In early 2009, we posted a survey asking people about their kitchen skills. Then, in March, we gave you a primer on knives and more practice in the art of cooking a perfect steak.
Now, John Barricelli, host of "Everyday Baking from Everyday Food," explains how you can bake like a pro in your very own kitchen by using convection technology.
Convection can be used for practically everything. With convection, food browns better and bakes more evenly because there's a built-in fan that circulates heat around the oven. The oven on the GE Monogram Pro Range that we use in the studio has an extra-special feature: The fan moves clockwise, then counter-clockwise, for more even heating and more accurate results.
Because of this technology, we don't need to rotate the baking sheets. Just remember, with convection cooking, the temperature should be reduced 25 degrees, and the baking time should be reduced as well.
Top Tips for the Home Baker
These tips from John Barricelli will help you with all the baking basics.
Proper measuring equipment
Measure liquids in a clear measuring cup, which allows you to read measurements at eye level. Measure dry and semi-solid ingredients in graduated dry measuring cups -- they allow you to level ingredients with a straightedge.
Sift flour and other dry ingredients only when called for specifically in the recipe. Use the dip and sweep method to ensure you've measured the proper amount.
Always use unsalted butter; this will allow you to control the amount of salt in the recipe.
To bring eggs to room temperature quickly, soak them in warm water for 15 minutes.
Rolling out pastry and dough
Use only a small amount of bench flour when rolling out dough; too much flour will cause the pastry or dough to become dry and stiff.
Testing for doneness
To test for doneness, use a toothpick or wooden skewer inserted into the center of the cake -- it should come out clean. The cake should spring back when lightly touched, and should be just pulling away from the sides of the pan.
Cakes should be cooled for 15 minutes in the pan before unmolding and transferring to a wire rack to cool completely.
Preparing a cake pan or muffin tin
When prepping a cake pan or muffin tin, a pastry brush can help with the hard-to-reach spots. Brushing the surface between cups will prevent muffin tops from sticking to the pan. Use softened butter rather than melted butter.
Creaming butter and sugar
Creaming butter and sugar is necessary to achieve full volume; be sure to take the time indicated in the recipe.
If you prefer soft cookies, slightly underbake them. In most instances, simply substituting brown sugar for some or all of the granulated sugar in the recipe will produce softer cookies because it contains more moisture.
If you prefer crisp cookies, try using egg whites in place of some of the whole eggs called for in the recipe. You can restore the crisp texture of a cookie that may have softened by heating at 300 degrees for about 10 minutes.
GE Monogram Shopping Spree Sweepstakes
To enter for a chance to win a $5,000 GE Monogram appliance shopping spree, visit marthastewart.com/GE.
Special thanks to SoNo Baking Company and Cafe owner John Barricelli ("Everyday Baking from Everyday Food") for sharing this information and making his mouthwatering Cherry Chocolate-Chunk Cookies. For more sweet treats, check out these cookie recipes from "The Martha Stewart Show." Plus, get more recipes from John Barricelli.