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Baking is both a science and an art. This means that you not only need to use a certain set of techniques to get the best results, but that you will need to develop a feel for what you’re doing to be able to combat any unexpected problems that come up. Over on the Craftsy blog (it’s free!!), I put together a list of 15 Tips for Baking Success. These tips range from simple to advance, but are good advice for bakers of any level. Since the New Year is a good time for New Year’s resolutions, resolve to up your baking game in the coming year and have your oven turning out delicious and beautiful baked goods for your family and friends.

The list only as 15 tips and it was hard to cut it down to that many. If you’ve found any baking tips over the years that have given you an edge or a lightbulb moment (i.e. left you wondering why you didn’t think of that sooner!), share them in the comments! You can also search through the archives of my How-To’s and Tips category, which is packed with answers to a wide variety of baking questions and many tutorials.

The post Baking Bites for Craftsy: 15 Tips for Baking Success appeared first on Baking Bites.

Puff pastry is an ingredient that most of us buy at the market, rather than make at home. Puff pastry is made by laminating layers of dough and butter to form a pastry that has hundreds of layers to it and bakes up to be crisp and flaky. The process of making the layers can be time consuming, though the results are worth the effort. There is one way to streamline the whole process, and that is to make rough puff pastry instead of traditional pastry. Rough puff pastry takes much less time, effort and technical skill to put together than a traditional laminated dough, but it is just as delicious to work with.

Traditional puff pastry starts with a butter block and a lean dough, which are then layered together. Rough puff pastry is made by combining chunks of butter directly with flour to make one base dough. It is very similar to making a pie crust, though you’ll want much larger pieces of butter because they will yield a flakier finished product. The butter can be cut into flour using a food processor or by simply cutting it into large chunks and tossing them directly into the flour. Water is added and the dough is brought together into a rough dough.

I am a huge fan of banana bread variations, adding a wide variety of mix-ins and other flavors to my recipes. Sometimes, however, I forget about simple changes that can make a big difference in the finished product, like switching out all purpose flour for whole wheat flour to make this Whole Wheat Banana Bread.

Switching to a whole wheat flour not only helps you get more whole grains in your diet – because I’m not going to be the one to tell you to cut back on banana bread – and eating more whole grains is always a good thing. The whole wheat flour gives it a slightly nutty flavor that makes the bread feel a bit less sweet than some traditional banana breads. The recipe starts with three medium bananas, which give the bread a great banana flavor and a very moist base. The exact quantity of banana puree can be a little bit flexible and three bananas should be plenty – unless your bananas are very tiny or very gigantic, which might put you a little under or over the idea amount. Cinnamon and vanilla are added to the dough to give it even more flavor.

The finished banana bread is tender, with a dense crumb that holds up well to slicing. It also holds up well to toasting, which is a fantastic way to enjoy this bread, by...

If you like dulce de leche, you’ll love cajeta. Cajeta is a goat milk caramel sauce that is just as thick, sweet and rich as dulce de leche, but with a slightly more complex flavor. There are many ways to enjoy both of these caramel sauces and these Cajeta Shortbread Crumb Bars are one particularly delicious option.

The recipe starts with a very buttery shortbread mixture that forms both the base and crumb topping of these bars. The shortbread dough should be mixed until it is crumbly, not until it forms one solid mass of dough, to make it easier to work with. A portion of the dough is pressed into a baking pan to form the crust, the topped with a layer of cajeta while the shortbread is still warm. The caramel sauce will soften and can be spread to the sides of the pan if you carefully work with a small spatula. The remaining shortbread mixture is sprinkled on top to form the crumb topping. After a second trip in the oven, the bars will be set and ready to enjoy.

Cajeta can be found in the Latin/Mexican food section of many markets – typically alongside dulce de leche – and, of course, at Latin/Mexican markets. It is sometimes packaged in a squeeze bottle, which makes it very easy to pour onto the shortbread base in this particular recipe,...

Cajeta is a thick caramel sauce made with goat’s milk. It is similar in color and thickness to dulce de leche. Dulce de leche starts with sugar and milk – it is commonly made with sweetened condensed milk, which already has some of the water cooked out of it – and is cooked slowly until a thick, sweet, golden brown caramel sauce forms. Cajeta uses goat milk in place of cow milk and is made using the same process.

As you might expect, cajeta has a deep caramelized sweetness and a clear dairy flavor. From the goat’s milk, it has a very slight tang and a hint of grassy/earthiness. While this might sound like a strange way to describe a caramel, please don’t be put off by it! The goat’s milk is what sets this delicious sauce apart from other caramels by giving it a unique flavor. If you like goat cheese and dulce de leche, you’ll probably love cajeta.

You can find cajeta in many markets in the Latin/Mexican foods section, and you will definitely be able to find it at Latin/Mexican market, where it is likely to be less expensive. I’ve also seen it offered for sale at gourmet foods stores, usually in the section with dulce de leche, jams or other caramels and condiments.

How to Enjoy It

While I see cajeta most often as a thick caramel sauce, it can...

Biscotti are one of my top cookie choices when I have a cup of coffee or tea that needs something sweet beside it. They’re wonderfully crisp on their own, and firm enough to hold their shape if you choose to dunk them without falling apart in a hot beverage. They also have a great shelf life, which means that you can bake up a batch of this Coconut Almond Biscotti and snack on them for at least a week before needing to make more to refill the cookie jar.

These biscotti are chock full of coconut and almonds – a great combination of flavors and textures. I used sweetened, shredded coconut and slivered, toasted almonds. Either unsweetened or sweetened coconut can be used, depending on personal preference and what you have in your pantry. Sliced or roughly chopped almonds could be used in place of the slivered almonds, but I strongly recommend toasting them for the most flavorful results!

This dough spreads out quite a bit when it is the oven, so you’ll notice that I describe shaping the dough into a long, narrow and very tall log before putting it into the oven. As the dough spreads, the log will become tapered on the sides and this is what will give your finished cookies a traditional biscotti shape. You’ll get the best results if you place one log on one...

It has been another year of delicious treats and useful baking tips here at Baking Bites. In 2017, I published over 185 new recipes for cookies, breads, ice cream and more – and that doesn’t include the dozens of recipes that I shared over on the Craftsy blog, too! I also finished up my new cookbook, Perfectly Creamy Frozen Yogurt, which will be hitting store shelves in the spring (and you should definitely pre-order from your favorite retailer in advance). Before jumping into the new year, here is a look back at the 10 most popular new recipes from 2016. Which is your favorite?

10. Big Banana Oatmeal Chocolate Chip Cookies – These jumbo cookies are loaded with banana, chocolate chips and oatmeal, for a cookie that is just as good as a breakfast treat as an afternoon snack.

9. Fudgy Coffee Flour Chocolate Chip Cookies – Haven’t heard of coffee flour? This nutritionally dense flour is made from coffee beans and it makes for an excellent and very flavorful batch of cookies.

They say that some of the best things in life are the simplest. I don’t know if that is always true, but I do know that I appreciate a recipe that is easy to put together and doesn’t have an ingredient list that requires me to make a trip to the market before baking. Apple Cinnamon Pecan Muffins are one of those simple recipes that you’ll find yourself making on a regular basis – not just because they’re easy, but because they’re delicious.

The muffins start with an easy buttermilk batter that is seasoned with cinnamon, vanilla and brown sugar. They are also packed with diced apples and chopped pecans, which makes for a muffin that has a nice combination of textures, as well as flavors. You could probably even put this recipe together in just one bowl, though I recommend using one bowl for the dry ingredients and one for the “wet” ingredients in the instructions below, as it helps ensure that everything is mixed properly. The best part is that this recipe only requires one apple, so you definitely won’t need to make a special trip before you start preheating your oven.

You can use just about any kind of apple that you have on hand for this recipe. Maybe you have an Granny Smith leftover from the last pie you baked. Maybe you have a Honeycrisp that you...

Rum cakes are a very grown up treat that is sure to please guests at any party. These desserts usually start as buttery, pound cake-like cakes that are thoroughly soaked in a rum syrup, making the cake very moist and very flavorful. Whether you’re already a fan of rum cakes or want to make your first one, this Classic Rum Cake recipe is a great place to start.

My recipe starts with a soft, dense bundt cake base. The cake batter is flavored with quite a bit of rum and a splash of vanilla. Most rum is distilled from molasses and many brands have sweet vanilla, sugar and spice notes to them. While you may get a hint of the alcohol in this cake (all of the alcohol is cooked, but I still would keep this dessert for adults only), you’re mostly going to find it loaded with vanilla and caramelized sugar flavors. The cake itself is tender and soft, with a dense crumb. It is good on its own, but even better after it has been soaked in rum syrup.

The syrup used to soak this cake is made with rum, butter and sugar. Though the ingredients are the same, it is too thin to feel like a real caramel sauce. It is, however, thick enough that it has time to soak into the cake without simply pouring off the sides of...

During the holiday season, I serve up quite a bit of eggnog. It’s a wonderful treat for family and friends because it is not only delicious, but it’s also only available around the holidays, so it really makes a gathering festive. I make homemade eggnogs and buy eggnog, as well. As the holidays wind down, I sometimes have some extra ‘nog on my hands and turn it into other treats, such as Eggnog Belgian Waffles and this Eggnog Coffee Cake.

This coffee cake recipe has a tender cake that is bursting with holiday flavor because it is made with a generous amount of eggnog. It is also flavored with additional vanilla and nutmeg, both common seasonings for fresh ‘nog. I used a prepared eggnog in this recipe and would recommend that you do the same. A homemade eggnog can be used, but prepared eggnogs (the kind you can buy at the store) work very well and are even easier to use. There will be some variation from brand-to-brand when it comes to how thick your eggnog is or exactly how sweet it is, but those variations won’t through off this recipe.

A buttery cinnamon and nutmeg streusel sits atop the cake, adding a nice amount of texture and sweetness to every bite. I like the traditional look of the streusel on top of the coffee cake, but you can actually give...

I love to work with good quality white chocolate. Though it is sweeter and contains more sugar than its darker counterparts, the vanilla and dairy flavors of a high quality, ultra-creamy white chocolate are hard to beat and work exceptionally well in many recipes. White chocolate is also unusual in that it can be caramelized quite easily. Since it contains more sugar than most other forms of chocolate and has no cocoa solids, those sugars can be caramelized to deepen the flavor of the white chocolate and create something exceptionally delicious – even if you’re not usually a white chocolate fan.

This Caramelized White Chocolate Mocha is one of the easiest treats that you can make with caramelized white chocolate, though I recommend my Caramelized White Chocolate & Cherry Ice Cream when you’re ready to take your white chocolate cookery to the next level.

How to Caramelize White Chocolate

Start with good quality white chocolate that is made with pure cocoa butter, not other vegetable fats. High quality white chocolate is easy to work with and will always have the best flavor.

Place the white chocolate in a nonstick skillet and melt it over medium-low heat. Cook, stirring regularly, until it begins to turn a golden color. Continue stirring until the chocolate is almost the color of peanut butter. If it appears to sieze up a bit as you cook...

The combination of rich chocolate and cool peppermint is a good one in just about any form, whether you’re sipping a mug of peppermint-spiked hot chocolate loaded up with marshmallows or indulging in a slice of this Chocolate Peppermint Chiffon Pie. This pie is a great make-ahead dessert for entertaining, not only because it is easy to put together, but because it has a combination of flavors and textures that you and your guests will absolutely love.

Chiffon pies have mousse-like fillings that don’t require any baking because they are set with gelatin. While some of you might picture firm, brightly colored cubes of Jello when talking about gelatin, it can help set a mousse to the perfect consistency when used well. In the case of this recipe, the pie filling is creamy and almost seems to melt in your mouth, with a light and airy texture that is still firm enough to slice through.

This filling starts out with a pudding-like base that is made with egg yolks, milk and plenty of chocolate. Any dark chocolate – I prefer one around 60-65% cacao myself – will work well in this filling. Once the base is prepared, gelatin is added and it is allowed to cool. Next, an egg white meringue and a generous amount of whipped cream are folded in to give the filling its final, airy texture. The egg white...

Chocolate cookies are crowd pleasers in my house. No matter what occasion I’m baking for, whether it is strawberry shortcakes in the spring or pumpkin pies in the fall, there are always a few holdouts for a chocolate dessert. Cookies are a great way to offer a chocolate dessert any time, as they’re quicker and easier to make than most pies and other options – plus, one batch is always enough for a crowd. These Double Chocolate Ginger Bar Cookies are a fantastic option when you want to put together an indulgent chocolate treat in short order.

These cookies were inspired by some chocolate bars that I had recently. I had both white and dark chocolate bars that were studded with pieces of candied ginger. They were delicious, because the spiciness of the ginger contrasted well with both the creamy white chocolate and the bittersweet dark chocolate, but I felt it would be even more delicious if all of those elements could come together in one recipe.

These bar cookies are brownie-like, with a deep chocolate flavor, but they have a lighter texture overall and are a bit crisper on top. The recipe is based on a chocolate peppermint bar cookie that I copied (yes, copied down on paper!) from an issue of Gourmet magazine a number of years back. The chocolate cookie dough is similar to brownie batter, with a relatively...

Molasses is a wonderfully rich ingredient that I bake with regularly during the fall, winter and holiday baking seasons. It’s rich, bittersweet flavor is the backbone of many spice cakes, gingersnaps and molasses cookies. These Five Spice Molasses Cookies are not your typically gingerbread cookies, though they do use molasses as a based for their flavor. They’re generously seasoned with Chinese five spice powder for a unique and very delicious spicy sweetness.

Five spice powder is a popular spice blend that typically includes star anise, cinnamon, cloves, pepper and fennel seeds, though it sometimes contains ginger, nutmeg or cardamom, as well. It’s available in the spice section at most supermarkets, and you’ll definitely be able to find it at an Asian specialty grocery store, as well. Since molasses is a strong flavor, I was generous with the five spice. The cookies have a great flavor straight out of the oven, but they improve with time, so these cookies will taste even better a day after baking.

The key to getting the best results with these cookies is to not over bake them. Because the cookies are dark in color, it can be difficult to tell at a glace whether they’re done or not. The best way to check them is by gently touching the sides of the cookie with your fingertip. The cookie should soft, but firm enough to spring back...

Pears can be a wonderful fruit to bake with and they’re featured in some of my favorite fall desserts, including Double Crust Pear Pie and Honey and Cinnamon Roasted Pears. This Sticky Maple Pear Cake is yet another fantastic option when you find yourself with a few extra pears on hand. The richly flavored cake is made with a generous amount of maple syrup and brown sugar, along with cinnamon, allspice and vanilla. There is just enough spice to contrast with the sweet pears, but not enough to overwhelm the toffee-like flavor of the maple. It’s an elegant dessert that tastes like comfort food in every bite!

When I first started to work on this cake recipe, my intention was to make a variation on Sticky Toffee Pudding that included pears. Some of my experiments ended up being overly sweet and pears have such a delicate flavor that it can actually be overwhelmed by a sauce that is too strongly flavored. Maple syrup turned out to be the key, as it’s flavor stands out without overshadowing the delicate natural sweetness of the pears. The cake is made with a slightly unusual method where some of the ingredients are cooked into a syrup, then the syrup is added to the rest of the ingredients to form the batter. The maple syrup – because it is a fairly unrefined...

Madeleines are one of the most perfect cookies to pair with with coffee or tea. This is probably because the cookies are actually a lot more like cakes than they are like cookies, which means that the cookie crumbs soak up all the flavor of your favorite beverage as you nibble them between sips – making a very satisfying eating experience. These Mocha Chocolate Chip Madeleines are a perfect option for chocolate-lovers, whether you want to pair them with a sweet mocha or a classic cup of black coffee.

The chocolate madeleines are infused with instant coffee powder and studded with chocolate chips, so they’re bursting with flavor in every bite. I used unsweetened cocoa powder to give these madeleines their chocolate flavor. It delivers a strong chocolate flavor without weighing down the cookies, which you want to remain tender, not overly dense. Instant coffee blends with the cocoa powder to turn chocolate into mocha. While I added the cocoa powder in with the flour, I recommend dissolving the coffee into the melted butter in this recipe, so it has a chance to fully dissolve before it goes into the batter. A handful of mini chocolate chips bumps up the chocolate flavor – again, without weighing down the cookies.

To gild the lily, I dipped some of these in a bit of tempered dark chocolate. The chocolate-dipped cookies are gorgeous to look...

Gingerbread cookies of all kinds – from cut out gingerbread men to crisp gingersnaps – are a staple in my home during the holidays. Their warm spices are incredibly satisfying on a cold night and they pair perfectly with everything from eggnog to hot chocolate. This year, Betty Crocker released a Limited Edition Gingerbread Cookie Mix as an easy option for anyone who wants to get those cookies made a little bit more quickly.

The mix itself has a short ingredient list, with molasses powder, cinnamon and spices playing prominent rolls. Once you open the package of the mix, you’ll need to add butter, water and an egg to it. Everything should be mixed together in one bowl, so make sure your butter is very soft before adding it in, or you might have a little difficulty incorporating it. There are two recipe options on the package, one for gingersnaps and one for cutout cookies. The gingersnaps are drop cookies that are rolled in sugar, while the cutouts can be rolled out before cutting into individual cookies. I tried both options.

Both types of cookies were delicious. The mix tasted very much like homemade cookies, with strong molasses, cinnamon and ginger flavors that really hit the mark of what I...

Palmiers are one of my favorite cookies to make. They’re easy, delicious and always a crowd pleaser. I sometimes make them with homemade puff pastry, but I often make them with store-bought pastry for a quick palmier fix. Using frozen, you can churn out these hard-to-resist treats in no time at all. I like to put my own twists on palmiers by adding ingredients like toffee and rainbow sprinkles, but one of the most impressive ways to up your palmier game is by turning them into Palmier Butterflies.

If you’re familiar with making palmiers, these are shaped in exactly the same way as their traditional relatives and I will walk you through the folding process in the recipe below. Once your log of dough is shaped, it should be cut into individual pieces that are twice as thick as you might use for classic palmiers. Holding the folded side up (and the solid side down), make a cut into the pastry as though you are going to divide it into two separate palmiers, but only cut 2/3 to 3/4 of the way through the pastry. Open up the “wings” that you just made with that cut and place, wing-side-down, on a baking sheet. They’re beautiful to look at even before they’ve baked!

When it comes...

When visions of sugar plums dance in your head, you’re probably picturing juicy plums coated in sugar to give the a holiday sparkle. Unfortunately, that isn’t what sugar plums are. Sugar plums are, essentially, a type of candy where layers of sugar are built up around a central “seed.” Traditionally, this seed may actually have been seeds in dried fruit, but almonds are a little more common these days when you find actual sugar plums. The name comes from the fact that the finished candy has the (approximate) shape of a plum and a modern might be something like a jordan almond.

These Sugar Plum Thumbprint Cookies are not made with real sugar plums. They are, however, made with sugar and plum jam, so I decided to keep the festive name. They’re a colorful and easy option for your holiday cookie plate.

The cookies are a cross between a butter cookie and a shortbread cookie. They’re tender and contain no leavening, but they are not crisp and have a slight chew to them. Once the dough is made, it is shaped into rounds. Using the tip of your pinky finger – or the handle of a wooden spoon, which I prefer – make an indentation for the “thumbprint” and fill it with plum jam. It might take a little bit of looking to find plum jam (I got mine at Trader Joe’s),...

I am a big advocate of buying chocolate chips that are made with real chocolate, ones that are made with cocoa butter and not other vegetable oils. There are some exceptions, such as for flavored chips. While they look like chocolate chips in shape, these candy chips come in flavors like mint, butterscotch and caramel. They’re an easy way to add a lot of additional flavor to a traditional batch of chocolate chip cookies and can be very delicious.

These Caramel-Flavored Baking Chips from Ghirardelli are a new offering and they’re a great ingredient to play around with if you’re a caramel-lover. There are some cookie and cake recipes that incorporate pieces of real caramel, of course, but caramel is so heat-sensitive that it tends to melt rather than remaining in the batter. These chips allow you to infuse some caramel flavor without affecting the texture of your finished product. The chips are very pale in color and have a clear flavor of caramelized sugar and milk, with hints of vanilla and salt – which is to say that they really do taste like caramel! They’re smooth to eat and hold up well in cookies without turning grainy. Though sugar is their main ingredient, they’re not as sweet as most of the butterscotch chips I’ve had, which means that recipes where you use them will feel more balanced.

These chips...