Joe Hughes’ fantastic website The Village Bakery has become my go-to for recipes, baking/cooking tips, and product reviews. When he offered to contribute to Project Pastry Love a list of common baking mistakes and how to fix them I jumped up for joy. Below you’ll find some helpful tips for both the novice and expert home baker. Thanks, Joe!
7 Baking Mistakes You Can Fix Tonight
Baking is love. The aroma of fresh baked bread, pastries and other goodies filling the air brings me back to my childhood when there were no worries in the world. As I’ve transitioned into adulthood, I’ve quickly realized that mom probably made just as many mistakes as I did baking.
Baking is hard.
If you plan to master the art of baking, you’re going to need a lot of practice and patience along the way.
Before pulling out your bread pan again and ruining your night with yet another failed baking project, sit down and correct these few mistakes that most people make when they bake foods.
1. Stop Opening That Oven!
I used to have a major issue with opening the oven, and then opening it again and again. This seems like harmless curiosity, but it’s releasing so much hot air that it causes your baking time to suffer. Your cake or bread may be undercooked or unevenly cooked because you keep checking the door.
It’s not a good thing by any means.
This is an elementary mistake, but it’s one a lot of people are guilty of making.
2. Not Property Heating / Cooling Ingredients
Cold ingredients cause flaky dough, which may be good for a puff pastry, but it’s not ideal for most other recipes. A good rule of thumb to follow is to always use room temperature ingredients when baking so that your recipe comes out just right.
If you use cold ingredients, you risk losing your dish’s fluffiness.
3. You Don’t Use an Oven Thermometer
You’ve done everything perfect. You’ve mastered using a bread maker. You’ve followed the recipe exactly. Nothing can go wrong. Yet, something is wrong. When your cupcakes look more like muffins than cupcakes, the culprit is your oven.
You probably set the oven properly, but you didn’t account for some ovens being way off in the temperature range. I’ve seen all models have some level of inaccuracy when setting the temperature, and when baking, this is a death sentence for your dreams of the perfect cupcake, bread or brownie.
An oven thermometer can let you account for these inaccuracies and nail your next recipe.
4. You Use Any Baking Sheet You Can Find
That baking sheet will do, or will it? It’s far too easy to go into a store, assume you’re buying a good baking sheet and walking out not knowing that you’ve made a big mistake. There’s a reason for those high price tags on baking sets – they absorb heat differently.
Dark baking sheets absorb too much heat, causing baked goods to burn.
If you’re making cookies, you want a baking sheet with no side edges that’s made of aluminum (the nice shiny kind). Why? Because it’s easier to slide the cookies off the sheet and the shiny sheet will absorb just the right amount of heat.
5. Forget Letting It Cool
I know that when I eat a hot cookie, it’s going to be flimsy and gooey, but that’s what I am after when I am baking cookies. I’m willing to take the risk sometimes because I could care less if the cake is going to settle because I am the only one who is going to be eating it.
The problem is that baked goods need to cool to settle.
If you don’t allow these goods to cool, they won’t settle and may even stick to your parchment paper or pan more. You need to follow the directions to make sure that delicious chocolate pie cools all the way before serving it.
6. Mixing and Mixing and Mixing Again
Gluten might be the energy (depending on who you talk to), but it also causes a chemical reaction when baking that causes the dough to stick together. The problem is that when you mix too much, you’re causing your dough to become heavy and tough.
Mixing too much will cause you to miss out on that fluffy, light texture you’re after.
Stop mixing when all of the flour is incorporated unless told otherwise.
7. Not Measuring Properly
If you’re not taking the time to measure each ingredient properly, don’t be surprised when your recipe doesn’t come out perfectly. I am always in a rush, but when it comes to baking, I need to take it down a notch and measure my ingredients with 100% accuracy.
If you want to be super accurate, buy a digital scale and measure the ingredients by weight – it’s the best way to make sure you’ve measured your ingredients just right.
So, what tips do you follow when baking? Let us know in the comments below.
Project Pastry Love guest contributor, Joe Hughes, known by most as the Village Baker, is an expert in home-style cooking techniques, with a primary interest in baking. He runs the very popular website, http://www.village-bakery.com, which provides the latest home-style cooking news, techniques, tricks, and recipes. He can be reached at Joe@Village-Bakery.com.