Saturday, July 25, 2009

Random Tips Everyone Should Know

I have decided to begin compiling a list of tips that I use regularly in my kitchen but forget to mention in specific recipes. If you have tips of your own feel free to comment. And know that this list will most likely continue to expand.
  1. Brown sugar, unless other specified, should always be packed in the measuring cup.
  2. Baking times may vary based on your oven. Mine, for instance, is old and crappy, and I have learned to manage it's overheating by lowering the temperature 15 degrees and lowering the baking time in addition (for example, a recipe instructing "375 degrees for 9-11 minutes" would be translated to "350 degrees for 7 minutes").
  3. Practice makes perfect. In the last year alone, my baking skills have improved exponentially and I now have a greater sense of "Baker's Intuition"--the name I have given to my ability to walk into the kitchen to take out a certain dish within seconds of the timer going off. This is a combination of experience and letting my nose speak. The nose knows.
  4. Don't overbake your cookies. I think most people tend to bake their cookies for 2 to 3 minutes too long. This may not seem like alot and the cookies might look perfectly done in the oven, but once they have cooled you will quickly realize any hope for a soft cookie is gone. I suffered from the "overbake syndrome" for years, until I was specifically instructed by the owner of the Perfect Chocolate Chip Cookie recipe to "not overbake. Cookies will not look done in the oven." This is so true. Typically, when you open the oven door, the edges of the cookies should be barely golden brown and set nicely. The middle will look slightly undercooked. Do not fear. Simply remove the baking sheet and allow the cookies to set on the baking sheet for 1 to 2 minutes and then allow to cool completely on a wire rack.
  5. When measuring molasses, use a glass measuring cup and spray it with non stick cooking spray for easy pouring and cleanup.
  6. Liquid ingredients should only be measured with a glass measuring cup. Measuring is most accurate when the meniscus rests on the appropriate line.
  7. Use the straight edge of a knife to level dry ingredients in their measuring cups.
  8. To easily peel a garlic clove, lay the clove on a cutting board and place the flat side of a wide knife on top of it. Then, use your fist to crush the garlic, releasing it from its paper-y chamber.
  9. Always preheat the oven before baking or cooking.

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