5 baking disaster fixes and great tips with celebrity chef Anna Olson

On Monday, I had the pleasure of attending a special Canadian Living Advantage/Dairy Farmers of Canada event, focusing on great ways to include nutritious dairy products in your cooking, and featuring guest celebrity chef, Anna Olson!

Canadian baking and pastry expert, Anna Olson

Celebrity baking and pastry expert and chef superstar, Anna Olson

We all had a wonderful time sipping wine, tasting delicious food and watching Anna demonstrate her recipes.

What did I not expect? To learn so many new things.

I mean, I know she’s one of the most respected pastry chefs in this country, has hosted several TV extremely successful cooking shows and written 7 cookbooks and everything… but still. I’m always so pleasantly surprised when I get to learn — I mean really learn — something new, when it comes to cooking or baking.

And Anna did not disappoint. She was blowing me away with tip after amazing tip throughout the demo. I’m pretty sure my respect and fondness for her has now quadrupled. I think actually felt it happen during the event. I had a moment.

I caught up with Anna after the event for a little Q & A.

What is your philosophy on becoming a good baker?

Being a good baker is more than just precise measuring. Like anything worth a little effort, it takes practice — and with practice comes wisdom. I just ask that before you get stressed about baking, remind yourself that you are cooking to share with family and friends. If mistakes happen, it’s OK. Your friends will forgive you because they are your friends and your family will forgive you because they have to! And also remember that STRESSED spelled backwards reads DESSERTS!

What are some of your best tips for fixing baking disasters?

Here are my top 3 disaster fixes:

Problem #1: I’ve overwhipped my egg whites and they look dry and craggy!

Solution: Make a cup of tea, sip it and then go back and visit your egg whites. Within that 10 minutes, the egg whites will have collapsed and can be re-whipped (even if sugar has already been added) on MEDIUM speed to the point that you missed the first time around.

Problem #2: I’ve overwhipped my cream and it’s starting to separate!

Solution: Stir in a few tablespoons of fluid whipping cream — this will loosen the whipped cream so you can re-whip it on MEDIUM speed to the point that you missed.

Problem #3: I’ve overcooked (curdled) my custard!

Solution: While still hot, pour the custard into a blender or food processor (or use an immersion blender) and purée the custard until smooth. Immediately push it through a fine mesh strainer, then chill and use as instructed. No one will ever know!

What are some helpful tips that might help both new and experienced bakers?

To make perfect and long-lasting whipped cream, simply add 1 tbsp (15 mL) of instant skim milk powder to every 1 cup (250 mL) of whipping cream as you are whipping it. It does not impart a taste or change the texture, but it keeps every swirl and dollop of cream in place — even if you whip it a full day ahead or use it as frosting for a cake.

If you wish to increase the fibre content of some of your favourite conventional recipes, you can typically replace the measure of all-purpose flour with up to 50% whole wheat flour without impacting the taste or texture dramatically. If you try and replace all of the all-purpose flour with whole wheat, you may find that your goodies end up with a denser, heavier texture (the bran and germ in whole wheat flour interrupts the gluten, which is what holds in the gas formed by baking powder and other leavening agents).

Tell us a bit about your new book, Back to Baking.

Back to Baking has been a two-year project and has just been released. My aim was to provide a thorough all-purpose guide to baking — not just good recipes, but also tips to help you gain a better understanding of baking so that you can find the sheer pleasure in it.

Anna's latest cookbook, Back to Baking

Anna's latest cookbook, Back to Baking

Has a tip changed the way YOU bake or cook?