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Our baking instructor gave us these helpful hints that really pay off:
  • Bring the butter and eggs to room temperature. The reason: Cold eggs added to cold butter will result in holes and pockets caused by tiny lumps after the butter has melted while baking. The cake won't rise as much, and you are left with a denser cake. You need the butter and eggs to emulsify so air can be beaten into the batter resulting in a moist, fluffy and light cake! Remember: Preheat your oven and place the baking rack on the middle shelf of the oven before you start baking. If you forget to preheat your oven, you might as well make your batter again. The moment the wet ingredients meet the dry, a chemical action starts to happen immediately from the leveling agents (baking soda and baking powder).
  • If you don't get it into the oven right away, your cake won't rise properly and you will not be happy with the results. Wait at least 10 to 15 minutes after the oven has reached the desired temperature before you put anything in the oven to bake.
  • If you are making a cake or cupcakes, make sure you grease and flour the pans first before you make the batter.
  • Have all of the ingredients measured, sifted and lined up before you start to bake.
  • I found out the crater in my cakes was the result of the leavening agents such as baking powder and baking soda. Improperly measured leavening agents can result in the cakes rising too high in the oven. Air bubbles then burst, causing the sinkhole.
  • Make sure to change out the baking soda and baking powder because they lose their effectiveness over time. Stop using the ones you have had for three years on your shelf (that would be me), and, oh yes, don't use the one in the refrigerator that you have been using to freshen the air in there (that would be me too)! I change my baking soda every six months. I change the one in the fridge at the same time.
  • Always place anything you are baking in the middle rack of your oven for even, all-around heat.
  • Do not use the convection oven to bake.
  • Remember, baking is chemistry and there is a science to it. Follow the instructions to the letter and stay calm. You don't have to turn in a term paper, and there is no test to be graded. 
Having applied my newfound information and finding out that baking can be fun (except for the cleanup and getting whipped cream off the ceiling), I have been successful in my new attempts at baking. I have to say I've made some pretty impressive desserts! Oh yes, and my pastry chef's jacket with my name on it looks great!

In the meantime, I'd like to share with you my recipe for Warm Pear Streusel Pie with Vanilla Bean Ice Cream.

Sending "A Big Bowl of Love" from the oven!

Cristina


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