- Published on April 20, 2017
- Written by TCHOsen
If you’ve been baking for some time, it’s easy to rest on your laurels. Once you’ve mastered the basics of breads, cakes, and cookies, you run the risk of getting stuck in a baking rut. That’s because sticking to the basics is a surefire way to start growing bored in the kitchen.
What’s the best way to fight back against the baking doldrums? Adopting new habits, skills, and tools in the kitchen to elevate your efforts. Here are four straightforward ways to take your baking up a notch.
Get to know your ingredients.
When most people set out to improve their baking, they think about expanding their knowledge of different techniques. While this is a necessary aspect of growing as a baker, it’s equally important to expand your knowledge of the ingredients themselves. That means understanding the role ingredients perform in different types of recipes and the chemical processes that occur when various ingredients are combined. Take these examples:
- Knowing the different ways cocoa powder is made can help you choose the highest-quality option for your bakes. For example, using TCHO’s Natural Cocoa Powder will improve the flavor of your bakes, because we don’t expose our cocoa beans to alkalizing (commonly known as dutch cocoa powder) processes that can strip them of their rich flavor. If you didn’t know that non-alkalized cocoa beans were a thing, you wouldn’t know to look out for natural options.
- Knowing the role that baking powder plays in a recipe can allow you to swap in a different, similar-performing ingredient if you realize you’re out of baking powder before starting in on your bake. This can save you time, money, and headaches in the kitchen.
- Knowing that cocoa powder performs best in brownies and cakes and chocolate chips perform best in cookies and breads is an incredibly simple way to improve each of those bakes. If you didn’t know this, you’d be missing out on a simple opportunity to elevate your baked goods.
- Knowing how different ingredients should be stored helps ensure you’re cooking with the freshest possible ingredients, which will improve the quality of your bakes every time. For example, if you store chocolate in the fridge it could lose some of its flavor or texture. But if you store it in a cool, dry, place out of direct sunlight, it’s going to provide you with a consistent blast of chocolatey goodness whenever you bake.
These are just a few examples, but the list goes on. The point is this: The more you know about common baking ingredients, the more empowered you’ll be to identify quality products and whip up delicious baked goods in the kitchen.
Invest in a scale.
This is a quick way to let everyone who enters your kitchen know you’re serious about baking: Start using a digital scale to weigh out your flour, sugar and so on instead of relying on volume measurements. There are several benefits to doing so:
- It’s faster than filling up and leveling off a measuring cup.
- It means you won’t have to wash said measuring cup when you’re done baking.
- It makes it a lot easier to modify the recipe for larger or smaller batches (for example, it’s much simpler to divide up three eggs by weight rather than volume).
- Most importantly, it’s much more accurate than using a measuring cup—and that means you’ll be able to achieve more consistent results with your bakes. For example, flour can compact causing one cup of densely packed flour to weigh more than a “fluffed” flour.
A common term used in the culinary industry is, “mise en place” which means “putting everything in it’s place”. Measuring out ingredients ahead of time helps you stay organized, helps make sure you have everything before you start baking and makes you a more efficient baker!
Commit to reading recipes right.
One of the absolute simplest ways to ensure better bakes is to make a habit of reading recipes the whole way through before lifting a finger in the kitchen. This achieves several things:
- It allows you to double-check that you have all the necessary ingredients so you don’t get halfway through the recipe only to realize you’re not able to finish it.
- Similarly, it allows you to confirm that you have all the tools necessary to complete the recipe.
- It allows you to develop a sense of how much multi-tasking is involved, which pieces of the dish need to be ready when (and for what purpose), and so on.
- It allows you to do all the necessary prep work so your hands are free when it comes to more time-sensitive steps.
If you decide to experiment with changing a recipe, make sure you only change one step or one ingredient at a time so you can accurately assess if and how it changes the final result.
Experiment with embellishments.
Once you have the baking basics down, you can start elevating your baked goods by experimenting with different add-ins, toppings, and decorations. Not only will this make your baked goods look more polished, but it’s also a great way to use up leftover ingredients that would otherwise go to waste. For example, you could melt down leftover chocolate flakes or shavings to create decorations for cookies, sauces for ice cream or baked goods, and so on.
In addition to the tips outlined above, one of the quickest and most surefire ways to improve your baking is to simply… bake more. Entice yourself to the stove by working with ingredients and recipes you truly enjoy eating. (Shall we suggest chocolate?) Utilizing high-quality, delicious ingredients is a guaranteed way to enjoy donning an apron on a regular basis. Ready to get started? Check out our recipes for some delectable ideas.