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A few months ago, a few of my readers reached out to me with some baking questions that stumped me. I have never proclaimed to be a baker, I’m not extraordinary at it and I’m ok with knowing that as my weakness (I can appreciate baked goods, let me tell ya!). So I knew I had to reach out to a dear friend of mine who is an amazingly talented baker and one that I would go to with questions I had. I value her opinion and trust her expertise. Before we get on to the Q&A, though, let me briefly tell you how we met.
Rachel and I met through a fun opportunity of being part of a team brought into a golf course restaurant to help revamp the menu and feel of the restaurant. Rachel was brought in as the Head Pastry Chef and I was brought in as Sous Chef in-training. It was a pleasure to work side-by-side with her as we tried to navigate a new kitchen, new crew, and new food. We became great work associates and equally good friends. She even taught me a thing or two when it came to a bakers kitchen.
Without further ado, here is the Baking Q&A with Rachel.
1. What flour is best used in gluten-free recipes?
I like to make my own mix for gluten free flours. 60% starch and 40% whole grain. An example of a starch would be sweet rice flour, and an example of a whole grain would be oat flour. There are a lot of different gluten free starches and whole grains, and I like to mix them and make a combination that tastes good. I usually will do four different (2 starches and 2 whole grains) to create a flour that tastes great for whatever I’m baking. If you are going to mix your own flour, please use a scale. That is the only way to make sure you are getting a perfect mix of flour, thus, allowing you to use it cup for cup like you would a traditional wheat flour.
2.What is the best technique to using a rolling pin?
3. Why do some bread recipes call for salt to be added after the dough has been mixed vs in the beginning?
4. What are the must haves in every bakers kitchen?
- A kitchen aid mixer – the baker’s workhorse. They can mix cookie dough, whip cream and knead dough. They currently have some good deals on them at Target. It’s an investment, but valuable.
- A chef’s knife. I use my knife a lot. Get a good knife, and take care of it.
- Offset spatula. Great little multi tool.
- A fish spatula. Oddly enough, these are great for cookies.
- A microplane. I love citrus and freshly grated nutmeg.
- A bench knife. Such a versatile tool.
5. What are some of your favorite books to use for reference and as a resource?
- The Flavor Bible by Andrew Domenburg and Karen A. Page – This will help you open your tastebuds to different flavor combinations, and acts as a great reference book. I think this is great for homecooks, as well as professionals, because it allows you to look up by the ingredient, so say apples. What other ingredients pairs well with apples. It helps so much if you are stumped or stuck, searching for what will pair well.
- Any of Dorie Greenspan’s books. She’s the amazing grand dame of baking, and her books are all incredible. She started following me on instagram and I called my husband in hysterics because I worship her.
- Tartine & Tartine Bread – I love Chad Robertson and Elisabeth Prueitt, and you will learn so much from these books. Take these books, use them as instructors. Read the recipes, learn the techniques.
6. Do you know why we always crave milk with our cookies or brownies?
Get to know Rachel’s work history a bit more here (yeah, she totally owns her own pastry business! She’s so cool):
Rachel Ellrich Miller, owner and chef of Pistol Whipped Pastry, has been fortunate enough to eat and travel all over the world. Armed with a bachelor’s degree from Penn State in print and photojournalism, Rachel attended Le Cordon Bleu for culinary school. Starting her culinary career in Thomas Keller’s Bouchon kitchen, Rachel honed her pastry and baking skills, building the foundation of her kitchen ability. Missing the Arizona desert, Rachel headed back to Phoenix, taking a position at True Food Kitchens, a health food restaurant.
Grateful for the exposure to a different kind of pastry, but desperate for more butter, eggs, and sugar, Rachel then accepted a position helping to open Jean-George Vongerichten’s J&G Steakhouse in the Phoenician Resort, Scottsdale, Arizona. An offer from The Parlor Pizzeria, Rachel joined their opening team, creating and maintaining the pastry and bread program. Moving to be closer to her fiancé, Rachel accepted a position in Yuma, Arizona, revamping and restructuring a farm bakery at From the Farm.
Heading back to the civilization of Phoenix, Rachel stepped into executive pastry chef position at Starfire Golf Course. Moving on to work as the executive pastry chef at Cartel Coffee Lab, Rachel fell in love with breakfast pastry while sipping delicious Cartel cappuccinos. Working with Chow Locally, Rachel became their chef consultant, working to inspire cooking with local, sustainable, organic produce. Craving creative freedom and her own brand, Rachel officially launched Pistol Whipped Pastry in 2013.
Rachel has been a contributor to Chow Bella blog for Phoenix New Times, and Arizona Wine Lifestyles magazine. She has contributed to the Christian Science Monitor and Green Living AZ magazine, as well as Molly Mahar’s Stratejoy blog. Rachel is a food writer & photographer, and pastry chef, living in Phoenix with her husband and daughter. She is currently undertaking creating a 1.4 acre urban farm and cooking school on their homestead.
Check out Chef Rachel’s personal blog Croissant In The City.