Tips on Learning to Bake

Baking represents one of my favorite pastimes. A relaxing but deceptively complex hobby, baking involves combining a number of ingredients to develop something new. When baking, I can customize cakes, pies, breads, and other dishes to my preference or experiment and bake something unique, although flexibility with baking can be more limited than with other forms of cooking.

People interested in baking have several options to help them get started. Cooking classes are a great way to make an immediate jump from amateur jitters to confidence in the kitchen. By researching online, individuals may discover courses in their localities based on price, skill level, and specialty. My state of Florida contains seven nationally recognized culinary schools that expand beyond baking into a number of ethnic cuisines and cooking styles. Additionally, individuals can enroll at smaller baking classes held by state, community, and technical colleges.

Cookbooks represent a simpler way to learn how to bake. With hundreds of cookbooks and cooking magazines on the market, consumers have an enormous variety of publications at their fingertips to teach them how to produce virtually any dish they want. As different books are available for those with varying abilities, make sure that the book suits your skill level before buying it.

Furthermore, many who watch the Food Network or other televised cooking programs often feel inspired to develop their own baked dishes. Watching someone else perform the act of baking shows how a finished product should look and the steps necessary to get there better than any text. The Food Network’s website,, posts the recipes to a number of the items seen on its shows. Online pages such as and, as well as YouTube and other video-hosting sites, also contain step-by-step instructions to create all sorts of baked dishes.

Regardless of where you get your recipes, every baker needs decent equipment. Invest in a good set of measuring cups and spoons or a kitchen scale for proper proportioning of ingredients. Purchase bakeware such as Pyrex that can withstand your oven’s hottest temperatures. And finally, always buy quality ingredients. The smallest steps you take can make the biggest difference.

About the Author:

Aside from baking, Benigna Marko enjoys gardening, photographing animals and people, and spending time outdoors.


Digital Photography: How Digital Cameras Work, by Benigna Marko

Every camera gathers the light that reflects off objects to record images of those objects. When a photographer presses the shutter release, a series of lenses focuses the available light and captures the scene. Traditional cameras rely on a chemical process that reproduces an image on light-sensitive film, which must then be developed to stabilize the picture and make it permanent.

Digital photography works in much the same way as film photography, but the images are recorded differently. The photos taken by a digital camera are made up of a series of ones and zeros that represent the many small dots, called pixels, that comprise the image. The camera utilizes either a charge-coupled device sensor or a complementary metal oxide semiconductor sensor to change the light that bounces off the subject into electrons, which are then recorded as pixels. The value of each pixel depends on the brightness of the light that created it. The pattern of pixels is recorded in the camera’s memory, without any need for the development process required by traditional film. Photographers can also use a scanner to create a digital version of any photo.

Whether a photographer uses a digital or film camera, he or she must know how to compose a shot, and how to adjust the aperture and shutter speed for the light conditions. Even photographers whose cameras have automatic modes that take care of many of these details may find they obtain better results if they understand how the camera determines which settings to use. Once the shot is lined up, the photographer simply pushes the shutter release button and records the image. The image is now ready to be downloaded or developed.

About the author: Benigna Marko is a photography enthusiast who lives in Miami, Florida, and enjoys taking pictures of animals and people.

Basic Tips for Photographing Dogs by Benigna Marko

For many dog owners, their animal is more than just a pet; it is part of the family. One of the best ways to capture their idiosyncrasies and preserve their memory is through photography; but, as anyone who has tried to capture a picture of a dog can attest, it is no easy task. Here are a few tips for snapping the perfect pic of your pet:

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Setting the Stage: Before even taking out the camera, it is important to plan out some of the key elements of the shot. Utilizing some of the dog’s favorite toys or locations in the house are good ways to add some character to the image. Dogs have distinct personalities, so it makes sense to highlight some of their unique attributes in the photos. For example, if the dog is active and energetic, employ a faster shutter speed to snap pictures of the animal playing or running through the park. Many pets will be reluctant to sit still for photos, so using the faster shutter speed is usually the best method anyway. With that in mind, try to schedule your photo shoot at a time when the animal has a low energy level to make it easier to keep them still. Strive to use natural lighting and refrain from using the flash whenever possible, as it will probably startle the animal.   One way is to take the dog for a long walk or run, letting the animal rest on the beautiful green grass that serves as your canvas and start snapping away.

Alter Framing and Depth: As with any type of photography, changing the framing or altering the depth of the shot changes the perspective immensely. Get down close to the animal to obtain detailed images of their features and be sure to take shots from different sides and angles.

Be Sneaky: Candid photographs are often the most endearing, so do not be too focused on staging the perfect shoot. Keep your camera in a convenient place and occasionally snap some pics when the dog is not expecting it. This method will allow the photographer to see the animal in a more natural setting, and the images will reflect that.

About the Author: An avid recreational photographer, Benigna Marko loves capturing images of people and animals. Marko has lived in Miami-Dade County for more than 20 years and spent much of that time working with local government. Hired as an Administrative Assistant in 1986 while studying at Florida International University, Benigna Marko earned promotions up to the role of Assistant Director.