Abby Dodge is the author of nine cookbooks, including Desserts 4 Today and The Weekend Baker. Her new cookbook, out now, is called The Everyday Baker: Recipes & Techniques for Foolproof Baking. She’s here today to share her six steps for better baking this holiday season.
Let’s get it out of the way: some people just hate baking. They think it’s too complicated or unforgiving. They don’t like that you can’t improvise. I often hear people say that cooking is an art, but baking is a science. Abby Dodge is here to share her six tips for making baking easy:
1) Imperfect Is the New Perfect
Perfection is unattainable so let’s agree to let go of that goal right now. It doesn’t matter a lick if your finished product looks exactly like Abby's (she's been doing this for eons!), if the bread is lopsided, or if the frosting is speckled with cake crumbs. Be proud of what you handcrafted with care and it will still taste delicious.
2) Be Real … About Your Available Time
Before diving full speed into a recipe, make sure you choose one based on the time you have available. Trying to squeeze too much into a limited time will only make you feel crazed and your results will suffer. For time-pressed bakers, take a look at the recipe’s Make Ahead section in The Everyday Baker where the recipe has been broken down, when possible, into manageable steps.
3) Trust Your Instincts; You've Got Good Ones
Within each recipe, look for sensory clues along with suggested time frames to help you gauge when a recipe is done cooking, baking, or chilling. While the time frame is helpful, it is only there to steer you in the right direction. Using the doneness clues, engage and trust your senses to determine when the recipe is ready.
4) The Scale and Ruler Are a Baker's Besties
Size really does matter! For accuracy and consistency, weigh your ingredients. Volume measuring varies widely and will wreak havoc on your baking. Using a ruler to measure your lengths, widths, and slices is the only way you’ll know that your pan or pastry/cookie dough is the same size that’s called for in the recipe.
5) Time to Take the Temperature—of Your Oven, Fridge, and Freezer
Because temperatures are so important in baking, it’s not enough to trust the digital read-out on your oven, fridge and freezer. You need to take their temperature and adjust the controls as needed until the temp on the thermometer is accurate.
6) Baking Is Like Making a Stir Fry—Wait, What?
Have you ever made a stir-fry? If so, you know how important it is to have all the ingredients prepared and measured before you start cooking. The same holds true for baking. Mise en place—French for “put in place”—is the process of organizing and prepping your ingredients (and equipment too) so that you are 100% sure you have everything and can work through the recipe smoothly and efficiently.
Listen to the podcast with Abby Dodge, author of The Everyday Baker: Recipes & Techniques for Foolproof Baking, in the player in the top right-hand corner of this page, or on iTunes and Stitcher.