Hints and tips:

- baking is a science and measurements must be respected; if you are serious about baking, buying a scale is a good idea;

- read the entire recipe before start cooking or baking; it's important to know the details beforehand;

- keep an eye on your oven temperature; if possible, use an oven thermometer – it’s an inexpensive investment for your kitchen and crucial to bake meringues and macarons, for example;

- to stop cookies from spreading too much: butter should not be too soft, dough should not be beaten in excess and baking sheets should be cool and lined with baking paper; the oven temperature has to be correct, too – a very hot oven will make the butter in the cookie dough melt a lot faster than it should;

- using baking paper for baking cookies will also prevent them from sticking to the baking sheet;

- portioning the cookie dough is an important step: make all the cookies the same size so they will bake evenly; using a cookie scoop (I love this one) will make this job a breeze and the smaller one is excellent for truffles;

- cookies continue to cook once out of the oven, so respect the baking times or other instructions on the recipe (for instance, if they are golden brown, if they are firm to touch, etc.) – they will get firmer as they cool;

- making muffins: do not overmix the batter or your muffins will become tough; mix the ingredients together lightly – I like using a fork for that – and do not worry about lumps in the batter: that’s how it has to be;

- when baking muffins or cupcakes, fill the empty cavities of the pan halfway with water before putting it in the oven – that way the empty cavities won’t overheat, which can cause the pan to warp;

- making cakes: if the recipe calls for beating certain ingredients – sometimes only butter, sometimes butter + sugar – until light and fluffy, do so; beating well at this stage will incorporate air in the batter, making your cake a lot tender;

- still on cakes: do not overfill the pan; the batter will overflow and you’ll end up with an ugly cake, a dirty oven and a kitchen full of smoke; :)

- scrape the sides of the bowl occasionally, even if the recipe doesn't call for that;

- brownies and bars: cool completely before cutting/slicing;

- a wire rack is important for cooling cookies, muffins, cakes and bread – it allows air to circulate around the baked good so it won’t get soggy;

- egg whites: can be frozen in a plastic bag for up to 2 months (I have frozen some for up to 3 months without any problem); should be thawed in the fridge and cannot be refrozen;

- do not use cold egg whites unless specified on the recipe – room temperature is the way to go here;

- whipping egg whites: use very dry and clean bowl and beaters, without any trace of fat/water – those will prevent the whites from becoming perfectly whipped.

Books and magazines:

- I love Donna Hay magazine and have been a subscriber since 2006 – you can do the same by clicking here

- I'm a cookbook junkie and there is a list of my books here if you need some inspiration. :)

- Looking for recipes in over 100 books is a very difficult task - Eat Your Books has been amazingly helpful to me.

Things that make my days in the kitchen better and easier: