Baking Tips & Tricks

 Baking Tips & Tricks

For many people, baking can be quite overwhelming at first. A lot of beginners will burn a few (or a lot) of hockey pucks (aka burnt cookies), flatten some cakes or over bake brownies.

After baking countless recipes, I’ve arrived at, and have also come across, helpful tips and tricks to make baking an easier, more enjoyable experience.

Different recipes will provide different results however I hope these tips will noticeably improve your baked treats.

Equipment

  • Assorted tins/trays
  • Measuring cups/spoons
  • Scales
  • Spatula
  • Whisk
  • Sieve
  • Sifter
  • Non-stick baking paper
  • Mixing bowls
  • Cooling rack
  • Non-stick baking pans

Preparation

  • Always read a recipe in full before attempting to put it together, making sure you have the correct equipment and ingredients
  • All ingredients should be at room temperature before you begin (this mainly applies to butter and eggs) – you can always soften butter in the microwave but remember that you want it softened, not melted
  • It’s always a good idea to sift your dry ingredients to avoid lumps
  • A spatula is your best friend – regularly scrape the sides of your mixing bowls
  • When using berries, dust them with a spoonful of flour before adding to the mixture – this helps to prevent bleeding into the batter
  • When mixing, gently fold the liquid ingredients into the dry ingredients – you don’t want to lose all the air that makes cakes rise
  • When mixing sticky, goopy ingredients, try spraying the measuring cups with non-stick spray first – the ingredients will come out easier
  • When trimming pastry, use smooth, downward strokes with a knife
  • Always grease and line your baking tin and use paper liners for odd-shaped trays (such as muffin tins) – for a ring (such as Bundt or Kugelhopf), grease with butter and dust the insides with flour

Oven

  • Always preheat the oven
  • When placing the prepared tin/tray in the oven, position it as close to the center of the oven as possible
  • Always use a timer – a few minutes too long can result in hockey pucks for cookies
  • You can always tell if a cake is ready by looking at the sides – they should be slightly shrunk from the edges
  • Baked goods can be tested with a skewer or a toothpick – stick it in the middle and if it comes out clean then it’s ready

Cookies

  • Chewy: If you like cookies chewy, remove the cookies from the tray as soon as they are out of the oven and place on a cooling rack
  • Crunchy: If you like cookies crunchy, bake them for a bit longer and leave them on a rack to cool
  • Do not grease the cookie sheet unless the recipe states you should
  • Use shiny baking sheets – dark or burned sheets absorb heat faster and may cause cookies to burn
  • Place cookies approximately 2″ apart on baking sheets to allow for spreading while they bake
  • Bake cookies on the middle rack of the oven and only one sheet at a time
  • If a recipe gives an approximate baking time, such as 12 to 15 minutes, check the cookies at the minimum time to avoid over baking
  • Practically all cookies should be slightly under baked – take them out of the oven while they are still a little soft, they’ll continue to bake as long as they are in contact with the hot sheet
  • After baking cookies, remove them from the sheet and place them in a single layer on a wire rack to cool

Cakes

  • Add 1 to 2 tablespoons of meringue powder to the cake mix to help it rise a bit higher and make it a bit lighter in texture
  • Add 1 envelope of unflavored gelatin to the cake batter – it helps prevent the top of the cake from splitting or cracking
  • Take your time creaming the butter, beat/cream for at least 5 minutes to get lots of air into the butter – add the sugar and beat/cream really well again
  • Measure all ingredients to exact amounts first, then sift
  • Try dusting the cake pans with dry cake mix or cocoa (for chocolate cake) instead of flour
  • Don’t attempt to ice the cake until it’s completely cool – dust the cake lightly with a pastry brush before frosting to help reduce crumbs in the icing
  • First ice the cake with a thin layer of frosting, then refrigerate (covered); after an hour, you can do a complete frosting job – this helps keep the crumbs to a minimum
  • Heat a knife first before cutting a cake for crumble-free slices – to heat the knife, run the knife under very hot water then wipe dry with a clean towel
  • Using unwaxed dental floss is another great way to cut cakes that are gooey or sticky

Muffins

  • Avoid over stirring when preparing muffins – do not stir or beat batter until it’s smooth and lump-free
  • Measure your ingredients carefully
  • Use fresh baking powder and soda since these are what the muffins need to rise nicely
  • Don’t fill the cups too full with batter – fill the cups no more than 3/4 full because this will give the muffins nice, round tops rather than flat saucer tops
  • Muffins are done when the tops are golden and spring back lightly when touched – the toothpick trick always works
  • When muffins are done baking and are removed from the oven, let them sit in the tin for a few minutes before removing each muffin – this helps prevent them from falling apart
  • Sit the pan on a cool wet towel – this will help the muffins come loose from the cups easier and prevent them from sticking to the bottom (never keep them in the tin longer than five minutes)

The more you bake, the better you will become. I hope the tips listed above will help you learn to love the art of baking if you haven’t already!
And it’s always important to remember…”When baking, follow directions. When cooking, go by your own taste.” – Laiko Bahrs

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Comments

  1. Wonderful tips! I know that baking intimidated me at first, and if I had known these tips from the get-go, I would have started baking sooner. Love the last tip about setting the muffin tin on a cool wet towel. I'll remember that next time!

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