The 7 Essential Rules of Baking

Julia Millay Walsh

When she’s not defending human rights and promoting liberal democracy around the world in her role as chief correspondent for the Human Rights Foundation, Elizabeth Chambers Hammer can often be found inside her San Antonio bake shop, BIRD Bakery, which she opened with her husband, actor Armie Hammer, in 2012. Growing up in the kitchens of her mother and her British grandmother, Elizabeth developed an appreciation for cookies, cakes, lemon bars, and the like, and eventually decided to share one of her greatest passions with her local community.

Since we’ve been known to burn a batch of treats or two, we reached out to Elizabeth for a lesson in the fine art of baking. Read below of her seven essential rules of baking.

1. Follow the Instructions Carefully

"You're baking, not cooking, so this is not the time to wing it. I've gotten carried away many times and wanted to let my creative juices flow… one time in particular when I was making a lemon meringue pie. Needless to say, the whole thing fell, and the final product was more lemon than meringue."

2. Watch the Stove

"Boiled custard is one of my most favorite things to make, and if the bottom is burned even in the slightest, the entire batch has to be thrown away."

3. Room Temp Means Room Temp

"Bring your butter and eggs to room temperature when the recipe calls for it. And even when it doesn't. Baking is a science and like anything else in science, temperature is key!"

4. Know Thy Leavening Agents

"There have been many times when I've put drop cookies in the oven only to discover that they were baking flat. I have saved many a batch of cookies by adding a teaspoon or two of baking soda."

5. Don't Over-Mix Your Gluten

"I've made some cupcakes that turned out hard and dense due to over-mixing once the flour was added. Always approach your batter with a light hand. It's the tiny little air bubbles that expand in the oven to make your cake fluffy and delicious and those need to be handled with care."

6. Watch the Oven Like a Hawk

"I have made the mistake of burning cookies, cupcakes, and everything in between. Remember, you can always put it back in, but once it's over-baked, there's nothing that can be done!"

7. Take Your Time

"I truly believe that you can bake love into a cake… or any creation. Slow down and enjoy every step of the process. It will taste better in the end—I promise!"

Follow Elizabeth on Twitter @EChambers, and if you're in San Antonio, be sure to stop by BIRD Bakery!

Are you a baking pro? What rules would you add to this list?

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