13 Genius Baking Hacks That’ll Turn You Into a Master Baker

07/01/2014 at 04:03 PM ET
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Courtesy Amnah Ibrahim
TAKE A SHORTCUT

According to Urban Dictionary, the term “hack” has several meanings, among them “a clever or elegant technical accomplishment” and “a temporary, jury-rigged solution.” These 13 baking shortcuts not only fit both of these definitions, but are ingenious enough to change your culinary life forever. Read on, and never cry over snafus like burned cookies or undecorated cakes again.

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SCOOP UP STRAY EGGSHELLS

Chantal over at Paleoaholic suggested a simple but super-smart way to get errant bits of shell out of an egg you’ve over-zealously cracked into a bowl. “Wet your fingers before trying to get it out. It literally gravitates the shell to your fingers, so you can quickly remove all of the unpleasant crunch,” she writes in a post dedicated to this do-it-all food.

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SOFTEN BROWN SUGAR

You last bought brown sugar to make chocolate chip cookies for a holiday party. Now it’s summer and you want to make another batch for a picnic, but your sugar looks and feels more like a brick than something you’d want to eat. No need to toss it in the trash. Place it in a baking dish, cover it with a moist paper towel and either microwave it on high for 20-second intervals or place it in a 300F oven for five minutes.

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WARM UP YOUR EGGS

Some recipes call for room-temperature eggs, since they are often easier to incorporate into batter when they aren’t too cold. If you’ve forgotten to take them out in advance, Baking Bites suggests placing them in a bowl of warm water for five to ten minutes before using them.


Courtesy Jill Nystul
RIPEN BANANAS IN THE OVEN

Sometimes a banana-bread craving strikes but you might not have an overripe bunch stashed and ready to go. So follow this suggestion from Jill Nystul of One Good Thing by Jillee and roast whole bananas in the oven for 40 minutes at 300F to ripen them. They’ll end up soft, black and the perfect texture for baking a moist loaf.

Courtesy Brenda De Los Santos
SALVAGE BURNED COOKIES

There’s nothing like opening the oven and realize that your highly anticipated cookies have been scorched — and the friends you’re hosting are coming in a matter of minutes. Don’t panic and dump them into the trash, instead, steal a tip from Brenda of Downtown Dish and shave off the bottoms with either a box grater or microplane zester. What happens in the kitchen, stays in the kitchen, right?

Courtesy Toni Spilsbury, The Organized Cook
LET THE OVEN FROST YOUR CUPCAKES

Don’t feel like frosting a batch of cupcakes? If you’ve got a bag of large marshmallows you’ll barely have to lift a finger to gussy them up. About five minutes before the oven timer is due to ring, Toni Spilsbury places a large marshmallow on top of each cupcake for a melted, S’More like topping.

Courtesy Amnah Ibrahim
DECORATE A CAKE IN FIVE SECONDS

Leave the swirly writing and individually piped rosettes to the professionals. We’re loving this elegant, minimalist design that Amnah of Little Life of Mine created using only a cookie cutter and rainbow sprinkles. With this idea, your creative options are only limited by the shapes and styles you have available. You can also try reversing the design by dropping sprinkles over most of the cake and leaving the number white.

Courtesy Carmen Nuland
WARM BREAD DOUGH WITH A HEATING PAD

Carmen from A Simple Homestead blogged about the time that she wanted to make rolls, but couldn’t use the oven to let the dough rise because her husband needed it for another dish. So she improvised by placing her bowl of dough on a heating pad covered with a towel. It puffed up beautifully within an hour.

Chia Chong
CRIMP PIE CRUST WITH A NECKLACE

Libbie Summers, author of Sweet and Vicious — Baking with Attitude, made this quick, fun video of 20 different ways to crimp a pie border, such as using a corkscrew tip, a measuring spoon, and, our favorite, an elegant pearl necklace.

Tracy Benjamin
DON'T WHIP YOUR CREAM, SHAKE IT

Tracy Benjamin of Shutterbean calls making whipped cream in a mason jar “the greatest party trick ever” and who are we to argue with her? “I walked around my kitchen cleaning things up one handed while shaking. 3 minutes-ish. I burned exactly 1000 calories….in my dreams,” she writes.

Courtesy Teacher-Chef.com
USE BALLOONS TO MAKE CHOCOLATE BOWLS

Here’s how this ingenious, kid-friendly technique from Rachel at Teacher-Chef.com works: Inflate balloons, melt chocolate, dip balloons into chocolate and pop balloons. The result is a group of gorgeous (and edible!) chocolate bowls that can be used to hold berries or mousse. Her key tip? “Rinse and dry all of your balloons just to make sure there is no ‘balloon powder’ on the outside,” she writes.

Courtesy Natalie Mancino
DECORATE COOKIES WITH CRYSTAL GLASSWARE

Natalie Mancino admits on her blog, Book Line and Sinker, that she used to tease her sister about her “persnickety cookie decorating and sizing rules” and the fact that she used the bottom of her cut-crystal salt shaker to shape her holiday creations. “But today she feels vindicated! They really do make a perfect snowflake,” she tells PEOPLE. To get the look, first roll the dough into balls, then press them flat with the bottom of the shaker. Depending on the size of your cookie, you can also get a similar effect with a small crystal glass or vase.

Tristi Ogden/Ogden Photography
MAKE A CUPCAKE SANDWICH

As the founder and owner of The Wild Cupcake bakery in Amarillo, Texas, Cupcake Wars winner Nicole Costa can certainly be considered an expert on how to best consume these frosting-topped treats. She’s a fan of the popular “sandwich” method, whereby you slice (or pull) off the bottom half and place it atop the frosting. Then simply bite into it like a burger. As Costa says, when you eat a cupcake the regular way, “It’s really difficult to get that perfect cake to buttercream ratio.” (You’re also more likely to end up with a nose full of frosting.) We suggest doing a little advance prep work and serving reassembled cupcakes at your next party.

—Lexi Dwyer


FILED UNDER: Baking , Expert Tips , Food

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Showing 18 comments

I agree on

yeah they NEVER work!

fatema on

thank you Amnah!

Anonymous on

these never work

mary on

Shaving the bottom off burned cookies or anything else doesn’t work. At all.

Radhika on

Great tips ! I think everyone needs to read this.

carolyn on

you could use assorted color marshmallows too

Danielle on

I saw the balloon in chocolate trick when I was a kid watching Death By Chocolate by Marcel Desaulniers back in the early 90s. Not really that new.

Emedaris on

Please use non latex balloons. Eating anything with latex residue could cause a serious reaction in people with this allergy.

bite on

If you’re going to make a god-awful slideshow, can you at least make it work in Chrome?

Anonymous on

Oh Yahoo, I see what you did there…

Anonymous on

stupid thing wont load for me.

Liz Collins on

Keep your brown sugar in the freezer, take it out about half an hour before you need it, use what you need, then back in the freezer. It will NEVER harden in there.

Rick in Miami on

Making chocolate bowls with balloons is a joke. I tried three times to make the bowls, and I do pretty well in a kitchen, by the way, Every single time the balloons exploded because the chocolate was too warm. And if I waited for the chocolate to be safely cool enough, it was too hardened to work well when the balloons were dipped into it. This is a bogus thing to make — unless somebody’s got tips for how to do it without chocolate flying all over the kitchen counters and walls.

teacher-chef on

To Rick in Miami… click over to the article! It really does work… I have a feeling that you probably have not tempered your chocolate correctly or used really cheap balloons. Be sure to always add some Crisco or something else to help you melt the chocolate and maintain smoothness even as it cools a bit. I understand that working with chocolate is super annoying, but it is really worth the effort!

michelle on

My mother has used a cut crystal glass dipped in red and green sugar to decorate her holiday sugar cookies for over 50 years. That tip really does work. As for the rest, I can’t say.

tina marie on

to keep it soft place a slice of bread in the same container as the brown sugar.

June Mitchell on

It will also adhere to the egg shell itself. Just touch the broken shell to speck of shell.

girlygirl4321 on

Why don’t these links ever work on Chrome?

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