Baking is part magic, part science.
Being a great baker is like being a great magician. You take a bunch of disparate parts and turn it into something completely different, something delicious. Being a great baker is also like being a scientist. While baking is definitely part art, it’s also definitely part science. Exact measurements are essential, especially for the beginner.
Top 10 tips for baking
If you’re not an experienced baker, your first time making your own cookies, cake or other baked goods can be a little scary. Baking seems quite different than normal cooking. It’s true that there’s a learning curve to baking; however being a great baker is in many ways easier than being a great cook.
In baking, there are just a few key techniques you need to learn to be able to bake most things. With cooking, almost every dish is completely different.
Ready to learn how to create delectable cookies, heart warming cakes and goodies that friends and family will beg for? Start with these ten tips.
Tip #1: Buy an oven thermometer
The first thing you need to do to get your baking “career” off on the right foot is to get an oven thermometer.
Many of the ovens in today’s kitchens are quite far off. If you preheat your oven to 300, you may actually be heating it to 350 or to 250. That’s a very dramatic difference that will result in a dramatically different cake at the end of the day.
When you’re following a recipe, you don’t want variances in heat to get in the way. Don’t trust your oven’s temperature dials. Get an oven thermometer. They’re very inexpensive and will make your life a whole lot easier.
Note: Don’t get the single-use turkey baking kind. Get a sturdy oven thermometer you can use over and over again.
Tip #2: Get all your ingredients in one place
This is advice you commonly see in cookbooks and recipes. It’s so common, in fact, that many people start to ignore it.
With baking however, this is a crucial step. Beginning bakers will often forget one or two ingredients their first time along. In baking, timing is everything. If you suddenly realize you don’t have an important ingredient the moment you need it, the whole batch could be ruined.
Don’t leave your ingredients up to chance. Get everything in one place before you start. Re-read the recipe to make sure you truly have everything you need in front of you. For your first few times baking, it can also help to measure out all your ingredients before you start. That way you can focus on baking, instead of measuring ingredients once you’ve begun.
Tip #3: Study the recipe and do mental run throughs
The first time you cook a specific recipe, make it a point to read and re-read the recipe until it feels like second nature to you.
Read through each and every step of the directions and visualize them. See what the process should look like in your mind before you start baking.
Taking the time to go through this preparation process will help you get acquainted with the recipe. You’ll be able to move a lot quicker once your recipe is ingrained in your mind, as opposed to having to constantly re-read passages as you bake.
Tip #4: Use baking sheet lining
Line baking sheets on your kitchen counter, where you’ll be placing your cutting board and ingredients. This helps flour from getting all over the place. Line your baking sheets to help prevent cookies from sticking.
Use lining generously throughout the baking process. You’ll make much less of a mess, need less time for cleanup and your baked foods will come out better.
Tip #5: Don’t over mix
In recipes, you’ll often find the phrase “don’t over mix.” What does that actually mean?
In the last phase of making cake batter of cookie dough, you combine the dry ingredients (E.g. flour) with the wet ingredients (E.g. milk, eggs.) As soon as this happens, the flour starts to bind with the rest of the ingredients and the dough starts to form. Mixing helps this process happen.
However, if you mix the dough too much, the bond will get too strong. The cookie dough will grow tough, which will result in hard to chew cookies or brittle and dry cakes.
So what’s the right amount of time to spend mixing? Mix only until the texture in the dough or batter is even. As soon as you can’t see flour anymore, stop mixing.
Tip #6: Measure ingredients exactly
Don’t just add “a pinch of sugar” or a “generous amount of milk.” When you split the dough in half, don’t just eyeball it.
Remember that baking is really a deliberate chemical reaction. If you want to get the same chemical reaction that another baker got, you need to use the same amount of base chemicals. In other words, your ingredients need to be exact.
Yes, seasoned bakers can just “eye it” and cook up fantastic meals. For beginning bakers who’re following recipes however, exact measurement are crucial. Don’t use imprecise measurements until you’ve baked what you’re baking a few times.