Holiday Entertaining

9 Ways to Be a Better Baker in 2015

January  5, 2015

Every week, baking expert Alice Medrich will be going rogue on Food52 -- with shortcuts, hacks, and game-changing recipes.

Today: Last year, you made a commitment to be a better baker in 2014. Since we know resolutions can be hard, we're reminding you of what you agreed to last year, and we're adding a few more goals for 2015, too. 

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It's hard to resist the temptation to make New Year's resolutions. Next year, you'll eat more greens, wake up to see the sunrise, spend more time visiting family, and keep up with the news. But hey, that sounds eerily similar to what you were going to do this year, doesn't it?

Finally, we've come up with a resolution you can keep: in 2015, you're going to be a better baker. With a little help from baking expert Alice Medrich, you're going to make the best whipped cream of your life. You're going to bake cookies in big batches without get frustrated. You're even going to melt white chocolate without scorching it

Along the way, you're going to save time, save money (and splurge on what counts), and eat more chocolate. Because who says "eat more chocolate" can't be a legitimate New Year's resolution? 

1. Commit to measuring ingredients with a scale.


2. Incorporate more flavorful flours (au revoir, all-purpose!).


3. Waste less.


4. Make more desserts with olive oil.

  • Use olive oil in place of butter in a pound cake.

  • Make a custard where olive oil subs in for the milk or cream (bonus: it takes only six minutes and is a great use for your Meyer lemons).


5. Save time.


6. Save money.


7. Splurge where it counts. 


8. Eat more chocolate.


9. Don't forgo dessert just because you don't have all day to bake.

Photos by James Ransom

What are your best baking tips? Share them with us in the comments below! 

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See what other Food52 readers are saying.

  • phunnygirl
  • swaff
  • Heather Wood
    Heather Wood
  • Serena Raheja
    Serena Raheja
  • Allison T
    Allison T
I used to work at Food52. I'm probably the person who picked all of the cookie dough out of the cookie dough ice cream.


phunnygirl January 7, 2015
I agree that end product is greatly improved by measuring by weight versus volume, where the recipe is written for weight. However, I have always been concerned about spontaneously converting volume to weight (when recipes are written for volume) and wondered what everyone's experience has been with results?
swaff January 7, 2015
Use best quality baking chocolate. Instead of using flour when preparing your
pans for chocolate cake, use cocoa. Don't be afraid to make ganache. Toast nuts before using. If you use cake flour, use unbleached. Separate eggs when cold, then warm before using. Don't try to eliminate fat from desserts - it's not like you eat them every day and you can taste the difference. Add a pinch of salt to your frosting.
Heather W. January 7, 2015
I love using a scale to measure, and I can do all the conversions myself. But it would be so much easier if the recipes were just written that way, including recipes on this very site. Could you (and other recipe sites) please make the commitment to publishing recipes with measurements given in weight as well as, or instead of, volume?
Julia Q. January 7, 2015
Does it really make a significant difference?
Heather W. January 7, 2015
It just makes everything so much easier, as they state in the article. Rather than measuring and levelling and measuring again, you can just put the bowl on the scale and start dumping. Not to mention that weight is a much more accurate measurement, particularly for things like nuts, for which the size of the chop can cause big differences in measurement.
Serena R. January 5, 2015
what is the cake in the top picture?! it looks amazing!
Sarah J. January 5, 2015
Click on the image -- it's a spicy chocolate mousse crepe cake!
Allison T. January 5, 2015
Wonderful ideas! In this coming year I want to expand my baking capabilities, I already love baking but there is always room for improvement. I especially love the sifter tip since I hate sifting.
Ethan M. March 4, 2014
Excellent Dish
mnr_t January 5, 2014
Remove the skin from toasted hazelnuts by rubbing with a microfiber cloth/towel. Nearly instantaneous!!
judi H. January 5, 2014
Ditto on using the sifter. I have my gram's old one and it always reminds me of being in her kitchen while she baked wonderful things.
I_Fortuna January 5, 2014
1-Using vinegar (about a teaspoon white or apple cider vinegar) in a bread recipes helps to activate the baking soda, baking powder and even yeast. Once the bread is baked there is no vinegar taste left. Check out the ingredients on the rapid rise yeast. It is noted that vitamin C (also acidic) is added to help the leavening process. Vinegar does the same when used with regular yeast or other leavening.
2-Also, using whole buttermilk or whole milk makes for a more moist and tender loaf or cake. If all that is available is low fat, I add more oil or butter to the recipe.
3-When using buttermilk. always add baking soda even if the recipe does not call for it but does call for buttermilk, yogurt or sour cream. This is necessary to help the chemical leavening reaction. Baking powder alone will not work as well even though it contains baking soda.
3-Baking powder and baking soda work best together. Rarely is baking soda used alone without buttermilk, yogurt or sour cream which are all acidic.
4-Two parts cream of tartar and one part baking soda can be used as a homemade baking powder.
5-Applesauce works to keep a loaf moist and tender. In fact, apples, pears, bananas, and raisins do this too.
6-Olive oil instead of butter makes a more moist loaf. I often use it if I am making a boxed or scratch cake.
7-Coconut oil is fine if used in warmer temperatures or if the baked goods are warmed before serving otherwise, it hardens to the consistency of parrafin wax making the baked goods heavier and not as pleasant to eat cold, although some people (hubby) like it that way.
8-If making bread, I have had the most success with water roux or tangzhong bread and no knead bread. I take the no knead bread in the bedroom at night (warmest room in the house) and 8 to 12 hours later I can bake my bread. Some loaves take longer so you may be baking in the late morning or afternoon. If you are an early riser, some kinds of bread can be ready to bake for dinner.
9-Flax meal and flax oil can be partially or completely used in place of eggs and butter. Lecithin is the key in flax products. Always keep flax products refrigerated to avoid them becoming rancid. I keep my flax meal in the freezer and although is does not change the texture it keeps fresher.
10-Don't over mix quick breads or they will become tough. This is easy to do when using a stand mixer.
11-Although not always necessary, I sometime heat the butter with the buttermilk to just barely warm before adding it to my dry mixture. The cold butermilk or milk will reharden the butter I melted if they are not warmed together. If warmed, all the ingredients mix better.
12-If possible, add baking soda at the end of mixing then pop it right away in the oven. Baking soda will start working immediately in a warmer mixture. I realize this is not always possible.
12 1/2-Almost any oven proof pan or pot can be used to bake yeast breads. Oven proof skillets, casserole dishes, casserole dishes with lids can become a cloche, just remove the lid at the end of baking time to brown the loaf. Bundt pans and angel food or tube pans are terrific for yeast breads and the bread can become a wreath as a bonus. Cookie sheets are fine to, I line them with parchment for a better crust. Romertopf or Schlemmertopf clay bakers are wonderful too and cost about the same a clay cloche. I would use one dedicated only to baking instead of other cooking such as chickens or stews so the flavors don't transfer.
Hope these tips help : )

Beth C. January 5, 2014
Use a digital scale. My daughter is a pastry chef and there are so many reason why you should bake only using weight. It will improve your cooking dramatically and make every recipe come out the same every time. IT is the one thing that will make you a better baker instantly and the bonus: you save time in clean-up.
Janelle December 30, 2013
I would love a recipe for the cake pictured at the top of the article! It looks amazing!
Brette W. December 30, 2013
Here you go!
Janelle December 30, 2013
Katelinlee December 30, 2013
I love my sifter and plan to use it whenever called for. Baking is supposed to be fun and relaxing! I say take the time.
Yorkshire L. December 30, 2013
Some interesting tips here but I'm puzzled as to what most of them have to do with baking. For example, I've never used ghee in baking, or lemon curd, or balsamic vinegar (and the link is about making a sauce for strawberries which is nothing to do with baking). And icecream? That's not baking either.
Yorkshire L. December 30, 2013
What I mean is, perhaps the article could be better titled.