Baking often intimidates the inexperienced home cook. That’s because in some ways, baking is more technical than cooking food over a stove. With the latter, you can easily play it by ear, so to speak. A great trick is you can make adjustments with the dish you are cooking over the stove depending on how that dish is coming along. Baking, on the other hand, requires more precision. Your ingredients must be measured properly and your dough or batter processed just so. And once you stash the pan on a rack in the oven, you can’t make any adjustments anymore. You’ll just have to cross your fingers and hope that your baked goodies rise properly. Moreover, you have to keep a close watch on whatever it is you’re baking; otherwise, whatever you are baking will end up hard, dry or, worse, burned. I bet you’re wondering, any tips?
So you’ll find more success in your baking experiments, I have compiled here a list of ten baking tips and tricks that will help make the baking process easier for you. After all, baking should be a joyful endeavor.
General Baking Tips and Tricks
Always preheat your oven. This is one of the best tips everyone must take note of. Most baking problems result from the oven not being preheated properly. If you don’t preheat before baking, you will end up with soggy pie crusts, unevenly baked cookies, or cakes that failed to rise. To preheat, just set it to the temperature you want. Wait for ten minutes and then check the temperature with a thermometer. Don’t just rely on the indicators. More often than not, these indicators will tell you that it has been preheated, but the temperature inside isn’t what you want it.
Avoid opening the oven door. Once you’ve got your baking pans or sheets stashed inside the oven, keep the its door closed. The temperature inside goes down whenever you open the door because doing so lets cooler air in. Resist the temptation of opening the door to check on what you’re baking; just look at it through the glass panel on the door. Open the door only to see if what you’re baking is already done, whether by using a thermometer or doing the toothpick test.
Bread Baking Tips and Tricks
Use only the best ingredients. There are only four basic ingredients to bread: flour, water, salt and yeast. And yet, because bread has only four ingredients, it’s even more essential that the quality of these ingredients is stellar. Poor-quality ingredients yield poor-quality bread, and it’s something that won’t be easy to hide.
Take your time. Baking bread isn’t exactly a process you can hurry up, even when you’re using a bread machine. You have to wait for the ingredients to react together before going to the next step of the process. The yeast needs time to work before you start kneading the dough, the kneaded dough needs time to rise before it is placed in the oven, and so on.
Cake Baking Tips and Tricks
Keep an eye on your cake while it’s in the oven. You’ll know your cake is done if it has risen slightly in the center, the center bounces back when you press your fingers lightly on it, and if a toothpick you inserted in the center comes away clean. Just look at the cake from the glass panel of your oven before testing it with your fingers or toothpick. As mentioned earlier, you shouldn’t open the door of your oven too frequently.
Wait for your cake to cool completely before frosting. After you’ve taken the cake out of the oven, just set it on your cooling rack without removing it from its pan for 20 minutes. This will allow the cake to bake completely. After 20 minutes, take the cake out of the pan and set it on the cooling rack to cool completely. If you frost your cake while it’s still warm, the frosting will just melt off.
Baking Tips and Tricks for Cupcakes
Let your refrigerated ingredients come to room temperature first. When refrigerated ingredients like eggs, butter, cream cheese, etc. are allowed to come to room temperature before baking, they become easier to incorporate together into the batter. Your cupcakes will taste more even that way. This applies to cake baking as well.
Be gentle when mixing your batter. You’ll want your cupcake to be light, soft and airy. You will achieve that by processing your batter with a very gentle hand, as this allows air bubbles to form and expand inside the batter. Mixing your batter vigorously will cause those air bubbles to collapse instead, resulting in a denser and harder cupcake. If you’re using a mixer, keep it at a low speed and don’t over-process your batter. Again, this also applies to baking cakes.
Baking Tips and Tricks for Cookies
9. Under-bake your cookies. Check your cookies at the minimum time approximated by your recipe to avoid over-baking or burning them. If they already have the desired look but are still soft, take them out of the oven. Your cookies will continue baking even after they’re taken out until they have completely cooled off.
10. Chewy or crunchy is all in the timing. A cookie will become chewy or crunchy depending on how long it is allowed to bake. If you want chewy cookies, get them off your baking sheet and on to your cooling rack as soon as they are done so they can cool off immediately. On the other hand, if you want crunchy cookies, let them stay on the baking sheet for three to five minutes before transferring them to a cooling rack. This will allow your cookies to continue baking after they’re taken from the oven and thus become crunchy.
Baking doesn’t have to be intimidating. Even if you’re new to baking, you can create baked goods successfully as long as you follow the recipe closely and keep these baking tips and tricks in mind. Happy baking!