5 rules for fall and holiday baking

As we get closer to the holidays, we start to bake more. This is exciting stuff, but are you ready to excel this year? I have some ideas that you may want to try to up your baking game. If you are the star of the cookie exchange or the mom with all the requests for recipes, you can jump off this train now. If you suffer from flat, flavorless baked goods, keep reading.

  1. Date on food products are suggestions just like a yield sign, so proceed at your own risk. Expired baking powder and baking soda will produce flat cookies and cakes. (Is that what you want?) Expired spices means flavorless baked goods. Expired dairy means, well, hospitalization. Don’t risk any of these outcomes.
  2. The right tools for the job are essential. If a recipe calls for cake flour, use cake flour. Different flours have different gluten levels and are not interchangeable. This is especially true in baking. If you are out of baking powder, you can make your own with baking soda and cream of tartar (1/4 teaspoon baking powder, 1/2 teaspoon cream of tartar, 1/4 teaspoon corn starch) . Look! You just made baking powder. You can substitute for flavors but not for chemistry.
  3. Experimentation is good! Dark chocolate instead of semi-sweet? Why not? Anything that does not alter the chemistry of the bake good is ok. So if want ginger snicker-doodles, why not? Flavors are up to the baker.
  4. Time and temperature are important, so don’t be in a hurry and cook too fast or to slow. For example, if one cookie calls for 375 and one cookie calls for 325, don’t bake them both at 350. Every oven is different, so check the oven temperature. When I bake cakes, I use a thermometer and bake by internal temperature.
  5. Frosting hides a lot of mistakes on cookies, cupcakes, muffins and cakes. It also can make up for dryness and cracks, but of you burned it, you won’t fool anyone.

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