Ten Baking Tips from a Professional Baker

When I found out about the KAF field trip, I was very excited to be learning from a pro. I would definitely call myself comfortable with yeast but I still learned a TON in the class. I think that even the most novice bakers in the group walked away feeling more confident and knowledgeable about baking.

1. When measuring dry ingredients, make small piles around the perimeter of the bowl. Susan explained that this is useful in case something interupts you or you lose track of where you are… You can simply look down in your bowl and see what you’ve already measured out. I did this for the crackers as you can see below.

2. When topping a pizza, go light on the toppings, starting with the sauce. If you overload your pizza, it will be soggy on the bottom and won’t rise up while baking. Susan said you should simply “annoint” the pizza dough with sauce and then sprinkle on your toppings.

3. Don’t put raw veggies on a pizza. Since raw veggies release water as they cook, they will make your pizza soggy. Instead, if you are going to use vegetables, be sure to pre-cook them prior to topping your pizza.

4. When rolling dough of any kind, always start from the center and roll out. Most bakers know this, but it’s always good to be reminded of the proper technique.

5. Sticky sticks to Sticky. Most bakers know to flour their kneading surface prior to beginning. Susan explained that you should never put flour onto the dough itself. If you do, that flour will encorporate into the dough and will give a tougher texture. Instead, place flour on the surface and your hands. If the counter gets sticky, add a dusting of more flour to the surface. Or use a bench scraper to scrape away the sticky parts.

6. To knead dough, simply Fold, Roll, Turn. These three little words just stuck in my head and convinced me that I was being way too tough with my dough when I kneaded it. You should be gentle but firm with the dough.

7. Keep the heat inside your oven. Check out this awesome KAF oven. Wouldn’t it be nice to have one of those? Susan explained a variety of reasons why their oven can be so precise. For one, the doors are very small compared to the inside of the oven so very little air gets in when you open the oven door. At home, you have a very large opening for the door. Another thing she talked about was the thermostat in the oven. At KAF, their thermostat kicks in if the oven goes 2 degrees off. At home, an electric oven’s thermostat will kick in when it is 10 degrees off and for a gas oven, it’s more like 30 degrees.

8. The smell that most people associate with whole wheat flour is actually the smell of rancid whole wheat flour. Susan had us smell a bucket of rancid whole wheat flour, then a bucket with fresh whole wheat flour. She said most people don’t like whole grain baked goods because they are using rancid flour. Your whole wheat flour shouldn’t have a strong smell to it if it’s fresh. To keep it fresh in your house, store it in the freezer, away from the door.

9. Measure flour correctly. Again, most bakers know that you don’t want to pack flour into the measuring cup. Susan recommended lightly sprinkling the flour into your measuring cup using a spoon/scoop. Once it has filled to the top, use a straight edge to level it off. A cup of flour should be around 4 ounces.

10. Use a flour wash to get the gunk off your hands. When dealing with a dough, you’re going to get messy. Susan recommended keeping your fingers together as a good starting point. When you do get all messy and sticky, don’t wash your hands with water. No matter how dry you think you got them, they will still be damp and will put more moisture into your dough. Instead, pat your hands in the flour on your surface and rub them together. The sticky stuff will come off your hands and they’ll be clean.
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17 Responses to “Ten Baking Tips from a Professional Baker”

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    Vicki — September 23, 2010 at 12:39 pm

    My friend and I took that same pizza class with Susan Miller in April. She is so sweet and such a great teacher. So much fun. We didn’t want the class to end. Hoping to do another class at KAF this winter. Love your blog!

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    Fun and Fearless in Beantown — September 23, 2010 at 12:57 pm

    Great tips!

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    Krystal — September 23, 2010 at 2:40 pm

    Awesome tips, and it looks like a lot of fun at the KAF…how cool is that!!

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    We Are Not Martha — September 23, 2010 at 2:42 pm

    I guess I usually cook my veggies before putting them on pizza, but I never thought that you had to! VERY good to know. Also, I need to go smell my whole wheat flour ASAP. Great tips :)

    Sues

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    Kris @ everywhereorange.com — September 23, 2010 at 3:07 pm

    fantastic tips!!! i just smelled my flour and threw it out!!! thanks so much!!!

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    Eliana — September 23, 2010 at 3:15 pm

    What a great batch of tips! Thanks for much for sharing.

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    Megan — September 23, 2010 at 4:39 pm

    Wow. You remembered so many awesome tips! It’s surprising to look back and see how much we all learned and picked up on in such a short time. I love this list.

    Did you get to watch Just Desserts last night? Drama, drama, drama!

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    theblogisthenewblack — September 23, 2010 at 5:29 pm

    Wow, thanks or these great tips!

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    nutmegnanny — September 23, 2010 at 5:48 pm

    Awesome tips :)

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    Kerstin — September 23, 2010 at 8:56 pm

    What a cute idea for a post – love it! Just voted for you too :)

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    meghan — September 23, 2010 at 10:47 pm

    This is a great recap. I feel like I learned more last weekend than I have in awhile. . . or maybe I was just more interested in baking than most other things! :)

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    Shannon — September 24, 2010 at 1:46 am

    thanks for passing along the tips!! i was bummed i couldn’t make it :(

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    WizzyTheStick — September 24, 2010 at 11:02 pm

    All great tips! I love the first one so simple but really useful

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    The Small Boston Kitchen — September 25, 2010 at 2:17 pm

    LOVE IT! This post was great. Such a fun weekend, great job summing it up!

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    Sarah — September 25, 2010 at 8:23 pm

    I love these tips! Thanks so much for posting them. And thanks for the info about KAF’s baking help hotline – I will DEFINITELY be using that!

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    newlywed — September 25, 2010 at 10:13 pm

    That is an interesting tip about whole wheat flour!

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    Daisy — September 27, 2010 at 1:45 am

    such a great post! very nice recap and photos of all the tips we learned.

    I’m glad you and your girlfriends enjoyed The Abbey this weekend as well! new restaurants are so exciting.

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