What makes baking so great is that it’s a mix between art and science... And this is also what scares neophytes from actually learning how to bake. The precise measurements and timings, hot ovens and bakers’ lingo tend to intimidate, rather than entice, wannabe bakers.
With a handful of tips and a little bit of confidence, though, any baking rookie can make a good old-fashioned chocolate cake or even a simple home-style loaf ofbread without having to stress out. Here are a few things that we think all starter bakers need to know before heading off to the kitchen.
1. Always make sure to read your recipe at least twice. Most novice bakers make the mistake of just skimming through a recipe before baking. While we’re all for being relaxed and spontaneous in the kitchen, baking often requires a keen eye for detail so it isn’t a great idea to wing it the first time you're trying a recipe.
We suggest that you read your recipe twice at the very least in order to get acquainted with the measurements, the order of the ingredients, cooking times, and even at what temperature your ingredients need to be before baking. This is the best way to avoid panic attacks while baking a cake or whipping your meringues.
2. Measure out all your ingredients before starting. Whether or not you’re a keen baker, preparation is every good cook’s best friend, especially in baking. Baking is a precise science and things such as measurements and timing can automatically affect the overall quality of your bakes.
Pre-measuring your ingredients helps to keep things organized, and it prevents you from messing up your timing because you were too busy measuring ingredients to pay attention to your mixer. Pre-measuring also helps to make sure that you don’t mess up your actual measurements in a rush.
3. Resist the temptation to stir. It might be really tempting to keep mixing your batters and dough but, unless you’re baking bread, makesure to stir ingredients together until they’re just combined. Most standard cake and biscuit recipes turn out the best results when the mix hasn’t been mixed around too much. This could be because of the presence of gluten, which, if agitated enough, will result in tough, gummy pastries. Over mixing could also potentially deflate airier batters, which use stiffly-whipped eggs or butter as their main raising agents. The trick with baking is just to let go of the spatula as soon as all the ingredients have been incorporated just so.
4. Learn about your oven. Any experienced baker will tell you that every oven is different, and that different ovens mean different baking times. Before you start baking with a new oven, test out the internal temperature with an oven thermometer. More often than not, especially with temperamental gas ovens, the internal temperature will differ from what the dial says. Also, make sure to keep track of your oven’s hot spots and figure out whether or not you need to turn bakes around halfway through baking in order to achieve consistently-even bakes.
5. Be patient. This is the most important thing that every baker has to keep in mind. It might be tempting to rush certain procedures or immediately cut into a cake right after it’s baked, but this will more often than not result in substandard bakes. If a recipe tells you that a meringue needs to have stiff peaks then make sure that they’re stiff, as opposed to just soft or firm.
Certain steps require a bit of patience and work because that’s the only way to achieve certain textures and even flavors. Similarly, unless a recipe explicitly suggests that you should eat a cake or bun straight out of the oven, make sure to wait for them to cool down even just a little bit before chowing down on your hard work. Hot cakes, bread and biscuitsstraight out of the oven are often still in the process of cooking and their proteins and sugars are still quite volatile at this stage of the process, meaning that the bake won’t necessarily be at its best while still hot.