As people seek ways to fill their time at home, many have turned to baking homemade treats, with many supermarkets even struggling to supply enough flour to meet the demand of the baking craze. For novices, the idea of baking from scratch can be daunting. We reached out to Elizabeth Kellner, the head chef at Red Dessert Dive in the Heights, for her tips on how to make your first foray into baking a delicious one.
Always read the recipe completely before starting.
Rather than reading the recipe as you go, familiarizing yourself with the process beforehand can help ensure you don’t forget steps or find yourself unprepared. “It gives you a better understanding of each mixing method you will be doing and prevents surprises along the way,” Kellner says.
Always prep your ingredients before starting.
You don’t want to get halfway into making a cake only to suddenly realize you don’t have enough sugar or flour. You also don’t want to be running around the kitchen each time you read a new step in the recipe. “There is a French culinary phrase: ‘Mise en place,’ which translates to ‘everything in its place,’" says Kellner. “This phrase gets drilled into your head in culinary school. Prepping all of your ingredients before starting allows you to have easy accessibility to everything you need.”
Measure everything correctly.
This seems self-explanatory, but baking is an exact science; the accuracy of your measurements of not only your ingredients but also of your batter itself can make a huge difference. “When measuring a cup of flour, scoop it with your measuring cup and level it off,” Kellner advises. “Not only should you measure your ingredients, but measure the items you are baking as well. Use an ice cream scoop to scoop your cookies, and you will have the same size cookie every time. Also use it to measure cake batter into cake pans to guarantee equal sized layers.”
Do not over-mix.
Over-mixing can cause issues in the texture of your bakes, including overspreading in cookies and dense chewiness in cakes. “Most recipes will give you a mixing time, follow it!” says Kellner. “If you are having trouble with cookie spreading, but you followed the recipe, chill your scooped cookies in the fridge before baking.”
Parchment paper is your friend.
Parchment paper is useful for lining cookie sheets, brownie pans, cake pans, and bread pans. Simply spray some oil on the pan, lay the right sized sheet of parchment down to stick, and spray once more. Kellner suggests leaving excess parchment sticking out from the sides of bread and brownie pans. Once the food is baked and cooled, the parchment on the sides can be used as handles to lift the bake out of the pan.
Lastly, Kellner advises to have fun with baking. “Don’t get too caught up if your dessert doesn’t come out looking exactly like the picture in the blog post,” she says. “Baking is a science, yes, but it’s also an art! You are the artist in your kitchen!”