12 Tips That Will Have You Baking Like a Pro in No Time
There are times when you can head into the kitchen and whip up something great to eat — no recipe needed — and then there are other times when instructions and exact measurements are absolutely necessary. The latter is especially true when it comes to baking. Baking is based on chemistry (specifically, the science of chemical reactions), and altering even one ingredient in a recipe can dramatically change the results. So how do you guarantee baking perfection — without having to learn the science behind your recipe?
When you’re baking, every ingredient in the recipe plays a specific role. Ingredients like buttermilk or sour cream add moisture to baked goods while other ingredients, like cornstarch, are used to dry them out and make them crispy. Adding flour or eggs to a recipe can help thicken batters, doughs, and custards, and these ingredients will help build structure in breads and pastries as they bake. Some ingredients even help baked goods rise; yeast, baking powder, and baking soda are all good examples of ingredients that leaven.
Because each of these ingredients plays a unique role in the chemistry behind cookies, cakes, breads, and pastries, accuracy in measuring and mixing is extremely important when you’re baking. Adding too much cornstarch to your cookie recipe, for example, will produce an overly dry and crispy cookie. Similarly, forgetting to add the baking soda when you’re mixing cake batter can result in a dense cake.
Even simple mistakes, like adding an ingredient at the wrong time, can alter the results, especially if ingredients are intended to react with something else in the mix. A good example are cake batters that call for baking soda and vinegar. These recipes usually advise you to add the vinegar right before the cake goes into the oven; that’s because the vinegar and baking soda react (much like the volcano you made for your sixth-grade science project) and the gasses that are produced help the cake rise. If you mix the ingredients too early, the batter will deflate before the pan makes it to the oven, and your cake won’t be as light and airy as you want.
If you’ve ever followed a recipe only to be disappointed by the results, chemistry is probably to blame. These 12 easy tips can help you achieve better results — no science lesson needed.
Read the Entire Recipe Before You Start Baking
Even if you’re making something basic, it’s a good idea to read the entire recipe before you start. This will give you an idea of how the individual steps progress and what you’ll need to have ready before you start baking. Many recipes call for room-temperature ingredients, for example; reading the recipe in advance will let you know that you need to set eggs or butter out on the counter to warm.
Be Substitute Saavy
As previously mentioned, every ingredient in a recipe plays a specific role in producing certain chemical reactions. If you don’t have an ingredient (or want to substitute an ingredient for health or dietary reasons), make sure you do your research. Each ingredient in the recipe is there for a reason, and swapping it out can alter the results.
Kristie Collado is The Daily Meal’s Cook Editor. Follow her on Twitter @KColladoCook.