Baking Tips

1. Trust your sense of smell above all else. If something smells like it’s burning, it probably is.

2. No matter how tempting it is to keep checking on your baked goods, the more frequently you open the oven, the longer your food will take to cook. My friend Cleo always used to admonish me whenever I voyeuristically opened the oven to slaver over my cinnamon rolls or baguette or baked brie, and to this day I still feel a twinge of guilt whenever I open the oven mid-bake. The whole point of preheating an oven is to allow it to achieve the perfect temperature for your recipe, and every time you open it, the oven loses some of that essential heat.

3. Do not underestimate the power of parchment paper. It’s something that anyone who bakes should have on hand, and wax paper is no substitute. My current favorite kitchen hack is rolling out pizza dough onto parchment paper sprinkled with a bit of cornmeal, using a cheap Target plastic placement as a fake pizza peel, and gracefully sliding the entire sheet of paper and pizza onto my baking stone once all of the toppings are on and the dough has risen. The parchment paper makes it easier to get the finished pizza out of the oven too. Win-win. The lesson? Always have some parchment paper on hand.

4. The secret to achieving the perfect caramel (which is one of my current fixations, coming before fleur de sel and ice cream and just after oats on my list of perpetual kitchen obsessions) is confidence. You have to allow the sugar to reach a point just before burning, when it turns what has variously been termed a “nice, dark copper“, a “rich amber” or the “colour of an old copper penny“. (See here for some useful tips on making caramel). This can be a process harrowing for the novice, as one’s first instinct is always to pull the saucepan off the heat once the sugar turns that strident golden hue that characterizes so many of the carmel desserts we are familiar with. While you’ll doubtless burn a cup of sugar at least once while holding out for the ultimate dark amber, the results are well worth it – that intensely sweet, deep and smokey flavour simply can’t be replicated by more synthetic, factory-produced caramels.

worth the wait

One Response to “Baking Tips”

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  1. Battle Royale: Salted Caramel Sauce « Nomad Baking - September 22, 2011

    […] Baking Tips […]

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