Essential Tips for Home Bakers from Pastry Chefs Across the Country

Follow these pro tips from pastry chefs across the country for better at-home baking.

Bake Like a Pro

Let's say you were (lucky enough) to be in a room with the nation's top pastry chefs. What would you ask them? If they would follow you home and bake you a cake? Absolutely. But you'd probably also want to find out a secret or two. Like maybe their top baking tip? Well, we've asked them for you. Read on to learn the secrets of the pros. 

When Starting from Scratch

"Read the whole recipe before starting to do anything — beginning to end, read the whole thing. It will not only prepare you mentally for everything you need to do, but you will also notice if there is any last-minute shopping that needs to be done." — Lisa White, executive pastry chef, Domenica and Pizza Domenica, New Orleans

When Making Cakes and Brownies

"Line all your pans with parchment paper! You can lift your brownies out of the pan to cut them, slide your cookies off the hot pan in one motion to prevent overcooking, or flip your cakes out with less risk of breakage." — Molly Hanson, executive pastry chef, Grill 23 & Bar, Boston

When Making Biscuits

"Use a cheese grater when making biscuits. Freeze your butter, and then grate it into the flour. Your biscuits will be tender and flaky!" — Erin Mooney, divisional pastry chef for Lettuce Entertain You Enterprises, based in Chicago

When Making Cookie Dough

"Before baking cookie dough, let the dough rest overnight. This allows for the toughened gluten you've just activated to rest." — Kriss Harvey, executive pastry chef, SLS Hotel at Beverly Hills, Los Angeles

When Measuring Ingredients

"Invest in a scale (it can't hurt to have one that converts to metric). Weighing is faster, easier and requires fewer utensils, resulting in less cleanup. You'll never have to sift flour before measuring it again, be concerned about how firmly to pack the brown sugar into the cup, or figure out how many whole nuts to chop to equal a cup of chopped nuts. You can also use your scale to divide batter equally between two or three cake pans." — Noah French, pastry chef, Sugarmill, Denver

When Buying New Tools

"Don't skimp on quality: In the age of the Internet, home cooks have access to many of the same products the pros do." — Michael Laiskonis, creative director, Institute for Culinary Education, New York City

When It Doesn't Look Like the Magazines

"Don't forget to have fun! I know that when people see dessert recipes in magazines and the photos look perfect, it is easy to get frustrated when your version doesn't turn out exactly the same. Don't let that get you down. Even if you don't have the exact tools or ingredients in the recipes, just remember it's supposed to be fun. Enjoy cooking and don't put so much pressure on yourself in the kitchen." — Shannon Butler, Yardbird Southern Table & Bar, Miami