Five Simple Rules for No-Fail Baking

1. Use good – not necessarily great – ingredients.

All good food starts with good ingredients, in the case of pastry, decent flour, decent sugar (I like cane for most things), decent fruit and chocolate. Find good, reasonably priced sources and don’t go overboard. No need to pay up unless the ingredient is playing a starring role in a simple preparation (butter in laminated pastry for example).

2. Use only fresh leaveners.

How old is that tin of baking powder in your cupboard? Six months? A year? What about those yeast packets? Uh huh, that’s what I thought. Leavening is abundant and cheap, so shop for it fresh at every opportunity.

3. Use only room-temperature (or warmer) ingredients.

Most recipes don’t say it, but it bears constant repeating: unless specifically stated, always make sure your ingredients are at least at room temperature (slightly warmer is better for eggs) before you start a baking project.

4. Measure, measure, measure.

You’d be surprised how many talented cooks still use dry measures for wet ingredients (and vice versa), who don’t own accurate digital thermometers, and who don’t weight their ingredients (on digital scales). Baking is a precision sport. If you want to do it well, you need the right tools for the job.

5. Follow instructions.

I amaze myself at how often I fail to read a recipe all the way through before I begin it. This one simple step, even when applied to recipes you know (or think you know) inside and out, is your surest way to avoid both catastrophic mistakes and those last-minute dashes to the grocery store.

So there it is, pretty much everything I know, all in one post.

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One Response to Five Simple Rules for No-Fail Baking

  1. Lila Parker says:

    Hi Joe
    I recently discovered your blog while searching for an Opera Cake recipe. You have been very helpful in new new venture as a self taught pastry chef and baker for a new Austrian/ German restaurant that I make desserts for. The tutorial was exactly what I needed.
    Your practical common sense approach is appreciated by someone who don’t have a lot of time to waste on rambling on and on about the creation. You don’t overuse photos, which I also find refreshing.
    A lot of food blogs are just too frustrating. You scroll through all those photos of the same dish from every possible angle and there isn’t even a recipe for it!
    I guess I’m being a little harsh here, bu when you are trying to create a unique version of a classic dessert, some of which I have never heard of, much less tasted, you can get a little anxious!
    I have successfully mastered my own version of this French cake that is rapidly becoming a favorite at the restaurant.(there are plenty of authentic desserts as well).
    I have been researching Austrian and German desserts and pastries for over a year preparing myself and getting familiar with the methods. There have been flops and a few laughable disasters along the way, but now that I have discovered your blog, it’s like having an expert on hand whenever you need one. Thank you, Joe!

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