It's time to polish that Best Baker on the Block trophy, because these no-fail tips will take your baking to the next level.
The easiest thing you can do to make any recipe better is to set out all of your ingredients, and then wait 30 minutes. We know what you're thinking: Baking already takes so much time. Now I have to wait another half-hour just to get started? UGH! We get it. But trust us, that 30 minutes allows the butter to get to room temperature, so it's perfectly softened and will smooth into anything. Eggs at room temperature will also result in baked goods with more volume. Score!
You already know it's easier to work with chilled dough when making cookies. But did you know that 20 minutes of chilling in the freezer is equal to one hour in the fridge? #awesome
SPRAY THE STICKY AWAY
Baking with liquid sweeteners, such as honey or corn syrup, makes for ooey-gooey deliciousness. The problem? That sticky goodness gets stuck to the measuring cup, and then not all of it goes into the mix. Spray the measuring cup with nonstick spray first. Boom! Problem solved.
Yeah, yeah, yeah; we know. Grandma always made you sift cup after cup of flour before you could bake a batch of cookies. No need, friends. That flour was sifted before it was packaged. Sure, it may settle in the bag or in the canister on your counter, but quickly stirring it with a spoon will lighten it up enough for most recipes. You just saved yourself 20 minutes. You're welcome!
MIND YOUR MIXING
Don't just throw everything in the bowl and fire up the mixer. While some recipes do need to be well blended, cakes, muffins, and quick breads will get tough if they're overmixed. For better results with these sweet treats, get all the dry ingredients in a bowl first, make a well in the center, and pour in all the wet ingredients at once. Mix until the ingredients are combined, but don't pound out all the lumps.
USE THE SECRET OF LIFE ... BUTTER
Rich, delicious baked goods get that yummy-in-your-tummy flavor from -- you guessed it -- butter! Use it. Generously. You can also find success when baking with margarine, but don't use that low-fat stuff. You're making cookies, not a salad -- let's do it up right! Check the label: Margarine needs to have at least 100 calories per tablespoon, or your cookies and bars will be flat and difficult to get out of the pan.
A good biscuit is like a gift sent straight from heaven. A bad biscuit is like a hockey puck, a dry, crumbly hockey puck. Bleh! The key to good biscuits is to work the lard into the dry ingredients. Coat the lard in the flour mixture, and rub it between your fingertips until roughly half the lard is coarsely blended and the other half remains in large pieces about 3/4 inch in diameter.
REMOVE BUBBLES FROM CAKE BATTER
We're all striving for that soft, dense, dreamy cake that makes your friends squeal, "Oh my goodness, you MAAAADE this? It's amazing!" What's preventing your rise to the top ranks of cake-making may be something you can't even see: air. Air pockets interrupt that sweet perfection. To prevent air bubbles (and preserve your status as cake genius), pour the batter into the pan and tap the cake pan on the countertop to release large air bubbles.
MAKE BROWNIES MAGICAL
Ah, the brownie. A favorite of many. And how you bake brownies says a lot about you. Are you a fudgy-center, no-frosting brownie maker? Or a cakelike-with-rich-chocolate-frosting brownie baker? It's all good -- just don't overbake them. Follow the recipe's timing guidelines for doneness. Unlike cakes, brownies are overcooked if a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean.
COVER YOUR PIECRUSTS
We've all been there: watching a pie through the oven window hoping the filling is as warm as the quickly browning top and sides. Cover the pie loosely with aluminum foil to help the center even out without burning the edges.