things learned

The more I work with new recipes, tools and ingredients, the more I learn about them. Here's a few things I've learned along the way.

  1. Read a recipe all the way through twice before deciding to do it, then again right before you make it.
  2. Prep work is a necessary evil. Setting everything up when all you want to do it cook is annoying, but mise en place just makes life easier, and your final product better. Having to stop in the middle of baking because you don't have an ingredient or it's taking too long to measure out is frustrating and can ruin your recipe.
  3. Coffee grounds shouldn't go down the garbage disposal.
  4. The best cookbooks are the ones with the best stories, not just the best recipes.
  5. German chocolate cake isn't German at all, it's American. It was actually created here in Dallas, TX. Weird.
  6. If you use jumbo muffin pans instead of regular-sized muffin pans just cut the baking time in half. It really is that easy. As long as it's the same number of muffins, otherwise don't change the baking time.
  7. When creating a new dish, start with a mini version. It saves time and a lot of wasted ingredients if it doesn't come out right the first time.
  8. Also when trying something new, really think about the flavors you want to highlight and how each addition will affect those flavors: salsa adds a bit of acidity to this dish, but spinach really didn't contribute anything positive.
  1. When replacing fresh spices with dried versions (or vice-versa) 1/8 t dried = 1 T fresh.
  2. Always taste new ingredients before you use them. If a dish doesn't come out as you want it to, knowing which ingredients taste like what will help you tweak it to your liking.
  3. Don't grind freshly toasted nuts. It won't go well. Let them cool first for the best consistency. Or buy it pre-ground (as almond meal, hazelnut meal, etc.).
  4. Chocolate chips have additives that make them hold their shape; they don't melt right for ganache and they don't temper. It's not pretty.
  5. Chili powder clings to every surface. Don't touch your eyes until you've washed your hands at least 5 times. I've done this more times than I can count.
  6. Different types of flour (all-purpose, bread, etc.) have different protein ratios. Cake flour is about 6-8%, pastry flour is 9-10%, all purpose flour is 7-12% (all purpose flour from northern areas are made from different wheat berries and have a higher protein content), and bread flour is 12-13%.
  7. Salt balances out bitterness, acidity balances out saltiness, sweetness balances out acidity, bitterness (or sourness) balances out sweetness.
Cookware, Bakeware & Tools
  1. Silicone bakeware and silpat mats are worth every penny. They're easy to clean and remove the need for foil and cooking spray.
  2. Speaking of cooking spray, it ruins nonstick bakeware. Not necessarily immediately, but repeated use leaves a sticky residue that's impossible to remove without also taking off the nonstick finish.
  3. If a recipe says to butter the pan, don't be shy with the butter. When the bottom of your cake sticks to the bottom of the pan you'll wish you'd used an entire stick. Or just use cooking spray. Whatever gets your cake out in one piece.
  4. When making yeast dough, never turn your Kitchen Aid stand mixer above setting 2. It's not pretty, just pretty nerve-wracking.
  1. When using ganache in a layer cake, DO NOT chill the cake after spreading the ganache layer. It will harden and the next layer won't stick to it. Therefore the cake will fall apart.
  2. Dividing the batter into a separate pan for each layer (and dividing the oven time in half) instead of cutting the cake into layers with a knife is well worth the extra dishes.