Let’s be honest: Sometimes you just need the CliffsNotes version of something. Whether it’s snagging the boxed cake mix instead of baking it from scratch (no judgment!) or the two-minute version of the story your Dad really wants to deliver for a full 15 minutes, we get it.
It’s been a thrill featuring superstar bakers such as Dorie Greenspan and host Brian Hart Hoffman, along with many others, in Williams Sonoma Baking Academy since late January. Our virtual classes run until March, and you still have plenty of time to sign up. (The best news: Anyone who purchases the series will have access to all the recordings regardless of whether or not they were present for the classes!)
For those just dipping a toe into the water, though, here are a few great takeaway tips. You’ll get best results by watching the whole video. (Just like we recommend you read the whole recipe before starting your sweet baking project! But here are some of the best, most mouthwatering tips… until you decide you can’t take it any more and realize you have to join us!
1. Use a Muffin Tin for Perfect Sablés
Sablés are essentially French refrigerator cookies—rolled into a log, then cut into rounds. They’re Dorie Greenspan’s specialties. As Dorie notes, baking the sablés in a muffin tin retains their circular shape while providing each one with a nicely thick, crisped, and flat browned edge. Her sablés are so thick, they beg for a little bit of jelly in the center. To make the center well, a gentle press of a wine cork in a warm cookie just pulled from the oven does the trick.
2. Go Cold to Hot for Madeleine Loft
Ok, you’ve watched the technique and made your batter to perfection, but to achieve the ideal rounded madeleine loft, make sure your batter is very cold and your oven is very hot before you place the pan in the oven to create a “thermodynamic reaction.” Dorie even knows one chef who places his chilled and filled madeleine pan on a heated pizza stone in the oven to achieve the best “bump”—the calling card of the perfect madeleine. (NB: Pastry chefs often use this trick to get loft in their biscuits, too!)
3. Use Foil for the Perfect Crisp-Edged Over-Sized Cookies
Sarah Kieffer, author of 100 Cookies, shared her technique for Pan-Banging Cookies, the method that leads to palm-sized, crisp-edged, multi-ridged, gooey-on-the-inside cookies, in this class. Her multi-chocolate cookies relied on her pan-banging technique (found in her cookbook) and some surprising extra tips. To get that perfect crisp edge, line your baking sheet with aluminum foil, placing it dull-side up for the perfect amount of conductivity. Shiny edge is too much; parchment, not enough. Brilliant!
4. King Cake Is a Bread and You Can Totally Make It!
Louisiana native and lawyer-turned-baker Vallery Lomas blew our minds when she alerted us to the fact that the famous tri-colored Mardi Gras treat King cake is not a cake, it’s a bread! And one you can bake at home in a stand mixer fitted with a dough hook attachment, no problem. Someone hand us some glitter and beads!
5. Food-Processed Rough Puff Pastry Can Be Elegant
To make the French sibling of King cake, galette des rois, which has a very different appearance but a similar texture, you can simply make a food-processed rough puff pastry dough. Unlike made-from-scratch puff pastry, rough puff is no biggie, looks incredible, and Brian Hart Hoffman will walk you through the rest in his class with Vallery.
6. Use a White-Lined Dutch Oven for Frying
Erin Clarkson, New Zealand native, suggests you use a Dutch oven with a white interior, such as this gorgeous Le Creuset agave number, for your frying. She’s making doughnuts in her video with Brian, and points out that the white color will allow you to really keep an eye on how well-fried your food (whether it’s doughnuts or shrimp!) is. It’s a genius move from a genius baker.