Baking Advice: The Temperatures Of Ingredients Are Essential

Joanne Chang, founder and co-owner of Boston's Flour Bakery + Cafe, is great at explaining the fundamentals of baking.  I shared her article on overcoming your fear of baking in December, and this month, her article for The Atlantic on the right temperature for ingredients is equally essential. For instance, did you know that butter has to be cold for pies, but room temperature for cookies?

For pies, it's important that the butter stays cold, so that it doesn't completely mix into the flour.  These large pieces will roll out into flakes in your dough.  When the dough bakes in the oven, the water content in the butter turns into steam, creating the desirable flakes all pie-lovers crave.

For cookies and cakes, room temperature butter is ideal.  Most recipes instruct you to "cream" the butter and sugar together.  Chang explains something I didn't know, "The act of combining butter and sugar together in this way is actually called "creaming" because when done properly the butter turns light and white like cream."  The sugar helps aerate the butter, to create pockets of air within the butter that expand when baking.

With her simple similes and instructive advice, I think anyone can make a great baked good.

Read more about her suggestions for baking here.