Tips and Techniques for Cooking Like a Chef Part 7-Baking

85.Stop cheesecake from cracking. Cheesecakes often crack on the top
because they lose moisture while they cook. If you’re adding a topping it
doesn’t matter, but if you’re serving the cake without anything on top it’s nice
to have it looking perfect. Avoid cracking by putting a small dish of water on
the rack beside your cake while it is cooking. This will keep it moist and crackfree!

86.Make sure your yeast is fresh. Yeast is a living organism. And in order
for it to work to it needs to be alive when you use it. To test whether yeast is
active, combine it with the amount of warm water asked for in the recipe.
Then add a small amount of sugar (1/8 of a teaspoon is all that’s needed). The
sugar acts as food for the yeast and if it’s alive it will begin to bubble within
approximately 10 minutes. If there is no bubbling then you know the yeast is
no good.

87.The key to great pastry is cold ingredients. Making your own pastry can
sometimes be a challenge. But once you master it you’ll enjoy having it as part
of your baking repertoire. To get really fabulous pastry, the key is to make sure
ALL of the ingredients are cold before you mix them together – including the
flour! Then once you’ve formed the dough, refrigerate it for at least 30
minutes to make it easier to roll.

88.Add a little something extra to your pies. Most pie recipes call for the
same plain piecrust. Boring! Instead create your own variation by adding
spices to your dough such as cinnamon, nutmeg or even ginger. Another great
idea is to add ground nuts or even cookies crumbs on top of the bottom crust
before adding your filling. Be sure to press them down a little though so they
stay as part of the crust.

89.Make flakier pie crust. Add a teaspoon of very cold vinegar in place of a
teaspoon of ice water for flakier pie crusts. Be sure that it is very cold though.
This helps the fat chill and prevents it from releasing its water content and
moistening the flour. When this happens, gluten develops and the result is
pastry that is tough instead of light and flaky. Ideally you’ll also let the dough
rest in the refrigerator overnight before using to get good and cold again.

90.Toast nuts to intensify their flavor. Toasting nuts before using them in
recipes intensifies their flavor. To toast nuts, place them in a dry skillet over
medium heat. Shake the pan often, and roast for four or five minutes until
fragrant. Cool before using. Because nuts have a high fat content, they go
rancid quickly. The best way to store shelled nuts is in an airtight container in
the refrigerator where they’ll keep for about four months.

91. Test whether your baking powder is fresh. Baking powder is a leavener
that contains a combination of baking soda, an acid (such as cream of tartar),
and a moisture absorber (such as cornstarch). Baking powder releases carbon
dioxide gas bubbles when mixed with liquid, and this is what causes breads
and cakes to rise. However, baking powder loses its potency over time, so if
you’ve had the same supply for eons, be sure to test whether your baking
powder is still good. Pour ¼ cup of hot tap water over ½ teaspoon of baking
powder and observ – the fresher the powder, the more actively it will bubble.
If a weak reaction occurs, or none at all, your baked goods will end up flat!

92.Use frozen berries in baked goods. Frozen berries can taste just as good
as fresh when used in baked goods. Look for whole berries without syrup. You
don’t even have to bother thawing them before adding them to your batter.
You may need to add a few minutes to your cooking time however because
they will make the batter cold.

93.Melt chocolate without burning it. Melt chocolate with no risk of
burning! Just break chocolate into small pieces, place in a sealed bag and drop
into a bowl of hot water. Give the bag a squeeze every five minutes until the
chocolate reaches the right consistency.

94.Create a wonderful vanilla taste. Do you miss real vanilla extract? Soak
two vanilla beans in a litre of vodka for about three months, shaking it well
every morning. At the end of three months, you will have a delicious natural
vanilla flavoring to use in your baking.

95.Melt chocolate perfectly every time. The easiest way to melt chocolate is
in the microwave. But be sure to stir it often because it can burn. Does
chocolate go lumpy when you try to melt it? Never add milk or water, because
it will make the problem worse! Just add a tablespoon of oil or solid
shortening and mix well.

96.Keep Jello-O firm. Jello-O is a favorite with kids, but it does tend to “melt”
after sitting out for a while. A teaspoon of vinegar will keep Jell-O firmer, even
on the hottest summer days. Simply add it in place of one teaspoon of cold
water.

97.Roll out dough without a sticky mess. Professionals use a slab of marble
to roll dough out on so that cleanup is easy. If you don’t have this, instead use
a large sheet of waxed paper that is “anchored” to your countertop. To do this,
simply moisten the back of the paper with water before laying it down. This
will hold it in place while you work. When you’re finished, just toss it out and
there are no sticky bits to clean up!

98.Get fluffier egg whites. Fluffy egg whites are a great way to add lightness to
your baking. The fluffier they are, the more air they contain which makes for a
better end result. For the fluffiest egg whites, never tap the whisk on the bowl
containing the egg whites. The vibration will cause them to lose their fluffy
consistency.

99.Avoid sinking in your baked goods. You can prevent ingredients such as
chocolate chips, nuts and dried fruit from settling the bottom of your cake by
coating them with a light dusting of flour before mixing them into the batter.
The flour absorbs some of the surface oil and water that exudes from these
ingredients during baking, reducing their tendency to sink to the bottom.

100. Don’t throw away your brown bananas. Remove the peel, and toss
overripe bananas into a large freezer safe Ziploc bag. Freeze until you have
enough for some banana bread, banana muffins or a fruit smoothie. Since the
bananas are already peeled you can easily measure exactly how much you
need and simply leave the rest in the freezer for next time.

101. Make tastier oatmeal cookies and muffins. Add a different flavor
to your oatmeal cookies and muffins by baking oatmeal in a shallow pan for
about ten minutes before adding it to the mix. Be sure it does not get too
brown or it will take on a bitter taste

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