For the longest time, I was a pretty crap baker. I mean, it’s not that I didn’t try. I’d see a beautiful cake on Pinterest or an adorable Easter chick cookie, and I’d get excited about trying to make it, only to fail miserably. Thankfully, after a lot of trial and error, I’ve figured out six genius baking tricks that will instantly up your baking game. Check it out!
Genius Baking Trick #1: Silicone Baking Tools are Your Friend
Silicone baking tools make baked goods so much easier and fuss-free to tackle. The absolute must-have silicone baking tools you need are:
- Silicone muffin pans are a total game-changer. Say goodbye to those paper muffin tin liners that you can never separate (amiright or amiright?). These pans are much easier to clean and cook muffins and cupcakes much more evenly than metal pans. I recently made some passionfruit jaffa cakes (pictured above, covered in chocolate) in both a metal muffin pan and a silicone one, and the silicone ones rose evenly into perfect little domed mini-cakes, kind of like a mini moon pie. The ones in the metal pan rippled and were nearly impossible to remove from the tin in one piece even though I greased and floured the pan within an inch of his life. The lesson here? Don’t bother with metal. Stick with silicone. If you hate the flimsiness of a silicone muffin pan, get yourself a couple of those quarter sheet baking sheets I mentioned earlier — the muffin pans fit right into one.
- Get a silicone whisk. Hands-down, the silicone baking whisk is the most used silicone item I own. From whisking fluffy scrambled eggs to weaving air through cake batter, the silicone whisk does what metal whisks can’t — whipping and beating without gloopy, dangling mess. When I switched from metal to silicone, I found my cake batters lighter and more well-mixed than before, which meant fluffier and more evenly-risen cakes.
Genius Baking Trick #2: Diluted Apricot Jam = Extra Shiny Glaze
Love making fruit tarts and galettes but left wondering why yours doesn’t look like the ones in those glossy French bakeries? Here’s a baking secret: these tarts are glazed with apricot jam. I recently made this gorgeous and easy Normandy apple tart and was surprised when the last step in glazing the tart involved just a little bit of warmed, diluted apricot jam. This tart looks so fancy and store-bought, but trust me — it was EASY. Then I realized that apricot jam can make almost any tart or pie glossy like the cover of Vogue – from the surface of a just-baked pumpkin pie to a pear galette. Try it!
Genius Baking Trick #3: Dried Beans and Rice Make the Best Pie Weights
One of the most important things you should do to elevate your baking is to pre-bake (called “blind baking“) your pie crust before you fill it with your filling. This step gets overlooked a lot because who has the time, really? I used to bake all of my pies without blind baking until I went to culinary school and realized that blind baking is a crucial step to avoid having the filling in your pie seep into your pie dough and make a soggy mess. Pie crust should be crisp all the way through, from the edges to the very bottom of your pie, and blind baking makes all of that possible.
But pie crust also tends to rise when it’s blind baked, so what to do? Well, I bought a few pie weights before I realized that a few measly ceramic pebbles isn’t going to cut the mustard. To really make sure your pie crust is nice and dried out before you fill it, you need to weigh your pie crust down all the way up the sides of the crust. To do that, you need a lot of weight. To get a lot of weight cheaply, use a mix of dried beans and rice. The best part is that after you remove your blind baked crust from the oven, you can cool the beans and rice and store them to use again. And again.
Genius Baking Trick #4: Use Room Temperature Ingredients (Even Eggs)
Okay, here’s a tip that I have to admit that I never really understood or did. As a busy parent, who has the time to worry about the temperature of our ingredients, really? When you want want (or need) to bake, you reach for whatever you need in your ‘fridge and just get to it, right? Well, you shouldn’t.
To test this, I made two cakes, one with room temperature butter and eggs that I’d set out one morning and circled back to midday, and another cake with butter and eggs straight from the refrigerator. Room temperature butter and eggs emulsify easier, meaning that the resulting batter is more uniform and smooth. When baked, the rise is even and the baked goods come out fluffier and more aerated. If you’re short on time, you can boil a kettle of water and fill a small mixing bowl (the smallest one out of these gorgeous Falcon enamelware bowls is what I use) with hot water for a few minutes. Then, empty the bowl and turn it over on top of the butter. Within a few minutes, the butter will soften to room temperature (you can test it by poking a finger into the butter; if an indent stays, you’re good to go). The same inverted hot mixing bowl method works with eggs, too — just keep the eggs in their shell in a small bowl and invert the hot bowl on top of them.
Genius Baking Trick #5: Weigh Everything (Except Yourself, Of Course)
Baking is a precise art. While good measuring cups and spoons can carry you a long way, the difference of a heaping cup of flour versus a rounded cup versus a leveled one can leave a lot of room for interpretation. To avoid that, use recipes that favor weighing ingredients over those that use imperial measures (like cups, tablespoons, etc.) and get a good kitchen scale. Even better, use this ingredient weight chart on your favorite recipes and see how they turn out better!
Oh, and with all this baking you’ll be doing using these 6 genius baking tricks, it’s best to save the weighing for the ingredients and not do any self-weighing, you hear?
Genius Baking Trick #6: Don’t Open the Oven Door Until You Really, Really Need To
So you’ve done it. You’ve used room temperature ingredients. You’ve blind baked your pie crust. Your filling is going to be uber glossy thanks to that apricot jam. So what’s the harm in just one little peek before the cooking time is up?
Well, a lot. If you’re baking a cake, a sudden blast of cooler air from your kitchen into your oven can slow or completely interrupt that nice, even rising process, leaving a rippled, uneven cake. For pies, peeking not only slows down the baking process but causes the filling to bake unevenly, leaving your filling nice in juicy in parts and totally underdone in others. To avoid these problems, it’s best to leave that oven door shut until the minimum time stated in your recipe. Resist the urge! Resist!