Sometimes, mom does know best.
Toddler Baking with Flour Mess
Credit: Josef Scaylea/Getty Images

Even though my mom isn't a baker, she taught me one of the most important lessons I've ever learned about baking. Busy working a full-time job, raising me and my sisters, and doing a million things for people in our community, she rarely had time to bake. And after raising two girls with little interest in cooking, she was caught off guard by a son who wouldn't stay out of the kitchen. I read cookbooks, asked my grandma questions about her recipes, and watched too many cooking shows.

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However, like any other 12 year old in the kitchen, I made a floury mess every time I took out a mixing bowl. Mom wouldn't have it: "If you don't learn how to clean up as you go, baking will make you lose your mind." The next time I came in the kitchen with a recipe hot off the printer, mom was on my heels. She stopped me after mixing a couple of ingredients to remind me to wash the dirty bowl as soon as I was done with it. She watched me take ingredients out of the cupboard and had me put them back after measuring out what I needed. At first it was awkward and clunky, moving back and forth from the sink to the counter to the pantry, but eventually it became second nature. By the time I slid a pan in the oven, I had a perfectly clean kitchen. Imagine that—a clean kitchen every time you finish cooking or baking.

I've baked with a lot of people now, from teaching aspiring bakers how to make something to working alongside other cooks in professional kitchens. Across the board, the people who glide through their kitchen with the least stress and most success are the people who do just as my mom told me. By keeping everything orderly and clean, you are much less likely to miss a step or overbake whatever you're making. I know this may seem pedantic, but I swear, you will get through a recipe faster than you thought possible and with far less stress than you imagined. It's my secret to success.