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Ask the Patch Pro: Baking Experts Ready to Help You In the Kitchen

Our panel of experts are waiting in the comments to answer all your questions about baking in the latest installment of Ask the Patch Pro.

A fresh-baked dessert just hits the spot, however, not everyone is a baking expert.

Some people are lost in the kitchen. What's an easy thing to bake for beginners? What's a healthy snack you can bake? Regular cake vs. cupcakes—which is better? 

In the latest edition of "Ask the Patch Pro" we want to find the answers to those, and other, baking questions. But we needed some help. 

We don't have the answers to those (and your) questions, but not to worry. We've compiled a crack team of experts to help us out. Meet the experts: 

Got a question for our experts? Ask below!

Brian Feldt (Editor) August 22, 2012 at 01:20 PM
I'm a big pumpkin pie fan. And now that we're heading into the fall season, I'm sure to get my fill. What's the best pumpkin pie recipe you can share? Any secrets? I usually just follow a standard, basic recipe.
Kalen Ponche August 22, 2012 at 01:38 PM
Is there a trick to making sure a layer cake has two layers that are the same size? I always have one that seems to be bigger than the other or poufier. I never know if I should cut the one down so it is more uniform- it seems like that would make a lot of crumbs!
Joe Barker August 22, 2012 at 02:19 PM
I'm pretty useless in the kitchen, but want to learn. As far as baking goes, where's a good place to start for someone who wants to learn? Should I tackle cakes before cupcakes or just pick something that sounds good and dive right in?
J. Noto Bakery August 22, 2012 at 02:46 PM
Brian, The standard, basic recipes are great! Depending on your palette, I usually like to add more spices than what is asked for on the standard recipes (adding a little extra Ginger, Cinnamon, and Nutmeg can make a huge difference). Also, it's important to keep an eye on the pie while baking since it is very easy to over bake.
J. Noto Bakery August 22, 2012 at 02:54 PM
We use what is called a Cake Saw - basically a serrated knife that evenly cuts the "crown" off the top of each layer. This way, when you place the layers together, they are both uniform in size, making for a nice presentation and much easier decorating surface.
J. Noto Bakery August 22, 2012 at 03:07 PM
If you pick something that you like, it tends to be much easier (and more fun) to really get into it. I recommend starting with simple desserts and save anything that is "yeast-risen" for later on down the road. Cakes and cupcakes are relatively easy but you can't go wrong with the basic Brownie or even Gooey Butter Cake!
Carrie E. August 22, 2012 at 03:41 PM
What is the key to a light, flaky crust?
Kalen Ponche August 22, 2012 at 03:46 PM
Good question Carrie! I have one about pie crusts too. I've seen recipes that call for using vodka in place of water. Have you tried it? What do you think? How about an all butter crust vs using crisco? thoughts either way? And finally, do you mix it by hand or use a food processor. Thanks!
J. Noto Bakery August 22, 2012 at 05:04 PM
I have found that the old fashioned (mixing by hand) way leads to the best results. And, in my opinion, Crisco is the way to go - just be careful not to overwork the Crisco because it will make the crust "mealy" instead of flaky.
rose lambi August 22, 2012 at 05:43 PM
I must agree with Jasper that hand mixing pie crust is best and using Crisco makes the most tender pie crust. Also, remember to use ice cold water. I usually place a few ice cubes in my water to make it cold.
Brian Feldt (Editor) August 22, 2012 at 06:02 PM
Here's a good question I hope my fiance doesn't read :) When following a recipe, how much leeway do I have to add/subtract certain ingredients? Is tooling around with the recipe good, bad or both?
J. Noto Bakery August 22, 2012 at 07:38 PM
Brian, Baking is a science and there is very little leeway when it comes to following the recipe. It is important to be as precise as possible. Cooking, on the other hand, provides more freedom as far as ingredients are concerned.
Terri Roberts August 22, 2012 at 09:56 PM
I love pumpkin pie as well and I think some cream cheese adds a great flavor. Maybe just about 3oz for a normal size pie, soften and mix in with all the pie filling ingredients.

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