When it comes to baking, obviously, our favorite part is devouring the final product, but the process can be just as exciting… well, almost! We love classics like brownies and chocolate chip cookies, but with so many creative cooking shows on TV, baking blogs and even Pinterest to inspire us, we are officially ready to take our cooking to the next level. We recently chatted with creative mind and celebrity chef Christina Tosi of MasterChef Junior, who shared her insights on what makes a successful baker!
1. It’s ok to figure out your passion after college.
I realized after I went to high school and college that baking is really my passion. I went to college and studied the Italian language and applied mathematics. I had a pact with my parents that no matter what I wanted to do in life, it was important to go ahead and get that college education first. When I was done with college I realized I like the creative side, but I also like the very sort of regimented, mathematical side—also what I think is the perfect makings for a pastry chef!
2. There’s more to the food industry than just being a chef!
You could be a food writer, food stylist, caterer; there are different paths you can take in that context. But I do think going to college first was a really great learning experience because it made me a well-rounded, studied individual before I gained that specialty in food technique and culinary history.
3. If you want to stand out, be yourself!
Even on the show here at MasterChef, oftentimes the best dishes…are most deeply rooted in you, your personality and your flavor profile.
4. Don’t be afraid to fail.
You have to be willing to put yourself out there. You’re not going to be a pro overnight. A lot of people come in fearing that they’re gonna fall, and our point is really that failing is where and when you grow the most.
5. Experimenting with baking is a bit scientific!
For the baking basics: butter, sugar, flour, salt and then leavening—those are the basics you can’t mess with. It’s all about where you want to take it. If you want to add more texture to it, then adding more texture might mean that you take away some flour. You start to learn these things. Funny enough, butter, sugar and salt levels really across the board in baked goods, in sweets… and in savory, are the things that really alter the chemical makeup of any given thing, whether it’s a cookie, cake or pie. If you don’t have enough butter, eggs and sugar, it really will completely alter the texture. And sugar and salt, those are really the two basic balancing acts in terms of flavor. I think most people don’t think of that as being a textural agent, but it really is. Baking soda and baking powder are definitely other tricky measures, as well as flour. When I was teaching myself to bake in my mother’s kitchen at home, I would always do a mix match mesh-up of cookie dough with the craziest things inside, and that’s when I really learned the sense of taste, but also the sense of, “Ok, if I want to put this in, I have to take some of this out to account for it.” And on that level it’s mathematics! I’m very much a hands-on learning person, and so I learn so much from my failures, more so than my successes.