Holiday Baking: TIPS for Success FROM CAROL FENSTER

I am happy to share some great Gluten-Free baking tips from my friend and colleague Carol Fenster.

By Carol Fenster, author of 100 Best Quick Gluten-Free Recipes, (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2014)

It’s Time for Holiday Baking

We all love to smell something heavenly baking in the oven, especially during the holidays. Baking those special family recipes—perhaps an heirloom recipe passed down from generation to generation—preserves family traditions. We all want our holiday baking to be successful, so here are some tips. 

Plan Ahead; Stock the Pantry

Early on, choose the recipes you plan to bake and make sure you have all the ingredients in your pantry. Now is not the time for making last-minute substitutions; follow the recipe exactly as written and don’t replace any ingredients unless the recipe says it’s OK. 

Make sure you have the right baking utensils. Generally, cookies should not be baked on nonstick baking sheets because the cookies brown too quickly on the bottom and might possibly burn. I like to use the silvery baking sheets and line them with parchment paper so the cookies are easily transferred from the baking sheet to cool on a wire rack. 

Measure Correctly for Baking Success

One of the chief reasons for baking failures is measuring incorrectly. Such a simple thing, yet many of us never learned the right way. Baking is an effort of precision, not “eyeballing” as it’s called. “Eye-balling” is okay in cooking because you can make adjustments as you go―such as adding more salt or seasonings to a pot of soup as it cooks or a sauce at the end, just before you serve it. But with baking, you don’t get a second chance. Once it’s in the oven there’s no going back.

So, let’s talk about measuring flour, a step where most baking errors occur. I discuss this in all of my cookbooks, including my latest cookbook, 100 Best Quick Gluten-Free Recipes, and my e-cookbook at GfreeCuisine.com. You should always read the front of any cookbook to see if the author tells you this very important fact. If not, assume that it’s the method I’m about to share.

I researched all of the major cooking magazines and (except for a handful) this is how they do it. (In case you are wondering, I weigh ingredients when I develop recipes for manufacturers and in countries such as Canada, but here in the U.S. so few of you have scales that I don’t weigh ingredients for my cookbooks.)

How to Measure Flour

All of the recipes in my books measure flour by whisking it a few times to aerate or fluff it and then lightly spooning it into a measuring cup before leveling it off with a knife. Don't use the measuring cup as a scoop; you'll get up to 20% more flour than you need. Don’t pack the flour down into the cup. Don't use the glass, spouted measuring cups (which are for liquids) to measure dry ingredients like flour or sugar because it’s hard to know if you have the right amount. If you use more flour than the recipe intended, your baked items will be dry and tough.

That previous paragraph contained a lot of “don’ts”, didn’t it!! I try to be positive about everything, but gluten-free baking is one area where being accurate is critical. That is why measuring is so important. You can watch me measure flour at my website under Videos at www.CarolFenster.com and my blog at www.CarolFensterCooks.com .

HAPPY BAKING!!!

Carol Fenster, 100 best quick gluten-free recipes

Click here for Carol's GREAT tasting chocolate refrigerator cookies!

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