Mastering the basics of baking: Tips to help you avoid dessert disasters

MILWAUKEE -- The secret to delicious baked goods is all in the details. Jennifer Goldbeck with Delicately Delicious joins Real Milwaukee with some tips we should keep in the mix.

1. Use room temperature ingredients. This allows for the ingredients to blend together, avoids curdling/broken batters, and enables ingredients to distribute more evenly. Tips to get refrigerated items to room temperature fast include:
- placing eggs in a bowl of warm (not hot) water
- quick bursts of short times in the microwave followed by stirring to distribute heat to bring milk, buttermilk, or other cold liquids to room temp
- cut butter into small cubes to increase surface area and exposure to room temp. Can also put in microwave on low power or defrost for short bursts

2. Pause to scrape the bowl down and continuing beating, both while adding ingredients and while beating them once all ingredients are added.
-this is a MUST to make certain the ingredients are equally distributed throughout and that they are all broken down evenly

3. Toast nuts
- ALWAYS! Toasting nuts helps to bring out the natural oils and increases the flavor. Toasting also makes the nuts crunchier, and helps them maintain crunch when added to a recipe. To toast nuts, distribute on a cookie sheet or pan with sides. Bake at 300 for 8-10 minutes.

4. Finish mixing ingredients by hand, or folding in last ingredients. This prevents over working, and allows for a more delicate final product.

5. Add eggs one at a time. Technically yes, again allows for better incorporation of ingredients and the binding of the fats in the eggs to other ingredients.

But there is also good news!
1. You can swap unbleached all purpose flour with bleached all purpose flour.
2. Salted vs Unsalted butter can also be swapped at times. The amount of salt in salted butter is not consistent, so often recipes will specify unsalted butter along with a specific amount of salt. For baked goods, using salted butter if thats all you have on hand is fine. You could cut back on the amount of salt indicated in these recipes. For frosting, or items you are not baking it may or may not be perceptible depending on your palette, but here I would recommend unsalted so you can control the flavor.
3. Unless you are making a delicate chiffon torte, or your cocoa powder or flour is lumpy, you do not have to actually sift your ingredients. Aerating your flour before measuring, and a quick whisk will suffice to blend the dry ingredients together.