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Baking a hearty meal or desserts for the family? Refresh your knowledge with a run-down of all the top baking advice for everything from the right equipment to baking techniques.

  • The next time you bake chocolate cake or brownies, dust the baking pans with cocoa powder instead of flour for an extra hit of flavor.
  • To toast a small amount of coconut, place it on a paper plate and microwave at high power 2 to 3 minutes, stirring occasionally, until toasted.
  • Heavy cookie doughs and batters are easier to mix if you place the bowl inside your sink on top of a damp dish towel. The lower position of the bowl is easier on your back, and the towel keeps the bowl stable.
  • When baking a cake in a tube or Bundt pan, cover the center hole in the cake pan with a small paper cup or muffin liner to prevent batter from dripping into the hole.
  • To make simple drop cookies more attractive, use the rough side of a meat mallet to press a decorative pattern on the cookies before baking.
  • When folding whipped cream or beaten egg whites into a batter, use a wire whisk instead of a rubber spatula or spoon. The whisk is quicker and more thorough.
  • Try coating greased baking pans with sugar instead of flour. The sugar creates an even layer and won’t leave a greasy, floury residue on cakes. Actually, it adds a lightly sweet, crunchy coating on the cake!
  • Freeze tablespoon-size mounds of cookie dough on wax paper- or parchment-lined baking sheets until solid, then transfer to a resealable plastic bag. Keep frozen, baking only as many as you want at a time. (Add a few minutes to the baking time for frozen dough.)
  • If a pie filling or cobbler recipe calls for quick-cooking tapioca, grind it to a powder in a clean coffee grinder for more even distribution in the dish.
  • When making blueberry muffins, rinse the berries lightly (or thaw slightly if frozen) then toss in a little flour. The flour will help prevent the berries from sinking to the bottom of the muffins.
  • For flaky pie crusts and tender scones and biscuits, grate cold butter on the large holes of a cheese grater right into the flour mixture.
  • For perfectly round icebox cookies, refrigerate the wrapped cylinder of dough standing upright in a tall vase or glass. This prevents one side from flattening out as it would if chilled on a refrigerator shelf.
  • Often, it’s easier to slice sheet cake and brownies with a large pizza wheel. The wheel prevents frosting from building up like it can on a knife blade.
  • To crush cookies, crackers, cereal or chips, place in a heavy-duty resealable plastic bag, seal the bag, then roll with a rolling pin until they’re the texture you’re looking for.
  • Plastic squeeze bottles are great for making pancakes. Just put the batter in a bottle, cut the tip to make a large opening, then squeeze batter right onto the griddle. (Thin out thick batter with milk or water.) Chill leftover batter right in the bottle.
  • Transport individual bite-size tartlets to parties in an egg carton that’s been lined with a sheet of plastic wrap. This will keep them from breaking en route to the party.
  • Before measuring shortening or peanut butter for a recipe, swirl a raw egg in the cup first (use the egg in the recipe if one is called for). The egg coating inside the cup will cause the contents to come right out.
  • Before measuring sticky ingredients, like corn syrup, honey and molasses, spritz the inside of the measuring cup with nonstick cooking spray. The sticky stuff will slide right out.
  • Soften rock-hard brown sugar by placing a slice of bread inside the box or bag. The sugar should be good to go in a day or two.
  • For quick mixing of dry ingredients, keep an empty wide-mouth jar handy. Measure dry ingredients into the jar, replace the lid, then shake until blended.
  • Use clean, empty spice jars to hold flour for sprinkling on a work surface or for coating baking pans.
  • For the most accurate measuring, spoon flour into a cup rather than scooping it directly from the jar or bag. Level the flour off with the straight side of a table knife.
  • Be sure to check the expiration date on your box of baking soda. If the date has come and gone, the soda won’t have the leavening power it should. Buy a new box for the best results.
  • Baking powder’s strength diminishes over time. To see if yours is still good, sprinkle a generous pinch into a glass of warm water—it should fizz and bubble. If nothing happens, buy yourself a new container.