You can be confident in anything you do: makeup, go on a date or even cooking. Cooking up great meals saves you money (woohoo), and you’ll also be able to make foods you truly enjoy.
You’ll also skip out on those bad-for-you ingredients and preservatives that put you into a coma.
But there’s one area of cooking that’s really hard to be confident in even when following direct recipes: baking. A dash of this, a dash of that and a lot of kneading that’s supposed to lead to an amazing loaf of bread or batch of cookies can lead to confusion.
Why did my bread come out so dry?
Why do my cookies fall flat?
And a zillion other questions will run through your mind. Baking is an art, and a small mishap can ruin your plans. Before you dig your teeth into this Brownie Bites recipe (it’s so good), or make this to-die-for s’mores cookies, let’s discuss a few baking mistakes that can ruin your evening.
1. Don’t Skip Steps
There’s a reason butter is included in the early steps and needs to stay out (to hit room temperature). There’s a reason for ingredients being added in a certain order. Everything in the recipe has a reason, so make sure you follow every step precisely.
If you skip steps, you might be sabotaging your baking.
2. Check Your Oven Temperature
Great, you’re free style cookie baking. Your mouth is watering as you watch yet another episode of your favorite show on Netflix and everything’s going great. But as it turns out, your cookies are burnt on top or they’re still gooey in the middle.
I love a little softness in my cookie, but your problem may not be a lack of good time management.
Oven temperatures aren’t always precise (seriously). Imagine setting your oven to 350F and it’s really running at 330F. I’ve had this happen before, and it ruins everything you cook. A good way to counteract this temperature miscalculation is to use a separate thermometer to properly gauge your oven’s temperature.
This is a secret that bakers know all too well. If your food isn’t cooking properly, it might just be a temperature issue.
3. Cold Ingredients Are Meant to Be Cold, and Warm Ingredients Are Meant to be Warm
If you see the recipe mention “cold” or “room temperature” ingredients, make sure you follow the directions precisely. Seriously. There’s a reason for the ingredients needing to be room temperature or cold.
Chemical reactions can cause ingredients to mix differently when cold.
For example, cold butter doesn’t allow for the same fluffiness when baking as room temperature butter.
When recipes leave out the temperature of eggs, milk or butter, assume that room temperature is required.
4. You Make Multiple Batches of Cookies on the Same Baking Pan
If you have a tendency to bake a lot of cookies like me, it’s tempting to make one batch after another without using a new baking sheet. This sounds like a minor detail, but it’s not. If the baking sheet just came out of the oven, it’s too hot to be used for another batch of cookies.
You’ll end up with a subpar second batch of cookies as a result.
Instead, use another baking sheet or allow the sheet to cool all the way before using it again.
5. You’re Not Using the Right Equipment
Don’t place that cookie batter in a baking pan. Don’t use your electric oven to make bread when you could be using a bread maker. Use the equipment you have available to make your baking as effortless as possible.
A few quick tips to remember are:
- 1/2″ lip baking sheets require longer baking
- No-edge baking sheets make it easier to remove cookies
- Pizza pans aren’t meant for baking cookies
- Shiny aluminum pans absorb more heat
If you plan on baking often, make sure you’re using the right pans and utensils to get the job done right.
6. You Open the Oven Often and Never Preheat
Preheating the oven allows for an even temperature and even cooking. If you’re not preheating your oven, you need to start today. There’s also the OCD pattern of opening up the oven door every 2 minutes to check on your bread, cookies or whatever it is you’re cooking.
If you keep opening the oven door, you’re allowing all of the heat to escape – not great for temperature precision.
Also keep in mind that changing recipe ingredients to be healthier can actually ruin the recipe. Every recipe has a chemistry behind it, so substituting honey for sugar as a sweetener may not leave you with the desired results.
This is especially true when changing out ingredients in full-fat recipes.
If you plan on substituting ingredients, make sure you know what will happen chemically to avoid ruining your baking fun.
Bio: Joe Hughes, known by most as the Village Baker, is an expert in homestyle cooking techniques, with a primary interest in baking. He runs the very popular website, https://www.village-bakery.com, which provides the latest homestyle cooking news, techniques, tricks, and recipes. He can be reached at Joe@Village-Bakery.com.