Top 10 Baking Improvement Tips

This may not appear to be much of a “tip,” but understanding exactly what the steps of a recipe are ahead of time is critical. I can’t tell you how often I’ve had a kitchen disaster because I didn’t realize a specific stage was approaching. Reading beforehand will ensure you are prepared and may save you time, money, and supplies on a disastrous dessert!

Measure Your Ingredients Correctly

We Americans like to go old-school when it comes to measuring, relying on cups and spoons to get the proportions right in recipes; however, pastry professionals all around the world measure their ingredients by weight using the metric system. The reason for this is that the weight of a cup of flour varies substantially depending on the type of flour (all-purpose, bread, cake, whole wheat, etc.) and how tightly packed it is.

In an ideal world, all home cooks would use scales and metric measurements to ensure that wet and dry components were precisely measured. Because it is never going to happen, always spoon dry ingredients (specifically flour) into measuring cups and then level with a knife or spatula, never scoop. Scooping compresses the ingredient, resulting in more than you desire, which can have disastrous consequences depending on what you’re making!

Use Fresh Dry Ingredients

The majority of baking ingredients (such as baking powder, baking soda, and flour) have a rather short shelf life, so if you don’t use them frequently, buy them in small quantities so they don’t go bad in your cupboard.

Flour should smell and feel fresh, not chalky. Pour 14 cups boiling water over 12 teaspoon baking powder to test its freshness; if it bubbles, it’s still fresh; if not, discard it and open a new tin. To see if your baking soda is still effective, place a teaspoon in a basin and add a splash of vinegar, lemon juice, or other acidic liquid—if it fizzes vigorously, it’s still excellent; if not, use the rest of the box for cleaning and purchase another box.

Use an Oven Thermometer

Unless you have a brand new or frequently calibrated oven, the temperature in your oven is probably not correct. You can set it to 400 degrees, and it will tell you that it is, but it could be wrong by 10 to 100 degrees.

As previously stated, when it comes to baking, precision is everything. An unturned oven can ruin your baked goods, and baking is difficult enough, so there’s no reason to put another obstacle to the equation.

Don’t Be Afraid of Using Salt

In the kitchen, salt is your best friend, like peanut butter to jelly. Salt can play an important part in the chemistry of a recipe; for example, in bread making, salt inhibits yeast development and strengthens the gluten in the dough. In pastry, it reduces the greasy mouthfeel of buttery dough and promotes browning. However, salt usually enhances flavors and makes things more pleasant.

Common table salt, often known as granular salt, is tiny, thick, and exceedingly salty, with iodine added unless otherwise specified. I don’t advocate using iodized salt because it gives everything a somewhat metallic flavor. Table salt also contains anti-caking chemicals to prevent clumping and/or dextrose, a type of sugar, to keep the iodine stable. While neither ingredient is detrimental, there is no reason to add them to your baked goods, which is why I will insist on one thing: if you just have table salt at home, go purchase some kosher or sea salt ASAP!

I always keep two types of salt on hand: an inexpensive salt for everyday cooking, such as bulk sea salt or kosher salt, and a special salt with a nice texture, such as Maldon salt or fleur de sel, for garnishing dishes at the last minute.

Chill Your Cookie Dough

If you’ve ever been perplexed by a chocolate chip cookie recipe that instructs you to refrigerate your dough for an hour, don’t miss it. In as little as 30 minutes, your cookie will brown better, spread less, and acquire a deeper, chewy texture. There are several reasons for this, but one of the most significant is that it allows the butter in your dough to firm up before baking.

The colder your dough is before baking, the less it will spread during baking, resulting in loftier cookies. The chilling process also allows the flour in your dough to hydrate, resulting in a chewier cookie rather than a cakey cookie.

Be Patient; Let Things Cool Off

Allow your baked products to cool before removing them from the pan. Otherwise, your baked items can crack and split apart. Bread, brownies, and custard pies, in particular, require time to complete baking after they come out of the oven, so leave them alone for about twenty minutes. And don’t even think about frosting a warm cake or cupcake—you’ll be happier with room temperature results.

Use the Proper Measuring Tools

Although liquid and dry measuring cups have the same volume, they are uniquely constructed to measure their constituents more correctly. If you use a dry cup measure for liquids, you may accidentally use too much. The substance is deemed dry if it can be leveled with a knife. This may seem counterintuitive with items like sour cream, peanut butter, and yogurt, but it’s the most precise way to measure them; some products are simply too thick to be effectively measured with liquid measuring cups.

Keep Fat/oils Out of Your Meringue

A hint for recipes that call for meringue, such as macarons. Every detail counts when beating egg whites. The most aggravating aspect, though, is when they simply refuse to stiffen, rendering your hard work useless in your recipe.

What can you do to avoid this? To begin, keep any fats and oils (including natural oils from your hands) out of your meringue. Also, ensure that your mixing bowl and whisk are clean and dry. Plastic bowls may have concealed residues of fat from past uses, so use a copper, glass, or metal bowl instead.

When it comes to eggs, Although cold eggs are simpler to separate, room temperature whites get greater loft when whisked. Separate the eggs while they are cold by breaking them on a flat surface, such as your countertop, rather than the edge of a bowl (this lowers the possibility of a shard of shell puncturing the yolk), then set the whites aside, covered, for at least 30 minutes before beating.

Use Unsalted Butter

Call me a control freak, but you should nearly always purchase unsalted butter because different brands of butter contain varying quantities of salt. Because not all salted butter is made equal, removing salted butter from the equation puts you in charge of the salting. Unsalted butter is also sweeter and fresher tasting (since salting is a preservation strategy and additional preservatives are added to salted butter during manufacturing), and this appears in your baked goods.

Read more: How to Slice, Dice, and Mince