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9 Things Your Baker Wishes You Knew

With their displays of show-stopping layer cakes, cases of gleaming pastries and racks of perfectly crackly loaves, professional bakers may seem to have a touch of sorcery under their flour-dusted fingertips.

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Tips from Pastry Pros

Like any cooking profession, baking is a craft, one that requires a lot of patience, practice and sacrifice—but it’s all made worth it by the joy their baked masterpieces bring to their customers. Here, pro bakers from around the country reveal the magic behind their craft and share tips for making your next bakery visit extra sweet.

Illustrations courtesy of CopyPress

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Our Early Hours Aren’t Just for Your Breakfast

There’s often more to bakers’ 3 a.m. wake-up call than getting your morning muffins ready. In hot summers, dough is less temperamental before the sun heats things up. Plus, at combination restaurant-bakeries, like Cafe Alma in Minneapolis, the staff all compete for space on the counters and in the ovens. "We are also there early because that is when the kitchen is calm and quiet," shares Executive Pastry Chef Carrie Riggs. "There is more space to work, the temperature is more consistent since there are fewer bodies moving around, and you have all the oven space you need!"

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You’re Freezing Your Bread Wrong

If you find a loaf you love, Lionel Vatinet of La Farm Bakery in Cary, North Carolina, advocates buying extra and freezing them — with proper storage, they’ll last several months. The key is to first freeze the bread overnight unwrapped, so that the loaf freezes evenly and all the way through. The next day, take it out, wrap it in tin foil and then wrap it in plastic or tuck it into a resealable plastic bag before putting it back in the freezer. When you’re ready to thaw it, take it out of the freezer and remove the plastic, but leave the foil on while it thaws on the counter. His final piece of advice? "Once thawed, put in a hot oven for a short time...the moisture that collected around the bread/tin foil will create steam in the oven and help the bread to crisp up."

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Cookie Prices Aren’t Cookie Cutter

There’s a lot that goes into that monster chocolate chip cookie besides quality butter, premium flour and top-tier chocolate. When bakers price treats, they not only have to factor in the cost ingredients, but their overhead too, including everything from the electric bill to the napkins. But as much as ingredients, utilities and labor factor in — French macarons are notoriously labor-intensive — so does perceived value and supply and demand. Some spots charge more for a signature item to offset the margins for their less-loved baked goods; sometimes other items, like coffee, are priced as loss leaders to attract new customers.

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