Use these baking tips to make your holiday season baking a hit
- Bread can be either leavened or unleavened. Leavened breads are made with rising agents, like yeast or baking powder, which allow the dough to release gases and expand. Unleavened bread contains no yeast, baking soda, baking powder or other leavening agents that allow the dough to rise.
- Leavened and unleavened bread are nutritionally similar.
- It is, generally, not a good idea to refrigerate bread. Although bread will last longer when refrigerated, it tends to dry out faster and to lose its soft texture.
- As a general rule, bread should be kept in a somewhat air-tight and dry container or area.
- Hot bread should not be put in a sealed container until it cools since the steam will cause dampness, which in turn can cause mold to grow more rapidly.
- Storing bread on top of the refrigerator is not recommended. Refrigerator tops are usually very warm and this could either cause your bread to dry out more rapidly or cause condensation in the bag.
- Split the dough. Work with half of the cookie dough at a time when rolling and cutting cookies. Too much handling of the dough makes cookies tough. Keep the other half refrigerated since chilled dough is easier to handle.
- Bake cookies on flat, shiny, heavy aluminum, baking sheets. These sheets with no sides are designed for easily sliding cookies onto a cooling rack. Dark sheets may absorb heat, causing cookies to brown too much on the bottom.
- Grease baking sheets with cooking spray or solid shortening instead of butter or margarine.
- Don't overload the oven. Bake one sheet of cookies at a time on the middle oven rack.
- Be sure to cool baking sheets between batches before reusing; wipe the surface of each with a paper towel before reusing.
- Cool cookies completely before storing them in airtight containers.
- There are four versions of classic pie dough
- All-butter dough has excellent flavor but can be tricky to use.
- Butter and shortening dough is flakier and more tender. It browns slightly faster than all-butter dough, but has less shrinkage and holds its shape better during baking.
- Lard pie dough creates the flakiest, crispiest, and most tender dough of all, but the flavor is fairly bland. This dough also has the least amount of shrinkage when it bakes and it browns more slowly.
- Butter and lard dough has superb flavor and texture. The ratio of butter to lard or butter to shortening varies from recipe to recipe, but most call for half butter, half alternate fat.
- Avoid using cold eggs. The eggs should be at room temperature, otherwise the mixture won’t emulsify properly. If you’re short on time, place eggs in a bowl of warm water for 10 to 15 minutes.
- Make sure to measure all ingredients precisely. Baking is a science.
- Position the pans as close to the center of the oven as possible.
- If placing more than one pan in the oven, they shouldn’t touch each other or the oven walls. If your oven isn’t wide enough to put pans side by side, place them on different racks.
- If the recipe calls for "1 cup sifted flour," first sift the flour and then measure it. If it calls for "1 cup flour, sifted," measure the flour, then sift it. It may seem subtle, but it can make the difference between a light, fluffy cake and a leaden one.
- Allow at least 20 minutes for your oven to preheat; it's best to turn the oven on before you start working on your recipe.
- Opening the oven door too often can make a cake fall, so use the window in your oven door to check the cake's progress when possible.
- Check for doneness 10 minutes before the recipe suggests. For most recipes, a cake is ready when it starts pulling away from the sides of the pan and a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean.
- Cakes cool faster and don't get soggy when set out on a rack. Leave them in the pans for 10 to 15 minutes before unmolding, then place on a rack to cool completely before frosting. Angel, chiffon and sponge cakes should be left in the pan to cool to prevent collapsing.
- Unfrosted cakes can be stored, well wrapped in plastic, at room temperature for 24 hours.
- If storing unfrosted cakes for more than 24 hours, it is best to freeze them rather than refrigerate them. Wrap the layers in plastic wrap and then heavy-duty foil to freeze; let cake thaw in the refrigerator before frosting.
- To store frosted cakes, keep at room temperature under a cake dome or large bowl unless the recipe specifies refrigeration.
- For smooth and easy cake removal, prep your pans properly. When a recipe calls for greasing and flouring, place a piece of parchment or waxed paper on the bottom of a pan (trace and cut it to fit). Coat the sides and bottom with softened butter, and then dust with flour, turning the pan on its side to get full coverage and tapping out the excess. For chocolate cakes, swap in cocoa powder for flour.
- Angel, chiffon, and sponge cakes should go into clean, untreated pans since they need to adhere to the sides in order to rise properly.