I recently had the chance for a sweet reunion with Alice Medrich, an author, pastry chef, teacher, and expert in DESSERT! A few years ago I had the honor of working with Alice and Scharffenberger Chocolate, as we traveled to the test kitchens of major food magazines. It was a tasty, magical time for me, and I learned a lot about baking from her.
This month Alice came to Shed Healdsburg to promote a new Holiday Cookie Book she has produced.
She gave some great baking tips that I thought would help all of us who love to bake, especially this time of year.
Here are three takeaways:
1. Use a Scale
There are so many things that can go wrong when you bake, especially cookies, since they’re small. One of the best things you can do to ensure success is measure the weight of the ingredients with a scale.
“The only way to know if you’re using the right amount of flour is to use a scale,” says Medrich.
Using flour as the example, Alice pointed out that some of us store our flour in a canister where it’s a bit fluffy. Some of us store it in the bag, and maybe you have something on top of the bag, or a small child has sat on it?
One cup of dense flour vs. fluffy flour can make a big difference in the texture of a cookie. A scale will solve that issue.
2. Power Tools are Overrated
“Remember how your Grandmother’s cookies tasted so good?” asked Alice. “Chances are she didn’t own a mixer, and mixed them by hand.”
Like a true pastry chef, Alice tests EVERYTHING! She and her assistant tested several recipes and for each they barely creamed the butter and sugar together doing it by hand. They also made a batch where the butter and sugar were creamed together by hand, but a little more mixed together.
Finally, they did a batch with a hand mixer and creamed the butter and sugar together in a frenzy. Alice says the majority of the time, cookie recipes tasted better when the butter and sugar were barely creamed together by hand.
Hmm…. I think I just found my new holiday workout!
3. Color is flavor
“Don’t be afraid to leave your cookies in the oven until you see some color,” advises Alice.
Many amateur bakers tend to remove cookies from the oven too soon in fear they will burn. Alice, who has spent an enviable amount of time savoring desserts throughout France, recalled that some of the great pastry shops there will serve Apricot tarts and other goodies that have some burnt edges.
This is done on purpose, as those crusty, delicious bits are a coveted bite for many dessert-lovers.
We hope these tips help your baking creations turn out perfectly.
The staff here at Holly Hansen Public Relations are happy to be taste-testers!