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Baking Preparation Tips

Helpful tips, how-to's and useful information about prepping for baking, including suggested kitchen utensils and tools.

Anchor ramekins in a hot water bath (bain-marie) by placing them on a folded dish towel. That way they won't skitter around when you lift the hot water bath in and out of the oven.

For the ideal disposable pastry bag, use heavy-duty, quart-sized self-sealing plastic bags fitted with a cake decorating coupler and tip. The filling can't work its way out of these bags because they're sealed tight.

When a recipe calls for sifting, it works just as well to put all dry ingredients in the mixing bowl and stir with a whisk.

Line baking pans such as cookie sheets, loaf pans and layer cake pans, with waxed or parchment paper to prevent sticking and simplify clean-up.

The sharp open ends of clean cans make great biscuit, scone, and cookie cutters.

When a recipe calls for a "greased" pan, be sure to grease the pan with solid shortening or an oil unless otherwise specified.

Remember cooking and baking times specified in most recipes are merely guidelines. Since oven temperatures can vary from oven to oven it's best to check your dish a few minutes before recommended. For instance, if a recipe instructs you to bake a batch of cookies 10 to 15 minutes check it 7 or 8 minutes into baking. But don't belabor it and keep the door open for a long period of time or you'll lose a great deal of heat.

Foil-line pans for baking bars. Once bars have cooled, you can lift the foil right out and cut the bars cleanly. There's an added bonus: The pans will need only a quick rinse and dry.

Always bake bars on the middle rack in the oven and cookies on the top rack. If baking more than one pan at a time, place them at different angles on different racks to allow maximum circulation of heat. Alternate their placement on the racks halfway through the baking time.

You should cool cookie sheets between batches to keep unbaked cookies from melting and thinning at the edges before they can be set by the heat of the oven.

Don't have a "baker's" supply of cookie sheets? Spoon cookie dough onto large sheets of greased aluminum foil. When a cookie sheet becomes free, allow to cool, then lay the foil with the cookie dough right on the sheet.

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