As author of Canada’s #1 selling cookbook, Rosie Daykin undoubtedly knows a thing or two about baking cakes, cookies and pies. Since opening Butter Baked Goods in 2007, she has racked up awards (including a silver medal for her raspberry marshmallows at the Specialty Food Awards), critical acclaim and a huge following of loyal customers. With a second cookbook – Butter Celebrates! A Year of Sweet Recipes to Share with Family and Friends – landing in stores this October, Rosie is spreading her beloved bakery’s recipes far and wide.
Rosie and I recently sat down to chat about the secrets of baking success and the common mistakes people make in the kitchen. Even if you’re a cake boss in your own right, you’ll probably learn a few surprising facts about the art of baking after reading Rosie’s tips.
1. YOU GET OUT WHAT YOU GIVE
Using lousy ingredients? Your end product will be affected. You don’t have to spend tons of money on all your ingredients, but there are certain items that require a splurge, like vanilla. Rosie recommends pure Madagascar or bourbon vanilla, saying, “it’s worth the investment”. Same goes for chocolate. Elevate your chocolate chip cookies by using quality chocolate like Valrhona or Green & Black’s (you may have to do some chopping as these brands are often sold in chunks, as opposed to chips).
2. FRESH REALLY IS BEST
Expiry dates matter more than you think, and this is a major area where people go wrong. Think fresh, fresh, fresh. When people look in their cupboards – especially if they don’t bake regularly – oftentimes some of their ingredients will have gone stale. You might be tempted, but don’t use them! You won’t get the same results, especially if we’re talking nuts and spices.
3. YOU CAN’T HAVE IT BOTH WAYS
It’s not possible to create delicious, “low-fat” versions of Butter’s cakes and cookies. If you “healthify” a recipe, it simply won’t be as delicious. When a recipe calls for milk, cream or any other dairy ingredients, use a full-fat version. There is no such thing as a low-fat buttercream.
4. TEMPERATURE CHECK
For most recipes, ingredients should be at room temperature…even dairy (and especially butter!). Before you start baking, take your ingredients out of the fridge and let them sit on the counter for 15 minutes. By giving your eggs the opportunity to warm up, they will emulsify that much better. If they are cold, they won’t blend as easily.
5. DON’T FEAR YOUR FREEZER
People think freezer is a bad word. It’s not. Rosie loves her freezer. She recommends baking and freezing in advance of an event or dinner party to save time on the day of.
Let’s say you need a pie to serve at a weekend brunch. Make your pastry on Monday. On Tuesday night, roll and assemble the entire pie, egg wash and sugarcoat it, and store it in the freezer. On Saturday morning, pull it out, pop it in the oven completely frozen and bake as though it was fresh. It won’t taste any differently and nobody will be the wiser.
The same goes for cookies and cakes. Bake a cake early in the week, cover it with plastic wrap and place it in the freezer. The night before your party, pull it out and ice (a step that’s actually easier with the cake being firm and frozen). To really save time, make your whole cake early in the week and freeze it. Pull it out on Thursday and ice the whole cake. Then refreeze the entire iced cake as a whole…just don’t put sprinkles on yet (their colouring can bleed onto your icing).
6. TIMING REALLY IS EVERYTHING
The secret to making the perfect cookie lies in how long it’s baked for. Rosie says you should bake them only until the edges are done. To check, press gently on the cookie’s edge: if it holds its shape and is lightly browned, it’s ready. Though they may not looked cooked in the middle, they will continue to bake on the cooling rack and firm up.
7. BONUS TIP
When making buttercream icing, whip the butter and the sugar until it’s light and fluffy. It should be nearly white. People never whip their buttercream for long enough!