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BAKING INGREDIENTS YOU SHOULD ALWAYS HAVE IN YOUR PANTRY

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A great baker’s secret weapons are precision, patience and most importantly, a well-stocked baking pantry. Baking is actually therapeutic for some people, and can calm an overly busy mind. This is due to the fact that the process of baking, such as following step by step instructions, using the precise measurements of ingredients and waiting patiently until the baking is done, is soothing due to the pattern that you need to follow.

In order for you to be able to harness the therapeutic powers of baking whenever you need to, your pantry should hold all the regular ingredients required for any of the recipes you may want to try.

Here are the pantry basics and staples a baker should always have in his baking arsenal:

Flour – Flour is the baking workhorse amongst your baking ingredients. Baking is not complete without flour because this is the building block of baked goods. There are different types of flour ideal for different baked goods. Having a variety in stock is recommended so you can choose the ideal type of flour needed for the dough you want to create. Make sure you have the common types of flour in stock like bread flour, cake flour, and all-purpose flour.

Sugar – Sugar is an essential baking pantry staple. Recipes call for different types of sugars depending on the taste you want to achieve. Make sure you have brown sugar, white sugar, caster sugar, and confectioner’s sugar ready in case you need to make icing sugar, caramel or for adding sweetness to your dough.

Butter – Butter is an extremely versatile baking ingredient. With butter always in your baking arsenal, you will never run out of options for serving up delicious sweet baked goodies at any time.  Butter perfectly blends with sugar to make caramel sauce, and it is also used to grease pots or baking pans. Also, mixing butter with crumbs will help you make easy pie crusts.

Eggs – Eggs are also in the must-have list of baking ingredients, and is used as a binder for your baked items. These are also used for brushing the top of your dough to give bread a delicious, golden colour on top.

Baking powder, soda and yeast – These are leavening agents and are needed when baking breads, cookies and cakes. These are essential to your list of ingredients in a baking pantry because they make your baked goods rise.

Chocolate – Who doesn’t love chocolate? This comfort food not only produces happy hormones when eaten but is also a delicious addition to any baking recipe. It is a versatile ingredient you can use on your baked goods and it will surely make them more delicious.

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BAKING TIP OF THE WEEK – BAKING INGREDIENT SUBSTITUTIONS PART 1

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While we said in the past that substituting certain ingredients when you are baking is rather unacceptable, there will be times when substitutions are needed, and this is when you find yourself mixing your ingredients together and realizing that you lack one or two things. Instead of running to the store, or wasting what you already began mixing, here are some substitutions that you can use. Just make sure that you measure properly to ensure that you do not mess up your recipe entirely.

  1. If you are out of baking powder, what you need to do is, to create a 1 teaspoon substitute, is to mix together 1/4 teaspoon baking soda, with 1/4 teaspoon cornstarch and half a teaspoon of cream of tartar.
  2. If you are out of baking soda, and you need half a teaspoon of this, you can use sodium bicarbonate as a substitute. You can also use double acting baking powder, but you will need 2 teaspoons for every half teaspoon of baking soda needed in your recipe, and you will need to substitute whatever acidic liquid is added to your recipe with a non-acidic one.
  3. When you are out of dry bread crumbs, and you need this for your recipe, there are actually quite a few viable replacements you can choose from. For every cup of breadcrumbs needed, you can replace this with an equal amount of 1.) cracker crumbs; 2.) crushed cornflakes; 3.) fine crushed or ground oatmeal; 4.) crushed potato chips.
  4. If your recipe calls for bittersweet chocolate, you can substitute this with unsweetened chocolate mixed in with a tablespoon of white, granulated sugar. On the flip-side, if you are looking for unsweetened chocolate, simply mix natural cocoa powder with some butter or shortening (3 tablespoons of cocoa and 1 tablespoon of butter or shortening for every ounce needed).
  5. When you are asked to add strong, brewed coffee to a recipe and you do not have a coffee maker, let alone the grinds to make these with, simply add some instant espresso powder to your recipe. For each 1/4 cup of strong brewed coffee needed, 2 tablespoons of espresso powder in 3 tablespoons of hot water should do the trick.
  6. Cornstarch is often asked for when a thickening agent is required, but if you do not have this, there are a few substitutes that will work just as well. For every 1/4 tablespoon of cornstarch being asked for, the substitutions you can use include: 2 tablespoons all-purpose flour, 1 tablespoon rice flour or potato flour, and 2 tablespoons instant tapioca.
  7. Need cream of tartar but do not have any in your kitchen? Half a teaspoon of cream of tartar can be substituted with the same amount of lemon juice or even white vinegar.
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DIFFERENT KINDS OF BREAD YOU CAN EASILY MAKE AT HOME

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If you are a neophyte baker and are looking to expand your baking skills, the next thing you should aim for is bread. Baking bread can be very daunting particularly because not that many people know how to properly knead, shape, and handle dough that has yeast as a leavening agent. Just thinking about using yeast can easily discourage a lot of people, especially if they do not know what can reduce the effectivity of yeast.

There are a few fool-proof breads that you can make at home though, and these are those breads that do not need what is called a starter, which is a yeast and sugar combination that is fermented over a few days to a week. A starter is usually needed when you want very light and airy breads that have the signature sour taste of great breads. For simple breads, you can use instant dry yeast. Here are some of your easy bread options:

5-minute bread – some people call this artisan bread simply because it is skillfully made that it is so easy. 5 minute bread uses only a few ingredients, and the 5-minute name is derived from the fact that you handle the dough 5 minutes at a time, from mixing to shaping. This dough does not even need kneading. The raising of the dough will take two hours, and baking usually takes around 25 to 35 minutes, depending on the shape of the bread that you want to make.

Peasant bread – this is another type of bread that does not require any kneading. It uses instant yeast to give it the desired airy texture of good bread. The recipe for this uses butter instead of oil, and more sugar than most breads. This bread can be baked in any container type, as long as it is non-stick, like oven proof glass bowls and pans.

Dinner rolls – these soft rolls are also easy to make and not much of a challenge for newbie bakers. These rolls however have more ingredients than your usual easy, no-knead breads, and these include eggs, milk, oil, and butter. You will also have to knead this dough for 10 minutes, although your mixer can do this for you with the dough hook.

Flat breads – while some people do not consider this thing real bread due to the lack of a leavening agent, it is still a bread and is very easy to make. You can use this to create wraps, which is a very healthy kind of snack or meal.

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DIFFERENT THINGS YOU CAN DO WITH STALE BREAD

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Every now and then, you find yourself indulging in either a baking spree or a shopping spree that leaves you with a few stale loaves or pieces of bread. Don’t worry about spoilage or having to throw these out because nobody wants to eat bread anymore. There are a number of things you can do to repurpose bread, and people will love you for these.

Here is a list of some of the things you can do with stale bread:

Bread pudding – probably one of the most common uses for stale bread is for the creation of bread pudding. This may be because it is one of the easiest things to do, and moisture can be easily added to the usually dry bread with the addition of such ingredients as milk and eggs. This can be made in many different ways as well, with some recipes calling for sweet ingredients and other having savory elements added in.

Bread crumbs – there are a lot of recipes that call for breadcrumbs to be added as coating, so instead of using store-bought crumbs, why not create your own and store these in an airtight container for use with your breaded chops, breaded chicken, and other breaded recipes? All you need to do is to toast your stale bread until crumbly, then process in your food processor until you get fine crumbs. You can also turn these into seasoned bread crumbs by adding in herbs and spices, plus salt and pepper, while processing.

Croutons – if you love salad and want a little crunch as well as a little carbohydrate in the mixture, croutons can be considered. You can make your own easily by cutting stale bread into little squares and toasting these in your oven until crispy. You should coat these lightly with olive oil before toasting to give it that perfect brown color plus flavor that goes well with any salad.

Biscocho – for a quick and crunchy snack that your kids can grab from your cookie jar anytime, biscocho using your stale breads can be made. You can choose to simply coat the top (or both sides if you want) of your stale bread with butter and sprinkle this with sugar, or to coat one side with sweetened condensed milk before toasting in your oven to a crispy, biscuit-like texture. You can also opt to create variations, like using cinnamon sugar instead of plain sugar with the butter or to top your condensed milk with desiccated coconut for that tropical touch.

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PALAWAN BAKED DELICACIES

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Palawan is known internationally, and even locally, as an island in the Philippines that has pristine beaches, untouched rainforests, and numerous attractions that can make people wish that they can stay there forever. It has also been listed as one of best beaches in the world by Conde Nast Traveler, for El Nido, ranking number 4 this year.

Aside from these accolades, the island is also known for a number of delicacies that people love. Here are some of the baked goodies that tourists and locals alike enjoy on this island paradise:

Hopia Ube – while this is generally found everywhere in the country, one bakery in Palawan seems to have a following when it comes to this flaky pastry, and this bakeshop is called Baker’s Hill. This hopia, along with other variants like hopia munggo (mung bean), is considered one of the must-tries in the area. These are not as expensive as some people may think, despite its fame, and goes for around P40 to P50 per box of 10 pieces.

Pianono – still from Baker’s Hill, this baked delicacy is light and moist mini roll cake, which goes great with hot cocoa or “sikwate”, and coffee. These miniature chiffon rolls come with a custard filling, and instead of having frosting on the outside, it is dusted liberally with granulated sugar. This gives it a sweet taste without going over-the-top, which is what might happen if these small rolls were coated with icing. These are also reasonably priced at P45 per pack.

Honey Nougat – while not necessarily a pastry, this still makes its mark as part of your dessert options in Palawan, and is one you will not want to miss. Made out of local wild honey, and local cashew nuts, this treat can be ordered at La Terrassee Restaurant Café, and comes to your table on a plate, sliced in bite sized pieces, ready for you to enjoy.

Chocolate Bacon and Cheese Bread – the name says it all, and who would not love a combination of all of these three – chocolate, bacon, and cheese? These breads are also available in Baker’s Hill, which is one of the most popular destinations in Palawan for those who have a craving for savory and sweet treats. These are unique breads due to the fact that these cannot be found elsewhere.

Roasted Cashews – while these are just technically nuts, roasting is still a type of oven cooking, so it makes this list. These cashews are locally grown and can come in plain roasted form, or roasted then mixed into a sugary concoction that will result in the sweet and crunchy cashew brittle that Palawan is also famous for.

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ZAMBOANGA DELICACIES

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When you head to the southernmost region of the country, you may find yourself in Zamboanga, which is on the southwestern edge of Mindanao. The city of Zamboanga is home to almost a million people and is the third largest city by land area in the country. Aside from this distinction, it is also known for a number of tourist destinations that are too good to miss.

The city has a lot of historical tourist spots that history buffs will love to visit, and these include Fort Pilar and the city hall. For those who love nature, islands, waterfalls, and caves abound here. For those who are certified foodies, you will find that not only are there many places for you to eat here but there are also a number of delicacies that you can enjoy taking home with you as well.

Here are a few examples of these homegrown treats that you can take home as pasalubong (and eat there as well):

Lokot-lokot– also called tagaktak by some, this delicacy is not baked but fried and looks like noodles that have been crisped up to become a snack. It is also called Zamboanga rolls by some and is actually made using rice flour that is poured into hot oil using a strainer-like contraption which is what forms the net-like treat that is then rolled into a tube before it cools into this shape.

Baulo – another delicacy concocted using rice flour, baulo is actually the local version of the mamon or sponge cake in muffin-like sizes and shapes. The usual mixture consists of rice flour, orange soda, eggs, and sugar. These are poured into molds to get the shape that the baker wants, although more-often-than-not, these come in irregular shapes due to the fact that improvised molds are used to create these treats.

Alfajor de Zamboanga – another treat that you can get from this part of the country is the alfajor, which is a cookie that is also found in Latin countries like Argentina and of course, Spain. This is a sweet cookie that usually has a dulce de leche filling in the middle and covered in grated coconut, if you are to try the Argentinian version. The local version however is made using sticky rice made into flour and baked into these cookies.

 

Chikalang – another favorite of the locals and visitors alike is this treat that comes in the shape of a twisted rope. Sometimes this is made purely out of glutinous or sticky rice that is made into a flour, and at times people mix in purple yams into the dough to create a unique treat.

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WHY YOU SHOULD MAKE TIME FOR BAKING

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Some people enjoy baking because of the yummy goodies that they produce from this endeavor. Others do so because they view is at a way to earn a living. Still a few more do so only when they need to create cakes, pastries, and other yummy baked items for special occasions, like Christmas, birthdays, and the like.

There are a few however who bake because they love doing it. Some people who do enjoy this activity try to make time for it whenever they can despite their very busy lives. Why do they make time for baking and why should you consider doing so as well, if this is not a way for you to make extra money or to earn a living? Here are some good reasons why baking is good for you:

Baking is good for mental health – did you know that baking is actually good for your brain? It is because of the fact that baking follows a very specific set of rules and is centered on precise measurements that make it a rather meditative form of activity. When you bake, you follow specific steps, and you concentrate on these steps in order to get things baked right. This routine helps you focus and thereby makes your brain think more about what needs to be done rather than on dwelling on negative thoughts.

Baking is therapeutic – feeling rather agitated? Want to take out your frustrations on something other than people and things? Why not bake? Baking things that need to undergo the process of kneading can actually help alleviate feelings of anger, frustration, and angst. You can take out your anger and your animosity on the dough that you are kneading for bread or even for pizza. The kneading will also wear you out, which in turn can make you want to rest or sleep, which is also very helpful when you are in an agitated state.

Baking unleashes your creativity – while baking does make you follow very specific steps and measurements, it does leave you a bit of room for your creativity. You can decorate and ice cakes according to your whim. You can also add alternative ingredients to your creations to change the texture and flavor of what you are baking. You can even tweak recipes a bit to make these taste better or look better.

 

Baking makes you generous – when you bake, you don’t bake for yourself. You will find yourself creating two dozen cupcakes, an entire layer cake, or even a few loaves of bread, which you cannot finish on your own. You will usually end up giving these to friends and family, which makes you feel good inside since you shared the fruits of your labor.

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OTHER THINGS YOU CAN DO WITH YOUR OVEN ASIDE FROM BAKING PASTRIES

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Did you know that while ovens are popularly used for baking pastries, breads, cakes, and other desserts that you can actually use it for other things? While your oven is indeed used more frequently for things that come in dough or batter form, these can actually be used for a lot of other things. You can use your oven to prepare more than just sweet treats and breads, and here are some of the other uses your oven can have:

Roasting – ovens produce dry heat, hence it is a great tool for roasting. While some people choose to roast meats and poultry over charcoal or a low open flame, you can do the same thing with an oven. You simply need to elevate your meat and keep it from touching the metal of the tray or pan it is in to ensure even roasting. You can do this by using a wire rack underneath it. You can also roast meats and poultry evenly in an oven that has a rotisserie feature in it.

Broiling – if your oven has a heating element at the inner top part of its cavity, then broiling is another thing you can do with your oven. You can broil meat, poultry and fish with this feature. For faster broiling and browning of whatever it is you are cooking, you should raise the oven rack higher in the oven to get the food you are cooking nearer to the heating element.

Braising – cooking meat in liquid using dry, indirect heat is called braising, and you can do this in your oven as well. More-often-than-not, the equipment that you use to do this is called a dutch oven, which is basically a metal pot with a cover that you can use inside your oven. You brown the meat in this pot over the stove, add the spices and the liquid, and over low heat, braise this in the oven for a few hours. This produces very flavorful and tender meats, and is great for those tough meat pieces.

En Papillote – this is a French term which means “in paper”, and you can use this cooking method in your oven as well. This is a great way to cook delicate meats and fish, like salmon filets and chicken breasts, without overcooking or undercooking, and without drying them out. You will need parchment paper for this, as well as a bed of meaty vegetables like asparagus and potatoes, for the fish or poultry to sit on while being cooked. These cook inside the paper in its own juices, with the steam remaining inside the paper packet as it is cooking.

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TIPS ON FLOUR SELECTION

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Flour is one of the main ingredients in baking. Although it may seem like all flours are alike, given that they are generally in powder form and are used for baking, not all flours are actually the same. Some of these may look the same, but there are actually a few different flours for you to choose from. Some of the more basic choices that you have include cake flour, bread flour, and all-purpose flour. There are also specialty flours like rice flour, multi-grain flour, and even almond flour.

Choosing the right flour for what you are making is crucial to the success of your baking endeavors, and there will be times when making the wrong choice produces lacklustre results. To help you out, here are some tips that can help in the flour selection process:

Identify the amount of gluten needed for different types of baked goods – Gluten is the protein found in flour and is formed when wheat and water is combined. It binds the dough and traps gas released during fermentation. It is basically the substance responsible for giving your baked goods its fine texture and shape.

Doughs vary on gluten content requirement and are good for different kinds of baked goods. For instance, foods such as pasta or pizza usually have elastic dough, so they need flour with high gluten. Flour with high gluten content is ideal for chewy baked goods or any yeast-risen baked goods. If you want your baked goods lighter and fluffier, a flour type with less gluten is what you need. This makes your knowledge of the gluten content of the different flour types important since it will help you decide which type will work best.

To give you a primer on gluten content, the two most commonly used flours are cake and bread. Cake flour is considered weak flour with lower gluten content, making it ideal for fluffier and lighter baked goodies like cake and soft buns. Bread flour, on the other hand, is a strong type of flour with higher gluten content, which is why this is used to create denser and heavier baked products, like crusty bread and hard biscuits.

Know the flour’s shelf life and proper storage – Aside from quality and gluten content, shelf life is also an important factor to consider. As the flour ages, it will lose its strength, which is why it is critical to know how long a flour will last. For example, white wheat flour will stay fresh for a year if stored in a sealed container but if refrigerated, it will last longer. Whole wheat flour, on the other hand, should be used within 3 months, but if it’s stored in the freezer, it will last for a year. When you are using self-rising flour, it should not be stored in the freezer but should be left on the shelf. This will stay fresh up to 6 months.

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TIPS FOR BAKING IN HUMID CLIMATES

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When it comes to baking, humidity is one factor that you need to take into consideration. The amount of moisture in the air, or lack of it for that matter, can actually affect your dough, batter, and other baked goodies. This is why you need to adjust how you make your baked items based on the climate of the area you are in. If you live in an area that is known to have a rather moisture laden atmosphere, there are some things you need to do to ensure your cakes, breads, and pastries turn out the way they should.

Here are some tips to help you when you are baking in humid climates:

Compensate rapid yeast growth – Humid weather will hasten the growth of yeast resulting to over-rising of the dough. To compensate, you need to reduce the amount of yeast in your recipe. For example, if the recipe calls for 2 teaspoons, reduce the amount to 1 teaspoon. Another way to compensate for rapid yeast growth is by adding salt. Salt is believed to inhibit the growth and fermentation of yeast.

Reduce the amount of Liquid – Because of the high moisture content of the air when an area is humid, your dough will have more moisture content. You may need to reduce the amount of liquid that you add to the recipe by about one-quarter. For example, if the recipe requires 1 cup, you may reduce it to 3/4 cup. You also need to check the batter after mixing. If it is dry, add in more liquid a tablespoon at a time until it you achieve the right consistency.

Adjust baking time – Baking in moist climates may require a trial and error process. If adjusting the amount of ingredients you put in, such as yeast and liquid, is not enough, you may also need to adjust the baking time to ensure baking success. If the humidity is high, you may need to increase the baking time because of the excess moisture the ingredients absorbed due to moisture content of the air. You will also need to test for doneness at five minute intervals until baking is done.

Reduce Sugar – Yeast needs sugar to produce the carbon dioxide that will stimulate the chemical reaction needed. This reaction will cause the dough to rise. With little or no sugar, there will be no rising process. To slow down the yeast growth, you may lessen the amount of sugar in the recipe.

Use flour with high gluten content – Flour changes with the weather. For instance, when humidity is high, it absorbs more water and if humidity is low, the ingredients are susceptible to dryness. You may use bread flour when you are baking in humid climates because it has higher gluten content and it will absorb more water than other types of flour.

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BAKING TIP OF THE WEEK – FREEZING BREAD DOUGH FOR FUTURE USE

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We don’t always have time to indulge in the creation of dough for fresh bread, but the taste of home-baked bread is something that is worth creating dough for. The smell of newly baked bread wafting through your home is something a lot of people love, but the creation of the dough for this usually takes a lot of time, particularly due to the need for time to make the dough rise.

If you love freshly baked dough, but don’t have the time to create bread dough from scratch every single time, you can actually create large batches of dough and freeze these for future use. This is what you do:

  • When you make your bread dough, use active dry yeast and not the fast acting type. Double the amount of yeast for the recipe you are following. This is because it is highly likely that half of the yeast you use in your recipe will die during the freezing process, so doubling the amount will ensure that your bread will still rise even after the dough has been frozen.
  • After mixing your dough, let it go through the customary first rising. Afterwards, punch the dough down, then divide evenly into sizes that can be used in the creation of one loaf each.
  • Place each batch in a bread pan then freeze in your freezer for at least half a day, or 12 hours. Make sure your bread pans are greased so the loaves are easy to remove when you need to make stuff that is not loaf shaped.
  • When the dough is frozen, remove from the pans and place each one separately in plastic wrap. Always label your frozen dough with the date as to when you made these, and use these within a month.
  • After wrapping, return your pre-prepared dough to the freezer. When you want to use the dough, remove the batch that you will be baking at least 8 hours before use. Leave this in the lower part of your refrigerator to thaw evenly. Use as you would fresh dough after it is fully thawed out.

Making a huge batch of dough once every few weeks will give you enough dough for these days when you want freshly baked bread but do not have the time for making the dough. This will ensure that when you want fresh bread the next day, you can just thaw it overnight and bake it the next morning for breakfast.

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HOW TO KEEP YOUR BAKED DELICACIES FRESH FOR LONGER

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Nothing beats the smell and taste of fresh-baked goodies right out of the oven. We will always want to preserve their drool-worthy freshness. However, because they are exposed to air some time, they will go stale and loses their flavor and taste. It will no longer be an enjoyable eating experience. Good thing there are several things you can do to prolong the fresh taste of your baked goodies.

 

Here are some tips to keep your baked goods fresh longer. These will help retain the taste and moisture of your baked goods for days or even weeks after you bake them:

Add apple to the storage container – This is one of the common and effective trick you can do to keep your baked goods fresh. Apples have high moisture content and adding apple slices to the container of your baked goods will help retain its moisture. The apple will release moisture and this ensures that your baked goods are fresh for a longer period of time.

Wrap and Freeze – Before wrapping cakes and bread, it is important to let them cool completely. Wrapping warm baked goods will capture moisture and might cause spoilage. Wrap cakes and bread in a cloth towel before freezing. The towel will remove the moisture from the baked goodies. You can also cover them with a cloth if there is no enough space in your freezer.

Refrigerate – It is important that any baked goods with frosting or icing made with cream cheese, whipped cream or custard cheese should be covered and refrigerated. Cheesecakes and cakes with fruits should be refrigerated as well. When you are ready to serve your baked goods, you need to ensure that they should be at room temperature. This is important because refrigerating sometimes shrink the flavors.

 

Proper Storage – Baked goods should be stored in airtight container after they have cooled. Then, inside the container, place a moist paper towel (but not directly on them) and seal the container with a lid. Putting a moist paper towel inside the container will retain the cookies moisture for a longer period because it will suck in the moisture from the paper towel. In case you still have cookies left inside the container and the paper towel is already dry, you can replace the paper towel with a new one.

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