in, talk to a friend or neighbor and see if they’ll lend you some equipment to try.
- Don’t put a toothpick in the middle of your cake to see if it’s done – The hole you create with a toothpick simply lets more moisture escape if you need to put it back in the oven to finish baking. Just press against the top lightly and see if it springs back to its original shape.
- Icing without the mess – Most people know the DIY icing trick: use a Ziplock bag and cut the bottom corner off. But the trick to filling the Ziplock bag without it getting all over is crucial! Use a large cup and line it with the Ziplock bag and THEN fill with the filling/icing. Remove the cup, seal the bag, and cut a tiny piece off the corner of the bag. Less messy for sure!
- Hairdryer trick – Did you know a hair dryer can come in handy if you’re icing a cake and it’s not getting smooth or it’s drying too quickly on you? A little shot of heat will buy you some time and help make that icing perfectly smooth.
- Always use quality ingredients – Purchasing cheap chocolate or using lemon juice instead of squeezing your own lemons will show in your results. Cutting corners doesn’t work so well in the world of baking and patisserie!
- And my biggest downfall: Just because a little bit is good, doesn’t mean that a lot is better – Perfecting the blends between flavors and getting the consistency of desserts perfect sometimes means a person only needs a dollop of chocolate mousse or a garnish of fruit. A touch of vanilla in the whipping cream is all you need to get that flavor to come alive!
I hope this helps in some of your pastry and baking endeavors. What are some of your favorite tips and tricks in the kitchen?
By: Amy Fouks, bakery category manager