ok. So I am baking A LOT these days. More than I have in a long time. I used a lot of baking during my graduate degree (it was calming, also I used some of it in my art practice, also I just liked eating cake) but since becoming a mom and whatnot, I had less free time for baking. But now that I'm using it as a fledgling income source, I am really, really baking. Like, for two days straight. And I mean all day long, for those two days, I am in the kitchen measuring and mixing and putting stuff into the oven and taking stuff out of the oven, over and over and over. Like, I'm standing almost all day. I had to go out and find some good shoes, because after the first week was over my feet hurt like CRAZY and I was all like "feet, what's going on?" And they were all like. "You stood and walked around the kitchen for almost twelve hours yesterday with no shoes on! How do you think that makes us feel?" So now I take care of them better.
Anyhow, my point: lotsa baking = learned some stuff about baking. So I thought I'd share some tips.
1: " Treat yo self": To quote Donna and Tom from Parks and Rec. I went out and bought myself some new kitchen supplies. This was partially practical. Gluten Free baked goods, should not be cross-contaminated with gluten from old baking supplies. Who knows what rogue proteins lurk in the crevices of an old spatula? So I went and bought new cookies sheets, muffin tins, spatulas, etc. And I had not realized how old and crappy much of my stuff was. I've been married for, like, fifteen years you guys! And I received most of my kitchen supplies as wedding gifts. You know how well fifteen year old oven mitts work? They don't. They had holes in them at all the crucial spots (thumb end, thumb crevice, what's the point) and they were burned and threadbare. And probably had gluten aaaaallll over them. So I bought a new pair and seriously, the small pleasure of that simple new item cannot be underestimated. Also, I like not burning my thumbs. Which brings me to my second point:
2. Oven Mitts cannot be too long. Because of course, I managed to burn my forearms. Sigh. Because it is HOT in that kitchen. Hot is good for bread. Yeast likes heat in order to rise, so I keep the air conditioning to a minimum and I don't open the doors for a breeze. One ill-timed breeze could spell the end of my nice, lofty loaf crown. So I keep it hot in there. And I dress accordingly. I'm basically two steps away from baking topless. My apron does not have long sleeves ya'll. I am mostly bare armed most of the time. And my poor little bare arms.... ... are taking a beating. Please note the three-inch-long burn mark on the inner right forearm. This was worse (and more impressive, photographically) a couple of days ago. But still, that hurt like a sonofagun. Anyhow, much as I like my new oven mitts, (so thick! so grippy!) I cannot help but think they could have been longer. Like, opera length. Where are my formal length oven mitts? I think I might be onto something here. When I get a bit of free time I'm gonna sew me some looooong oven mitts. Also on the subject of new baking supplies....
3. Cookie scoop, where have you been all my life! I had heard tell of this handy little gadget before, but had never gotten around to tracking one down and buying it. Honestly, how have I not bought one of these things before? I'll tell you how: I'm cheap and I already own spoons, which are also perfectly good at scooping dough. But the cookie scoop? Oh, the consistency! The ease! The one hand only required, no fingers in the dough action! So hygienic! So fast! So little waste! So may exclamation marks! Cookie scoop, I'll never be without you again.
4. And if you are in any way serious about baking, or at least, about not screwing up when you bake, you should totally buy an oven thermometer. Cheap, easily available and they answer SO. MANY. QUESTIONS. Like: Bread, why are you so dark on the outside and yet too chewy and dense on the inside? Well, turns out my oven is off by, like, 25 degrees. At least. It takes my longer to heat up than I thought and can be pretty inconsistent. Anyhow, now that I have the oven thermometer, a quick check can tell me that, no the oven is not anywhere near 350 yet, even though the (useless) little preheat light went off. I now have way more consistent results, and less frustration. At least, when I'm paying attention.
5. And this is not really advice or anything, but I often think, as I'm baking, about how great it would be to have x-ray vision when I'm take my bread out of the oven. I don't need universal x-ray vision even. I'm not interested in state secrets or the contents of vaults or anything. I just want to be able to see into the middle of my bread without cutting it open. Because you can't sell already-been-cut-into bread. And there is no really perfectly accurate way to check the done-ness and consistency of the bread without cutting into it. Its a real connundrum. Anyhow, I just mostly have to trust myself and go with it. Hubs says he will make me a nice core-sampler thing so I can pull out a prefect cross section of the bread while keeping the rest of it intact. But that wouldn't really solve my problem because I don't think that people will want to buy the loaf with the hole in it. Even if it is a small, perfectly round hole.