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19 Life-Changing Baking Tips From Professional Bakers

These are pretty sweet.

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1. First things first: Invest in an oven thermometer.

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Pro pastry chef David Lebovitz explains that lots of ovens aren't calibrated properly, meaning that just because you set yours to 375°F doesn't mean that's what it's actually running at. Invest in an oven thermometer (get one here for $6.99) and go by what it reads, not by what your temperature dial is set to.

2. Sift your dry ingredients together instead of just mixing them, to avoid lumps.

When Elizabeth Falkner makes biscuits, she likes to sift together the flour, sugar, baking powder, baking soda, and salt. Doing so gets out any lumps that may have formed in your dry goods.

3. If you have guests over and you're feeling ~fancy~ you can make a quenelle out of whipped cream.

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A quenelle is made by dragging a hot, dry spoon through cold whipped cream and shaping it into a rounded football shape.

Here's exactly how you make a quenelle:

1. Run a spoon under hot water so that the spoon is warm, then dry it thoroughly.

2. Tilt a bowl of very whipped cream away from you, and place your spoon on the bottom side of the bowl, pointing towards you.

3. Drag the spoon up through the cream, towards yourself. The cream will roll over the surface of your spoon, creating a smooth, football shaped spoonful of cream.

4. Pick the spoon up out of the cream, and gently spoon the quenelle onto a dessert of your choice!

You can also make a quenelle out of ice cream by letting the ice cream sit at room temperature JUST until it's soft enough to shape.

4. Frost your cakes with a "crumb coat" (AKA base layer of frosting), then chill it, then frost it again to make it pretty.

First of all, only frost cakes after they've cooled completely. Once they're cool, spread a thin layer of frosting between layers and all over the cake, not worrying too much about what it looks like. This layer is just the "crumb coat", and it's what will make your frosting look pretty instead of looking studded with runaway crumbs. Chill the crumb-coated cake for at least an hour, then take it out and frost it again, this time making it pretty. Learn more here.

5. For a really next-level pie, make a "braided lattice" to go on top.

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The pro bakers at Four and Twenty Blackbirds are seriously skilled, but this braided lattice isn't so hard if your dough is at the right temperature. Essentially, you braid strips of dough together, then lay the braids on top of the pie filling before baking. Here's exactly how to do it.

6. Or, if the thought of braiding pieces of dough gives you anxiety, just crimp the edges.

Instead of crimping with a plain old fork, use the top of an antique key. It'll make a cool pattern, and literally anyone can do it. The bakers at Four and Twenty Blackbirds showed us how to use other household objects, like spoons and tongs, to crimp.

7. BUY A KITCHEN SCALE, for goodness' sake.

When Chef Jacques Torres came to BuzzFeed to make this insane hot chocolate, he measured literally EVERYTHING with a kitchen scale. It's much more accurate to measure dry goods like flour and sugar by weight than it is by volume. Having a scale makes all the difference in ensuring that your desserts come out perfectly every time. Get one here for $9.99.

8. If you're baking with booze, choose an alcohol that compliments the flavor profile of your dessert.

DC-based baker Faith Alice Sleeper adds all kinds of booze to her cupcakes (aka Crunkcakes). In order to really amp up the flavor, she makes sure to choose an alcohol that works with the flavors of the dessert, like adding Kahlua to brownies or bourbon to pecan pie.

9. The secret to getting perfectly shaped cookies every time? A cookie scoop.

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A cookie scoop ensures even portioning, plus it's just less messy than any other dough-scooping method. Get one here for $7.99.

10. When you're making pie dough, start with cubes of very cold butter and mix QUICKLY with your hands.

You want to mix the butter and the flour together, but you still want the butter to be relatively solid. That's what makes for a flaky, not-too-tough pie crust. Here's exactly how to make perfect pie dough.

11. Measure out all of your ingredients in advance.

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Pro chefs and bakers call these pre-measured ingredients mise en place, and it's something they swear by. Having things pre-measured means you won't have to stop what you're doing mid-recipe and rummage through cabinets for measuring cups or ingredients. Ultimately, it'll save you time. Also, a lot of doughs and batters are sensitive to temperature (if butter needs to be soft but not too melted) and time (if you want chocolate melted but not scorched), so you really don't want to have to step away.

12. Use an ironing board as temporary extra space if you run out of counters.

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As a Paris-dwelling baker who spent years in the San Francisco restaurant industry, David Lebovitz knows his stuff. He also knows that cramped counters don't work if you're rolling out pie crust or kneading dough. Set up an ironing board and use it to house the cookbook you're reading from, as well as whatever ingredients or cooked elements you have set aside.

13. A perfectly baked cake will spring back when pressed in the middle.

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When your cake has baked for the specified amount of time, take it out of the oven and press the center. If it springs back instead of sinking in, it's done. If not, give it another couple of minutes in the oven.

14. Before you whip cream, measure it out in a large bowl, then put the bowl in the freezer for 5 to 10 minutes.

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Chef Torres explains that cream is easier to whip when it's very cold. And if the bowl is cold, it'll keep the cream colder for longer. Just be careful not to keep it in the freezer for longer than ten minutes, because you don't want it to actually freeze at all.

15. And, your cream will whip faster if you use three whisks!

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Torres uses three whisks to whip cream because it gets more air into the cream more quickly, without as much effort and time. If you happen to have three similar sized whisks, might as well give this one a go!

16. Brush biscuits, rolls, and crusts with egg wash just before baking, to make them extra shiny.

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Falkner makes her egg wash by beating one large egg with 2 tablespoons of water, then brushing it on with a pastry brush. Make sure you don't brush your dough with egg wash until RIGHT BEFORE YOU BAKE. Otherwise, the dough will get soggy.

17. Make sure your butter is room temperature, if that's what the recipe calls for.

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Having butter at the proper temperature ensures that your dough or batter, and thus your finished dessert, is the right texture. How do you know if it's at room temperature? It should dent easily when you press it, but it shouldn't be liquid around the edges at all.

18. If you're using an electric hand mixer, spin the bowl instead of moving the hand mixer.

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If you're making a batter that requires a LOT of mixing (like this perfect birthday cake), it takes less energy to turn the bowl than it does to move the mixer. Your forearms will thank you.

19. You can chill portioned cookie dough for up to three days! It'll actually make them taste better.

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Chilling portioned dough for three days intensifies the flavor and ensures that the cookies spread more uniformly while baking. Scoop the dough onto parchment-lined baking sheets, then wrap each one tightly in plastic wrap before refrigerating. Learn more here.

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