Have you been too nervous to try making your own pie crust? Does the thought of making eclairs from scratch freak you out? Do you even know what’s in a macaroon?
You’re not alone!
Unlike the freeform creativity that’s highly encouraged in cooking, baking is a precise science. In a curry or stir-fry, an extra dash of seasoning or 5 minutes on the stove top is unlikely to make or break a dish. But such a variation can be deadly in the world of baking.
It’s all to easy to under-prove your bread, over-whip your cream, split your creme patisserie, or watch your beautiful choux pastry collapse after just one tiny error.
This is why I was always too overwhelmed to venture beyond recipes that felt safe – cookies and muffins for the most part, maybe cupcakes if I was feeling fancy.
But I am happy to report that I am now reveling in my new-found fearlessness as a baker!
Strangely, I have my time in quarantine to thank. Long days stuck at home have become the new norm, and we’re all in search of ways to fill this extra time that feel both productive and fun.
Gone are the days of rehashing the same old bakes. I want to share all of my tips and tricks to overcoming the ‘Baking Nerves’.
Get ready to dive into a world of homemade pies, fresh scones, Pinterest-worth cheesecake, and all the delicious treats you never thought you could make.
1. Stop Saving Baking for Special Occasions or Group Gatherings
Nearly any skill you want to master in life requires practice and risk, the acceptance that failure is a possibility.
Risk and experimentation can take many forms when it comes to baking. Trying out new recipes is the obvious one, but this can also mean playing around with your existing recipes.
Testing a longer bake on a lower oven temperature, the use of baking powder and lemon juice vs. baking soda, subbing a tablespoon of flour with cornstarch to create a new texture… these are all risks that could lead to an even tastier creation or total disaster.
But the possibility of disaster becomes far less acceptable when you have 10 people coming for dinner, or when you promised you’d bring a dish to brunch in the next hour. You’ll always find it easier to make the acceptable muffin recipe you can guarantee will at least be edible, and there’s no chance you’ll wind up empty.
It’s tempting to save baking for group gatherings because it’s always nice to have to someone to share the fruits of your hard work with, but this will completely stifle your creativity.
Shift your mindset around baking from something you do to “produce” a good for other people, and see it as an activity you do just for the fun of it!
Try out something you’ve never made before or shake up your favorite bake with a new twist. Worst case scenario? You spent an afternoon doing something you love and learning something new.
2. Take Your Time – Never Ever (EVER) Rush a Bake
This should be the cardinal rule of baking. If you don’t have time to make the recipe you planned, don’t do it! Make something simpler or pick up a grocery store pound cake. Trust me, baking in a rush is never worth it.
First, you are highly likely to make a mistake. Adding your eggs all at once instead of one at a time, hurriedly over-mixing your batter, or even 1/4 tsp too much baking soda will spell disaster.
I can tell you from experience that there are few things more stressful than trying to throw together a complicated recipe while rushing around the kitchen like a crazy person.
Suddenly that 1 measuring spoon you need vanishes, your stickiest ingredient decides to spill, items fly off countertops, and your oven mysteriously turns off even though you totally set it to pre-heat!
Part of why you love baking is that it is your source of calm and accomplishment and fun, so don’t let a rushed bake steal that joy from you.
Your ideal baking process should looking something like this:
- Read your recipe all the way through at least once
- Pre-measure your ingredients into smaller bowls
- Prepare your baking tin or tray however the recipe calls for (parchment paper, butter/flour, nonstick spray, etc)
- Tidy up a little (put away ingredient containers, set aside measuring tools, etc)
- Begin your recipe fresh!
This process guarantees that your ingredients are properly measured and handy, your baking parcels are ready to go, and you know exactly what you’ll be doing. As you can see, this would not be easy to do in a hurry!
3. Find Your Baking Inspiration – Videos, Blogs, Books, and More!
Sometimes we all need a little inspiration, and there is no shortage of baking inspo on the internet. Baking videos are a particularly powerful source of empowerment for all skills, especially baking.
A perfectly photographed profiterole dusted with icing sugar may seem beyond your skillset, but seeing the whole process from start to finish helps you realize that nearly anything is possible.
Find YouTube channels and bloggers you love that are making the dishes you want to try, and follow along! Here are some of my absolute favorites:
You Really Can Learn to Love it!
Trying my hand at different doughs, pastries, buns, cakes, and more has been one of my highlights of 2020, a year in which I do not take highlights for granted. My perfect Sunday afternoon now consists of: sweet scented candle, calming music, snoozing kittens, and a brand new recipe to try.
I’ll be sure to share all of my creations right here!