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8 Baking Secrets They Only Teach You in Pastry School

No more burnt cookies or uneven layered cakes—the experts are here to save your baking creations.
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Even if you're not a professional baker, you can still yearn to make the perfect, ooey-gooey, crumbly, melt-in-your-mouth chocolate chip cookies—or cake, pie, or pastry—right at home. There's something kind of magical about being good at baking.

Those who study the art of baking or pastry making in school learn that there are many techniques involved in creating the perfect textures, flavors, and overall appearance of a dessert. Often, chefs will get certified in the artform by The American Culinary Federation (also known as the industry standard for professional cooking skills), for which they have to prove their extensive knowledge across various culinary written and practical exams. This knowledge can provide pastry artists with enviable secrets and tricks.

Luckily, you don't have to enroll in a baking school to find out some things that will really come in handy when baking in your own kitchen. If you're looking to up your pastry, cookie, cake, and/or pie game, here are eight secrets they only teach in pastry school, straight from experts themselves! And next, don't miss how 16 Famous Celebs Make Their Morning Oatmeal.

1

You cannot forget to prep.

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While it can be tedious to get all of your ingredients out and make sure that everything is perfectly leveled to the tip of the measuring lines, prep is a crucial step when baking all kinds of pastries.

"Baking is just as scientific as it is an art," explains Chef Nik Fields, the owner of upscale restaurant Chic Chef in Phoenix, AZ, well-known cookbook author, and Eat This, Not That! Expert Board member. Unlike cooking a regular meal, where a little extra salt won't do too much harm, baking requires precise measurements because each ingredient can completely change the outcome of the intended recipe.

In pastry school, chefs are taught to have all ingredients out and ready to go before mixing because it "speeds up the [baking] time and you have the opportunity to double check your recipe and not leave anything out," Chef Fields says. This little trick allows you to survey what you have (or don't have) on hand, and thus, walk through the recipe easy-peasy with everything you need at your fingertips.

2

Warm up your serving knife.

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When dealing with serving up your finished product—such as a decorative cake or creamy cheesecake—it's not unusual for things to get a little sticky. To make the first cut a clean one, run the cake-cutting knife under hot water for a few seconds, dry it off, and you can avoid a big crumbling mess, according to Taste of Home experts.

3

Never open the oven during baking.

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It's tempting to want to get a peak and smell the deliciousness you made from scratch. However, it's more important to have patience.

Chef Fields says to be sure and keep the oven door closed at all costs, because "every time the door is open, you slow down the cooking time and allow for uneven baking." Any baker will tell you they've learned time and time again that baking is so delicate that even the smallest detail can cause a ripple in a recipe. As long as you followed directions correctly, the timer will ding when your sweet treat is ready!

4

Use a ruler.

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Some pastry recipes may call for the dough to be rolled out at a specific width or length. To ensure accuracy, bakers say to keep a ruler around to check your work and then you can be absolutely sure that you have either a 1/4 or 1/2 an inch in thickness.

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5

Give cookie dough time to settle and breathe.

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Speaking of dough, having correct measurements won't be the only factor in making your cookies rise to golden-brown excellence. According to an interview with Buzzfeed, Chef Kyle Bartone, a pastry sous chef at Eataly, recommends letting your cookie dough sit in the refrigerator for 24 hours (or more) so it can rest and dry out a bit before baking. This gives your cookies a better flavor and texture, he says.

6

A plastic straw can be your best secret cake weapon.

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You don't need expensive tools to be a professional baker! Chef Bartone says one of his biggest baking secrets is that he uses boba/bubble tea plastic straws in the middle of tall layered cakes to withstand gravity and keep them upright while decorating. The wide straw will give your cake the standing support it needs, but it won't cost you quite as much as the expensive wooden or metal dowels some chefs might splurge on.

7

Use a bowl and hot water to make ingredients come to room temperature.

If you ever run into a recipe that requires certain ingredients to be mixed in at room temperature—like eggs, for example—don't panic. Instead, try this simple trick that bakers commonly use: Fill a big bowl with hot or warm water, toss the ingredient in for a couple of minutes, and then they should be ready to go.

Room temperature ingredients may be important when it comes to ensuring a mixture is fully blended or dissolved together, Pastry Chef Chris Teixeira of The Fifty/50 Restaurant Group told Food Network.

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8

Parchment paper everything.

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It's pretty safe to say that no one enjoys cleaning up after a massive baking session. That's where parchment paper comes into play. Chef Thomas Keller, the author of the Bouchon Bakery cookbook, wrote that, as bakers, "it's about both working clean and not allowing what we are baking or have baked to come in direct contact with metal."

This no-mess tool is wonderful for keeping sheet pans and the like clean when you need to put them in the oven. It can also improve the baking process and end product, Keller explains. Due to the thin layer of air parchment paper creates under baked goods, it can help neutralize any possible hot spots that could result in an uneven bake.

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Jordan Summers-Marcouillier
Jordan Summers-Marcouillier was born and raised in San Jose, California and now works as a writer in New York, NY. Read more about Jordan