10 Baking Hacks From Barefoot Contessa Ina Garten

The best way to clean your sheet pans, and other secrets from the queen of entertaining.

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Ina Garten baking tips
Photo, @inagarten/Instagram.

Few celebrity chefs are as beloved as Ina Garten, and at Chatelaine we’ve been crushing on her since, well, forever. Garten has been helping cooks find their way around the kitchen since the late 1990s with her massively successfully Food Network show, Barefoot Contessa, and 10 cookbooks. Her down-to-earth entertaining vibe brings simple elegance (and stunning flower arrangements) to the table without a ton of fuss. It’s no wonder her most well-known catchphrase is, “How easy is that?”

Because she’s always there in a pinch, Garten maintains as Ask Ina section on her website featuring some of her best tips for those times when you need a helping hand. And since our winter survival kit includes warm brownies, flaky croissants and chewy cookies, we’ve rounded up 10 baking hacks from our favourite celebrity hostess.

1. Embrace your freezer

There’s nothing quite like a hot scone for breakfast, brunch or afternoon tea. To ensure yours are always fresh, pre-cut and freeze the dough and you’ll always have a few unbaked scones ready to pop in your oven for guests. Chocolate-chip cookie dough also freezes well and it’s easy to make. Once your dough is ready, roll it into balls, stick ’em in a freezer bag and then pop them in the oven whenever you crave warm cookies.

2. Throw your sheet pans in the dishwasher

To keep her sheet pans looking brand new, Ina scrubs them with a Brillo pad and then runs them through the dishwasher. She recommends using parchment paper to avoid mucking them up further.

3. Two tricks for transporting dessert

If you’re bringing dessert to a family gathering, choose a sweet treat that travels well, like brownies. If you’re going to transport something in a baking dish, such as an apple crisp, place a damp towel underneath it to keep it from sliding around in the trunk of your car.

4. Impress a crowd with cookies

Garten’s partial to her classic linzer cookie recipe. While it’s a holiday season staple, there’s never a bad time for this shortbread-raspberry sandwich.

5. Master the dreaded pastry bag once and for all

Instead of avoiding recipes that involve a piping bag, follow Garten’s sage advice to master this skill. Make a batch of whipped cream (“store bought is fine”) and pipe it onto a cutting board until you’re comfortable using this baking tool. Bonus: You’ll be well primed to make our ultimate whipped shortbread recipe.

6. You don’t need fancy chocolate chips

While Garten’s been known to use pricey ingredients, she relies on Nestle and Hershey’s chocolate chips.

7. But don’t skimp on cocoa powder

Garten’s partial to Pernigotti.

8. Stop using table salt

Instead of table salt, Garten uses Diamond kosher salt in all of her recipes, including in her baked goods. She says it has a milder flavour in comparison to table salt, which she thinks tastes metallic. (And here are a few more reasons you should ditch the table salt for good.)

9. Serve your meringues pronto

It’s perfectly normal the meringue topping on your lemon meringue pie deflates after a few hours. Garten recommends serving it soon after you make it.

10. It’s okay if your cheesecake doesn’t look perfect

Garten says that all cheesecakes look lightly browned around the edges once they’re done in the oven, making them look “perfectly done.” And if yours gets cracked in the baking process, just cover it with berries (how easy it that?).

Watch: Get baking with these easy chocolate-almond cretzels