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Baking is truly an art form of its own. While following the instructions for a simple baked good may seem easy, working with baked goods can actually be a lot more complicated than sautéing up a simple pasta dish for dinner. Which is why we rounded up a few of our best baking tips so you can bake with success next time you're craving some cookies. Or cake. Or brownies!So before you try baking bread or frosting cake, here are a few of the baking tips to keep in your arsenal next time you attempt making one of our 73+ Best Healthy Dessert Recipes. And if you're looking for cooking tips as well, we have a list of 21 Best Healthy Cooking Hacks of All Time you're going to want to read!1 Have all of your ingredients ready.The last thing you want to do is mess up a recipe simply because you had to search for an ingredient! Before even starting the baking process, get out all of the ingredients that you will need. Taking a few extra minutes to do this prep work will make the entire process a lot smoother.Speaking of, you should try these 24 Genius Baking Ingredient Swaps When You're Out Of Ingredients.2 Grease the pan with cold butter.If a recipe calls for you to grease a pan, use cold butter to do it! Take a stick from the fridge and smear butter around the pan to completely coat it. This will keep your baked good from sticking to the pan later—and works a lot more efficiently compared to a cooking spray.3 Refrigerate your cookie dough before shaping.Want perfectly round (or shaped) cookies? Chilling the dough helps! Baking cookie dough that has been previously chilled will actually slow the spread of the dough on the pan, giving you those perfectly shaped cookies you want. This is especially helpful if you're cutting out homemade sugar cookies!4 Portion out your cookie dough with a tablespoon.No more baking cookies that are different sizes! You can measure out perfect matching circle cookies by scooping out the dough using a tablespoon. You can also grab a cookie scoop in the same size to make releasing the dough out of the spoon even easier!5 Use a cup to flatten out cookie dough.After you scoop out the cookie dough, flatten the balls a bit with the bottom of the cup to ensure that the cookie is perfectly thin and round—like how these lemon meltaways were made on Saving Room For Dessert!6 Let the cookies settle on a cooling rack for 5 minutes.While it's tempting to scarf down a cookie hot from the pan, give those cookies five minutes to settle. Remove each one to a cooling rack and leave them for five minutes. This helps the cookie to shape and have that texture that you love—crispy on the outside, chewy on the inside.Next time you bake cookies, avoid these The 30 Worst Mistakes You're Making When Baking Cookies.7 Don't overmix the batter—leave the lumps!For some baked goods—like muffins and pancakes—having a few lumps in the batter is actually good for the pastry. The lumps help to make your baked goods airy and fluffy, instead of dense. So if a recipe doesn't call for sifting, simply fold in the dry ingredients to the wet ingredients until the ingredients are combined. Leave those lumps!8 Unless the recipe tells you to sift the dry ingredients.Some cakes and baked goods will tell you to sift the dry ingredients in order to create a particular texture for that cake. So make sure if a recipe does call for sifted ingredients that you actually sift them in order to create the desired texture for that recipe. And whisk well!9 Thin out melted chocolate with a drop of oil.If you're melting chocolate to coat a baked good, melt it with a small amount of oil! This helps to thin out the chocolate and create a smooth texture. The best kind of oil to use is coconut oil, but flavorless vegetable oil also works well.Have a bag of chocolate you need to use up? Here are 18 Recipes to Try With a Bag of Chocolate Chips.10 Gently poke the dough to test if it's done rising.Attempting to make your own homemade bread? An easy way to tell if your dough is fully proofed and ready for baking is to gently poke it. If the dough springs back right away, it's actually not ready. You'll know if the dough is ready if you poke it and the hole is slow to spring back.11 Bake in the center of the oven.For anything you are baking, it's best to bake it in the center of the oven. The last thing you want is to have cookies that are burnt on the bottom! Place the rack in the middle of the oven before even preheating so it's ready to go when it's time to bake.12 Sprinkle in a small amount of sugar to "feed" the yeast.If you're working with active dry yeast, the yeast will easily bloom when it's fed a small amount of sugar. Most of the time a recipe that calls for sugar will have you add it during the step where you are combining your yeast with water or milk. If it doesn't, sprinkle in a small portion of the sugar to "feed" the yeast. The yeast will bloom nicely!13 Brush the tops of rolls with an egg wash before baking.For shiny dinner rolls—or any type of bread—brush the tops with an egg wash! To do so, simply whisk an egg in a small bowl then use a pastry brush to brush over the rolls before baking. You can also sprinkle some toppings if you desire—like sesame seeds or everything seasoning.14 Cut the corner of a small plastic bag to pipe frosting.If you plan on frosting a baked good and want to actually create a design, you don't need a fancy piping kit to do so (although, those are pretty nice to have!) Instead, fill up about a third of the bag with some frosting and you can cut a small corner of it. Close the top, squeeze out the frosting, and pipe away!15 Cool frosting before piping.Before you even start piping, it's important to make sure your frosting is cool. Colder frosting is much easier to work with compared to a frosting that has been sitting at room temperature. The last thing you want is frosting to be sliding all over your cake!16 Cut cold desserts with a hot knife.Hate when your knife collects frosting and cake as you are cutting? The trick is to make sure the knife is at the opposite temperature of the dessert! If it's a cold dessert, a knife that has been run under hot water will slice through it nicely. For a hot dessert, make sure the knife is cold.Or maybe it's time for new knives! Here are The 10 Best Kitchen Knife Sets Under $100.17 Wipe the knife with a paper towel in between slices.While the temperature does help, for any desserts that are at a normal room-temperature, all you have to do is wipe the knife every time you slice. That way the knife won't have a build-up of frosting and cake, creating a disaster of your frosted masterpiece!18 Make your own buttermilk.Does your recipe call for buttermilk? Don't worry, you can actually make it yourself with this easy recipe! All you need is milk and lemon juice—or distilled white vinegar.19 Prep homemade whipped cream in a cold bowl.Who wants warm whipped cream? Not us! For whipped cream that is perfectly cool with stiff peaks that form nicely, prep it in a bowl that has been sitting in the fridge for at least 30 minutes.20 Do the toothpick test.Not sure if your cake or dessert is done? The classic toothpick test will always tell the truth! Poke a toothpick into the center of your dessert. If it comes out clean, your baked good is done.Remember, many ovens are different than others, and sometimes the baking time called for in the recipe won't always be the same exact time needed for your specific oven. An easy way to tell is to do the toothpick test 5 minutes before the timer goes off, to make sure you aren't going to be overbaking it by the end.21 Let the cake cool completely before frosting it.You may have chilled your frosting, but it won't matter if you're putting cold frosting on a hot cake! The frosting will slide right off, which will be a disaster if you're trying to make a layered cake. Wait for the cake to completely cool before frosting it.Also, if the recipe doesn't call for you to take the cake out of the pan after baking it, just leave it in there while it cools. It will be much easier to pop out if you wait.22 Place a small amount of frosting to the cake plate so it won't slide while you decorate.Once the cake and the frosting are cool, you can decorate the cake! To ensure that the cake stays in the same spot and doesn't slide while you're decorating, spread a dollop of frosting on the plate before placing the first layer down. That way the cake will stay in the same spot—even when cutting it later!23 Flip the top layer of the cake upside down for a flat surface.If you plan on decorating the top of your cakes after frosting, you're going to want to work with a flat surface. When you place the last layer of the cake on the top, place it upside down. The bottom is always flatter than the dome on the top of the cake. By placing it upside down, you have a flat surface that will work well when topping your cake with extra dollops of frosting or candies!Try it yourself with our easy Basic Cake Recipe!
You don't need a professional to get the glossy locks and glamorous nails you want. (Plus, why spend the money when you can acquire them without shelling out tons of dough?) Although thickness and strength of both hair and nails are largely hereditary, the food you eat (or don't get enough of) can affect the status of your fingers and hair just as much as a fancy spa treatment can.These well-groomed body parts are made of a fibrous protein called keratin that—when fed the right ingredients—will naturally grow stronger and healthier over time. Essentially, if tough hair and nails is your goal, what you put in your grocery cart is the first step toward maintaining them.As you will see, numerous studies have shown that nutrients in certain foods straight up give you shiny hair and tough nails, while other research has shown a lack of some vitamins and nutrients is bad news for your appearance. Check out the list below for foods that will give you a healthy makeover without the hefty price tag, and when you're done here start prepping with the 21 Best Healthy Cooking Hacks of All Time. For Strong Hair1 TangerinesThese tiny fruits pack a punch in the vitamin C department, which means they'll help your mane stay long and strong. Vitamin C is necessary for the growth and development of hair and beyond, and since the body can't produce it organically, eating foods packed full of the nutrient, like tangerines, is the number one way to get your fix and strengthen your hair. What's more? When a tangerine's vitamin C syncs up with the dietary iron from something like spinach, the result is that your body can absorb the iron much more easily, which will make your mane even tougher. Furthermore, the vitamin B12 in tangerines has been shown to promote hair growth, reduce hair loss, and slow down the graying process.2 MushroomsMunch on some mushrooms on your next night out! Fungi are a solid source of vitamin D they will make your hair strong and shiny. According to a study that was published in the journal Stem Cells Translational Medicine, the vitamin can help create new hair follicles: little pores where new hair can grow. This, in turn, may improve the thickness of your hair or reduce the amount of hair you lose as you age.3 Fatty FishAnother way to boost your intake of follicle-stimulating vitamin D is to eat fatty fish, such as salmon, mackerel, and tuna, which also happen to be loaded with superstar omega-3 fatty acids. Per a study printed in The Journal of Steroid Biochemistry and Molecular Biology, vitamin D may also help stimulate hair follicles that have become dormant. In other words, there's evidence to suggest the nutrient may help prevent thinning hair and even bald spots. Still not convinced fish is worth your while? Take a gander at this list of 20 Reasons You Should Be Eating More Fish!4 Wheat Germ OilOne tablespoon of wheat germ oil contains a whopping 20.2 milligrams—101% of your daily recommended value—of vitamin E, which has long been lauded for its ability to improve both your hair and skin health. According to scientists, vitamin E is able to work its magic on your mane because it contains potent antioxidants called tocotrienols, which contribute to a healthier scalp. Need proof? Researchers found that using tocotrienol supplements improved the hair health of people with alopecia and also helped prevent hair loss in a 2010 study printed in the journal Tropical Life Sciences Research.5 SpinachSpinach is packed with hair-healthy nutrients such as iron and vitamin E, so it should come as no surprise that chowing down on the rich green veggie is a great way to strengthen your locks. Doctors at the Cleveland Clinic explain that low iron stores contribute to hair loss, so if you're looking to keep your hair strong and luscious, especially as you age, incorporating more spinach into your diet is a great way to go.Looking for more helpful tips? Sign up for our newsletter to get daily recipes and food news in your inbox!6 OystersIf you find your hair thinning or falling out completely, it could be because you're not getting enough zinc in your diet. Thankfully, research has shown that hair loss related to zinc deficiency can be reversed simply by eating more of the all-important nutrient. In a study printed in the journal Dermatologic Therapy, researchers gave zinc supplements to five patients with zinc deficiency-related alopecia and discovered that hair loss was cured or improved in all of the patients after a short time. One way to boost your zinc intake is to load up on oysters. Just six of the shelled seafood will give you 30 milligrams of zinc, which is double the daily value (DV) of the nutrient!7 WalnutsAccording to a review published in a journal called Dermatology Practical&Conceptual, deficiency of the polyunsaturated essential fatty acids linoleic acid (an omega-6 fatty acid) and alpha-linolenic acid (an omega-3 fatty acid) can cause hair changes including loss of scalp hair and eyebrows, as well as lightening of hair. To prevent any of that from happening to you or your hair, eat foods packed with linolenic and alpha-linolenic acids, such as walnuts.8 Brazil NutsAnother nutrient needed for strong, healthy strands is selenium: an essential trace element that plays a role in protection from oxidative damage and the creation of hair follicles. A study printed in the journal Endocrinology found that rats deficient in selenium displayed sparse hair growth. Similarly, another study that appeared in the journal PLoS One found that mice lacking specific selenoproteins exhibited progressive hair loss after birth. To ensure your own hair stays strong and plentiful, eat foods rich in selenium, such as Brazil nuts. Believe it or not, just seven nuts will give you over 100% DV of selenium.9 Sweet PotatoesVitamin A has been shown to activate hair follicle stem cells, according to a 2015 animal study published in the journal Experimental Biology and Medicine. In fact, if you want your hair follicles to function at their optimal level, scientists have discovered that retinoic acid—a component of vitamin A—is necessary. To load up on the hair-helping nutrient, snack on a baked sweet potato (with the skin) which, per the National Institutes of Health contains a whopping amount of vitamin A (561% DV, to be exact). Just don't overdo it, because too much vitamin A has actually been linked to hair loss.10 Black BeansLysine is an essential amino acid that may play a role in iron and zinc uptake, so, given what we've already told you about hair and those key nutrients, it's not surprising that lysine has been shown to encourage the growth and development of healthy hair. In fact, a 2002 study printed in the journal Clinical and Experimental Dermatology showed that the addition of lysine to iron supplementation significantly helped some women with chronic thinning hair and hair loss who failed to respond to iron supplementation alone. Black beans, which are packed with protein, are also loaded with lysine. A half-cup serving of the legumes contains an impressive 523 milligrams of the essential amino acid.11 BlueberriesOxidative stress has been linked to hair loss and unhealthy scalps, so to keep your scalp and hair happy it's important to load up on antioxidants, which counteract oxidative stress. Thanks to their abundance of vitamin B and proanthocyanidins, antioxidant-rich blueberries are also especially beneficial for hair; an animal study printed in The Journal of Investigative Dermatology found that proanthocyanidins stimulate hair growth. For Strong Nails1 EggsMany hair and nail supplements contain biotin—a B vitamin—which many claim encourages healthy growth, but does it really work? Though there is little evidence to support the belief that biotin positively impacts hair, research suggests it can strengthen nails. Per a study in the Journal of the American Academy of Dermatology, biotin has been shown to improve fingernails. After administering a biotin supplement to participants, researchers discovered that thickness of the nails in these people increased by 25% compared to the control group. Furthermore, biotin-treated nails also showed fewer signs of nail splitting. Eggs are an excellent source of biotin, which is found in the bright yellow yolk.2 AlmondsAnother great source of biotin? Almonds. In addition to aiding weight loss, a serving of the protein and fiber-packed nuts contains 49% of your RDA of biotin. Furthermore, almonds also contain a healthy dose of vitamin E, which we've already established plays an important role in keeping your hair and scalp in tip-top shape.3 StrawberriesThat's right, the juicy, red fruits beloved by most have some serious benefits for your nails. Dietitian Tanya Zuckerbrot, MS, RD, and founder of the F-Factor Diet, told us in the 7 Best Foods for Strong Nails that eating eight or more strawberries provides more vitamin C than an orange! And since vitamin C is essential for producing the collagen that keeps our nails resilient to breaks, the sweet red fruit is the perfect way to strengthen them.4 ChickenFingernails are made largely of translucent keratin protein, so if you want them to grow healthier and stronger, eating a diet that's rich in the muscle-building, satiating nutrient is key. Simple, lean sources of protein will do the trick, such as chicken, turkey, or vegetarian-friendly tempeh.5 Flaxseed OilEssential fatty acids (EFAs) are required for the proper structure and function of every cell in the body, and are important for optimal health. So far as nails are concerned, EFAs moisturize the nail bed, which increases the suppleness of thin, brittle nails. To get more of these superstar nutrients in your diet, up your intake of healthy fats, which can be done by adding something such as flaxseed oil to your diet. If that's not your thing, make sure you eat plenty of fatty fish, which we've already established keeps your hair healthy, too.6 Coconut OilThough it shouldn't be eaten constantly, coconut oil is another example of a healthy fat that can strengthen and nourish your nails. What's more? The ever-trendy food doesn't even need to enter your mouth to get the job done. In fact, many people use coconut oil topically, as it can be applied to nails to soften cuticles, prevent hangnails, and moisturize hands.7 LentilsLentils are loaded with nine essential vitamins and minerals, including B vitamins and biotin. That means, not only are they great for your overall health, but they're especially suited to keep your nails looking great and feeling strong. Though we've already discussed the role biotin plays in nail health, it's so important in bears repeating. Per a German study, 91% of subjects given a daily oral dose of 2.5 milligrams of biotin showed definite improvement, with firmer and harder nails after approximately five and half months. Though there's nothing wrong with taking a biotin supplement, getting the nutrient from whole foods is more beneficial overall.8 WatermelonDrinking lots of water is important to keep nails and cuticles hydrated, and in addition to making sure you drink plenty of water each day, you can also improve your nail health by eating foods with a high water content. Summer favorite watermelon, for example, contains about 92% water per volume. You can also add cucumbers to your diet to experience the same effects.9 Whole GrainsSilica, the natural form of silicon, is a trace mineral that helps the body utilize calcium properly. It's also the predominant mineral in the composition of nails, which helps explain why it's so beneficial for them. According to Brazilian researchers, the presence of soft and brittle nails can indicate a systemic deficiency of silicon. Whole grains, such as wheat, barley, oats, and millet, are all excellent sources of silica.10 Red Bell PeppersIn addition to keeping your skin firm and tight, collagen also helps your nails stay long and strong, that's why we suggest incorporating red bell peppers into your diet if you want your nails to look and feel their best. The bright veggies pack 190% of the day's recommended intake of vitamin C (an essential nutrient for producing collagen) and are also loaded with antioxidants that prevent free radicals from damaging and oxidizing our nail cells. Though some red peppers into a stir-fry, or dip the raw veggie in some hummus for a protein-packed snack. For inspiration on how to make protein work for you, check out this list of The 29 Best-Ever Proteins for Weight Loss!
Richard Flanagan: 'Despair is always rational, but hope is human'. Novelist Richard Flanagan talks about the themes in his new book – grief and loss, but also possibility, and the beauty of a disappearing world