SWEET DECADENCE: Secrets to Holiday Baking Success

by | Desserts, In the Kitchen, Recipes

Stuffed Artichoke Bottoms

It’s December already!

Oh My Goodness! Did your heart nearly skip a beat too?! How in the world did time go by so fast?

According to Google, there seems to be some confusion about the top Christmas desserts depending on what part of the world you live in. So, let me share some tips and tricks with you that will lead you to a more successful baking experience regardless of the dessert you choose!

Tips for Holiday Baking Success

Invest in a good kitchen scale and weigh your ingredients

Professional kitchens don’t use the American standard of measuring cups and measuring spoons. They “scale” (weigh) all ingredients for accuracy, ease of increasing or decreasing the quantities, and variance due to altitude. It’s a lot easier to multiple 137g x 5 then 1 3/4 cups x 5.

Resist temptation — keep the oven door closed

Opening and closing the door during baking will change the internal temperature in the oven and will cause your dessert to bake incorrectly. As my chef in pastry school said, “that’s what the window is for” look through it instead and only open the door when it’s absolutely necessary.

Turn on the light and look through the window instead of opening the door.

Get a couple of oven thermometers

They aren’t expensive, but they are priceless! This will allow you to know the accuracy and variation of temperatures in your oven. Every oven has “hot spots”. Once you know which side of your oven or if the entire oven runs hots or cool, you’ll know how to adjust the oven temperature or rotate items in the oven.

Room temperature ingredients

Unless ingredients specifically state “cold”, most ingredients should be at room temperature for at least 15-30 minutes before use. This will allow ingredients to soften and be at the same temperature. It’s easier to mix and the ingredients incorporate beautifully into one another.

Mise en Place

This is a fancy French term that means “to set in place”. All ingredients are washed, chopped, prepped, scaled, etc. in advance so they are ready to add to the recipe. This way of prepping also allows you to make sure you have all the required ingredients AND the correct quantities before you start making the recipe.

Set out all of the ingredients for your recipe BEFORE you start.

Add ingredients in small piles

Don’t dump all the dry ingredients in a mixture in one fell swoop unless the directions specifically instruct you to do so. Typically, you want to add dry ingredients in 3 small piles/batches. This allows the ingredients to be incorporated fully before the next pile/batch of dry ingredients are added.

Substitutions — be careful, they are not the same

You can Google common acceptable substitutions like buttermilk, cake flour, salted vs. unsalted butter. However, not every ingredient has a compatible substitution. For example, bread flour is not the same as all-purpose flour, baking soda is not the same as baking powder, margarine is not the same as real butter, 60% cacao chips are not the same as semisweet or 54% cacao chips.

Baking is a science

There are specific rules and formulas that must be followed, or the “experiment” will fail. And when you get a little lax and think, “Ah, that’s close enough!” Please pinch yourself and say out loud “Hmmm, this might not work — I’m certainly not MacGyver!”

Happy Holidays!

Photos courtesy of Pixabay.com
Pastry Chef
Maria Kemp
Beyond Decadence

In 2017, Maria established Beyond Decadence as Lake Norman’s first and only pop-up bakery specializing in American, gluten-free, and French desserts. As Pastry Chef and Owner of Beyond Decadence, Maria Kemp wears many hats on any given day.

In her words, “At the end of the day, awards, accolades, recognition, being a French Pastry School alumni simply don’t matter if I don’t consistently produce a remarkable product or craft a memorable private virtual baking experience. My goal is to exceed my clients’ expectations on every level and/or tantalize their taste buds. I thrive on and gain inspiration from building relationships with my clients and finding ways to share my knowledge to demystify the art of baking. I don’t deviate with every latest fad; I stay focused in areas where my skills can truly shine. I am deeply humbled and proud to have earned the privilege of becoming a thought-leader/speaker in the entrepreneurial community and private baking instructor for several corporations.”

You can connect with Maria at https://linktr.ee/beyonddecadence or contact her directly at pastrychef@beyonddecadence.com.

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