baking tips

I’m going to update and add to this list but for a start…

Baking smart:

Pre-heat the oven!!  This is very important.  Do not put your cookies/cake/tart in the oven until it is fully preheated.

Avoid dry and crumbly cookies by the way you measure flour:

The difference between a heavily packed cup of flour and a lightly packed cup of flour can be even more than an ounce.  That is a lot in the baking world.  Do no pack flour into the cup and shave with a knife.  Also, don’t shake the flour in the cup to flatten it.  Instead, aerate the flour with a spoon or whisk then spoon the flour into the measuring cup until full.  Just filling it.  A cup of flour should weigh about 4.5 ounces – (always check the conversion chart in the cookbook and use that.)  If nothing there go with 4.5 ounces.  

Do you know how to easily weigh your flour?  Use the tare button (check out this video) it is simple.  And it is worth buying a small digital scale for this purpose.  Some cookbooks list the ingredients in ounces and some even in grams.  It is amazing.  Especially for “packed” brown sugar which is so irregular and dependent on the baker.  Overmixing your batter after the flour has been added to the moist ingredients can also result in a tough cookie or a heavy crumb in a cake.  It can also produce a cake with a big domed top.  Just mix/fold in flour and really try not to overwork the batter.


Use good quality unsalted butter.  That way you can control the amount of salt in your recipes.  If a recipe calls for softened butter it means softened, not melted.  Butter should be malleable – not so soft it looks greasy.  If you leave butter out for too long or melt it too much, your cookies will spread and flatten.  For best results leave out for 20-30 minutes before you bake.  Otherwise carefully, and in increments, microwave the butter until soft.  Also, don’t rush the “creaming the butter” stage in cookies and cakes.  It is vital in making a light and fluffy batter or dough. 

If you need small pieces of butter (for pie dough or streusel), a bench scraper does the trick.  A scraper is great for clean up too.  Use it (horizontally) to clean up crumbs and flour before you wipe down your countertops.  


Use good quality vanilla extract.   They sell quality vanilla now almost everywhere.  I love the double strength vanilla extract from but also the Madagascar vanilla that you often see in gourmet stores.

To scrape and seed a vanilla bean, place the long bean on a cutting board.  With your paring knife, slice the bean lengthwise – from top to bottom all the way down and through.  Open it up and you will see the soft brown inside.  With the back (dull side) of your knife, scrape the bean gently lifting the seeds as you run the dull knife down.  Here is a quick visual.  These pods contain so much flavor and deliciousness.  Buy  pods in bulk (less expensive) and you can store them in an airtight container.  I often put that into  the freezer. 


One of my first jobs at the bakery was to peel and core a big box of apples.  Well, you learn quickly when you have that many to do.

I know when you see  – “8 apples roughly chopped”, your heart might sink a bit with the prep work.  So, here is the plan of attack.  First, put on some really good music.  These days I happen to prefer audiobooks but pick your passion

I’ll try to make a video fo this soon.  In the meantime, cut the top and bottoms off of the apples.  All of them.  Then peel each apple with a sharp paring knife (I do this) but try not to take too much of the flesh off.  If you are lousy at this – use a peeler.  Peel them all.  Slice the apples in half.  Cutting along the center, the stem.  All of them.

Taker your apple corer (you should get one) and scoop out the center core by gently pushing the scooper in and twisting.  Then use the scooper to take the little extra rough bits around the core.  Core them all.  Take each apple half and slice.  Now you have slices.  Turn apple, slice again – now you have roughly chopped apples.


Melted chocolate means melted chocolate – not hot or heated chocolate.  Be careful with this because your chocolate can “seize” and you will have scorched and unusable chocolate.  

Purchase good quality chocolate.  I like Guittard and Callebau.  Also don’t melt chocolate chips when you are meant to be melting chocolate.  But a bar as the chips are made up differently and won’t give you what you probably need. 

general thoughts for the young/Inexperienced cook


Please try to read all of this section.  It will just take about 4 minutes and you might learn something.  You never know. 

There is a separate section with baking tips.

Decide what you will make for the week over the weekend or when you have extra time and start a grocery list – look at ingredients, make a list, then go to the store for whatever is missing from the pantry or fridge.

Always preview a recipe – sometimes you will need to marinate overnight. It’s good to know that the day before!

Before you cook, read the recipe through first and a second time so you have a basic understanding of what has to happen.

Try to get all ingredients prepped before you start (esp as a beginner). Dice, chop, mince, etc.

Ignore cooking times. Well – ballpark is good – but otherwise, check your dishes by using your own senses (smell, taste, touch) to decide when they are done. Use a meat thermometer for safety with poultry.

You can always google questions like “what is a good substitution for xxx?” It’s all at your fingertips.

I often double the sauce or spices in a recipe because it often needs more sauce (esp. Asian) and I like things with extra flavor. I also tend to add more kosher salt. And I finish my recipes with Maldon Salt which is delicious. (You can find this in “my favorite things”.  

Experiment. Recipes are only a guideline. Feel free to substitute ingredients that you prefer. And always taste your dishes before serving. Then you can adjust your salt/pepper, or add a splash of lemon juice if too sweet.
And remember, If you don’t like your food too spicy you can always ADD spice but you cannot take it away!

This is a good one that I learned in cooking school.  Anchor your cutting board to the counter with a wet paper towel under it to keep it from moving around – this will steady the board and it will be safer and easier for you to chop.

Prevent bacteria growth by cooling hot food in a shallow dish in the fridge – or break into smaller bowls.

You can substitute ground turkey, chicken and beef for each other. Do not buy the “leanest” chicken or turkey – or “plain white meat” as it needs a bit more fat to be tasty.


Learning how your oven works will take time. Although if it is very basic it shouldn’t take too much time. I’ve had ovens that run hot and cold also differing in temp between the front and the back. This can result in uneven browning so I usually rotate my sheet pans half way through cooking.

Remember to let the oven preheat fully before you cook. This is very important. Don’t rush.

Most recipes will say “bake”  and you can certainly follow that. Bake is when the bottom heating element in the oven heats up.

Convection – newer ovens have a convection button that you can add to bake or roast. Convection means there is a fan inside the oven blowing the air all around – this can make the food cook faster and more evenly. If you are using two racks at the same time, it might be good to put convection on.  Lower the oven temp if switching to convection by 15 degrees or so.  And check on your food earlier than stated in the recipe.

Roast – This is like bake, but it adds heat from the heating element on the top of the oven along with the bottom element. So you have heat coming in both directions. Your food will likely cook faster and brown both the bottom and the top.

Convection Roast – both the top and bottom heating elements are on as well as the fan that blows the hot air. I often cookie sheet pans of vegetables this way as we like them crispy.

Broil – is when only the top heating element is on and it is very hot. This is how you quickly brown your meats, or crisp up that chicken skin – or produce that yummy crackly sugar on a creme brûlée.


When sautéing, it is important to first heat the pan, then heat the oil, then add the ingredients.
Never overcrowd your pan/skillet with food. The heat will not distribute evenly.  And instead of sautéing the food it will almost boil in their own juices which isn’t terrible but way less appealing.  
When you sauté – make sure the oil is hot before adding all of your ingredients. Throw a small piece of something in the oil and make sure it sizzles before adding the rest.


Seasonings are up to you – if you know you like hot spice, add a little extra of it. If you know you don’t like oregano (me), then omit it. I often add a bit more kosher salt in the recipe. Usually a lot more – and then I finish with Maldon Sea salt which is delicious.


If you are using a rice cooker, the brown rice takes almost an hour to cook and it can stay in the rice cooker for a while. It will automatically stay on “warm” until you unplug it. White rice cooks a bit faster. Rice cookers make life easier because once you set it up, you are done with it until you eat.  


Sauté with regular olive oil or canola oil or another high spoke point oil. Use the extra virgin olive oil for finishing a dish – like drizzling it on salad or meat – or naan – or for roasting veggies.


Usually it is large eggs in a recipe unless otherwise noted


If your recipe calls for buttermilk, you can use regular milk with lemon juice – google that.


Let raw steaks come to room temperature before seasoning and grilling. Allow cooked or grilled meat to rest at room temperature for 10 minutes before serving.


(I’ve quoted from others…) Embrace salt. Don’t be afraid to use salt; it pulls the flavors out of your dishes. Cook with kosher salt and season with sea salt. Season! your! food!

Salt is the key to making food’s flavor jump around on your tongue. Most recipes will mention when you should add salt (and probably pepper as well), but it’s a good rule of thumb to add at least a pinch or two when you start cooking and again at the very end. Your palate will be the ultimate guide here, so taste often.


Use plain Greek yogurt as a healthy substitute for mayo, sour cream, heavy cream and more. 

general shopping list for the young adult


Protein – chicken, beef, fish, shrimp (frozen uncooked shrimp are good to have on hand)

Fresh oranges, lemons and limes 

 An assortment of fresh veggies, and don’t forget garlic and onion (store away from potatoes).

Frozen vegetables – corn, rice, peas and frozen edamame

Fresh ginger (this is usually near potatoes in the supermarket)

Apple cider vinegar, red white vinegar, white wine vinegar, balsamic vinegar and my fave if you like, fig vinegar.

Extra virgin olive oil, olive oil (for cooking), avocado oil if you like, canola oil, sesame oil

Potatoes (store in a cool spot away from onions and garlic)

Fresh herbs (depends on your recipes for the week) I love basil and cilantro

Butter – unsalted (because you can always add salt yourself), Ghee if dairy free

Eggs (organic) if possible. Usually large 

Milk. Sour cream or greek yogurt (esp for tacos)

Cheese – Manchego is really good in sandwiches or solo. Parmesan cheese.  Mozzarella 

Agave syrup (usually near the sugars and honey), Maple syrup, Honey

Brown sugars, sugar, confectionery sugar (if you plan to bake at all)

Flour – all purpose or GF

Breadcrumbs (whole wheat, seasoned and plain, white and panko – and assortment is great)

Spices – you can purchase as you need when a recipe calls for it – but good ones to have are: chile powder, cumin, cayenne, paprika, onion powder, garlic powder, Italian seasonings – basil, oregano, mustard powder, curry powder, coriander, thyme, rosemary, red pepper flakes

Ketchup, mustard, mayo

Capers and olives and pickles 

Chiles in Adobo sauce.  A few cans.  Once you open one, put the rest in a small glass container in the fridge.  

Tomato sauce, marinara sauce, crushed tomatoes, passata, fire roasted chipped tomatoes (in cans), tomato paste

Beef, chicken broth.  If you can find frozen stock or bone broth that is even better.

Cornstarch, baking powder, baking soda 

Diamond Crystal kosher salt, fresh pepper, Maldon sea salt (so good)

Pasta – whole wheat and white, Rice – brown, light brown 

Apricot jam is great to cook with – especially a teriyaki chicken

Red and white wine – inexpensive but not too cheap – as you are enhancing your food.

Asian cooking:

Coconut milk

Thai red and green curry paste

Miso paste

Soy sauce, coconut aminos if GF

Hoisen sauce, oyster sauce

Rice vinegar – unseasoned


Fish sauce! a must

If you are reading this and can think of other additions then please lmk –


be prepared to bake

Your shopping list might not seem as overwhelming if you generally stock some of the following items.  Just pay attention to how much you bake.  Many items in pantry and refrigerator expire (some sooner than later) so if you are not baking often, wait and shop as you need.  But if you are an avid baker, go for it.

Pantry: flour, sugar, brown sugar (more light than dark) baking soda, baking powder, salt, cocoa (natural and unsweetened, black cocoa), chocolate chips and chocolate bars (milk, semi, white, bitter, extra bitter, unsweetened) cornstarch, whole wheat flour, cake flour, oatmeal (quick cooking and old-fashioned), canola or vegetable oil, dried fruits, a variety of nuts, molasses, graham cracker crumbs, marshmallows, shredded and flaked coconut, spices (cinnamon, ground ginger, allspice, ground cloves, cardamom, ground nutmeg), instant espresso powder, vanilla extract, and vanilla beans, sweetened condensed milk, evaporated milk…

Fridge: large eggs, unsalted butter, sour cream, plain yogurt, buttermilk, milk, heavy cream, block cream cheese, lemons and other assorted fruits

Freezer: frozen berries and stone fruits, puff pastry, fillo dough, ice cream


Use good quality – and not artificial vanilla.  I love the double strength vanilla extract from Penzey’s spices.  You can order it on-line from  (As well as many other spices and salts).  It is probably better to skip the vanilla if you don’t have the real thing.

To scrape and seed a vanilla bean, place the long bean on a cutting board.  With your paring knife, slice the bean lengthwise – from top to bottom all the way down and through.  Open it up and you will see soft brown inside.  With the back of your knife, scrape the seed gently (while holding the end of the pod) collecting all the goodness from inside.  These are the seeds and they should be on your knife.  The pod contains more flavor and seeds and is often added to marinating liquids or ice creams – and pulled out later.  You can purchase at the grocery or get a bunch from – store  them in an airtight container or they dry out.

avoid dry and crumbly cookies

I found the difference between a heavily packed cup of flour and lightly packed cup o flour was a bit more than an ounce!  This is a lot in the baking world.  Go to baking tips to see how to measure flour and if you have a scale, use it.  Do you know how to use the “tare” button on your scale?  If not, read the directions or google it.  Makes baking life easy.  Your friends will thank you (for even better cookies and cakes)!


baking tip

If a dessert is dry or over baked – serve it with ice cream or whipped cream.  If a cake you can save it with a simple syrup – a flavored one that goes with the dessert – lemon, rum, coffee — and brush on the cake before you frost.  This is good even if not over baked.  If a dessert falls apart or is dry as – turn it into a trifle.  Layer with whip cream or ice cream, chocolate sauce or puddings, fruit or fruit sauces.

I like to make extra cookie dough whenever I make cookies.  In many cases, I can roll the extra dough into a log and wrap in parchment or plastic wrap and freeze until the next time I need fresh baked cookies.  Look at the bottom of the oatmeal cookie recipe for more instruction.

how to cut, peel and core apples

IMG_4874Apples are soooo good – especially now.  And I know when you see that the ingredients read – 8 apples roughly chopped, your heart might sink a bit with the prep work.  So, here is the plan of attack.  First, put on some really good music.

Cut the top and bottoms off of the apples.  All of them.  Then peel each apple with a sharp paring knife (I do this) but try not to take too much of the flesh off.  If you are lousy at this – use a peeler.  Peel them all.

Slice the apples in half.  All of them.

IMG_4877Taker your apple corer (you should get one) and scoop out the center core by gently pushing the scooper in and twisting.  Then use the scooper to take the little extra rough bits around the core.

Core them all.

Take each apple half and slice.  Now you have slices.

Turn apple, slice again – now you have roughly chopped apples.


IMG_4880 IMG_4888IMG_4886

baking tip

It is really important to grease and flour your bundt pans.  For a bundt pan with many crevices, I soften the butter and almost melt it – then with a pastry brush I get in to all the nooks and crannies.  I love the Anniversary bundt pan from Williams-Sonoma and it rarely sticks.  And I also love the pans from Nordicware – there are so many beautiful pans and cakes come out evenly browned.
For loaf pans and sheet pans,  I like to use a soft butter – not melted – and hold a chunk of butter with a paper towel and rub all around.  Then lightly coat with flour – tapping out excess.  Your cakes should then pop out easily.  You can also use a cooking spray, but I like butter best.  When using round or square baking pans, or loaf pans – your best bet is to take the extra step and line the bottom of the pan with parchment paper.  Butter the bottom first, line with parchment, then butter and flour as instructed above.  If you have too much batter for your bundt pan, just make a small test cake on the side with the extra batter.  Do not try to stuff all the cake into a too small pan.

If you want, instead of lining a square pan with butter and parchment on the bottom, you can line it with parchment or foil so that it comes all the way up the sides of the baking pan.  (To line the pan with foil, simply turn the pan upside down and form the shape with the foil.  Then turn pan over and place the already shaped foil inside the pan.)  If you are making brownies, blondies or a sticky something, you can then simple pull the baked good from the pan, using the parchment/foil to aid you – as shown below…


Use parchment paper over and over and over again.  I like to get half sheets of parchment that fit nicely over my half sheet pans.  Makes it verrry easy.  You can buy parchment like this at  The Bakers Catalogue.


baking tip


Use the best quality chocolate that you can afford.  I like to use bittersweet chocolate in all recipes that call for dark chocolate as it has more flavor than semi-sweet.  I like Callebaut, Guittard, Scharffen Berger and Valrohna – but fiddle around and see what you like! Use a good quality milk chocolate – it is important as well.  I like the same makers from above with the addition of El Ray.  Same goes for white chocolate.  I like Callebaut the best – but again, see what you like.  World Wide Chocolates and Chocosphere sell many chocolates.  And the Baker’s Catologue does too – especially in smaller quantities.