Last Friday, I woke up and made maple scones. The girls were home because it was parent conference day, and they rolled out of bed before I did and tucked themselves onto the couch with the third Harry Potter movie. And so, with the dramatic tones of the HP theme as my background (warring, of course, with Morning Edition on the radio), I shuffled around the kitchen, made coffee, and stood back to look at the cookbook shelf. I pulled down this one, and the book opened to the maple scone recipe. It was meant to be.
I know that there was a time before I baked, but slowly, I’ve moved across the spectrum to be someone who makes scones on a regular Friday morning. I own more than one tart pan, and I volunteer to make birthday cakes whenever anyone I know even a little bit is having a birthday. And while some of us bake and some DO NOT (arms crossed, stomp, stomp), there does seem to be a perception that it’s an innate talent, that you’re either a dough whisperer or not.
I put this question out on Facebook last week, asking whether people who loved to bake had advice as to why it works for them, or, conversely, if there are those who wish they baked but don’t because of some frustration or baking fail experience. The answers were so great, and my hope is to do a little series here where we talk about how all this works in our kitchens. In this first part, I’m going to talk about a few basic principles that govern how I bake. Part 2 will focus on technique, and part 3 will be materials and substitutions. I’m not a professional baker by any means, and I know many of you have lots of advice to share. So of course, I’d love if this can be a conversation, and if you’d like to pipe in (both with your successes and frustrations), hooray!
Today–Part 1: Coming to the recipe
1. Give yourself enough time. Especially if you’re not a frequent baker, don’t try to fit a baking project into a tiny window of time, and try not to bake while you’re doing something else. I hold to this even with the simplest of recipes. For example, if you’re making soup and cornbread, focus entirely on the cornbread until it’s in the oven–then work on the rest of dinner. Also, it’s also entirely possible (and in my experience, probable) that a recipe will take longer to bake than is listed in the recipe. If you find yourself wondering if you can make the cookies, get them into the oven, and get them back out again before you have to run out of the house in 45 minutes, take a walk instead and make cookies LATER.
2. Pay attention to the weather (both inside and outside). There are very few baking projects that will work well in the depths of hot, humid summer. (Turn off the oven and make ice cream!) Even a rainy day might take the crisp out of your pie crust. I’m not saying that you should only bake on cold, dry days, but if you have an unexpected result, know that the weather can be a factor. Similarly, the air inside your kitchen will have an effect on your product. Particularly if there’s yeast involved, factor in a longer rise time for a cold kitchen than a warm one.
3. Get to know your oven. Nearly every oven runs hot or cold. Buying an oven thermometer (and putting it the center, rear, upper part of the oven) is an essential first step, but there’s more to know. How quickly does your oven lose heat when you open the door? Are there hot spots that seem to cook the food faster? How quickly does it heat up? And is there a convection setting? (More on convection later in the series.)
4. Read the recipe through a few times, and the first time you make it, follow it exactly. Make sure you know what your getting into. Do you have all the ingredients? Is there an 8-hour chill time buried in the middle of the recipe? Get familiar with the whole process before you start.
5. Weigh your ingredients. These days, a good kitchen scale will set you back about 20 bucks, and it’s really worth it. A scale does two things that make baking easier. The first is that it reduces the dishes you produce. When I make granola, I put the bowl on my scale. I zero it out, and then I add each ingredient, zeroing it out after every addition. It simplifies the whole process, and I don’t even need measuring cups for that one. This only works if you have a recipe with weights, but many do. The second plus of a scale is that it helps you to know exactly how much of an ingredient you’re using. Measuring cups can be variable, and this way, you don’t have to think about how you’re measuring your flour, if you were supposed to sift it before you measured it, or anything like that. If the person who wrote the recipe weighed their ingredients, you know that you’re using the same quantities they did. This also gives you the freedom to work from recipes from other countries, which is a plus.
6. Pay attention to the descriptions and “doneness indications” in a recipe as opposed to the time. Should the cake be pulling away from the sides of the pan? Even if it takes 15 minutes longer than the recipe said it would, take it out of the oven only when it pulls away from the sides of the pan. Is the dough supposed to be smooth and elastic? It probably needs more kneading, even if you already kneaded for the specified 8 minutes. Is the batter crumbly when it’s supposed to hold together? I’d guess it needs a touch more liquid. Don’t be afraid to veer away from the recipe in service of getting the product to where the recipe says it should be.
7. If the recipe fails, repurpose the final product. Nearly everything is good mixed into ice cream. Throw the failed cake/cookie/bar in the freezer until you’re ready to churn it into ice cream for your next sundae night. If what you made tastes good, figure out how to use it.
8. Find the tools that work for you and make you happy. You know how I feel about tools! But I’ll admit something to you. I have two muffin pans in my kitchen. One is wonderful–it bakes evenly and the muffins come out easily. The other pan is a disaster. Everything sticks, it doesn’t bake well, and it’s impossible to clean. I usually bake in batches of 24, so every time I use them, I always tell myself I need to get rid of the bad one and just buy another of the good ones. (I’m going to do it!) The right tools make a huge difference, and it helps if you like the feel and look of them too.
9. When you bake, do it because you want to. Although we all need to get dinner on the table, we could probably make it through most of our lives without ever making a loaf of banana bread or a sheet of biscuits. So try, if you can, to bake when you know you can enjoy the feel of the dough, the smell coming out of the oven, the process of frosting cookies or a cake. If there’s a mixing bowl you love to use, an apron you love to wear–do it. Let the process be something for you.
That’s it for this piece of the puzzle, but there’s more to come. And now for that giveaway…
So–the tools. The tools make such a difference. Do your measuring spoons bend when you use them? Is your liquid measure too small for the recipes you love to make? Is your mixing bowl big enough, or does it overflow when you stir? We can solve this!
I asked the folks over at Mighty Nest if they might be willing to offer a something of a baking tools care package, and they were happy to do it. They have all sorts of goodies for a useful and sustainable kitchen and home over there, but we worked together to create a box of my favorites. This is what’s in there:
6-quart mixing stainless steel mixing bowl: just big enough, but not so big that there’s nowhere to put it. It’s heavy and good quality, so it won’t rust and it will last forever.
4-cup glass liquid measure: my favorite size–great for measuring a mixing at the same time (when you’re combining all the liquid ingredients in a recipe, do it in this cup)
Silicone spatula: As a college professor once told me, “the most useful tool in the world”. Scrape every bowl clean, and use it to make scrambled eggs, too. This one is very heatproof, and it has a great metal handle that doesn’t get gross like the wooden ones can.
Dry measuring cups: these are the Cadillac of measuring cups–sturdy, stainless steel, with good handles that won’t bend.
Measuring spoons: Again, these make such a difference. I used those cheap bendy measuring spoons for years, until my friend Janet gave me a set of these sturdy spoons. She told me she just couldn’t bear to see me use those sad bendy spoons any more, and that gift has changed my baking experience forever.
Spring whisk: Oh the air this whips into eggs! Easy to clean, too. This is that other whisk shape (pictured above next to the silicone spatula), and I’m rapidly becoming a convert.
Silk-screened dish towel: Okay, so this isn’t a necessity, but I asked if we could include it anyway, because a new dish towel is such a nice, simple luxury. This one is organic cotton, made by a husband and wife team in Oregon–the whole deal. And I love the birdcage.
Thanks so much to Mighty Nest for helping me out with this one (and for sending me my very own new dish towel, too). If you’ve never checked out there website- do! They’re offering a 10% discount to you all as well (with free shipping over 25 bucks)- just use the code GROUNDUP10 from now until Christmas day.
So let’s talk baking! It’s all free reign- techniques, memories, questions, what you’d like to see in future baking posts- all of it. I’ll choose a winner on Monday morning, and I’ll let you know then. (Update! The giveaway is extended until Tuesday at 8:00 am EST)
And of course, you’re not getting out of here without a recipe. This is a good one, part scone and part oatcake, and the smell from the oven? I’m not even sure I have the words. You let me know what you think.
Maple Syrup Scones
adapted from Rose Carrarini, Breakfast, Lunch, Tea: The Many Little Meals of Rose Bakery
Makes 12-14 scones
260 grams (1 3/4 cups) all-purpose flour, plus more for the counter
80 grams (1/2 cup) whole-wheat pastry flour
35 grams(1/2 cup) rolled oats
1 heaped tablespoon baking powder
1 heaped tablespoon granulated sugar
1/2 teaspoon salt
160 grams (scant 3/4 cup) cold, unsalted butter. cut into 1-inch pieces
5 tablespoons maple syrup
5 tablespoons buttermilk
1 egg, beaten
Maple sugar or turbinado sugar
1. Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.
2. Combine the flours, oats, baking powder, sugar, and salt in a large mixing bowl and whisk well to combine.
3. Add the butter to the flour mixture and use your hands to rub the butter into the flour until the whole mixture resembles coarse breadcrumbs. There can still be some larger pieces of butter in the mix.
4. In a small bowl or measuring cup, whisk together 4 tablespoons of the maple syrup with 4 tablespoons of the buttermilk. Make a well in the dry ingredients and pour the maple syrup mixture into it. Use a fork to incorporate the wet into the dry–then knead it a few times with your hands. If the dough doesn’t hold together, combine the final tablespoons of buttermilk and maple syrup, adding it to the dough a few drops at a time until the dough holds together. Knead a few more times, just until a soft, firm dough with just a little bit of crumble comes together. Be careful not to over-handle the dough.
5. On a lightly floured counter, pat the dough into a disk about 1 inch thick. Use a biscuit cutter or juice glass (about 2 inches in diameter) to cut rounds into the dough, placing them on the baking sheet about 1 inch apart. Gently press any scraps together on the counter and repeat. Use a pastry brush to brush the top of each scone with the beaten egg. Top with a sprinkle of the maple sugar or turbinado sugar. Bake for 15 to 18 minutes, or until the scones are just starting to brown.
Oh my gosh, what a great baking package! I’ve never used a spring whisk, it looks interesting. I do a lot of baking, but am always looking to expand my techniques and make things simpler (especially with a fourth baby on the way!)…
Fourth baby! Yes, let’s make things as simple as possible! I’m loving the spring whisk- it has a totally different way of bringing air into the liquid.
Kimberly Dickenson says
Your tips are spot on. I would also stress the importance of starting with a clean, organized kitchen and actually pulling out all the ingredients ahead of time instead of as you go, nothing worse than creaming the butter and sugar and then realizing you don’t have enough eggs. Doing the per-work is hard for me because I like to jump right in, but it makes the experience much more enjoyable to be organized
I totally agree with you Kimberly! Making sure you have all the ingredients ready does make the whole process easier! Too many times have I tried to rumage through my panty and open jars with sticky hands! Having enough cleared and clean space is essential too!
Whoops! Where am I going to knead this now?!! 😉
I totally agree. Although I’m usually guilty of doing the opposite! And that’s how I ended up running to the store in the middle of a cookie recipe.
Great article (and giveaway!).
If you’re new to gluten-free baking and want to make your favorite cookies, cakes, or quick-breads, you can relatively easily convert a gluten-y recipe by subbing flour by weight. All-purpose flour weighs approximately 140g per cup, so if you use a GF flour mix it’s easy. (Non-yeasted, non-pie crust recipes are actually easy to make GF since you don’t want the gluten to develop in those recipes anyway. And don’t worry about overmixing GF recipes–not gluten, no overmixing!)
I love to bake quick breads, scones and cookies. Cobblers and such are something I’m happy to whip up at the last minute. I’ll even bake a loaf of bread now and then. But when it comes to cakes I start to quake in my boots! I’m not sure why I find them so intimidating. Perhaps it’s not even the baking but the frosting that worries me. Or it could be that it seems to be a bigger investment, so to speak. Or maybe it’s because I don’t have a proper cake stand?? 🙂
It must be the cake stand 🙂 But seriously, I understand! I think it’s the delicacy of cake- it just feels fussy. I felt the same way until I made my first few cakes, and now I’m a bit addicted to it. Mind you- they’re not pretty! But I’ve got my own style.
Shannon S. says
I love to bake and the one thing I have never mastered is biscuits. I can make scones and Soda breads, but my biscuits are always a failure. My husband tested a recipe for me, it worked for him, but the first time I tried it they were hockey pucks (thank goodness my husband likes gravy on his biscuits) and the next week, following the exact same recipe, they were pourable.
I can’t even make biscuits from a mix without something going wrong. I’ve given up and my husband is now the official biscuit baker in our house.
I’d probably refer back to Alana’s tip about the texture description (n#6) and the role of weather in the results (n#2).
But since your
” … husband is now the official biscuit baker in our house.”
I wouldn’t fret over it too much! Team work!! That’s not so bad is it?!! 🙂
I agree- I’d say a biscuit making husband is a good thing! But I have to admit, the serious eats biscuit recipe has never failed me (just in case you want to give it one more shot). I have it here on the site right here: http://www.eatingfromthegroundup.com/2011/12/biscuits-and-gravy/
Shannon S. says
My husband is amazing, biscuits are only of his many talents.
I have never seen a recipe where the butter was grated instead of cutting it in, which sounds like a lot less work to me. I’ve bookmarked it and I think I’ll try it over the long weekend.
I’ve become a baker. I think it takes not only accepting failure, but planning for it. I learned the lesson years ago about sewing and knitting. The shirt may pull across the shoulders–but it would make a lovely gift. The sweater may pill like a crazy–but it would be great felted and cut up for mittens. Accepting the same in baking was harder won for me. Now I am fearless. If something doesn’t turn out the first time I try it again. (My family would laugh reading this. It took three tries, and some rock hard candy, before I got our delicious caramel recipe right.) The benefit? Once I get it right I own it! And that is a wonderful feeling.
Well put, Jennifer! I love the sewing and knitting comparison. I’m a baker who DOES NOT knit, so maybe that idea will get me through that wall.
I’ll opt out of the giveaway, because I recently bought myself a bunch of shiny new kitchen tools and I definitely don’t need more, but I wanted to comment, still.
I learned how to make baking powder biscuits and cornbread when I was a kid, and for years and years, that’s all I would ever bake. I loved to cook, but baking terrified me. After I got married I learned how to bake bread (many phone conversations with my mother!), and slowly worked my way up to where I am now, which is unafraid to tackle almost any baking project, given enough time to fiddle with it.
So I guess that would be my advice – take it slow, work hard on one or two recipes at first until you’ve mastered them, and then add others on one at a time until you feel confidence in your ability to try anything. Don’t try something crazy-elaborate your first time out. Cornbread is really hard to screw up; that’s a good place to start. Or granola. Most quickbreads and muffins are fairly simple and highly rewarding.
Above all, have fun! Stressing out about the baking always results in a failed product. Every time.
I agree with you Louise!
. Master one or two simple recipes. As you said quick breads and muffins are simple plus you can easily interchange ingrediants walnuts instead of pecans, blueberries instead of rasberries…
. Stress is usless, easier said then done but too true!!
I really liked this post of tips. Definitely great things to keep in mind. It’s funny that you mention the scale, because I was just thinking about whether or not I truly needed one last night when I was baking a test batch of cookies for an upcoming cookie exchange. Probably would’ve made my life easier, so maybe I’ll ask Santa for one!
I think the best tip (for me) in the post is to pay attention to the doneness indicators. I tend to get wrapped up in the time on the recipe and feel the need to pull it out at the exact moment that the timer goes off. I need to learn to be a bit more flexible and to really observe the final product.
I’m going to throw this out because it may help someone, although others may think it’s kind of crazy.
I went from NEVER NEVER BAKE EVER to being comfortable, at least, with muffins, biscuits, cornbread, scones, cinnamon rolls. (I still don’t do many cakes or pies, but we’re not dessert people.)
What did it for me? I bought a (used) bread machine, to make sandwich bread for the kids.
Once I got going so that I could make a loaf of good sandwich bread with four minutes’ work, and started experimenting with the other things it could do (like make the dough for cinnamon rolls overnight so I actually had time to finish them in the morning), I started to branch out. The bread machine is what got me interested in baked things. It was a sort of halfway house.
Handmade-all-the-way bread is definitely the best. But a bread machine bread is a step up from sliced bread from the store, with very little work. It pays for itself eventually and it may introduce you to more things, the way mine did.
I’m not a big fan of bread machines… I don’t care for the crust it produces. But it definetly is a step up from store bought products!!
I think this is a very good tip for those who don’t bake at all!!
You know, I’ve heard this a lot? I say, whatever works, and hooray for the bread machine.
What an amazing post and giveaway. My 12-yo daughter is going to love this posting. We try to cook together, but school tends to get in the way this time of year. She will love making the scones and that will be a lovely gift. I don’t like baking as much as she does, but with your lovely support maybe I’ll pull myself together. Thank you!
I love to bake! My favorite baking “find” has been splats…can’t bake without them! Would love to win your awesome give -away!
Ooh, what are splats?
Hi Alana, thanks for the post. I love to bake (well, I love to do just about anything involving me kitchen) because it just feels good to know how I’m nourishing my body. I like the feeling of connectedness to what I’m eating- and you don’t get that from a box of Oreos. I find it empowering to take simple things and turn them into delicious creations. My food is the kind that doesn’t usually look the prettiest, but it always tastes good and will always contain some redemptively healthy component.
Thanks for the tips- the one I agree with the most is to do it because you want to- the energy and happiness you put into your food comes out in the taste, I swear its true!
Might I add the nourishment of one’s soul?! 🙂
I think cooking for oneself and for others is an act of love. Nothing says I love you like a batch of cookies!
I personally love anything related to cooking, baking, food, etc. You name it and I’m willing to try it much to my dear husband’s chagrin. I always steered clear of baking until a few years back when I decided to give it a try.
I was taught to cook by a mother who refuses to measure anything. She is also a woman who makes the most amazing pumpkin pie you will ever taste. So I thought it fitting to try making her signature recipe. Little innocent me calls my sweet mother up to get instructions, and imagine my shock when she rattles off very precise measurements for everything. I thought I had hit the jackpot and it would be a simple enough recipe. It turned out okay at best, and when I called my mother to figure out where I went wrong her response was [imagine a laugh as sinister as possible from a woman who is 5’1”] “that’s because I actually don’t measure anything! You’re going to have to figure it out on your own!”
Mom 1: Anna 0
Hahahahahaha! What a wicked mom! You should stand next to her next time she makes the recipe and weigh each ingrediant before she puts it in!
oh, that’s some tough love, Anna. Tough love.
I love this post and look forward to the rest of the series. I especially agree with baking when you WANT to. I sometimes feel guilted into baking and it’s never nearly as enjoyable as when I have the time, the inclination, the supplies, and the calm spirit to do it with pleasure.
Hannah M. says
I’ve loved to bake since I was little and my dad let me mash the bananas for banana bread on a Sunday morning. Baking is sort of like delicious therapy-if I’m grumpy or burnt out on work or bored with routine, baking something, whether an old favorite or a new scone recipe (scones are something of an obsession of mine), baking always cheers me up. The best part, to me, is that the products are meant to be shared. I’ve never had any inclination to try any “single serving” baking recipes-a single pancake, one cupcake-because where’s the fun in that? Baking *batches* of things allows me to share the tastiness with my friends (and yes, I admit I like being praised for my skills 🙂 ) I, too, offer to bake for people’s birthdays whenever I get the chance, and it gives me a great deal of pleasure. I can’t say I like baking better than cooking, because in recent years I’ve discovered that cooking can be just as fun, but there’s something uniquely wonderful about warm bread or fresh cookies that cannot be duplicated.
Rebekah P. says
What a great post — thank you! Lately I feel like every single day I’m baking something. But we are now making as much as we can at home. Because of this I’ve been experimenting more — I’m not sure I ever make a recipe exactly as written anymore! Really looking forward to your post on substitutions to see some basics (instead of my latest technique of “hmmmm, I wonder if this will work…).
Same here!!! 😀
I’m still trying to develop my intuition in the kitchen. But I find baking bread to be quite meditative- it forces me to set time aside, slow down and be mindful. My kitchen is microscopic so keeping it tidy is a must. I try to measure everything out before I get started to keep the clutter down.
Jill in NH says
Some of my earliest kitchen memories are of watching my mother make pie crust. All by hand, with a pastry blender and almost no measuring devices. I loved to watch her graceful pretty hands work the dough. I loved the little knit cotton jacket her rolling pin wore. I loved the floury table top. Perfect, even, fluted gorgeous pie crusts. I tried for years to replicate, of course. She tried to teach me, a baker friend tried.
I made imperfect crusts; good but not beautiful. I grew up and married and made pies with my little daughter, and I realized that she thought that having a bowl of water to seal the edges of the torn and patched pie crusts was a real part of the process. Humbling.
I gradually got better, though, and then I realized I need to be gluten-free and the game changed again. I tried to make regular crust for the rest of the family but ended up covered in flour and feeling like I’d rolled in poison so I bought frozen pie crusts for a few years, and I made pat-in-the-pan GF crusts and was sort of happy.
Then this year I figured out how to make regular crust in the food processor without over mixing and making them tough (and without getting flour all over me). I also found a GF recipe that *rolled out*. I made pie after pie this Thanksgiving, while my littlest daughter watched (and of course rolled her own dough), and I told her about her Grandmother, who made perfect pies and who died when she was a baby. And the pies were good and beautiful and we were happy.
“I realized that she thought that having a bowl of water to seal the edges of the torn and patched pie crusts was a real part of the process. Humbling.”
I loved this!
This post was absolutely wonderful! As someone who loves to bake, I sometimes get frustrated when trying out a new recipe if it doesn’t work for me the first time. I need to remember to really read through a recipe a few times, and to not worry if it doesn’t come out perfectly the first time. Along those lines, I wonder if you have a great recipe for bread–I’ve tried Jim Lahey’s 5-minute recipe, and it seems good, but the bread dries up rather quickly and only tastes good for the first couple of hours out of the oven. Any suggestions as to what I might be doing wrong? And, thanks for the possibility of the giveaway–we lost a lot of kitchen tools as a result of the hurricane and it wound be great to replenish some of them. Thanks!
My friend Janet swears by Jim Lahey’s recipe (she’s got a comment further down the line here). I’ll check in with her to see if she has any thoughts on your texture issues. I know that people love the Artisan Bread in 5 minutes a day technique- have you tried that? Those are really the best two “shortcut” bread recipes I know. The wheat bread recipe (a la Peter Reinhart) in my book is great, and I must admit, I’m a bit lost in the enchanting lands of sourdough these days. Let me know what kind of bread you’re hoping for, and we’ll find you a good recipe.
I love to bake, though my repertoire is pretty limited… But I do regularly make whole wheat sandwich bread and less regularly make Irish soda bread, blueberry muffins, banana bread and oatmeal coockies. I wish I did scones or biscuits… Thanks for the giveaway!
What a great post! Even though I love to bake, it reminds me to have patience when I try out a new recipe, because sometimes I don’t read it through well-enough beforehand and then get upset if it doesn’t turn out perfectly. Any good recipes for bread? I have tried Jim Lahey’s 5-minute bread recipe, but for some reason the bread quickly hardens and will only taste good for a couple of hours after it’s out of the oven. And, thanks for the possibility of a giveaway–we lost many kitchen items in the hurricane, and it would be great to replenish some of them!
Since you mentioned it, I am interested in learning how to cook in a convection oven. I replaced my old crusty oven this summer with a double convection. But I’ve only used it a few times. I can’t seem to get the hang of it. I know they are supposed to cook quicker, but all the times I’ve used it my dishes took almost twice as long. A chicken took almost 2 hours to cook, and I had to bake 10 minute cookies for almost a half hour. It bordered on ridiculous.
That is very, very strange indeed!
Baking – I love baking! I grew up baking cookies with my mom all year long, but Christmas-time was the most fun because the cookie cutters would come out and all of the decorating stuff. Cutout sugar cookies, gingerbread boys (and girls!), shortbread, spritz… once I got to be around 10 I got to make cookies on my own and explored the Betty Crocker Cooky Book. As an adult I’ve been baking a lot – bread, cakes, cookies, scones, biscuits. Some things have failed, but most have not and it’s so much fun.
This is a great collection of tools. I have some of these, but not all and certainly not in the same versions, and would love to get this. If there’s something that truly duplicates an item I already have I have a certain someone in mind to share this with!
Christmas baking does have a certain irreplicable feel to it!
A great post, and a very generous giveaway. The scones look amazing – we may be adding those to our Christmas morning brunch this year!
If time is short, guaranteed i’ll forget an ingredient or misread an instruction or (also key!) not realize i was supposed to let it sit for 2 hours…. oops!
I love baking but have had many a flop…. including a carrot cake that wasn’t baked through in the middle (we cut around it and enjoyed!), a layered cake that i tripled and didn’t cut the layers to fit and it looked like a towering monstrosity (still delicious!)
But with each thing you bake, you learn a little something that helps the next time around. And as long as you’re enjoying the process, it doesn’t matter what it looks like, it’s always worth it!
Baking! My Uncle got really into baking bread and is taking a hiatus and sent me home with a 25 lb. bag of bread flour and a 2 lb. package of yeast from my last visit with him… He says making bread is very therapeutic. Is he trying to tell me something? 🙂
I believe your uncle is right.
Kneading is therapeutic!
That’s one of the reason I never use my bread machine it takes the fun out of it!
Ha! I think we can all benefit from a bit of bread kneading- I know I do.
Those scones look absolutely delicious. I’ve discovered that for myself that breakfast cereal makes a much better midnight snack than it does breakfast, so most mornings I make scones, french toast, pancakes, oatmeal, or some other such thing for my family. It helps that I work from home, and so have the luxury of a few extra minutes each day to do this, but when I don’t, I throw together something the night before and bake it while I’m getting ready. A much lovelier way to begin the day… 🙂
i love baking!
i love that in many recipes you can improvise / wing it or follow the recipe exactly and usually you will end up with something tasty
i love that many baking recipes are so open to substitutions and experimentation
i love baking with kids
i love the way my house smells when something is baking in the oven
happy birthday, alana!
love to you and yours
What a lovely post and conversation! Hm…I don’t know if I really LOVE baking, but I did it a lot in high school and university and early in marriage just because my friends and I loved to eat the baked goods. I took to it naturally because I had always helped my mother bake and she taught me most of what I knew then.
Baking for me is more a part of eating. I love to eat, so I bake what I enjoy eating. It’s also very satisfying to make something like cinnamon buns, and see how impressed people are with something so simple.
Tip: sometimes the recipe (or the weather, or your oven) is the issue. Get your recipes from a dependable source!
Michael Schneider says
Well, you almost said my tip, but I’m going to say it explicitly: Don’t be chintzy about your equipment. You might think ‘a pan is just a pan’ and be tempted to buy a really cheap one, but a solid, heavy sheet pan won’t be bend-y and will conduct heat better, and therefore will be easier to work with and produce better results. And the same is true pretty much across the board (as you noted about cheap measuring spoons).
And, since I mentioned measuring spoons… Odd-size measuring cups and spoons make life much easier, so get yourself 2/3, 3/4 and 1-1/2 cup measuring cups and 1-1/2 and 2 teaspoon measuring spoons. (King Arthur Flour even has a 2-1/4 teaspoon measure, so you can buy bulk yeast but easily measure out one standard packet’s worth.)
Ahh, this is true but it can sometimes be expensive! I think good quality cookingwear is the most important as it really influences the end result! For the rest leave hints for Santa!
I’ve been baking with my mom since childhood. She was patient enough to allow me free range in the kitchen for all of my baking projects, from perfecting a low-fat cookie (a complete failure) to whipping up sprinkled chocolate chip cookie cakes for any occasion in high school. Now I bake all the time–or would. My husband and I had to put a ban on baking sweets during the week unless we have someone to share them with. One helpful tip for morning baking is to prepare as much as possible the night before. Then, the morning only require a final mix and popping the scones or molasses cake or other breakfast treat into the oven.
“One helpful tip for morning baking is to prepare as much as possible the night before.”
That works if you’re a night person!! I’m like a chicken I go to sleep when the lights go out!! 😀 If I try doing too much at night I’m bound to make mistakes… But it is true that prep work is important!
Oh, I agree. And somehow I sleep better knowing that I have a sweet breakfast in the works, too.
Interesting. I am still firmly in the use measuring cups and bake by feel rather than weigh camp. And I bake quite a lot (well, less so recently since I am on experimental doctor induced diet that cuts out dairy, eggs, and wheat and spelt) starting from yeast breads and sourdough and ending with cakes and quickbreads. The only thing I don’t bake is cookies because I don’t like eating them, I prefer scones and such 🙂
I grew up watching my mother bake using practically no measuring things, in fact for years we didn’t even have anything to measure with. So it seems fine to use a regular spoon for baking powder and sugar. Spoon in flour without sifting it first. And, I confess. I always use salted butter. I do stick with a brand I know though, so I know exactly how salty it is. I don’t have many baking fails, I think baking by feel and touch can work just as well as precise baking.
I guess I am a baking rebel 🙂
I say, whatever works! It sounds like your methods work perfectly. (And I too, am guilty of the salted butter addition now and then…)
I would stress the importance of reading the recipe through, and even setting out ingredients, sometimes I forget to add the sugar! I do love to bake, and I do love to eat baked goods. Thanks for the giveaway!
This package sounds amazing! I have really gotten into baking these past months. I use to enjoy cooking much more, but for some reason I’ve started daydreaming about cookies, scones, and muffins. I could really use some new measuring cups as the handles have broken off all of mine. By far the best tool I have found is my Slipat. I use it more for rolling out dough so it doesn’t stick to the table, rather than lining my pan. This has saved my pie crust quite a few times! I can’t wait to try these scones. I could eat Maple Syrup with a spoon (and have), I love it that much! 🙂
JoAnn C. says
For me it’s two things: limiting distractions and laughing at my mistakes. When I get side tracked I forget to put ingredients into the mixing bowl even though I have everything lined up and ready for action. This morning while I was putting together a pumpkin bread I needed to stop and help mom. This afternoon when I cut into the bread and took a bite, I realized I had forgotten to put in the sugar. ; ) We’re having pumpkin bread french toast for dinner tonight! Yum!
Hahahahaha! This has happened to me more then once!
I’m terrible at this- if I get interrupted while I’m putting together a recipe, I ALWAYS leave something out. I’ve taken to marking in the book where I’ve left off, and that helps a bit.
I bake when stressed, when tired, when thrilled – late at night on weekdays and early in the morning on weekends. It’s been a source of solace since I first picked up “Baking with Julia” in college. More often now, I bake to give away – it’s the act, not the product. I bake gluten-free by weight; baking by weight freed me from “GF” only recipes to be able to browse any recipe and think, yes, I can make that. Even when I don’t have time to bake, reading a baking book or a blog like this is a relaxing treat. Thanks for your thoughts on the matter!
“Even when I don’t have time to bake, reading a baking book or a blog like this is a relaxing treat. ”
Isn’t that true!!
You’re so right about not trying to bake in a time crunch! I love making bread because it’s needs are pretty simple, and flexible. I love to bake all sorts of things, but have taken a bit of a hiatus the past few years. Now that I’ve determined to make more time for the things that are important to me, I’ve found the time and desire to bake/cook/putter in the kitchen again. Made two loaves of bread yesterday, put up four quarts of pickles this morning, and plan to start a batch of your granola in just a bit here. If I’m rushed, I’ll likely mis-measure something or forget an ingredient all together. I’d rather not make something than attempt it and have it turn out awful, especially if it’s bad because I was in a hurry. Your cookbook has really inspired me to make some things I might not have tried before. Thanks!
Oh, thank you April!
My kitchen utensils are so worn out. This would be great!
What a great post! What great tips! What great comments! And what a generous giveaway! Wow! Only one of those items would already be really nice! But I’ve already got most of those tools so you can count me out? anyway I never win since I live in Europe…grumble grumble grumble.
I don’t know how nor exactly when but I’ve become a baker!
I don’t even have much of a sweet tooth!
But baking brings out my creativity. I’m always experimenting and lucky I’ve had very few real failures!
Trial and trust that is how one becomes a good baker in my eyes.
For me the best tip you gave was when you bake, only bake. If I’m doing several things at once I’m bound to fail…burn something.
I’m really looking forward to the next posts!
And to the conversations they will generate! Sorry if I, um… , over responded today! ;D
I love your responses! Makes me feel like we’re all in a room chatting about this…
I love to bake! The package you have put together sounds lovely.
Great tips and posts!
Over the last few years, I’ve come to really enjoy baking. When I was a kid, I used to leave the baking to my mother and sister. I couldn’t even bake the packaged brownie mix without screwing it up! Once I left college and was truly on my own, I discovered that I really enjoyed cooking and was pretty good at it. At that point I decided to give baking a try again, starting with a simple bread recipe. I was very pleased with the results. Eventually I found Alana’s book, and it was truly an inspiration, with the white bread recipe being my favorite. Now, I refuse to buy store-bought breads and most other baked goods because I enjoy making them myself! I would love to win this care package because, being on a really tight budget, I don’t have good quality tools at home.
Oh, Sharon- thank you! This means so much to me.
little did I know what magic was in those spoons! no giveaway entry for me–I got my prize.
oh, and as for baking advice–start with something simple if you are new to baking, and cannot agree more that having ample, unpressured time to produce it (and enjoy the process) is key. Jim Lahey’s bread, though it does not offer you much in the way of kneading, is a huge boost up the self-satisfaction ladder, which is essential to staying in the game (not so enticing to keep baking if you are making doorstops with your time and ingredients). We LOVE the spring whisk here–youngest child always gets to “bounce” the eggs.
I would live to win this package! My daughter was diagnosed with food allergies so I am determined to start baking so she can enjoy “‘normal” food like everyone else! Thanks for the opportunity.
I love to bake, and I love to share the baking with my kids. We bake bread every couple of days. My daughter recently told me that she thinks when she is grown up one thing she will remember most about our home is the way it always smelled like a bakery. 🙂 She hopes her home smells the same!
I am a pretty good cook and can bake up a mean cake or cookies. However, I cannot make a pie crust to save my life. I try every “absolutely cannot fail” pie crust recipe I read, but to no avail. Mine are hard and don’t roll out well and taste awful. Any hints would be appreciated. Or maybe for this one item, I should just buy premade…I make our bread and we don’t eat pie taht often, so perhaps I should not make myself crazy.
So Lindsey, I have to ask- have you tried the pie crust in my book? (It’s pretty similar to the “pie crust in the kitchen aid” here on the site). If you have a stand mixer and you haven’t tried it, this might just do it. It changed things around here for me, and I’ve heard the same from lots of people. The kitchen aid technique comes from Shirley Corriher, and somehow, it’s just magic. If you have tried and it didn’t work out- let me know- we’ll figure it out! (Also, there’s no crime in premade pie crust- but if you WANT to make it, the right recipe is out there for you.)
I spend a good portion of every day thinking about what I’d like to bake…it’s definitely an obsession. I just wish I had more time (working mom) and more people to eat the results! I love baking early in the morning before everyone gets up, with a mug of hot coffee and NPR as my companions.
Another tip I would add to your very good list is that it helps if you break up the process over a few days if you are making something with a lot of steps. If I’m doing a cake or cupcakes, for instance, I’ll make the frosting on one day, then bake the cakes the next and on the third day I’ll assemble whole thing. It means you’re not rushing your way through it all in one session. Sometimes I will just whisk up the dry ingredients the day before – even that seems to help get it done more easily.
I’d love to win the package!
My grandma’s family ran the bakery in town, so baking is genetically coded in me. Cooking is a necessity, but baking….oh, baking is freedom, joy, happiness! It’ my go-to for stressful days, anxiety, happiness., Tuesdays, whatever.
I love this post! Scones look delicious … And all the wonderful comments! I make bread most days, and I’ve gotten comfortable with pie crusts. But I feel a little weepy staring down the huge expectations of holiday cookie season – and the muffin/scone/breakfasty arena is so not mine (we eat a lot of toast for breakfast from homemade bread! But my four year old actually saw a ‘real’ muffin the other day at the coffee shop and said “What’s that?” – ) … and quick breads like banana or zucchini come mostly from my husband. I would love to hear people’s holiday cookie baking strategies … Since I tend to bake for day-of consumption, I get extraordinarily anxious trying to plan the mass gifting of treats to neighbors!
My only tips have already been shared – a clean kitchen, ingredients out, and lots of deep breaths as you go along.
Hannah- I have to admit- I’m behind on my holiday baking! I’m usually so good at it- but I guess… as usual, all this talking about baking gets in the way of baking itself now and then. But I’d say, choose just a few easy projects (mine- tomorrow! chocolate bark and rugelach). I think when we get over ambitious, it’s so much easier not to get to it.
You did it, you made me read out of order. The title of this reached out and grabbed me. (Tomorrow though, I’m back to the archives.)
What an amazing give-away! And yes, I’m still trying to learn (after all these years). Thank you for the tips and the recipe.
I may have an issue with the weather part though…… maybe that’s what went wrong with my crackers.
Oregon: wet & rainy, always.
Ha! This post was for you, so I’m glad you skipped to it! Thanks for the inspiration…
I love all the tips. I haven’t been cooking/baking/making messes in the kitchen for very long but I have discovered I love every minute.
Baking bread confounds me every time. I would love to blame the altitude, we live at 8200 feet, but it is truly my lack concentration when it comes to following a recipe. I make the best hockey pucks ever.
Tonight I am making appetizers for a party tomorrow and I have decided a failure rate of 50% is acceptable and that took the stress out of it. I made Whoopie pies (perfect) and breadsticks (epic fail), ginger snap Bon bons (tasty) and goat cheese puffs (ball of lead), spinach dip (creamy deliciousness) and tortillas (aka frisbees)…and so on.
Sigh, at least it’s fun and I can always run to the market if I have too.
michelle p. from wa says
You write with such a freshness and honesty. It is refreshing and contageous! I love the feel of dough in my hands and the smell of “real” pouring out of the oven to greet you when you walk into the room or house for that matter. I love blessing my family with treasures from my hands and my imagination!
“the smell of real”- I love that!
I’m feeling a bit sad because I just had to throw out my sourdough starter – a combination of neglect and hot weather resulted in the most hideously pungent mould (actually, that should probably be ‘moulds’ plural). Poor thing – I feel like such a bad culture parent!
It happens to us all. I wish you weren’t SO far away. I have tons of starter!
Marvelous tips – one of the hardest for me, back at the beginning, was allowing enough time. Then, when my daughter started baking, she did the same thing – start too late, still be up at midnight, trying to finish…
I don’t keep maple sugar around – do you suppose you could make it the way you make brown sugar – with syrup and white sugar?
The maple sugar is just for a finishing texture, so I’d just use the coarsest sugar you have. Normal granulated sugar will do the trick, too.
Theresa Murphy says
Baking was always an event when I was younger. It was something to do at grandma’s house when I visited. I would get all excited about “what are we going to bake?” Most of the time it was cookies and not all of them turned out perfectly, but it was so much fun and a great way to spend quality time with my grandmother. I think those experiences have led me to BE a baker and want to bake as often as I can so I can relive those memories again and create new memories with my daughters, and hopefully get them interested in being bakers, too.
My wife and I are both bakers, each with our specialties: she does cakes, cookies, and scones; I do pies, muffins, and breads. I have plans to experiment with new things over the winter (english muffins are at the top of my list), and we need to tweak our scone recipe (the last couple times we made them, they were a complete flop!).
Baking is tricky in an apartment kitchen with a less-than-ideal oven, but the rewards are so great, and honestly if you don’t like the smell of fresh yeasty bread dough, I’m not sure you’ve got a pulse.
The most important thing about baking – read the recipe, completely, first!
I really like Nigella Lawson’s recipe for scones in “How to be a domestic Goddess” I think she callsthem Lily’s scones. Light and fluffy, tender and moist, pretty close to perfect! You should check them out!
I am trying to become a “cook”. In my house it has always been my husband that does all the cooking. But last month I ran across your cookbook at the local library (must I add that this was the first cookbook I have ever read cover to cover, like it was a great fiction novel, and I swear I could smell your kitchen while reading). So thanks to you my favorite thing to cook right now is pizza. Your pizza dough recipe is great and you should have seen the dance I did in my kitchen when that dough magically formed into a ball with the additional of the last few tablespoons of liquid! Thank you for the inspiration!
Christy, I love your post! I noticed it and just had to comment. I have been equally inspired and empowered by Alana’s writing this year – AND, I agree about reading the cookbook cover-to-cover! There’s a special bond that comes with cooking with other people, and you can feel it through the pages of the book, right?
Yay for your pizza dough. I think I will try that next! I just bought yeast for the first time, form a local farm.
Oh, thank you- both of you!
We should start a cover to cover club…
Cleora Marello says
Good day to you guys ! I`ve recently worked on a story, I may even call it a research about pretty related issue . There is not much clear information on that, but I`ve managed to find a little bit over there .
If I were to bake as much as I want, I would have a family that wouldn’t fit through the door 🙂 I try to keep my recipes on the healthy side but I sure do love butter and sugar and chocolate and cinnamon! Thanks for the recipe, I might make it this weekend!
Jenispice Simmons says
I LOVE your blog! You are a fantastic writer! I have asked for your book for Xmas (or for my birthday, which is next week) and I’m really looking forward to receiving it and reading through all of the recipes! I have a question: I do not eat dairy or eggs. I can substitute out in recipes fairly well, but I’m wondering if you would ever consider a “vegan” baking challenge sometime, to see if you can develop some baked goods without eggs or dairy? Just curious, as I really love the ideas you come up with and the recipes you post.
Thanks for your time!!!
Oh, I hope the book gets to you! And as for your challenge, I must admit- although I have quite a few egg-free recipes (due to my daughter being egg-free for many years), I’m a butter lover! But I’ll work on it, and I’ll try to talk about this some in my future substitutions post, too.
I love, love, love to bake. It grounds me, it’s like breathing. And I am more than happy to bake up a little something for anybody that needs a little pick me up. Thanks, Alana, for mentioning reading the recipe all the way through. I’ve been burned more than once for not having enough time for everything to chill. repurposing is always good. I find that my recipes don’t always look exactly like the one in the book, but they taste scrumptious. Wishing you a happy holiday, with time to enjoy the girls and a quiet moment or two in the kitchen.
Beth, you can bake me a ‘pick-me-up’ any time you want! 🙂
How nice that you enjoy it so much.
Thank you, Beth!
Kate @ Snowflake Kitchen says
I am pretty savvy in the kitchen, except for baking. Finally got a (long overdue) kitchen scale – excited to experiment in the New Year.
So, I baked the other night! Actually, it was more like the other morning… it kept me up until 3 am. It probably was not the best decision in terms of staying healthy and coherent for the rest of the week, BUT, I did master White Christmas Pie for the first time, AND I learned something. I learned that egg whites form stiff peaks much better when whipped without sugar.
I am glad for this conversation, because, although I will cook just about anything, I am a bit intimidated by baking. I LOVE your idea of simplifying the process with a scale. The Europeans really do it right, don’t they?
I also learned that it is fun to share family traditions with new friends, that it is okay to buy a dessert for a party once in a while (to avoid the 3 am thing), and, that nothing will replace my Grandmother’s White Christmas Pie.
White Christmas pie? A new dessert to me! What is is?
Yes! What is a white christmas pie?!!!
I totally agree with your idea of sharing family traditions. Our friends love it when we host Thanksgivings, since here in France there is no such holliday.
I am trying to recapture my love of baking. Somewhere along the way, I allowed things to get complicated and the joy was lost. So I’m going back to the basics. The perfect chocolate chip cookie…fluffy buttermilk biscuits…a simple lemon poundcake…the first things that I mastered!
Samantha, I feel like I’ve gone through this cycle a few times. I think it always comes back when it’s the right time.
Baking is my comfort zone. It helps dispel stress and calm an anxious mood. I love the precision and the process of creating something out of nothing.
So, I have more of a question as to “following what the recipe says it should look like” as opposed to the timing…how do you tell if batter that is brown to begin with is “golden brown or browned” as so many recipes say?? (Gingersnaps would be an example…)
And, for me, baking anything with yeast is intimidating…I’m sure partly because of our altitude (5,280 ft.)
You bring up a good point here, Susan. Sometimes it’s just hard to know exactly what the writer of the recipe means. I think some of the responsibility here is on writer of the recipe (as coming up with really good ways of describing a recipe or what it should look like when it’s done is definitely a skill that some are better at than others). And as someone who writes recipes, I try whenever I can to include more than one “doneness” indicator. Take the gingersnap example.I think in that case (and I’m just imagining as I don’t have the cookies in front of me), I’d guess the cookies are done when either they’re brown around the edges or the whole cookie is a shade darker than when it was raw. But my hope would be that there would be two indicators in the recipe, both a color, and perhaps a feel, for example “hard to the touch”. Sometime there are even descriptions of smells in recipes to tell when something is done. If there are two doneness indicators PLUS a baking time, then hopefully all those clues come together.
And yes- yeast! We’re going to talk about that one next time– I promise. (Altitude too, although I’m no master at that one!)
Alana, somehow I bought your book before discovering your blog! I feel as though I’m now getting to know you in an even more personal way through the blog. I love your photos, tips and the gentle way you inspire others to get into the kitchen and make their own food. I only just discovered that you live in Great Barrington – a place I was so lucky to visit this summer! I can’t wait to return, and I hope we can meet one day when I do.
As for baking, it has always been a bit of an escape for me. There is something magical about the way that simple ingredients are transformed in the mixing bowl and in the oven. I’ve been known to stand and stare through my oven window, watching a batch of muffins rise up like 12 lofty peaks! Your tips are all wonderful and will no doubt help to dissipate the fear that keeps many people from this simple joy. Thank you so much for all that you do!
Oh, I’m glad you found me here! And yes, when you come back to GB, let me know!
This was such a great, informative post…no matter how much you bake there is always a new tip to learn! I love to bake..cookies, pies, cakes…anything! I will say that just about everything I make tastes good, but is not display worthy, especially pie crusts. Rolling out dough and transferring it to the pie plate is something I just have not mastered. Maybe someday!
Make sure to nicely flour the surface you roll your dough out on, don’t worry about putting too much flour you can brush it off. Remember to rotate your dough as you roll it out. To transfer the rolled out dough roll it on to your rolling pin (this is when you brush off the excess flour) and the unroll it on top of your pie pan, tada!
To all these wonderful tips, I would add: Don’t cook with flour that smells musty.
My beloved husband put an “extra” bag of King Arthur Unbleached Flour in our slightly damp basement, on the shelves where I generally keep extra canned goods. I went to make cornbread recently and found the flour jar scraped dry… so down to the basement I went. I *knew* the flour smelled bad, but tried to convince myself it was ok, and went ahead and baked with it anyway. You can imagine how that turned out.
Like many things, it was an experiment in (not) trusting my instincts. While facts and measures are incredibly important in baking – more so than in much other cooking – there is definitely still a role your gut can play.
Well said, Michaela. Sometimes you just know, and it’s ALWAYS good to listen to yourself.
My grandma was a wonderful baker. We always had tasty treats for dessert when we went to her house for dinner. Unfortunately, I was only a chocolate lover as a child so I passed up many a fruit pie, carrot cake, etc but was often rewarded with my own chocolate delights such as a chocolate bar covered birthday cake or chocolate pie! Now that I have a 2 1/2 year old and I live far away from my parents I am finding I have a longing to bake and start creating these memories for my son. If only I had my Grandma’s willpower and didn’t try to eat 1/2 of those cookies in 1 sitting!
Am new to your website and am really enjoying it. Nice work Alana!
Thank you, and welcome!
Katy Davis says
I don’t need to be included in the drawing for the giveaway, as I already have more kitchen utensils than I have cupboard space! However, I wanted to ask for plenty of info about convection ovens, please! My oven has a button that says “Convection”, but I have no idea what adjustments to make.
I recently realized that one of the reasons I’m good at baking is not because my mom “taught” me, but because I spent so much time observing her in the kitchen. So I’ve always known how to cut butter into biscuit dough, how a loaf of bread sounds when it’s done, how to crimp a pie crust, etc. A lot of people haven’t had that experience, and recipes can be very confusing. So if you feel at sea in the baking world, try visiting a friend’s kitchen or even watching a cooking show, just to get some ideas of how things are supposed to look and feel.
I always gather all my ingredients, measuring implements and a small clean plate before starting, putting away the ingredients as I use them and use the plate for the dirty utensils so cleanup is much easier.
“…putting away the ingredients as I use them”
Oh! I do that too! 🙂
The tip that I have is to use your hands when baking whenever possible. This to me falls under the “do it because you want to” headline. I have a dough hook with my standing mixer, but I love using my hands to knead the dough. It makes me think of all the bakers that have gone before me, kneading the dough just like I am to create bread for their family. It gives me a true feeling of “I made this!!” in a way using my dough hook never could.
I would add that using your hands really allows you to feel the dough, to know if it’s the right texture or not.
Good point, I didn’t think of that! It’s funny, because my Mom bakes but never made bread. I was making bread the other day and “explaining” what I was doing to my toddler. My Mom interrupted and asked why I was adding more flour. I answered, “Because it doesn’t feel right!”
I’m still trying to master biscuits and pie crust above sea level. Tricky!
So, after reading your book and being in the book club I’ve gotten back into baking bread but I really need to start keeping homemade pie crust in the freezer.
So, after reading your book and being in the book club I’ve gotten back into baking bread but I really need to start keeping homemade pie crust in the freezer.
I used to be one who “swore she hated baking” until I signed up to write a cookbook and figured I better learn to wrap my ahead around the whole idea. I always thought it had to be so precise that there could be no creativity involved. I read Ruhlman’s Ratio and truly believe that’s what convinced me I could bake, and still have ownership of the process. He talks about perfecting the ratio in general, and then you have allowances outside of that. I enjoy it now, and sometimes I fail, but most of the time it’s at least edible. Love the series idea 🙂
Great tips!!! As I bake more and more, I’m realizing I really should invest in a scale! :o)
Amy J. says
First of all, what a wonderful post and giveaway! I grew up baking, albeit nothing too complicated, so It has never really intimidated me. With that said, I’ve found the key is to read, then re-read the recipe thoroughly and get all of the ingredients out before starting. Thanks for the tips on the weather and the kitchen scale. Happy Holidays!
I taught myself how to bake when I was a kid and have made tons of mistakes! And I did repurpose my mistakes if they tasted good– so I wholeheartedly agree with you. I don’t know why some people give up and declare they are not bakers– why not just try again, rereading the recipe perhaps a bit more carefully? My tip is to write a recipe out (from a book or blog) so that I’m sure of what I need ahead of time. Nothing’s worse than a surprise (Oh, no! But I don’t have any buttermilk!) when you’re following a recipe for the first time. Though that’s not MY tip, not really. I read it in my first cookbook– a Disney cookbook! Ha!
I love to bake! Regulars are biscuits and corn bread (southern style). But i love to whip up veggie breads with the excess garden goodness in the summer, make mountains of giant cookies, and I will bake a pie for anyone for any reason! I learned to bake from my neighbor who lived across the street when I was growing up. She ran a bee farm with her husband. Me and my big sister would spend our afternoons at her home making pans of brownies and other wonderful sweets.
Kathy P says
I love baking. I have wonderful memories of “helping” my grandmother bake when I was a kid. I’m sure I was nothing but a hindrance in her kitchen, but she had the patience to let me help or would just give me a chunk of dough and let me do my own thing.
I’ve developed food allergies to dairy, eggs, and gluten which now make baking a real challenge. I baked a LOT of doorstops and hockey pucks when I was starting out on this journey trying to just substitute ingredients and using the same techniques I learned for wheat based baking. Having the right tools and understanding the science behind baking has been invaluable to me. I measure all my flours by weight and just keep a chart w/ cup to gram weights for recipes that don’t have weights listed.
The point above about having enough time is one I often struggled w/….til I realized that trying to rush baking is sure fired way to wind up w/ a disaster! Many doughs will actually benefit from a short chill, so I’ve used that to my advantage. I’ll mix up the shortbread or other dough when I have a chunk of time in the morning. Then I can pull it out and bake it after I’ve done all the school pick up runs.
After reading this I am pretty sure that even I can bake!! Thanks a lot, will follow the instructions and let you know!
I am obsessed with oat cakes right now. Your scones look wonderful and I will try them. Thank you!
Reading the recipe all the way through and having the ingredients at the ready are two tips I learned the hard way, multiple times. Finally stuck!
I have just recently come to baking & recently checked my oven temp after several just a “little too done” baked goods. It’s 25 degrees higher! Once I figured that out, the last few baked goods were just right.
Thanks for the wonderful giveaway!
Shirlene Kohnlein says
I love to bake but on many things don’t measure. I learner to bake bread watching my mother and she never measured either. It was just “this much”. As I cook now with my daughter, she has checked my “this much” to measuring spoons and cups. I’ve been spot on! Now she measures the same way!
Always been a baker, but I stopped for a while because I didn’t want a ton of sweets in the house. My husband and I have just had our first child and we’ve been convicted to make good on the sustainable living talk we’ve always done. I am loving more and more making our own stuff- asked for your cookbook for Christmas. I’m trying hard to find baking that is good for us and I know the value of good tools. This would be amazing.
I come from a long line of bakers, not professional or anything, just women serious about their sweets. As in, in our family cookbooks, the main dishes look like an afterthought compared to the desert chapter. I appreciate your tips because I’m not quite as advanced as the rest of the women in the family, but I’m putting forth an effort! I hope I win the giveaway to help me continue on…
On a sidenote, your book was one of a few I purchased for myself as a gift to me after delivering baby #3. We all would lay in bed alternating between gushing and loving up our new baby and choosing what we were going to make from your book once Mom was on her feet! It instantly became a family classic. Your granola bars are cooling in the fridge now, and we are diving into the caramels tomorrow. Wish us luck and thank you forever for your beautiful cookbook and the sweet memories it evokes. Happy Holidays!
Oh, thank you Shannon, and congrats on baby# 3! Happy holidays to you…
Love this! Currently in the midst of going back and reading your archives (I’m somewhere in fall ’09) and glad I took the detour back to today.
I laughed out loud at the first point you make – my mother in law ALWAYS tells me to bake one recipe at a time, and not to rush. And usually, when I call her with a panicked question, it’s because I decided to do 8 things at once and she knows it right away. So funny and it’s so true that things work out better with a little bit of extra time!
Yes, Krystina- this is number 1 for me, and as much as I know it, I still do too many things at once! Always learning…
Know your oven … know your oven … know your oven! So important! Great list here on the basic reminders to get folks going.
I love baking! It’s scary for me everytime I do it because it always becomes a chemistry lesson. I’m seasoned enough that my baked goods turn out fabulous more often than not (knock on wood) but even now I still hold my breath a little until the final result. Maybe that is why I love it so much- it’s thrilling! Some people go cliff jumping or snow boarding; I bake, and all the aromas and flavors are memory makers.
I just stumbled upon your blog on amazon. Next book I get to buy is goin to be yours and I am so excited!!! I already love your blog and cannot wait to read more. I would like to learn more about weighing ingredients. Merriest of Christmasses and happiest of New Years to you and yours!
Oh, welcome, Ashley! I’ll definitely cover weight in one of my future posts- a scale is such a great tool. And I hope you like the book- let me know what you make!
I’m late to this post, having just found your blog (and ordered your book!) but wanted to say that I love those silk screened dish towels from “ohlittlerabbit” that are sold by Mighty Nest. You can also find them on etsy.com. I ordered one for myself and one for a gift and it is the softest, most absorbent dish towel I own. Now I wish I had about 10 of them, but can’t afford that, LOL!
Hello, and welcome! I LOVE that towel, too–Mighty Nest sent me one when I did the giveaway, and you’re right, it’s so wonderfully soft. It’s also a great size, a bit bigger than most.
“how to bake (with a recipe and gifts for you): part 1 | Eating From
the Ground Up” was in fact a remarkable blog. If solely there were far more blogs such as this particular one in the world wide web.
Anyway, many thanks for your time, Karolin