How to Become a Better Baker
Dear Never Cook Naked Guys: I’d love to figure out the secret to baking. I’m convinced it’s like having a green thumb: You either have it or you don’t. As carefully as I read and follow a recipe to a tee, it’s a 50/50 chance it will come out perfectly.—Type A Personality
Dear Type A Personality: We have a friend who claims he doesn’t have a green thumb. We’ve watched him garden. He makes holes in the ground with the heel of his sneaker, dumps in some seeds, and then is amazed when nothing comes up. He’s just going through the motions. Not even. And he’s not practicing.
Practice, practice, practice
The same goes for baking. It’s all a matter of practice. That pie crust may not work the first time you roll it out. You may need to try again. And again. And again. That’s not much consolation on an average Wednesday night after work. But we doubt you’re doing much serious baking on a Wednesday night after work, anyways.
Ask for help
Also, embrace your inner fussiness. Baking is an exacting science. Measure carefully. Follow the instructions exactly. If the butter is supposed to be at room temperature, then leave it out on the counter until it’s nice and mushy. If the eggs are supposed to be at room temperature, leave them out on the counter for 20 minutes or dip them in a bowl of warm (not hot) water for 2 or 3 minutes.
Don’t make substitutions
And don’t make substitutions. We once spent an evening teaching a friend how to make pie crust. When she tried on her own a week later, she complained that the results were a rank disaster. When we pressed further, she admitted she’d substituted cornstarch for the flour. “They’re both white,” she reasoned.
Banish “perfect” from your dictionary
And then there’s this: What’s with the “perfect” stuff anyway? Forget the TV chefs. Those people have battalions off camera to make everything look so great.
Try, try again
Instead, keep at it. A baker’s grasp should always exceed his—or her—reach. With apologies to Robert Browning.
Our very clever, very clothed Never Cook Naked columnists are at your disposal, able to troubleshoot everything from questionable table etiquette to tricky cooking techniques (as well as, natch, proper cooking attire). Ask us your question in a comment below!