My Favorite Shortcuts
Baking requires attention to detail and sometimes this can seem tedious. Luckily there are some tried and true shortcuts that can help us get to where we are going (through the recipe!) without sacrificing quality. This section is be added to as time goes on, so check back often – or if you have a shortcut to share, please email me.
Turning Ice Cold Butter into Room Temperature Butter
Many recipes call for room temperature butter, but sometimes we forget to plan ahead. The first technique I always use is to soften it in the microwave, but, BUT, this takes a keen familiarity with your microwave. Microwaves come in all powers. My high power, which is 1200 watts, might be more or less than the high power for your microwave. This is why it is generally impossible to standardize recipes for this appliance. Best approach is to put your stick(s) of butter on a plate and zap at high power for 10 seconds. Check and continue as needed. If you are worried about melting it all, try 50% power. This works well if you get the seconds right, however, it is easy to begin to melt the surface of the butter, so take care.
The other shortcut that I like is to grate the butter on the larges holes of a box grater. This results in such small shreds of butter, that they warm up quickly and you can cream them with your sugar in no time. And this technique doesn’t require an electric appliance.
Measuring Honey Doesn’t Have to Be a Sticky Mess
This shortcut is for saving time during your clean-up phase. If your recipe calls for honey (or maple syrup or any sticky liquid sweetener), spritz your measuring cup with nonstick spray, which will encourage the sweetener to effortlessly pour out. Or, if the recipe calls for oil, measure your oil first, do not clean the measuring cup, then measure the honey. The film of oil left over in the cup will accomplish the same thing. If the recipe calls for butter, you can also save the butter wrapper, and swipe it around the inside of the measuring cup.
The Quickest Way to Form Cupcakes and Muffins
Making muffins or cupcakes? You have your pan, of course, and maybe you are also using paper liners. Liners or not, there is a quick and easy way to get the batter into the wells of the pan – use an ice cream scoop. Having scoops of various sizes in the kitchen will come in handy for all sorts of recipes, including here. Dip the scoop into your batter, fill the bowl, scrape the excess off along the top edge of your mixing bowl and then plop the batter into the muffin/cupcake well. Not only is this a clean and quick method, but all your muffins/cupcakes will be the exact same size since your ice cream scoop creates portion control as well.
Pat in Pie Crust
Can’t find the rolling pin? Don’t want to have to clean up a floury work-surface? In a pinch you can pat a classic piecrust into your pie plate. It won’t look as pretty but it gets the job done. Just take walnut sized pieces of firm, chilled dough and pat it into your plate in as even layer as possible. Slightly overlap the pieces and press to seal and connect to create a solid single piecrust. Obviously I am addressing the bottom crust. This does not work as well (or really at all) for a top crust. If you are making a double-crusted pie, you can create a very homespun look by pressing the same walnut sized pastry pieces between your palms and placing them here and there, slightly overlapping on top of your filling. Don’t try to cover completely (it wont look very nice). Embrace its rusticity and make a peak-a-boo crust. Brush with egg, milk or cream and dust with sugar and bake as suggested.