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Cooking Tips: Desserts & Baked Goods
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Baking for Dummies

The Clueless Baker

Martha Stewart's Baking Handbook

Desserts For Dummies

Pillsbury Best Cookies Cookbook

The Cake Mix Doctor

Ghirardelli Chocolate Cookbook : Recipes and History from America's Premier Chocolate Maker

These tips and more are included in my new cookbook!
Click here to get your copy!

Banana Bread: For a moister and tastier banana nut bread, pour half of the batter in the baking pan, spread 1/8" - 1/4" of pineapple tidbits (drained) over the batter, then cover with remaining batter. This is especially effective for those of us who buy the boxed mix. The addition of the pineapples should only vary baking time by a few minutes, if at all. (Submitted By: Mike King)
Breads: To cool a loaf of yeast bread, remove loaves from pans immediately and place on wire racks. For a softer crust, brush the loaf with shortening or butter and cover with a towel for a few minutes. Also try slicing leftover rolls and breads, spread softened butter and then freeze them wrapped in foil. Pull them out and reheat them easily in the foil wrapping.
Cakes: When using a glass baking dish for cakes, lower oven temperature by 25 degrees. To keep a cake longer, place half an apple in the cake container when storing. To cut a cake without messing up the decorative icing, cut it with dental floss. When a cake recipe calls for flouring the baking pan, use a bit of the dry cake mix instead, and there won't be any white mess on the outside of the cake. Don't have a cake or tart cover? Try inverting the bottom of a salad spinner or springform pan. To dress up cakes and pies, place a doily on top, then sprinkle powdered sugar and remove. Quick and impressive!
Candy: Try to make your candy on dry days. The candy does not set as well on humid or rainy days.
Cookies: When making cookies, always use unsalted butter, never margarine. The unsalted butter gives the cookies a lighter texture. To keep cookies soft, place a slice of bread in the storage container. To prevent cookies from spreading when baking, refrigerate the dough and the baking sheet for a couple of minutes before baking. Using a cookie scoop (or a small ice cream scoop) to spoon out cookie dough gives them a uniform look and size. It also keeps your fingers clean.
Cooling Cakes: When baking a cake, do not set on the counter top to cool. All the moisture leaches from the top. Put the finished cake directly into the freezer for at least 2 hours. Make sure you place a hot pad under the pan to avoid damaging your freezer surface. You can leave the (covered) cake in the freezer for months, or defrost easily in minutes after the 2 hour cooling down period. You will never have a more moist cake than with this method! (Submitted by David Miller.)
Crustless Quiche: Butter a pie plate with 2-1/2 Tbls. butter, then cover with toasted bread crumbs, pressing them firmly into the butter. Chill well in the freezer, fill with your favorite quiche filling recipe, and bake as directed.
Frosting Tips: Add a pinch of baking soda to your frosting and the frosting will stay moist and prevent cracking.
Fudge: Using a wooden spoon when making fudge is best.
Gelatin Molds: To easily unmold gelatin salads or desserts, lightly brush mold with oil before pouring in the mixture.
Ice Cream Cones: Stuff a miniature marshmallow in the bottom of a sugar cone to prevent ice cream drips out the bottom.
Low Fat Pie Crust: For a practically fat-free crust, substitute frozen phyllo pastry for traditional pie crust. Thaw as directed, lift two leaves from the stack and center in a 9" or 10" pie pan sprayed with nonstick cooking spray. Lay two more leaves in pan at right angles to the first, then two more on the bias to fill the gaps, then two more so pan is fully lined. With damp paper toweling, gently press phyllo into pan. Take care removing towel so you don't tear the phyllo. Fill and bake pie as directed.
Make Quick Breads Faster: If you make quick breads often, mix up batches of the dry ingredients for your favorite recipes and store them in individual plastic bags, clearly labeled, in your refrigerator. The mix will be ready anytime you are. OR Go one step further by preparing the dry and wet ingredients: Put all the "dries" in one large screw-top jar, all the "wets" in a second jar, then shake each well. Store in the refrigerator until ready to proceed. Shake each jar well again, place the dry ingredients in a large bowl, make a well in the center, pour in the wet and stir just until combined - the batter should be lumpy. Proceed as recipe directs. This works for cookies, muffins, waffles, pancakes, and other simple batters.
Melting Chocolate in the Microwave: Place chocolate pieces in a bowl. Microwave on high for 1 min. Stir. Return to microwave if necessary. Heat and stir in 30 sec. intervals until chocolate reaches smooth, melted consistency. For a smoother melt, add a Tbls. of vegetable oil per pound of chocolate. Never introduce water into the mix; this will seize the chocolate, You cannot recover chocolate once it's been scorched.
Meringue: To stop the meringue from shrinking away from the sides of the pies, be sure that when you put the meringue on top, you make sure it touches the pastry all around the edge. This way, it will bake onto the pastry and will not shrink!
Pancakes: Add a pinch of sugar when making waffles and pancakes to help them brown more quickly when cooking. Use a turkey baster to squeeze your pancake batter onto the hot griddle and you'll get perfectly shaped pancakes every time.
Parchment Paper: Parchment paper is excellent for baking cakes and cookies, cooking en papillote, making candy or covering foods for the microwave. Professional bakers have been using it for years. The best way to line a cake pan is to place pan on a sheet of parchment paper. Use a pencil to trace around bottom of pan and cut. Fit parchment liner in greased pan. Fill with batter and bake. After baking; cool cake on wire rack 15 minutes. Invert cake and remove parchment paper. For cookies, prepare cookie sheet with parchment paper, making sure to cover only the areas being used. When first batch of cookies is done, slide parchment with baked cookies off cookie sheet. Slide second sheet of parchment with unbaked cookies onto cookie sheet and bake.
Pastry Dough: Always chill pastry dough before rolling and cutting, and always chill it again afterwards, before baking, to further relax the gluten.
Pies: For flakier crust, substitute 1 teaspoon vinegar for 1 teaspoon of the cold water called for in the recipe. When cutting cream pies, first dip knife in hot water so that none of the filling will stick to it. Brush some beaten egg white over a pie crust before baking to yield a beautiful glossy finish.
Pressing Down Sticky Bars: Coat hands with oil or water before pressing down sticky desserts, such as Rice Crispy Treats, to prevent sticking.
Quick Garnish: Toast coconut or chopped nuts in a shallow baking pan in the oven in 5 or 10 minutes at 350 degrees. Once cool, they can even be frozen in plastic bags for future use.
Whipped Cream: Cream will whip faster and better if you'll first chill the bowl, cream, and beaters first. To stabilize whipped cream, add 2 tablespoons of nonfat dry milk to every cup of whipping cream before you whip it. Soupy whipped cream can be saved by adding an egg white, then chilling thoroughly; re-beat for a fluffy surprise. A few drops of lemon juice added to whipping cream helps it to whip faster and better. Whipping cream will not separate if you add 1/4 tsp. unflavored gelatin per cup of whipped cream.

Yeast: Did you know that your yeast will last longer than specified on those little packages from the grocery store if kept in the refrigerator, and even longer in the freezer, up to a year? If you do a lot of baking, it is wise to purchase larger amounts and freeze. Place in a plastic container and mark the date of purchase.

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