If you weren’t among the thousands of people who surged through the Pasadena Convention Center Jan. 25 for the debut of the L.A. Cookie Con & Sweets Show, you haven’t entirely missed out. True, you won’t get to indulge in the hundreds of samples doled out by the dozens and dozens of exhibitors, but we did gather some baking tips to help you stir up something sweet at home. If you’re looking for fun ideas for kids, you can’t do better than baking!
Unless you happen to be vegan, who could imagine baking without butter? How you treat your butter is important, and depends on what you’re baking. If it’s cookies, “everything tastes better when you brown the butter,” says Jennifer Malouf, founder of Stuffed Cookies (www.stuffed-cookies.com), an L.A.-based online shop specializing in traditional cookies stuffed with gooey fillings.
It’s a different story if you’re making pastry. “Keep everything really, really cold,” in that case, advises Kelly Mathews, founder of Pop Up Pastries (www.popuppastires.com), which makes appearances at markets, coffee shops and cafes all over town. Jam for the inside of these homemade pop tarts is made with fruit from the Santa Monica Farmer’s Market.
A Lovely Crust
To make sure your pastry looks as lovely as it tastes, Sarah Stephens, owner of Brady Cakes bakery in Corona (www.bradycakes.com), has this handy tip. “Put an egg wash on top of your pastry so that it will brow properly,” she advises.
Daisy, who teaches classes at Bakers Bodega (www.bakersbodega.com), a cake-decorating supply shop in Pico Rivera, offers a trick that she says makes her cakes extra rich. “I always add a cup of sour cream and instant pudding powder,” she says.
Weights and Measures
As you’re measuring out your ingredients (secret or otherwise), try weighing them on a kitchen scale rather than using a measuring cup. Your measurements will be more exact, which means your baked goods will turn out the same way every time. “When I discovered this tip, it changed my life,” says Crystal Nicole Jones, owner of Cream by Crystal (www.creambycrystal.com), which delivers “cream style” and “cheesecake style” cupcakes throughout L.A. County. Jones is winner of “Cupcake Wars,” season 9.
Don’t Forget the Salt
There’s one ingredient many bakers don’t think of. “Salt is an incredibly important part of sweet baking,” says Jeff Appelbaum, founder of an online cooking school called, appropriately, Salted (www.saltedtv.com). Appelbaum also suggests that bakers keep plenty of extra spoons on hand so they can sample flavors every step of the way. “Taste your food,” he says. “I think it’s something that doesn’t happen nearly enough.”
We hope these tips will inspire you to head into the kitchen, fire up the oven and bake something that tastes like love.
Christina Elston is Editor of L.A. Parent, and a fanatical baker.