I took copious notes in my classes at King Arthur Flour - for every tip I wrote down I would tell myself, "That was worth the plane ticket alone!" So the way I figure it, each tip written below cost me about $225...as usual, if you happen to run into the mister, please do not mention any numbers!
Before we get to the nuts and bolts, I want to tell you about our side trip to Ben and Jerry's Flagship store in Vermont...in a word? Dewishious! Their silo's say it all Sugar Milk Cream ! We took a quick tour of the factory (we learned Ben and Jerry's original ice cream van blew up as they were driving around the country passing out free ice cream samples trying to get their name out there and when it burned to the ground they got the attention of the news media and the rest, they say, is history!), bought ourselves some ice cream (you can have up to three flavors in a cup or on a cone!) and then, as we licked away, we walked up to their Flavor Graveyard...where ice cream flavors that didn't make the cut have been sent to their eternal rest...
Here's a bonus tip for you about ice cream that I learned from visiting Ben and Jerry's...the more you eat the better you'll feel. I'd say that's true...until the next morning when you get on the scale, but that's just me.
#1: My very favorite tip has to be the "Standing Egg." Sometimes I will put my eggs on the counter, turn around to grab something and then turn back around just in time to watch the egg plop to the floor...well no more! Hit the larger end of the egg on the counter, not with enough force to crack it open, but just enough so the bottom cracks a little, giving the egg a flat bottom where it will stand at attention until you're ready to use it...good, no? I can't tell you how many eggs I've left standing now just because I can!
#2: You can freeze buttermilk! After thawing, if it has separated just shake.
#3: If using Kosher Salt, use a bit more, as it is hollow and not as dense as table salt.
#4: When baking a two crust pie, slather butter to the underside of the top crust after you roll it out, before putting it over the top of pie. What butter doesn't bake into the crust will drip down over the fruit...yummmmm.
#5: Stir flour before measuring, at least three times, to aerate it - and then sprinkle it into your measuring cup.
#6: When making pastry, blend in butter in two batches. The first batch of butter should be blended in until small and pea-sized (you've all heard that, right?) but the second batch should not be blended that small, larger pieces of butter make for a flakier pastry.
#7: When creaming butter and sugar, if you over-mix, you just add air pockets, which will cause the cake (or whatever) to expand in the oven and then collapse when removed. Cream only for the amount of time it says and use a lower speed on the mixer, never cream on high speed.
#8: There is no difference between super fine sugar and granulated sugar for baking purposes.
#9: If your butter isn't at room temperature, smash it with the heel of your hand instead of putting in microwave. It only takes a couple of smashes before the heat from your hand brings the butter to room temp. Also, to bring eggs to room temperature, put whole, un-cracked eggs into a bowl of hot water for about 5 minutes. When making a cake, if you use cold butter and cold eggs, the batter will not rise in the oven the way it's supposed to, so your cake won't turn out as good as it should! Now you know! (Perfect butter smashing hand-configuration is demonstrated in picture. Jewelry, while not necessary for smashing butter, is certainly recommended.)
#10: Using a scale is the most accurate way to measure and the only way to guarantee consistency...I bought a scale after my class - it's easy to use and they are not expensive, you can pick one up for about $30 at Bed, Bath and Beyond.
#11: When making cookies, if the dough is too warm (from over-mixing) or if the oven is not hot enough when you put the cookies in, or if the dough was over-creamed (see #7) then the cookies will spread all over the pan...hate when that happens!
#12: Chocolate Ganache that is whipped makes an excellent egg-less chocolate mousse! Who knew?!?
#13: When blending butter into pastry, use a larger, flatter bowl so the pastry blender can be used on the sides of the bowl. If you use a bowl with straight sides it will take longer to blend in butter :-)
#14: If your pastry dough is a bit dry, use a spray bottle to add water, that way you won't add too much.
#15: If you ever have ANY questions about ANY baking issue you can call the King Arthur Flour Baking Hot Line: 855-371-2253 And you don't have to be a King Arthur Flour user!! It's free!