Have you ever dreaded trying out a new recipe because you knew it would be stressful? Maybe I am the only one that did that, but it took me a long time before I could stop stressing out and started enjoying the different recipes. When it comes to cooking or baking if you know some of the pre-requisites it becomes much easier. Here are a few:
Salted or Unsalted
Always use unsalted butter so that you can control the salt content of your baked product.
Milk or Cream
For pastry creams always use whole milk. Yes, you can substitute but the creamy consistency and taste will not be the same.
Tools of the trade
Invest in a good standing mixer. From kneading bread dough to whipping up gentle macaroons your options become unlimited and life becomes so much easier. Yes, you loose out on that arm work out but it is still worth it. Mine is the KitchenAid stand mixer.
Timing is everything
It sounds like silly advice but I have made this mistake before. If baking the same day as prepping the pastry or dough make sure to preheat your oven. Depending on your oven it may take more than the allotted 6-7 minutes to heat up to the required temperature and if you have something like meringues that might collapse if left out to long you need to make sure that your oven is ready.
Mise en place
1 day in advance of baking, check the ingredients in the recipe. You may find out that you don’t have an ingredient but most importantly check if they need to be at room temperature.
Bring butter to room temperature faster by cutting it into ½ or 1 tablespoon sized slices.
Bring eggs to room temperature by putting them into warm (not boiling) water.
What do you weigh?
When prepping your ingredients it is better to weigh them for a more consistent result. Flour will weigh differently in a cool room than a humid one.
For cold dough such as puff pastry, chill your dry ingredients in the refrigerator along with the wet ingredients.
Measurements are key
Measure out ingredients before starting. It takes an extra minute or two but the process will go much more stress free and generally smoother.
Finally remember to breathe and have fun. Professional chefs took years of practice everyday to make those gorgeous pastries. So deep breaths and let’s get baking.