Baking is an art. The more you practice, the better you become at it. Baking is fun, but also time-consuming. Baking delicacies don’t always turn out the way you expect them to even if you follow the recipe meticulously. But following the basic techniques, and being ready for some damage control will lead to yummy and delicious treats whether it is a spongy cake, a chewy cookie, or a gourmet bread.
Mix dry and wet ingredients separately
It might be tempting to put all the ingredients together in a mixing bowl and run it under an electric mixer, but the right dough makes the difference. Mixing dry ingredients (flour, baking powder, spices, sugar, ….) and wet ingredients (eggs, butter, milk, cream….) separately provides a better and more even texture and taste to your baking creation.
Use a fine sieve/mesh strainer for dry ingredients
Sifting all your dry ingredients through a mesh ensures that no lumps are formed, and gives a smooth and creamy texture to your dough.
Measure all ingredients
Measure all your ingredients accurately, and invest in a good food-measuring scale, preferably with a tare mode.
Use the right oven thermometer and setting
If you don’t already use an oven thermometer, start using one. You can find one for as cheap as 10 dollars, but it gets the work done. While following recipes, apart from the pre-heat and cooking temperatures, pay attention to oven settings. If you use fan mode, and the recipe calls for conventional heating, reduce the temperature by 20 degrees celsius to prevent over-browning.
Don’t avoid oiling pans and cake moulds
If you cut down on oiling your pans, your cakes and cookies will be difficult to take out. The best way is to use a slight cooking spray on the base, and sprinkle flour on the base for easy clean up.
Refrigerate cookie doughs
Even refrigerating cookie doughs for 30 minutes before putting them in the oven, makes the cookies spread less in the oven, and retain their shape.
Use substitutes wisely
If the cinnamon roll recipe you use asks for pressed brown sugar, using normal brown sugar will not work, as crystals will be formed. You can replace 1 egg with 4 tablespoon of applesauce for most recipes. You can also use 2 tsp baking powder for every 1/2 tsp baking soda in your recipe. Research your substitutes well.
Use a spatula more often than a hand mixer, spoon or fork to mix. If your dry ingredients have been sifted well, and the wet ingredients are combined separately, using a spatula for the dough will make the baked goods less runny.
Be patient and allow to cool before cutting
Allow to cool cookies and breads on a cooling rack before cutting. This will make the baked goods less crumbly and prevent from breaking before you are ready to eat or serve.
Perform toothpick tests more often
The best way to make sure that your baked goods are done, is to test them in the oven itself before taking out completely. Insert a toothpick in the middle, and if it comes out clean, then your dessert is done.
Have damage control stock on hand
Sometimes even if you follow the recipe perfectly, there is a chance that your dessert could be under or over baked. If the dessert is under-baked, put it back in the oven at a lower temperature setting (160 degrees or lower) for a few minutes. If the top or bottom gets burnt, scrape off the charred bits, and coat with frosting, fruits (berries work well), and/or powdered sugar. I usually make frosting by heating a couple of pieces of dark chocolate with 2-3 tablespoons of heavy cream.
Have fun baking !!