Whether you’re a novice baker or can hold your own in the kitchen, it’s a given that you’ve baked a fallen cake, burnt your cookies, or made rubbery muffins at one time or another. You’re not alone, and most of us keep making those same mistakes over and over again. There are a few kitchen tips and tricks that’ll fix your flops forever and give you the consistent results you yearn for. We’ve found 5 ways to fix basic baking mistakes to get you baking like a seasoned pro in no time!
1. Baking With Cold Eggs and Dairy Products
If your cakes and bread resemble dense bricks, we’ve got an easy fix for that. Take your eggs, butter, and milk out of the fridge anywhere from 30 minutes to 1 hour before you plan to bake, and you’ll have light and airy baked goods.
What’s happening? Room temperature eggs, milk, and butter bond to form an emulsion that traps air. This trapped air expands during baking, acting as a leavening agent to produce light and airy baked goods. If your ingredients are cold, they won’t incorporate as evenly to create a bond. You’ll want cold butter for pie crusts and pastry, so take note of this exception.
Forget to take your eggs out early? You can place cold eggs in a bowl of warm water for about 15 minutes. Water that’s too hot will cook the whites, so beware! If you need soft butter STAT, just cut it into 1 inch pieces and microwave for 10 second intervals, until it’s malleable, unless the recipe calls for melted butter.
2. Measuring Dry Ingredients in a Liquid Measuring Cup
If you routinely have dry and tough cakes and muffins, using a liquid measuring cup for dry ingredients may be the culprit. When using a liquid measuring cup for flour, you can’t level the top, and thus need to jiggle the cup to get it level. This jiggling and shaking compacts the flour, and you’ll be fooled into adding more flour than is actually called for.
What to do? Purchase dry measuring cups with flat rims that are designed for ingredients like flour and cocoa powder. The correct method for dry ingredients is to spoon the ingredients into the dry measuring cup, piling ingredients above the flat rim. Drag the side of a knife across the flat rim to level the dry ingredients. If you scoop the cup into a bin of flour, you’ll compact it, ultimately resulting in dry baked goods.
3. Overmixing Doughs and Batters
If you’ve ever baked a rubbery cake or muffins, you know how unpleasant it is to take a bite. It may be tempting to beat your batter into oblivion, especially if you see lumps. But really what’s happening is that the overmixing of flour activates the gluten. Gluten is a protein that gives baked goods firm and elastic structure, but overdoing it can mean a chewy pastry, and that’s no good.
How do you get tender cakes and muffins, and flaky piecrusts? Use the lowest speed possible for mixers or hand mix when adding flour to the batter. A few lumps in the batter are par for the course! It’s also okay for piecrust to have streaks of butter visible. Best advice? Make sure not to keep your mixer on for too long, and being gentle is a good thing!
4. Opening the Oven Door Too Often
If you have a habit of opening the oven door to peek at your baked goods, you may want to curb your habit and use the oven light. Wait until your cake, cookies, or muffins have set before reaching for the oven door. Opening the door releases hot air, and you’d be surprised to know that this is enough to change the oven temperature significantly, resulting in unevenly baked goods.
What to do? Set a digital precision timer. You can set it for a few minutes before the minimum time recommended on the recipe. Use the oven light if you must, or shine a flashlight through the glass window for a better look. It takes about 20 minutes for a cake to set, so do what you must to stop peeking!
5. Your Cookies Have Burnt Edges
If you’re frustrated that your cookies burn at the edges, there are some changes you can make so this won’t happen again. What type of baking sheet are you using? If it’s dark and non-shiny, it may be absorbing excessive heat, causing burnt cookies. Make sure to purchase a few cookie sheets that are heavy in weight, with channelled surfaces for airflow and even baking, like the Good Cook AirPerfect line of baking pans.
Browned cookies? If you’re noticing that each successive batch of cookies is browner than the last, it’s because you’re not letting the cookie sheet cool down between each batch. Using more than one baking sheet is ideal, so while one is in the oven, the other is cooling down and ready for the next batch. By placing cookie dough on a warmed baking sheet, you’re already starting the cooking process before you even get them in the oven.
What Baking Mistakes Are Getting You Down?
We’d love to have our experts answer your kitchen questions! Leave us a comment below and let us know what baking mistakes are happening at your house. Then stay tuned! We might just answer your question in an upcoming installment.