10 Tips for the Annual Bake-Off, by Suzy Crocker

Today is the annual bake-off for all the teachers and staff at the school where I teach. I'm new. So, like, I figured I'd show a bit of team spirit since I skipped the mannequin challenge. The rules were: Select a celebrity chef. Find a recipe. Bake enough for 52 people, and we'll have a grand old time eating everything on Thursday, December 16.

So: Some tips to keep in mind for next year:

Today's colossal fail from the new music teacher.
  1. Sometimes it is better NOT to start baking at 3:37 a.m. the night before the bake-off with a recipe you've never tried before.
  2. Sometimes, it is best to try the recipe first, period.
  3. Recipes made to be cooked by chefs are sometimes best left to chefs. Pre-toast the walnuts? Pulverize the oatmeal?
  4. When the recipe says, "Place dough balls 3 inches apart on a greased cookie sheet," it does actually mean 3".
  5. When the recipe says, "Bake at 325F," do consider NOT baking at something close to 350, even if your oven is from 1961 and all temperatures are approximate anyway.
  6. Ideally, do not cool cookie sheets on back deck to speed the cooling process, especially when it's windy.
  7. When the art teacher says, "Oh yeah, the bakeoff. I never do that," heed her words more carefully. Be less cynical of cynical people. Sometimes they are right.
  8. When asked to make enough for 52 people, consider baking something that only requires one oven insertion, not something that gets divided and baked in 12-piece increments.
  9. Consider the role of "taster," rather than "baker."
  10. Duncan Hines is a fabulous chef.