Congratulations: you’ve decided that you want to become a baker! Welcome to a wonderful and craftsy world of sweet culinary delights. From cake decorating to pastry making, there’s plenty to explore.
Many beginners can be intimidated by baking, which involves ratios, recipes, and sometimes funny-sounding techniques. Don’t be scared off: once you’ve learned a few basics, baking will start to come more naturally and will start to be incredible fun.
Photo collage via CakeSpy
Even if you don’t know creaming butter from cream cheese, these vital tips for beginning bakers will start you out on the right foot.
If you’re a new baker, starting with an elaborate cake or confection might be a bit overwhelming. Start where it feels comfortable to you. Perhaps that means starting with recipes that involve doctored cake mixes, or with “semi-homemade” procedures. That’s fine. It will help you build confidence for more difficult baking projects down the line. Even master baker Christina Tosi of Momofuku fame started out baking with cake mixes.
Buy some good basic supplies.
You don’t have to go for broke by purchasing every baking supply ever created, but investing in some basic supplies will make your life (and baking) far easier. A good set of measuring cups (both liquid and dry) and spoons, spatulas, mixing bowls, and baking pans will serve you well for any kitchen capers sweet or savory, so they are versatile kitchen supplies.
While a weightier cash investment, a stand mixer or hand mixer is an invaluable tool for frequent bakers. While they are not strictly necessary, it can be time consuming and physically trying to mix batters and doughs by hand. If you want to get serious about baking, a good mixer is a sound investment.
Read the recipe first.
This is kind of boring advice, right? But it’s important. Read the recipe first. It’s sort of like reviewing the directions before you start driving to a destination. Knowing the steps that are coming up can help you avoid possible calamity and wrong turns, allowing you to work more calmly and confidently.
Learn how to measure your ingredients properly.
Established bakers and confectioners will measure their ingredients by weight. That might be intimidating for the beginning baker, but start by learning how to properly measure ingredients. That includes leveling off cups of dry ingredients such as flour, and using the proper measuring cup or spoon for the type of ingredient you’re measuring.
Professional bakers will joke that cake (or insert any dessert here) can smell your fear. It’s true. If you approach baking with trepidation, you may be too hesitant during vital and fast-moving portions of recipes. Sometimes, you just have to dive in fearlessly to a recipe. More often than not, your confidence will be rewarded with a perfectly baked cake or dessert.
Mistakes happen; sometimes they’re happy ones.
It would be nice to say that if you take certain steps you will never make a baking mistake, but that would be a lie. You will make mistakes in baking. Everyone does from time to time, even professional pastry chefs (really). Sometimes, you might find that your mistake isn’t so terrible–and yet other times, you actually end up with a happy accident that ends up a delicious dessert. Gooey butter cake was allegedly invented by mistake, for instance.
Get your mise en place.
Once again, not the most exciting advice, but a little mise en place goes a long way in baking. Basically, this means prepping your materials and ingredients in advance to streamline the food preparation process.
For baking, this would include pre-measuring ingredients and having the tools and materials you’ll need close at hand. Then, you can focus on the recipe rather than having to pause to measure ingredients or search for tools as you go. It might seem tedious when all you want to do is bake, but it will actually save you time in the long run.
Learn some basic techniques
Educate yourself on some basic techniques, such as the proper method for measuring dry ingredients, how to sift flour, or creaming butter. Some basic methods are used over and over in recipes, so it’s a good idea to really understand them.
Use fresh ingredients.
No matter how well you follow a recipe, your bread isn’t going to bake properly if you’re using yeast that expired 6 months ago. Make sure that your ingredients are within the confines of their best-used by date, even ingredients that you don’t think can go bad. Ingredients like flour and nuts can go rancid, and baking powder and soda can lose their potency.
Make it a milkshake.
Did your cookies turn out ugly, or did your cake fall in the center? As long as it’s not a case of putting salt instead of sugar in your recipe, chances are, if you mix them with ice cream and put them in a blender, they will still taste great in a shake.
Even baking experiences that don’t turn out as you’d like don’t have to be failures. Shift your mindset and you might have a delicious time no matter what.