Home > Uncategorized > Duane Stillions’ Ten Tips for Bakers

Duane Stillions’ Ten Tips for Bakers

Baking is one of my favorite activities. I enjoy time spent in the kitchen, and the smells that arise as I wait for something warm and tasty to come out of the oven. Baking ties us to our history. As generations pass down recipes, a little bit of family history filters down with them. Some feel that baking is becoming a lost art; however, there are many of us who continue to enjoy the simple pursuit of a Saturday afternoon spent in a warm kitchen, making something delicious. Here are my tips for bakers:


1.         Measure ingredients exactly. Baking is both an art and a science, and precise measurements assure the success of your endeavor.


2.         When rising bread and yeast form dough, you can use your oven as a proof box. Turn the oven to 200-degrees Fahrenheit for 20 minutes, and then turn it off for 10 minutes before proofing. Place your dough in a bowl covered with a warm, damp towel, and allow it to rise in the warmed oven.


3.         You cannot use butter, margarine, and shortening interchangeably in baking. Each contains different fat and water contents. Use the ingredient for which the recipe calls.


4.         If brown sugar is too hard to measure, put it in the microwave for 10-second increments until it softens.


5.         Line baking pans with parchment, instead of grease, for easy clean-up.


6.         Make sure you measure liquid ingredients using a liquid measure, and dry ingredients using a dry measure. Liquid measures and dry measures are slightly different in volume.


7.         Always check the temperature of a liquid before adding it to yeast. The ideal temperature is between 110- and 115-degrees Fahrenheit. Higher temperatures will kill the yeast, and lower temperatures will not activate it. Yeast also requires sugar or starch to rise, and just the right amount of salt to prevent it from rising too much. Too much salt will kill yeast.


8.         Pastry dough benefits from as little handling as possible. The more you handle pastry dough, the more you will toughen the gluten in the flour. For flaky dough, stir and handle it as little as possible. Conversely, yeast dough benefits from more handling, which is why you knead it. Kneading tightens gluten fibers, creating better bread.


9.         Always add wet to dry, and not vice versa.


10.       Select the shortest recommended baking time, and begin checking your baked goods at that point. You can always add more time, but you cannot unburn a would-be tasty treat.

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