A few baking “ah ha!” moments...
As a baker, recipe creator, chocolatier, and constant cook, I'm fascinated with proving or disproving standard cooking and baking conventions, especially when my discoveries save me time and energy. When I run upon a recipe step, I always ask "is that really necessary?" or "is there a better way?"
Here are a few things I've discovered along the way:
1. Cream of tartar can be added directly into egg whites before turning on the mixer; No need to stand there and wait for the egg whites to foam before adding the tartar, as many recipes instruct. Just toss it in, turn on the mixer (never past medium high) and walk away (see my post on cream of tartar and how long you can beat egg whites using this "fail-safe" ingredient).
2. Eggs whites WILL beat with a trace of fat in them. They just won't beat to stiff peaks, so no need to fret if that bowl wasn't perfectly clean if you're not beating your whites to stiff peaks.
3. When making crème anglaise, there is no need to whisk the egg yolks and sugar together "until thickened and pale yellow." Your hot milk is going to deflate them any way, so just whisk them until well blended (saves on elbow grease!)--just be sure to keep whisking when adding the hot liquid.
4. No need to dip your crème anglaise into an ice bath to stop the cooking as soon as it's removed from the heat if you're adding other ingredients, such as butter or cream to finish it off. Just remove it from the heat (I do, however, like to set it directly onto my cool granite counter top) then add your remaining ingredients; these additions will cool the crème anglaise well enough to stop any additional cooking. When completed, placing the bowl in a cool water bath will help speed up the cooling, if needed. I don't know why, but I find "preparing an ice-water bath" an irritating step so I'm happy to eliminate it.
What common cooking or baking conventions have you dispelled?