Baking is tons of fun; seeing how ingredients combine to create your favorite desserts is a total blast. But sometimes, if you don't pay attention to the details, mistakes happen. Maybe your cookies come out too done, or sometimes come out too salty instead of sweet; anything can happen.
However, you don't have to let these little mistakes ruin the joy of baking — you just need a little help! With these easy baking tips, you'll be a pro in no time!
1. Read Carefully
This one might seem like a no-brainer, but the key to a well-executed recipe is reading the recipe carefully! One way to do that is by reading the recipe backward (not the words!) and seeing what you need before you start working. You can see what pots and pans you need, which temperature to preheat the oven, and whether you need to let ingredients chill.
And since you're doing all that before starting the recipe, you can budget for the extra time needed to chill or freeze ingredients or make them room temperature!
2. Measure Accurately
Cooking will always be an art, while baking is all science, which means measuring your ingredients is crucial! For the best results, you need the proper ingredients measured as close to perfect as possible. With that in mind, investing in a digital kitchen scale, the proper measuring cups (both liquid and dry), and measuring spoons is an excellent idea!
One way to measure ingredients more accurately is by lightly spooning each dry ingredient into the measuring cup until you've overfilled it, then using a flat edge item to sweep the excess off the top. However, brown sugar is the exception, as it usually needs to be firmly packed.
Pro Tip: To accurately check liquid ingredients, make sure you're on eye level with the measurement!
3. Convection Conversion
If you haven't tried cooking with convection yet, you're missing out — it's a total game-changer! Convection uses fans for more even cooking, but because of that, you need to adjust the recommended baking temperature. Some newer ovens will do this for you; all you have to do is set the recommended cooking temperature and hit "convection bake."
But if your oven doesn't have this feature, that's okay — the general rule of thumb is to reduce the oven temperature by 25 degrees F (or 50 degrees for higher temps).
Pro Tip: Convection cooks things faster, so check on your baked goods 5 to 10 minutes before your scheduled bake time ends!
4. High Altitude Baking
Did you know that altitude can affect your baking? It turns out that higher altitudes mean lower air pressure, which causes baked goods to rise more quickly and lose moisture faster. But with these adjustments, you won't have to worry!
- Increase the oven temperature between 15 to 25 degrees F. If making chocolate or delicate cakes, stick to the lower end of that scale!
- Decrease your baking time by 5 to 8 minutes per 30 minutes of baking time.
- Decrease the amount of sugar in the recipe by 1 tablespoon per cup.
- Increase liquid ingredients by 1 to 2 tablespoons at 3,000 ft., then increase it by 1 ½ teaspoons for each additional 1,000 ft.
- Add 1 more tablespoon of flour per recipe at 3,500 ft., and then increase it by one more tablespoon every additional 1,500 feet.
5. Butter Butter
Butter is essential in almost every baked recipe, so it's crucial to get the butter step right. First, make sure that you use unsalted butter (especially when baking cakes) since salted butter changes the chemistry of the recipes and throws off the balance of flavors.
And if the recipe calls for chilled butter, grate it and freeze it for an hour beforehand for flakier pastries!
6. Eggs Everywhere
The ingredient that's almost as essential as butter is eggs! They're responsible for getting your recipes to rise, thicken the dough, build volume, stabilize the recipe, and provide unique flavors — so getting the eggs right is vital!
- Crack each egg with confidence — timid taps cause more shattering!
- Always crack eggs on the counter instead of the side of the bowl.
- For a better rise in desserts, leave the eggs at room temperature for about 30 minutes (or run them under warm tap water for five minutes!).
- To pick up any stray shells, use a wet finger and wipe them out or scoop them out with half of the eggshell.
7. Cookie Tips
There's no denying the joy of well-baked cookies: the smell, the sweet flavor, the initial crunch, and the pull of the soft gooey center are all that is good. But to get the best cookies, there are some key steps to follow!
- If the recipe calls to salt the top of the cookies, salt the bottom instead. This keeps the salt from falling off the dough and prevents that savory-to-sweet flavor.
- Always remove cookies from the oven when the edges are hardened to keep the middle soft!
- For fluffy cookies, roll your dough into logs, wrap them in plastic, and freeze. Then cut and bake like store-bought cookies!
- To keep cookies fresh, put a slice of bread with them in an airtight container (make sure to put a piece of plastic wrap between the bread and the cookies, so they don't get too soft!).
8. Carryover Baking
Have you ever taken something out of the oven only to see that it got a little tough at the edges later? That's from carryover baking, where the hot pan continues the baking process and leads to overcooked dishes. Instead, consider getting a wire cooling rack to let your recipe sit rather than the pan!
Pro Tip: When baking cheesecake, you can use carryover baking to your advantage after the internal temperature reads 150 degrees F!
9. Time for Cake
One of the worst things about baking is the waiting and wondering if it's done yet. And you can't keep opening the oven to check, so how can you know when it’s ready?
- Use a toothpick in the center of your cake; if it comes out clean, it's done! For cakes like chocolate cakes, consider using a sharp paring knife instead for more accurate readings.
- Check the internal temperature with a thermometer; if it reads 210 degrees F, it's done
- If you see that the sides of the cake are pulling away from the pan, it's time to take it out of the oven!
- Is your cake golden and pillowy on top? Yep, that's done!
- Are you making a sponge cake? Lightly tap the surface and see if it bounces back. If it does, it's ready to go!
10. Mixing Rules
Mixing your ingredients is fundamental for every recipe, but a lot can go wrong without you knowing. But don't worry; these tips will help you stay golden!
- Don't overmix! Most recipes say "until incorporated," which means mix until all the lumps are gone (overmixing leads to tough baked goods!).
- Keep your mixing stable by rolling a damp kitchen towel into a tube and curling it around the bottom of your mixing bowl in a tight circle.
- Always scrape the bottom of your bowl as you mix to get an even and full mixture for the best taste results.
- If making whipped cream, put your beaters and bowl in the fridge before mixing so it'll whip faster!
Pro Tip: Creaming butter and sugar is the exception to overmixing — the more blended, the fluffier your recipe will be!
11. Baking Equivalents
Sometimes as you bake, you realize you don't have the right measuring instrument to measure the ingredient fully. But that's okay — you need to know your baking equivalents well!
- 3 teaspoons = 1 tablespoon
- 4 tablespoons = ¼ cup
- 5 tablespoons + 1 teaspoon = 1/3 cup
- 2 cups = 1 quart
- 4 quarts = 1 gallon
Bonus: Baking Powder vs. Baking Soda
As you do a lot of baking, no doubt you notice that most recipes call for baking powder, baking soda, or both. And that's because both ingredients are leavening agents that help baked goods rise. But how you use each ingredient is different.
Baking soda needs acidic ingredients to activate, such as buttermilk, lemon juice, and cocoa powder. Baking powder only needs liquid to activate, so it's best for recipes without acidic ingredients. However, some recipes call for both because the baking soda will neutralize all the acid but doesn't have enough to make the recipe rise, which is where the baking powder comes in.
So, make sure you use each one correctly!
Now that you know these easy baking tips, get out your baking mitts — it's time to bake! But before you start taking out ingredients, ask yourself one question: is your oven working right? If you have to think about it, no doubt you're due for an upgrade, and that's where Leonardi Appliance comes in! We have a wide variety of ovens and ranges in stock that'll lead you to baking glory!
And if you have any questions, give us a call or stop by! You shouldn't ever have to deal with inferior baked goods!