A local Hartford baker shares tips and tricks to take your baking skills to the next level – Hartford Courant

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There’s no better time than National Baker’s Day to learn how to bake a fresh loaf of bread or a batch of delicious cookies.

Although baking can seem daunting, the reward of making something with your own hands is worth it. You’ll be the talk of any party or get-together when you walk by with a charcuterie platter complemented by your very own handmade bread.

Luckily, Richard Winalski of Elmwood Pastry Shop in Hartford has all the tips and tricks you need to get started in baking.

Winalski has been cooking for over 60 years. He is owned by his family who owns the business, which has been a staple in Hartford for 74 years.

Like any new skill, it’s common to make mistakes. Unfortunately, one of Winalski’s biggest problems is with inaccurate measurements.

“Your measurements must be extremely careful; it’s like chemistry, he says. “An ounce of baking soda can ruin 100 pounds of cake, for example.”

Before you even start in the kitchen, be sure to preheat the oven to the exact degree the recipe requires.

“They need to know their temperature in the oven because five or ten degrees makes a huge difference,” Winalski said.

The most common mistake he sees is the wrong portion size. It affects the whole cooking experience if the portions are different.

“The size inconsistency is a big thing,” Winalski said. “Sometimes when you’re doing two or three things, those things can’t be cooked on the same pan because the density and the time it takes are all changed by the size. You want everything to be exactly the same for consistency, otherwise you can’t make the perfect product. »

Finally, even the weather can play a role in cooking.

“In the summer, for example, I have to bake my bread in ice water and in the winter, I have to use hot water,” Winalski said. “If the dough ever gets too hot, it won’t expand and tear.”

> Location: Lexington
> Example of specialty: bohemian beer bread

(Courtesy of P K. via Yelp)

One of Winalski’s biggest tips is to start with the easiest foods.

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“I’ll stick to bread and rolls for someone just starting out,” he said. “It’s much easier to bake bread. Otherwise, it has to involve making layers, folding them together, and making sure it rises very slowly so it doesn’t fall on you.

It’s easy to get discouraged at the start of cooking because things may not be perfect, but in the end it’s all about making an effort to improve.

“There’s no substitute for experience, especially with all the variables changing over time,” Winalski said. “It’s always good to get new ideas from other bakers, different techniques that are developed in other parts of the world and tips for making things.

“We used to have a big organization of bakers here in central Connecticut and we used to trade secrets all the time. Teach each other how to make better treats and make things more efficient.

Like any new hobby, baking will take time for anyone to get good at, but in the end, Winalski thinks the effort is worth it.

“It takes a lot of focus and concentration to get perfect results,” he said. “It seems easy once you master it, but before you master it, it seems impossible.

“It’s hugely rewarding because of the ability to turn simple ingredients into a beautiful work of art and often in a short time,” he said. “When you get the result, it’s not comparable to anything you could buy because of the freshness.”

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