Advice from the Pros: Pastry Chef Jenny McCoy

Source: http://www.thekitchn.com/be-a-baker-advice-from-professional-pastry-chef-jenny-mccoy-195383

white and yellow cupcake with fruit toppings

Happy Baking Days!

Ever since the moment I first told people I was going to culinary school people started sending me food related articles. No one had mentioned food to me before but I tell people I’m going to Pastry school and BAM a million Facebook messages show up with recipes people think I will like.

Don’t get me wrong; I know it means my family and friends want to support me. I think it’s awesome actually. The break from the political arguments on my Facebook timeline was pretty fantastic too.  Hey, what can I say, sometimes a girl just wants to look at pictures cookies and not debate the future of the free world. Ok, now I’m thinking of cookies.

I thought it would be interesting to look at some of the advice from chefs that have come before us. Those people who have the experience under their belts and the delicious recipes in their food-filled brains. Today let’s listen to Pastry Chef Jenny McCoy.

I found this expert interview on http://www.thekitchn.com and thought it was super helpful. If you have ever researched any cooking online you will have passed through this site. It’s a big one filled with super useful information. You should check them out.

The Kitchn asked Chef Jenny McCoy for some tips on becoming a better baker and I love the simple and straightforward advice she gave. If you are unfamiliar with her she is an awarding-winning pastry chef, baking instructor and the author of her book Jenny McCoy’s Desserts for Every Season.

Let’s check out her advice for us.

Firstly, I thought the interviewer took a really interesting angle on the questions. She asked about how to improve your skills and not just about the basics. That’s super helpful for people who have covered the basics in the past. So many sites just cover information for the very beginner or the absolute pro but it is very little in the middle. The interviewer started out asking how a baker who has master everyday baking can take their baking to the next level, and Chef McCoy’s answer was great.

She said once a baker understands the techniques behind making everyday baked goods like cakes, cookies etc., it’s important for them to understand the functions of each ingredient in a recipe.

cupcake topped with white frosting

I couldn’t agree more. Before starting culinary school I had no idea what eggs do in a recipe or that each ingredient has a specific role to play in the baking process. You hear it all the time, but baking is like chemistry. It’s why I love it so much. With cooking, you can add a little of this and a little of that and transform the dish for your own taste, but baking is different. Yes, there is room to make a recipe your own, but there is a much smaller margin of leeway. If a recipe says it needs 5g of salt, you can’t leave it out or add 5g of baking soda. It’s just not the same thing. Going deeper, she gives the example of gluten in the flour. The different levels of gluten in the flour can change the texture of your dough. That so important to know if you are going to up your baking game.

She also mentions it’s important because it will help you make adjustments if needed.  Chef McCoy mentions that it has saved her numerous times when she didn’t have the correct ingredients, tools or equipment.  When I first started baking I never really thought about how different equipment can change how a recipe turns out. I honestly thought there was no difference in making pie dough by hand or by machine. Is it just mixing right? Nope, it’s so much easier to overwork a dough in a mixing machine and you need to be able to feel the size of the fat (butter or shortening in this case) to affect how flaky your crust will be. It’s honestly the reason you can follow the same pie dough recipe and create different piecrusts every time. Hint: the fat should be the size of chestnuts for the best and flakiest pie crust. Now I want pie instead of that cookie from earlier.

Chef McCoy also went on to recommend some other pastry chefs she admires and I thought we could look into them for future expert posts.

photograph of chocolate cupcake with red strawberry toppings

The main takeaway here is to learn about your ingredients. Don’t just add something because the recipe says to add it. Learn what its job is in the recipe, that way if you ever find yourself without it, you can make adjustments. For example, don’t have buttermilk? Add a cap full of vinegar to regular milk and let it sit for 5 or 6 minutes. Bam it will do the job you are looking for. That little tip has helped me so many times. I can never seem to remember to buy buttermilk.

Do you want more information about Chef McCoy? Check out her at her website www.jennymccoy.com. I am nowhere near an expert; I’m just a baker trying to bring some Disney goodness home with me.

She closes the interview off by giving one of the best baking advice anyone can give. Essentially just bake. Bake and then bake and then bake some more. You will learn from the wins and learn from the not so wins. It will all make you a better baker. Then when you have perfected a recipe, bake some more.

Happy Baking Disney Peeps

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