Cook up a storm with these tips and tricks for baking delicious treats


Freshly made cookies are set out to cool.

Katrina Sanville, Arts Editor

Baking and creating desserts has become a massive hobby—and even part-time profession—in the past few years. While baking has always been something necessary since Americans love sweets, and we will always need people to make them, this popularity has skyrocketed since the beginning of quarantine—in the kitchen and out of it. Whether you get this content from TikTok, Instagram or TV shows like “The Great British Baking Show,” baking inspiration is everywhere. If you’re a beginner to the baking community, or a pro pastry chef, here are some tips and recipes to get you creating treats your friends and family will love.
While I grew up in the kitchen and baking, I know many people haven’t and want to start. Though I am no expert, I can hope that my recipes and tricks can help you create and test recipes in your own kitchen, and inspire you to ask your family members for recipes as well!
If you’re just starting to get into the baking world, don’t push yourself! While the elaborate cakes and desserts may look appealing, they can also be overwhelming to novice pastry chefs. The best way to begin, while basic, would be to nail down a recipe for chocolate chip cookies. The Nestle Toll House recipe is nearly foolproof, and while you can buy the dough in a tube or a tub, it simply doesn’t taste the same as making it yourself! As a bonus, the recipe originates here in Massachusetts, so you can feel a bit of New England pride while you make the cookies (1). Though you can find the recipe for these popular cookies on the back of any bag of Nestle Toll House chocolate chips, some people may not like Nestle chocolate or have allergies, so you can also find it around the Internet.
Once you’ve got the chocolate chip cookie recipe down, venture into other cookie recipes! A classic sugar cookie is great to have in your cookbook or recipe box since they are incredibly versatile and can be decorated and flavored to suit any holiday—peppermint extract for the winter holidays, citrus extract for the spring and summer or cinnamon extract for the fall—and easily made gluten free or vegan. With that recipe in mind, you can make all sorts of variations on the classic sugar cookie, such as a chai cookie or a lavender one. If peanut butter is more your style, Hershey’s classic Peanut Butter Blossoms are an easy staple to learn and keep around, especially for the holidays!
If you have a bit of baking skill but want to work on your technique, try making cakes and cupcakes. While they are deceivingly easy, these sweet treats require a certain amount of skill to ensure the cake comes out flavorful, but does not come out dry. Like cookies, you can buy cake mix from the box, but the flavor of homemade cake batter is worlds better—Sugarologie has an excellent calculator that will generate the perfect measurements for any flavor and size cake and frosting you’d like! When it comes to baking cakes and cupcakes, the most important part is to be precise with your measurements and practice. Baking is a science, and while a bit of extra flour may not seem like much in a cake you’ll eat with family, it can impact other challenging recipes. Cakes and cupcakes also allow you to practice techniques like frosting and piping on a macro and micro scale.
For those who feel as though they’ve mastered the basics, try and move onto something a bit more difficult. While bread and yeast-based baked goods may seem easy—after all, it’s only yeast, water, flour and a bit of sugar—these delicacies can be incredibly temperamental. If the air is too humid or too cool, the dough may not rise, and while many modern ovens have a “proof” setting made for letting bread rise, they can still be fickle in odd weather. Patience is key with yeast-based products, as they have to rise in order to become the light and airy texture we know best. Excellent ingredients also help—you don’t need to buy an expensive bread machine to make a good loaf, but the difference between a $2 packet of yeast and one that is $3 can make the world of a difference. Fleischmann’s ActiveDry is one of the most popular and stable brands of yeast with many home bakers! However, once these recipes are nailed down, your bread or doughnuts will be the most popular baked good at any potluck, guaranteed.
Finally, for the more advanced pastry chefs, try making macarons. These French sandwich cookies often get confused with coconut macaroons, and when you Google ‘macaroons,’ the former will actually pop up! However, unlike their coconut homonyms, macarons are extremely tedious and require a bit of skill to create. While you may have made them before—and may have had them turn out horribly—they are incredibly fun to make, and worthwhile once the recipe turns out. Macarons combine a variety of skills practiced in other baked goods, such as piping, patience, precision, temperature control and merengues, so if you have these locked down, you should have a bit more success in making these adorable French sandwiches.
Baking is an art, and like all art, it takes practice. If you don’t get the hang of your recipes right away, keep at it, because you’ll get better with time. Besides, the more you practice, the more baked goods you’ll have around the house, which are more treats for you or your loved ones! Good luck, and happy baking.