Joy the Baker

Six Rules to Bake By

June 18, 2008

Preheat. Why? Because it says so! If a recipe asks you to preheat the oven to a certain temperature. Well… you should. What the recipe is trying to tell you is that your cupcakes, or loaf of zucchini bread, or blackberry muffins need to combine with a certain temperature to do their thing. And we all know, we want out baked goods to do their thing. Even if they don’t, we’ll probably still nibble on them on their way from the oven to the trash bin. But everything seems to work out like sunshine and roses if our baked goods do their thing. Right?

You Don’t Need Gadgets. You might want them… but you don’t need them. Is it just me or has baking become kind of trendy lately? I’ve noticed all sorts of intricate, multi layered whisks, and scrapers, and bumper stickers for your Kitchen Aid mixer. It turns out that you don’t really need any of that stuff to produce some killer cupcakes. You’ll need some stainless steel bowls and a fantastic candy thermometer but really, stick with the basics.

Yeast- You Can do It! I know, yeast is a little intimidating. But really- you can do it! There are a few things yeast needs to get going- warm water and sugar. Simple as that. You have live yeast. These cinnamon rolls were some of the first yeasted breads I mastered. They were more approachable to me because the dough has creamed butter, sugar and eggs. It starts off like and cake and finishes as a bread. If you’re scared of yeast, please give this recipe a go!

Oil up- This tip isn’t really a baking tip. If you’re dicing up peppers, before you handle the peppers rub your hands with vegetable oil. This will help make sure that the hot pepper juice doesn’t soak into your hands for you to find later when you brings your hands up to your mouth and nose. Ouch!

Butter is butter. Margarine is NOT butter. I don’t mean to yell. I just really need you to understand that margarine is not butter. Butter is fat, milk solids, water and sometimes salt. Margarine is hydrogenated yellow. And you know what!? They (margarine makers) have to dye it yellow! Margarine is really a dull grey color that they bleach white and then dye yellow to make it look more like butter. Not kidding. Not cool. Google it. Use butter. It tastes good and we know where it comes from. If you’re a vegan- please don’t yell at me, because I like tofu and I’m not listening.

Cool To Room Temperature. Translation- Wait. I tend to be a bit of a rule breaker, which has produced some pretty disastrous baking results. One of those tragedies came when I didn’t let a cake cool properly and I tried to frost it while it was still a bit warm. Fail. Not good. My cake turned into a slip and slide. Frosting was oozing out of the layers and the whole thing wouldn’t stay together no matter how I cursed. Some lessons you have to learn the hard way. I’ll never frost a warm cake again.


31 Comments Add A Comment

  • Love your blog………… I will be making that mango lime sorbet you spoke of this weekend and can’t wait!!!

  • Oh! Thanks for the peppers tip! Now that hot peppers are in season, I plan on using them more and more.

  • Your blog is the BEST! I tried a few recipes from other sites and they never turn out half as good as yours. You’re my muse!! I tried a recipe for cornbread scones that took so much work to get it to look like scone dough that I just threw the recipe out. I am now seeking a new one. Any tips??? The recipe said to turn the dough out and knead it once or twice, but I had the equivalent of cake batter in my magic bowl. (My daughter always called it that cos so many yummy cakes & cookies were made in it!) Thanks again for all the great recipes, and even greater tips! I love you!!!!!!!!

  • Thank you for permission to stick to the basics!!! It seems like there’s a gadget for everything these days, but really, you can probably do without many of them! And I think you may have started a yeast revolution! :-)

  • i totally agree with the margerine! aparently, it is one molecule away from being plastic.

    this is my first time here, and i gotta say: i love yer blog!

  • Hi Joy – I just love you blog! I could not possibly agree with you more about the butter. I have friends that love that spray butter stuff and that creeps me out even more than margarine…eww!

  • Thank you so much for the pepper tip! I am constantly doing that to myself, so you have just saved me a great deal of pain.

  • Hi Joy!
    You know, I too, absolutely love the center of the cin. rolls but I have to say I never thought of just eating the center!! Wow, thanks for the permission!
    I think I’m going to even try making your recipe. I’ve never attempted to make them. The closest thing I’ve made is something we call “Snails” which is flat pastry dough (actually the 99cent pizza dough from TJ’s works great) that we sprinkle with lots of sugar and cinnamon, roll up and cut into spirals and bake.
    One more thing I gotta say: the links to the suggested tools is fantastic!! It instantly provides me with the pricing and if I get out my ccard I can buy online also instantly!
    Love you,
    JK

  • That last tipis one that is MAJOR! You’d think I could pick that up after a few cakes gone wrong, but nope! I know it now, and man, do I practice what I preach. Nothing is worse than trying to frost a finished cake and have the crumb coating fall apart and the frosting ooze off. Patience really is a virtue :)

  • i’ve tried to frost a warm cake before too — disaster! it’s definitely a mistake you don’t make twice (or, if you’re really lucky, a mistake you don’t even make once)!

  • Hahaha! Great tips!
    Bumper stickers for the KA… really?
    I do have a KA, but I waited a looong time for it and I *wish* I had a food processor (and an ice cream maker) but for now, I’m still rockin’ it with grandma’s handed down pastry cutter and it works every time! :-)

  • can i please just say that i absolutely love your blog?

  • ok i’m guilty of a couple….maybe three of the rules!! but i’ll do better i promise.

  • Where were you 2 days ago!?! I totally did that. I was chopping up a serrano chile and then of course I got an itch at the base of my nose and instinctively scratched. AYE CARUMBA! Every time I took a breath my nose was my fire. I will definitely remember the “oil up your hands first” rule next time I make guacamole. HAHA!
    /Clara

  • Hi Joy! Thanks for visiting my blog and helping me to discover your delicious place! This is such an excellent post. I look forward to exploring your blog.

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