Ten Tips to Become a Better Baker

Rigo Jancsi: The cake is named after Rigo Jancsi, a Hungarian gypsy violinist, who helped create it for the woman he loved!

There are so many books about baking, bakers, cakes, desserts, chocolates, etc., that it made me wonder how all these books are doing so well in a crowded market? How a publisher can accept to publish another baking book, unless the author accepts a sure failure?

But here we are in 2011 with more food bloggers getting ready to publish their book (e.g. Deb Perelman of Smitten Kitchen, in 2012), celebrities are having more fun writing cookbooks then acting (Suzanne Somers, Gwyneth Paltrow), and Joanne Chang, the owner of Flour Bakery in Boston, sold 20,000 copies of her new book before she could even start her book signing tour.

How can it be? Well, for one, there are so many of us baking enthusiasts who rather buy more bookshelves than miss a new book about baking. The truth of the matter is that it is one of the better ways to enhance our knowledge and understanding in baking and learn new techniques and creative recipes.

Pound Cake with Chocolate Ganache Frosting

Another great source to satisfy our thirst for understanding the culture of baking is the Internet, particularly the many blogs that appear to cover foods from appetizers to after dinner drinks and more. Chocolates & Figs is one these blogs, where we aspire to be your resource with problem solving and making sure that you are up-to-date in the baking world. Our goal is assisting you to cut the events when your baking product is less than perfect. We are aiming to reinforce your confidence in baking (and in creating confections) and provide you with the necessary tools to be successful all the time, not only some of the time.

Dark and White Chocolate-dipped Strawberries

What I am trying to convey here is that baking is just like any other profession (or a serious hobby) is a perpetual learning process and there is always place for improvement. My philosophy is that “life itself is a learning process”; as long as you are alive you always learn something new that you were not aware of it earlier.

To summarize and reiterate the purpose of Chocolates & Figs:

We are not…

  • Trying to become millionaires
  • Trying to sell you things, you do not need
  • Attempting to give you recipes from well-known cookbook authors so that we can ride on the coat-tail of these authors (unless it is for comparative, educational purpose)
  • Blogging to report on events in our lives, unless it is related to our experience in baking, or creating confections and we want to communicate to you our successes and failures as part of the learning process
  • Trying to be everything for everybody

There are plenty of blogs out there that doing exactly that

We are….

  • Aiming to give you up-to-date information about ingredients and factors that may influence your baking products;
  • Trying to show you comparative recipes that we are testing nearly right in front of your eyes, for educational value;
  • Planning to give you the tools you need for pleasant experience in baking (i.e. reduce the known anxiety associated with baking, enhance your confidence…)
  • Seeking to assist you in identifying recipes that may not work (before you spend hours of work, energy and money) based not only on our experience and knowledge, but the many experts that published their knowledge for us to read and learn, and
  • Determined to communicate to you continuously the “whys” and “how’s” of successful baking.

If these goals are appealing to you and/or matching your interest – then you just found the reason(s) to come back and visit us often, because the best knowledge is gained through exchanging ideas and sharing successes, as well as failures.

Walnut Sour Cherries Tart

I came into the baking world with a background in science, just like Shirley O. Corriher, Harold McGee, Elise Johnston, and others, so I apply the knowledge of science to baking and confections, which makes the process more interesting and gratifying.

So, here are my current top ten tips for how to become a better baker:

  1. Use the best ingredients available to you – and this is a no brainer;
  2. Always measure or weigh all the ingredients you will be using in your baking product (including he tiny amounts of baking powder, salt, baking soda, etc.);
  3. Do invest in an oven thermometer (read about ovens in our earlier post); well worth the cost;
  4. Read the recipe through at least once before starting to prepare the ingredients
  5. Double check the recipe for accuracy using the Bakers’ percentages – it is a great tool in predicting success; have it printed out and posted in your kitchen in a visible area. It is perfectly acceptable to adjust a recipe based on the Bakers’ percentages math.
  6. Write notes all the time; write every step of the process what you have done in creating the baked product; write what you have changed in the recipe, write how long you baked it an at what oven temperature, what type of oven you used, what type and size of bake ware you used, what season was when you prepared this product, what was the temperature and humidity in your kitchen, what reference book (if any) you used, and finally make sure you write what was right and what was wrong (if anything) with the recipe.
  7. Invest at least in one good reference book of “baking as a science” in order to understand the characteristics of the ingredients and how they act under various circumstances.
  8. Visit our blog often. You can also send us your questions; we answer every one of them – you will gain skills you need to enhance your baking knowledge
  9. Keep informed about the latest trends. Your best resource for this is the Internet and blogs like ours
  10. Practice, practice and practice – remember, practice makes perfect.

I hope you enjoyed this post and will come back for more. Please let your friends to learn about us, as well. I have a feeling they will appreciate your thinking of them. You can also either leave a comment or send us a question.We answer every one of them.