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How can I better incorporate baking into my daily life?

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I'm someone who likes to cook a lot (most of it stems from the fact to eat what you cooked afterwards). But there is one thing in the kitchen that I'm rather hesitant to do: baking.

While I do like to eat cakes, sweets and other stuff you can bake, I don't like the mess that comes with handling flour and sugar. I also dislike the fact that you have to wait from twenty minutes to up to literally hours to enjoy the end result. These facts lead to me being mostly abstinent from baking (maybe once every two months), however I would really like to incorporate more baking in my daily life as the end results are so delicious everytime.

Do you have tips on how I can incorporate baking better in my daily "kitchen life" (for example reducing preparatory time or splitting preparation steps across several days)? Ideally, I would like to bake once every two weeks.

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2 answers

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Baking inherently takes time, so I can't help with the desire to get from a cold start to baked goods in twenty minutes, but I've been doing more baking (especially bread) over the last several months while stuck at home, so I can offer some tips on workflow, timing, and the mess factor.

First, about the mess from flour and sugar: this got a lot better for me when I got a kitchen scale. Scales small enough to keep in a drawer or leaning on the back of the counter are pretty inexpensive these days. Measuring ingredients by weight is more accurate, which is why I got a scale, but I've noticed that I have a lot less airborne flour dust and suchlike because instead of scooping flour out of a canister or bag several times with a measuring cup (and having to level it off each time), I can just pour flour into a bowl on the scale. Less movement means less flour floating through the air and settling where it likes. Also, I find washing a bowl easier than washing a bunch of measuring cups. (You can pour directly into the bowl you're going to mix in, which means nothing extra to wash, but you run the risk of adding too much and that's hard to back out.)

I don't know how well this works for rolled cookies, but for kneading bread, use a large board. You can then pick up the board and wash it, which I find much more effective at removing residual flour than having to clean a countertop directly. (Yes, you'll still need to wipe down the counter, but it isn't more trouble than any other post-food-prep counter cleaning.)

A bread machine can produce reasonable bread of many types and the only cleanup you need to do is to wash the pan after (and maybe wipe the inside of the lid). You can also use it to do the mixing and kneading but then do the final shaping and baking yourself, if you want to make rolls or braided loaves or something like that instead of a single plain loaf.

Some cookie dough freezes. A friend who lives alone makes a batch of 3-4 dozen proto-cookies, rolls the dough into balls, and freezes them. When she's preparing dinner she takes one or two of the balls out and bakes them. I am unsure of which cookie types work better or worse for this and how starting from frozen affects cooking time, but it's something you could experiment with.

Most cakes can also be made as cupcakes or mini-cakes (that is, using smaller pans). The cooking time will be shorter than for a cake in many cases, but you'll need to experiment.

I've found that anything that involves an electric beater and either sugar or flour is going to make something of a mess. Maybe deeper bowls would help? I do a fair bit of hand-mixing before applying an electric beater in an effort to keep the spray down.

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One thing I've had success with is premixing dry ingredients for things like pancakes, muffins, and cornbread. You're essentially creating your own premade mix, and can then add milk and an egg for an easy batter. It's a convenient way to eliminate the step of measuring and combining flour, soda, sugar, etc.

Also, dough refrigerates well for a week or so. I often make a batch on the weekend and then roll out a quick pizza crust during the week for lunch.

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