It seems like some people have a knack for turning out incredible desserts all the time. For some sourdough warriors, though, baking remains a daunting task. If the cake doesn't burn, the décor is poorly done. If the cookies don't get too hard (enough to break your teeth), they stick on the baking pan. In all your baking endeavors, something almost always goes wrong.
The good news is that with the best tips and the right advice, you can make mouthwatering desserts that are delicious and appealing. Here, we have made a brief rundown of the most important baking tips of all time to help you become a top-rated baker.
1. Flavor is King
One general baking rule is, 'get the perfect flavor and texture' for your dessert. If a cake does not have a good taste and the right texture, it's pointless to consider how good it looks. The flavor, good or bad, stays in our memory long after we have taken the cake. As such, you may want to focus on getting the right flavor combinations as well as the texture.
After all, getting the flavor right is essential from the beginning, but you can worry about decor much later.
2. Do Not Rush
Like most things in life, rushing the process ruins everything. Don't start baking if you only have an hour to bake when the baking process itself requires 80 minutes. Instead, do it another day when you have enough time. It's wise to savor the time you spend baking instead of running helter-skelter in the kitchen in an attempt to have a baked product.
Mistakes are also likely to happen when you rush. Besides, you may not have enough time to prepare the different ingredients for your recipe. As a rule of thumb, consider allowing 25% extra time to any baking mix. This time allowance is in case anything needs to be redone or some ingredients require special preparation (like egg whites).
3. Read and Follow Recipe
Whereas this sounds so elementary, it makes a world of difference. Following the recipe is the most critical baking tip you will ever hear, yet it is the most neglected. Even savvy bakers are guilty of not reading and adhering to the recipe.
Sometimes it's the excitement of making a new treat while at other times it's due to unnecessary hurry that baking enthusiasts fail to read the recipe. And when they do, they only scan through it as they bake.
While this approach goes down well with some recipes, it often leads to epic baking fails or at the very least, wasted ingredients. Reading the recipe ahead helps you know the how, why, where, and when of what you are about to do.
For instance, imagine realizing too late the sugar was supposed to be sifted and split between two different steps. Or that the cookie dough required two hours refrigeration.
Read through the recipe 2-3 times and prepare well unless you don't mind a recipe disaster (such as mad-dashing to the store or making a substitution because you are out of an ingredient).
4. Avoid Substitutes
There is a certain spontaneity allowed in cooking that doesn't apply to baking. In your next baking project, avoid reducing sugar, subbing out eggs, all-purpose flour instead of cake flour, egg whites instead of whole cakes, baking soda for powder, etc.
Baking professionals recommend you to keep off substitutes unless the recipe clearly suggests alternatives. Often, a cake fails because you didn't properly follow the recipe.
Baking is considered an exact science, and the combination of ingredients works together in specific ways to bring out the best product. For example, adding fresh blueberries to a batter may taste great, but this has proved to add moisture.
Also, different grades of chocolate react differently when heated, and baking soda is not the same thing as baking powder. Like math, the correct sum of a recipe's ingredients adds to success. If you need to make changes, follow the recipe as it is the first time, then make changes as you see fit the next time.
Likewise, unless otherwise stated, do not substitute a 9-inch cake pan for a 6-inch cake pan and vice versa. Using the correct size pan helps you prevent poor outcomes such as dense cakes, overflowing cakes, sunken cakes, flimsy cakes, etc.
The phrase "measure twice cut once" holds true for baking. Take time to measure all the ingredients correctly. Excellent baking requires proven techniques, tested recipes, and ultimately, precise ratios.
Eyeballing measurements or using the addage of a handful of chocolate chips is the best way to mess up your recipe. If you want consistently successful results, take the time to accurately and carefully measure all ingredients.
Consider using a scale so that you can measure ingredients by weight rather than by volume. Ask any professional baker, and they will tell you that they prefer measuring by weight instead of measuring by volume. Measuring by volume is inaccurate and often leads to inconsistent results.
6. Go for Gold
Although natural and organic ingredients are a tad more expensive, they will greatly enhance the quality and taste of your desserts. You don't have to break the bank, though. Go for the highest quality (preferably natural) ingredients that your budget allows.
If you can, use good quality chocolate and cocoa and organic eggs as much as you can.
7. Maintain Optimum Oven Temperatures
Nothing can ruin your baking quite like the wrong oven temperature. An oven that runs hot can burn your desserts or cause your cakes to rise too quickly, while an oven that is too cold can result in inadequate browning. To achieve the optimum oven temperature, consider the following best practices.
- Use an Oven Thermometer
Ovens are like humans. Well, not exactly, but they all have their own quirks and foibles and may end up being cooler or hotter than the temperature they are set to.
Even if your oven is off by only a couple of degrees, that's enough to ruin what you're baking. If you suspect your oven is overreading (hot) or under-reading (cold), use an oven thermometer to know and set the accurate oven temperature. Oven thermometers are inexpensive yet invaluable in a baker's kitchen.
- Preheat the Oven
Don't put your bake in the oven if it is not preheated. Failing to preheat your oven causes the desserts to bake at uneven heat, which results in poorly baked goods.
For instance, it may lead to burnt edges, tops, or bottoms while centers remain under-baked or soggy. You may also take unnecessarily long to bake. Some recipes recommend letting the oven preheat for at least an hour.
Consider turning on your oven as you prepare the ingredients so that it's preheated by the time you are ready to bake.
- Don't Open the Oven Yet
Although you are excited about what's baking, do not open the oven often as the desserts bake. Constantly opening and closing the oven door offsets the air temperature and circulation, which causes the bake to collapse.
Drastic temperature change is the primary reason why cheesecakes develop cracks. If you must open the oven door during baking, do so gently to ensure minimum effect on the oven temperature and air circulation. Avoid opening the oven until the recommended minimum baking time has elapsed.
8. Let Your Cookie Dough Ripen
Make your cookie dough and let it hang out in the fridge for a day or two. This firms the dough a little bit and decreases the chances of overspreading.
In addition, chilling your cookie dough dries out the dough a little bit and yields a cookie that is thicker, more solid, and with a better flavor and texture. Also, a chilled cookie dough is much easier to handle and shape.
9. Line Your Baking Pans
You may also want to line your baking pans with parchment paper or silicone liners. Parching the baking pans is more reliable than greasing them and allows you to transfer your baked goods without them falling apart or tearing.
Moreover, your desserts are likely to over-brown when you use a greased sheet, while a parchment paper/silicone lining helps them to bake perfectly.
10. Check for Doneness
Don't forget to keep an eye on the clock. Observing the recommended baking time is the difference between a beautifully light, airy cake and a tough, overdone cake.
You can determine if a cake is cooked through by testing with a toothpick. Stick a toothpick through the center of the cake, and if it comes out clean, it's done.
However, if you don't want to fumble around with a toothpick, remove the cake from the oven and then gently press down on the cake. If the cake rises completely, it's baked. If your finger left a dent in the cake, it needs a little more time in the oven. This trick applies to cupcakes and muffins as well.
For more information on baking tips or for an assortment of high-quality baked goodies, feel free to Contact Us, and we will be more than willing to assist.