It’s no secret that I love to bake.  And baking is a science.  You have to have exact measurements and temperatures to achieve the results you are looking for.  
I was never great at science.  I got by, but I wouldn’t say that I ever excelled at it, especially at chemistry. I was terrible at chemistry no matter how much I studied.   But, for some reason I’m pretty good at baking.  I think it may have something to do with the fact that I get to devour a yummy treat when I’m done baking, if I do it right.  I never got to do that in chemistry. 
Anyhow, one of the most important steps for baking cookies, cakes and other treats is to start with room temperature eggs and butter, when it is called for.  Room temperature means somewhere around 70 degrees F (68-74* F is acceptable).   Most refrigerators are set to 40 degrees or below F, so using eggs or butter straight out of the refrigerator can really alter the end result of what you are making.  
But, if you are like me, you rarely have the foresight to pull out the eggs or butter when you want to bake.  I shared my method for bringing eggs to room temperature quickly here.  But, how do you get butter to room temperature quickly?  
Well, I simply cut the butter into small pieces and let them sit while I gather my other ingredients.  Usually by the time I have everything I need (about 5 minutes, depending on how warm the kitchen is), the butter is softened.  I typically cut my butter into about tablespoon sized pieces, but will cut it smaller if I am in a real hurry.  
And that’s it!  Smaller pieces have big surface area compared to their size so they will react to temperature faster than larger pieces that have less surface area compared to their size.  So, the smaller you cut the butter, the quicker it will come to room temperature.  

Check me out!!  I guess I picked up more in chemistry than I thought. Ha!
How to bring butter to room temperature quickly
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Earlier this week I shared this chocolate pudding recipe that I dolled up with some whipped cream and chocolate curls for a dinner party.  Chocolate curls take any chocolaty dessert to the next level. They look so elegant and can make a plain Jane dessert, like chocolate pudding, look like it could be served in a five star restaurant.  Your guests will think you spent a lot of time and energy making them when in reality they are incredibly easy to make.  
how to make chocolate shavings

Here’s how:

Materials:
Large chunk of good quality chocolate – I got mine at whole foods
Fruit/Vegetable Peeler
Body heat
Instructions:
I start by holding the chocolate in my hand for about 20-30 seconds.  Natural body heat will start to soften the chocolate. I want the chocolate softened, not melted.

Then I run my fruit/vegetable peeler along the softened chocolate.

If the chocolate is warm enough it will naturally curl.  It it is too cold, it will shave off in straight lines making chocolate shavings.  I find that both curls and/or shavings look great on desserts.  

I usually keep a small bowl under the chocolate to catch the curls/shavings.  That way I don’t have to handle them which could cause breakage.  Once I have enough curls, I place my bowl of chocolate in the refrigerator for at least 10 minutes so the chocolate can harden back up.  This way they won’t break or melt when I handle them.

Once my curls have hardened back up, I carefully use them to decorate my desserts.  See, I told you it was super easy to make them.

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Weekends usually start with big tasty breakfasts in our house.  Pancakes, waffles or crepes are often on the menu.  Unfortunately, many of our breakfast recipes call for buttermilk, an ingredient we don’t always have on hand.  So my hubby and I usually play rock, paper, scissors to decide who is running to the store to pick some up.  
Well, I recently learned a way to achieve the same taste / texture of buttermilk with ingredients we always have in the house.  No more early morning trips to the store for us!!
How to make homemade buttermilk

Here’s the recipe for the buttermilk hack:
Pour 1 1/2 tablespoons of vinegar or lemon juice in a measuring cup and add enough milk to make 1 cup of liquid.  Let the mixture sit for about 10 minutes.  You’ll end up with curdled milk that can be used in place of buttermilk.  

I hope this is helpful!

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If you asked 100 people how to make hard boiled eggs you would probably get 100 different answers.  Some use vinegar, some boil continuously, some just cook the heck out of the eggs until they think they are done.  I don’t know that any one way is the right way.  But, here’s the way I make them.  
The method is easy and the eggs come out perfect every time.  No grey or runny yolk.  Just perfect hard boiled eggs.
perfect hard boiled eggs

I start by carefully placing the eggs in a pot.  Then I add cold or room temperature (NOT HOT!) water until the water comes about an inch above the eggs.

Then I turn the flame onto medium heat. 

 I let the water come up to a boil, then I turn off the flame.

I put a lid on top of the pot and let the eggs sit in the water for 12 minutes.

Then I carefully pull the eggs out and run them under cold water to stop the cooking process and help release the shell from the egg.

I peel them and enjoy!  
Hard boiled eggs can be used immediately or stored in the refrigerator un-peeled for 3 days.
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Baking soda and baking powder are chemical leaveners that lighten baked goods.  When they are fresh, they cause chemical reactions that release carbon dioxide in batters, which allow pastries to be light, soft and airy.  
But, if you use stale baking powder or baking soda, you will end up with a flat dense treat.  And nobody wants a flat, thick or heavy cake, cookie or any other sweet treat.  You can save yourself the frustration (I may or may not be speaking from experience) of learning that your baking soda and/or baking powder isn’t fresh by doing quick and simple tests to ensure that the products are still good and active.  Here’s how:

To test baking powder, mix 1 teaspoon of baking powder with 1/2 cup hot water.

How to tell if baking powder is still good

If the mixture starts bubbling immediately, the baking powder is good.
To test baking soda, mix 1/4 teaspoon baking soda with 2 teaspoons vinegar (any type). 
How to tell if baking soda is still good

If the mixture starts bubbling immediately, the baking soda is good.

It’s easy-peasy to do.  Plus, you probably have all the materials on hand. 🙂
I hope this was helpful!
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