Bake

Joanne Chang’s Tips for Dealing with Dough in High Humidity

August 24, 2017

This month our Baking Club has baked its way through Joanne Chang’s Flour, a collection of recipes from her perennially-popular Boston bakeries. From ooey-gooey sticky buns to luscious cakes and breads, Joanne’s comforting recipes have delighted our bakers.

No sweet tooth? Never fear, we even baked—and enjoyed—some of Joanne’s less-sugary treats. After all, she did, literally, write the book on baking with less sugar.

Now that the month is wrapping up, we reached out to Joanne with a couple of our baker’s most pressing questions:

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Brian Hill asks, “I'm having a horrible time working with the pop-tart dough (and five disappointed kids). I live on Maui, with constant humidity. Any tips for this in a high humidity environment?”

Anyone who dwells in the south or another high-humidity area knows how hard making any sort of dough can be when the weather’s not cooperating. Joanne’s recommendation: “If you have access to a marble board you can refrigerate it and then work on top of that to keep your butter and thus your dough cool,” she says. “Otherwise when you are rolling out the dough try rolling it on a cutting board that you can easily transfer to the refrigerator. If the dough is getting soft immediately put the whole thing in the fridge and let it chill before you proceed.”

Elizabeth White Nelson had a cheesecake conundrum for Joanne: “I used the Bain Marie you suggested for the Luscious Cheesecake. I have not used this technique before because I was worried that the springform pan would not be water-tight,” she says. “It was not. What steps could I have taken to avoid a soggy crust?”

Chang recommends lining the springform pan with several layers of aluminum foil to prevent water from seeping in. Or, as an alternative, bake the cheesecake in a regular cake pan. “When you take the cheesecake out of the oven, let it cool and then pop the whole thing in the freezer,” she says. “Once it is completely frozen rap it upside down on the counter and it will pop right out. Because it is frozen you won't mar the cake’s surface.”

As summer winds down and kids head back to school, now is a perfect time to join in on the fun with our Baking Club. For September, our book will take us to the opposite coast, as we’ll cook through Tartine, the classic baking book from pastry chef Elisabeth Prueitt and master baker Chad Robertson.

2 Comments

Scott August 24, 2017
Another thing I've been doing this summer is taking a large rimmed cookie baking sheet, filling it with ice and placing my marble pastry board over it. I wait for about 15-20 minutes and let the marble cool down and then I start rolling my dough out on top of it while keeping the ice-filled baking sheet underneath. It keeps the dough cool and doesn't require me to constantly transferring it to the fridge and back. It helps a lot in my kitchen that can easily reach 80 degrees during the summer without A/C.
 
FrugalCat August 24, 2017
Another tip for dealing with humidity (Miami) is to have a fan going in the kitchen. Obviously you don't want air blowing directly into your flour, but having an overhead breeze really helps.