Diva Tips: Upgrade the Homemade…

Up Grades for Homemade

There is nothing quite like fresh home-baked desserts, but sometimes you want them to feel a little extra. We are talking bakery- or restaurant-quality desserts. The truth is, with a few alterations to an already perfect home recipe, it’s not that hard to do, even for everyday home cooks. Here are steps to get five easy tips to take your homemade desserts to the next level. These apply to semi-homemade as well.

1. Use better butter.

From cookies to cakes, so many of the baked goods we make require butter. But in order to really make the butter work for you, you’ll want to pay attention to the butter you buy and the temperature it needs to be. Sophie Kallinis LaMontagne & Katherine Kallinis Berman, co-founders of Georgetown Cupcake, recommend Plugra unsalted butter.

“Butter itself has a taste, and when you use a high-quality butter in your baking at home, it really shines through and you can taste the difference,” says LaMontagne.  “It has a slightly higher fat content and is perfect for baking delicious cupcakes, cakes, and cookies at home.”

The type of butter can make a difference but so can the temperature. If butter is supposed to be softened at room temperature, make sure it is. If it calls for cold or melted butter, follow the recipe directions.

Christopher Curtin, certified master chef and chocolatier of Éclat Chocolate in West Chester, Pa. says, “Making sure your cultured butter is at the right temperature for proper applications makes an unbelievable difference in the end result.”

Jackson Smith, co-owner and pastry chef of Atlanta’s Honeysuckle Gelato has a tip if your recipe calls for brown butter, like in these brown butter cookies. He uses it when he makes blondies and brown butter pecan gelato.

Related: How to Make and Use Brown Butter

“If something calls for browned butter, here’s a tip to amp up the flavor,” says Smith. “When you’re browning the butter, just as the color of the little bits at the bottom approaches amber, add in a tablespoon or two of dry milk powder. Keep stirring it as the solids continue to caramelize, and then proceed with the rest of your recipe.”

2. Infuse with flavor.

Want to take your desserts to new heights of flavor? Try infusing. Buttercream frosting or whipped cream are are excellent candidates for infusing with all kinds of flavors.

Pastry Chef Lindsey Davis of Aziza infuses her desserts — everything from mousses to pie fillings — with tea. “For example, I like making chai tea apple pie and berry tea ganache. Teas are a great way to intensify a present flavor,” she says.

Delilah Pergola, head baker at High Street in Philadelphia loves infusions, too. “Think Lavender Italian Buttercream or Thai Tea American Buttercream,” she says. “Simply melt the butter and steep your infusion of choice for 30 minutes to an hour. Strain out any solids, then bring your infused butter to whatever temperature you need to complete your recipe.”

The same goes for heavy creams. Bring the cream to a scald and allow your flavoring of choice to steep in the cream for 30-60 minutes.” Add in fresh herbs like mint or basil or ground freeze dried strawberries. “Add flavor AND color to whipped cream as a topping to your next pound cake,” she says. The possibilities are endless.

3. Choose the good chocolate.

You’ve likely heard this tip a few times but using good quality chocolate can make all the difference in your chocolatey desserts. Many pastry chefs recommend using Valrhona but if you can’t get your hands on it, Michelle Poteaux, executive pastry chef and owner of Bastille Use Specialty Belgian Dark Chocolate from Aldi or I will have Ghirardelli 60% Dark Chocolate available from most grocers, and I have even used Dove Dark Chocolate Promises in a pinch (just chop them up) also available pretty much anywhere,” she says.


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