As a multifaceted activity, it is understandable for people to have a difficult time figuring out the distinction between cooking and baking. While there is a marked difference between the two in terms of logistics, many people often regard baking as the aspect in cooking that calls for more precision--an assumption that is somewhat true. Unlike cooking, baking is a very precise art that requires you to meticulously measure your ingredients and preheat your oven to the exact temperature indicated on the recipe. Typically, baking does not allow you much room to modify the recipe once it is already inside the oven. In this regard, one might say that there is little to no room for errors in baking.
As a result, it is inevitable for some individuals to have a hard time figuring out how baking really works. However, when done right, baking can be an incredibly calming process that rewards you with mounds of fresh and hard-earned baked goods. Bear in mind though that baking requires a little more patience--even from the most level-headed of cooks. After all, baking is a very precise science that the smallest miscalculation or mistake can result in a blotched finished product that fails to hit the mark or just did not go as expected. However, it is fortunate that the most frequently committed mistakes and errors in baking can easily be prevented by being aware of them and knowing what to do with them. With the guidelines below, you can correct some of the most common baking mistakes and ensure that the next batch of baked goods that goes into your oven will be worth the time and effort you spent in making them.
1.) Your oven is not at the right temperature
One of the most common faux pas in baking is something that might not have realized that you were committing: baking at the wrong temperature. Most novices rely on the temperature displayed on their ovens. Unfortunately, this is not always a guarantee. To ensure that your oven is set to the perfect temperature for a particular recipe, you need to invest in a good internal thermometer. However, it does not stop there. Once you have reached the perfect temperature when you are baking, you should avoid opening the oven door during the baking process. Unless you are rotating your baked goods or checking for doneness, leave your baked goods be and observe them through the window as opening the door will affect the oven temperature.
2.) Your ingredients are the wrong temperature
Some recipes call for a specific temperature in some of the ingredients. When your recipe calls for room-temperature eggs, butter, milk and the like, be sure that you do use room temperature ingredients. Bear in mind that it is imperative to not bypass the temperature step just to save time. Sure, you might think that nuking your ingredients in the microwave can speed up the process, it will just result in uneven heat levels and too-high temperatures. With that said, give your ingredients time to rest on the countertop to reach the proper temperature before beginning the baking process.
3.) Your cookies are rock hard
You might have several attempts in baking cookies where the results were rock hard. Overly crunchy texture and blacked bottoms are definitely not a good mix when it comes to cookies but are often the result of leaving your cookie dough inside the oven a few minutes too long. Fortunately, you can still salvage your overbaked cookies. To address this, allow your cookies to completely cool and use a knife to scrape off the blackened bits from the bottom. Store in an airtight bag with a piece of sliced bread to add some moisture back into the cookies. For cookies that came out hard but are not overbaked, try baking on parchment paper in lieu of a greased tray.
4.) You measure flour the wrong way
When it comes to baking, it is not enough that you have the right flour--you need to use the right amount as well. Scooping it out straight from the bag might mean packing way too much flour into your measuring cup. With that said, always "spoon and level" your ingredients. This means spooning flour into your measuring cup and scraping off the excess with a flat side of a knife or straight edge.
5.) You overwork the dough
When it comes to baking, mixing your ingredients just right is key. Do not mix or roll your dough too much or your cookies are going to end up hard. Over mixing adds excess air to the dough which will cause it to rise and fall flat in the oven. Over rolling the dough can cause gluten to be a little tougher which means that the best practice is to mix or roll your dough the minimum amount needed to get the perfect dough.
Most common baking mistakes in the kitchen are unavoidable with enough knowledge, awareness and maybe a bit of trial and error for experience as well. To ensure that you avoid committing these mistakes and explore your potential and capabilities as a baker, enroll in a culinary course. Discover what you can do and indulge the aspiring baker in you only at the best school for culinary arts, First Gourmet Academy.