Baking Notes

I’ve gotten better at baking over time. This may sound obvious but today the contrast was stark. The first carrot cake with cream cheese frosting I ever made took me about six hours. Of this, three was actual work and the rest was baking, cooling, and other time where I could do other things. Today, I did this all in about two with one hour being baking time.

Here’s what I think I’ve done differently:
*I use 1 more bowl – In baking, many ingredients can be done in sets. For instance, fats and sugars in cakes will usually be done together. Historically, I tried to use as few bowls as possible, but you can speed up prep by measuring the next ingredient in another bowl while the previous one mixes. This saves the time of removing the mixing bowl from the stand mixer and returning it.
*Knowing when I can over mix – Some ingredients will over mix. For instance, once flour is added, you can mix too much and the gluten in the flour will make the dough tough. It’s hard to over mix butter/sugar and somewhat hard to over mix the semi-final batter. This lets me do a step without watching the mixer.
*Prepping Butter – When I’m going to bake a lot of things, the night before, I leave 2 lbs of butter on the counter still wrapped in a sealed container. Room temperature butter is so much easier to work with.
*Excess Inventory – I follow a simple rule for common ingredients. Always have an open bag and backup bag of something. This means that I always have 2 bags of chocolate morsels, one in use, one in reserve at all times. It requires extra space, but this extra space doesn’t often get accessed so things can be arranged snugly in it. This has almost eliminated emergency store trips.
*Split Recipes – Some recipes are “bases”. The cheesecake recipe I use makes 2 9″ rounds so making two cheesecakes of different types is easy. In this case, ½ was kept plain, the other had cookie crumbs added to it.
*Better balance – A good kitchen balance is indispensable. My previous balance was 5g accurate so I needed a second smaller balance for things like salt. I purchased a $40 quality balance that is gram accurate up to 5 kilos and haven’t looked back.
*Clean everything all the time – I have a half dozen kitchen towels on hand at all times. This allows me to clean as I go. You figure I can probably re-use some dirty bowls between cakes but for whatever reason I find it easier to just clean everything each time and never have to think about where to put something.