I was classically trained at the Culinary Institute of America. The school prides itself on providing all its students the tools they need to succeed in the food industry. The most important tool I’ll pass along is “mise en place.” This is a French phrase used by chefs that translates to “everything in place.”
Baking 101 is, simply put, baking mise en place.
Baking can seem daunting to novices. I understand it seems very technical and can also be confusing. I will dispel many myths with these simple steps.
• Before buying any ingredients for a recipe, read the entire recipe from start to finish. Look closely at all the ingredients. If for example, a recipe calls for room-temperature butter and eggs, make sure you pull them out of the fridge far enough in advance (at least one hour).
• Preheating the oven is very important and should always be done before measuring out the ingredients.
• Buy an oven thermometer and always check the accuracy of the oven. Nothing disappoints me more than comments like, “I hate baking because nothing turns out like the picture.” Truth be told, your biggest enemy can be your oven. If it’s off by a couple of degrees, no worries, but if its off by 25-30 degrees, I can guarantee disaster.
• Always look at the size of the pan the recipe calls for. Size matters when it comes to baking. An incorrectly sized pan throws off the baking time and temperature. Look to see if the pan needs parchment paper or to be sprayed with nonstick spray.
• Have a timer set and ready to go. Have all your ingredients ready, the oven preheating and your pans prepped and ready to go.
I’m confident that by following these simple steps, you’ll be inducted into the professional home baker league. Best of all, your baked goods will have the proper attention they require.
Now that you are prepared to bake like a pro, your only issue is finding a great recipe. Try one of mine:
Hedy Goldsmith, a 2012 James Beard Award finalist for Outstanding Pastry Chef, is the executive pastry chef for the Genuine Hospitality Group of restaurants including Michael’s Genuine Food & Drink in Miami and Grand Cayman, and Harry’s Pizzeria in Miami. Now in her second season of Cooking Channel’s Unique Sweets, Hedy has appeared on Food Network’s The Best Thing I Ever Ate and lauded in The New York Times, People, Wine Spectator, Bon Appétit, The Huffington Post and Food & Wine magazine. Hedy’s first cookbook, Baking Out Loud: Fun Desserts with Big Flavors (Clarkson Potter / Publishers), will be released October 2.