We all love eating baked goods, but not everyone loves the work that goes into making them ourselves. Whether you’re worried about how much time it takes, or the health benefits a recipe may lack, baking can be a bit of a turn-off, regardless of experience level. With that in mind, we spoke with expert recipe developer and creator of Swirls of Flavor, Gwynn Galvin, to help put your mind at ease and your hands to work.
1. What are some of the biggest mistakes people make when baking?
Baking is a science and people often don’t realize how crucial it is to accurately measure ingredients. For example, the way you measure flour (and other dry ingredients) can determine if your final product is dense and dry or light and moist. You don’t want the flour to be packed into the measuring cup, so don’t swoop the measuring cup into the flour canister or bag – this will pack in more flour than what you need. Instead, spoon the flour into your measuring cup and then level off at the rim using the flat edge of a knife.
It’s also important to understand how to measure sugar. Measuring brown sugar is different than measuring granulated or confectioners’ sugar. Brown sugar needs to be packed, or pressed, into the measuring cup for the proper amount, whereas granulated or confectioners’ sugar do not. Confectioners’ sugar should be spooned into the measuring cup the way flour is. It’s also important to measure dry ingredients in dry measuring cups and wet ingredients in liquid measuring cups for a delicious outcome.
2. What are the most important things to know when making baked goods?
When it comes to baking, it’s important to follow the recipe exactly because ingredients like baking powder and baking soda react with each other, much like an experiment in chemistry class. For example, if you baked a cake and it didn’t rise properly, you might think you should add more baking powder to make it rise more – sometimes that’s true, but having too much baking powder in proportion to the other ingredients can also cause a cake to rise too much and then deflate and fall. As Goldilocks says, it has to be “just right.” You need just the right amount for the perfect balance, reaction and outcome.
I also highly recommend gathering all of your ingredients together and measuring everything before starting on a recipe. This is called “mise en place” or everything in its place. The absolute worst feeling is when you are midway through preparing a recipe and realize you don’t have what you need.
3. What are some of the key things people should know about baking with frozen blueberries?
To prevent frozen blueberries from turning your batter and baked goods a purple-blue hue, I recommend rinsing them several times in cold water until the water becomes lighter in color, then pat the berries dry on a paper towel. Once rinsed and dried, just give them a quick gentle stir into the batter and this will prevent them from bleeding and turning the batter a somewhat greyish color. Another option that has worked for frozen blueberries is to keep them frozen and gently fold them into your batter. The most important thing is to be gentle when folding.
4. What are some of the key things people should know about baking with fresh blueberries?
When baking with fresh blueberries, you can prevent them from sinking to the bottom of your cake or baked goods by tossing them in a tablespoon or two of flour. The flour sticks to the berries and helps them grab onto the batter and stay suspended while baking. Just as you should with frozen blueberries, be quick and gentle when stirring fresh blueberries into a batter. Fresh blueberries usually don’t bleed as much as frozen berries but they do burst while baking, making for pockets of blueberry goodness!
5. What are a few of your favorite flavor pairings when baking with blueberries?
Blueberries and lemon are a classic flavor combination that I think everyone loves! I am also partial to blueberries and ginger, especially fresh or candied ginger. Blueberries and mint are refreshing together particularly in the hot summer months. And I love unexpected flavor combinations such as blueberries and balsamic vinegar, that complement each other so beautifully. A balsamic blueberry compote is a fabulously delicious topping on a slice of blueberry pound cake.
6. What would you say to someone who avoids baking because it feels inherently unhealthy?
I’m a firm believer of having everything in moderation and not depriving yourself. There is room for all foods as part of a healthy diet. Perhaps if that triple layer chocolate cake feels a bit too decadent to indulge in, have just a tiny slice or a couple bites, because life is too short not to eat dessert! This Blueberry Mug Cake with Lemon Glaze is also a perfect option for making just one serving of a treat. Bonus: this is a non-oven recipe that integrates those delicious lemon and ginger flavors!
If you are someone who likes experimenting with recipe modifications, you can try to use ingredients such as Greek Yogurt, buttermilk, or pumpkin puree in place of other ingredients that might be higher in saturated fats.
7. What is the most important kitchen tool to have on hand to cover your everyday baking needs?
I cannot live without my stand mixer. It’s an investment but I’ve had mine for about fifteen years now and I know it will last many more years. When my sons were growing up and they saw the stand mixer on the counter, they knew they were in for a sweet homemade treat – and that holds true for my grandchildren now too!
8. Do you have a favorite kitchen tool for baking and if so, what is it and why?
I would have to say my favorite tool for baking is not a typical “baking” tool – it’s my microplane. I love adding fresh zest to a recipe when I bake because lemon, lime, orange, and even grapefruit zest brighten up a baked good and provide a pop of fresh flavor. A microplane ensures that the zest is the perfect size to add to a batter or dough, and that makes all the difference in my baking!
9. What are some good blueberry recipes for beginner, experienced, and expert bakers?
For beginners I would recommend blueberry muffins or a blueberry crisp because both can be very forgiving. Experienced bakers would enjoy making a blueberry pound cake with a citrus glaze (get out that microplane!) or blueberry scones. A blueberry bundt cake or blueberry cheesecake would be impressive recipes that an expert baker would certainly enjoy making.
So now that you’re an expert in all things baking 😉, we hope you’re excited about the endless and delicious possibilities at your fingertips. For more recipe sharing, make sure you’re following the Blueberry Council on Pinterest, and tagging us in all your “bluetiful” pictures on Instagram. Happy baking!