Baking uses time-tested techniques and methods. If you adapt or adjust a recipe in even the slightest of ways, you may have outcomes that differ from the author’s intended results. Here are a few tips to help you achieve baking success!
On recipes and adapting:
- Baking is a chemical reaction. That’s science, people! Experimentation with a recipe can cause a recipe to fail or turn out differently than originally intended. If you change an ingredient, a quantity, or a method, it will also change the results. Experimentation is awesome, but you’ve got to be okay with mixed results.
- Always read the entire recipe before beginning. Trust me. Make sure you know what’s coming up.
- Trying a new recipe out for a big/important event is risky. I recommend sticking to something you’ve had success with before.
- Don’t worry if a batter looks runnier or thicker than you’re used to. You live once. Give it a try.
- Embrace your own style. Don’t worry if it doesn’t look magazine-worthy. If it tastes good, you’ve done your job. Ultimately, it’s all gunna look the same in your belly…
On ingredients and mise en place:
- Mise en place! Prep your equipment before you start. Grease your pans, preheat your oven – the whole nine yards. Measure out all of your ingredients before you begin. Be accurate. Then double check everything.
- Switching out ingredients can change the outcome of a recipe. For example self‐raising flour is different than all-purpose flour. Know your key ingredients. Subbing low-fat ingredients will also affect your final product, and sometimes won’t work at all.
- Preheat your oven if required. Do it. Letting your cake batter sit in pans while you wait for your oven to come to temperature may affect the rise your cake achieves.
- Use ingredients you trust. Don’t be trying a whole new set of brands and ingredients on that birthday cake that means so much to you. Once you’ve found a brand you like, you might want to stick with it.
- Make sure that your ingredients have not passed their best-before date.
- If a recipe calls for ingredients such as butter and eggs to be at room temperature, don’t ignore it. There is a big difference in the way cold and warm ingredients get incorporated into your baked goods.
- Don’t rush when measuring out ingredients. Be organized. Measure accurately.
- Use the recommended sized baking tins. (That sentence was way awkward.) Anyhoo, if you jam the batter into a tin that is too small, you could have an overflow situation. Generally, filling a tin no more than 2/3 full is a good rule of thumb.
- When creaming butter and sugar together, take your time – when a recipe asks you to cream something until the mixture is light and fluffy, it can take up to 10 minutes. When adding flour to a mixture, the opposite rule often applies – don’t overbeat, as this will overwork the flour and can make the final product heavy.
- When liquid/wet ingredients hit your leavener (for ex. baking powder or baking soda), a reaction starts. You’ve got to be ready to move! Those little air bubbles are going to make your product rise, but they will eventually peter out. Once that reaction starts, get your product panned and into the oven in order to take advantage of the leavener’s full effect.
- Ovens vary greatly, so suggested cooking times in any recipe are just that – a suggestion. Use cooking times as a rough guide. If you want to check your oven for accuracy, you can get an oven thermometer. When baking, I generally refer to the shorter cooking time, and then keep an eye on it until finished. Be prepared to adapt your cooking times when using a new or different stove.
- Don’t be opening your oven door over and over again to check on your baked goods. All that cold air getting in there can make your baked goods flop. Wait until you’re getting close to the minimum recommended baking time before taking a peek.
- Cakes, cupcakes, muffins and the like, are ready when a cake tester or toothpick inserted into the centre comes out clean. They are not automatically ready when the suggested baking time is up. Cakes and cupcakes will flop in the middle if you take them out of the oven too early, and be dry and crumbly if you over-bake. The colour and thickness of your baking pans will also affect bake times.