- You all want your bakes to be perfect, every time you put them in the oven. Don’t you?
- You want all your bread to be soft, spongy, and light. You want your cakes to be spongy, moist, and flavourful. Isn’t it?
- Do you feel frustrated when even after following the recipe word for word, the end product is messed up?
Moreover, baking can be an intensive process and you don’t really want your ingredients, time, and efforts you invested in baking, to go waste.
However, that’s not always true. Sometimes the results are different than they should be. Either you were expecting a lot from your bake, which you can help yourself, or somewhere something went wrong that spoiled your bake.
Avoid these simple mistakes and you will surely end up with the perfect bake more often than not:
The Last-minute baking fail
Unless you are a seasoned baker and know the science of baking by heart, you are most likely going to miss a step or ingredient here and there and the results are then going to be unexpected. Baking is a science and even a single change in ingredients can completely change the recipe and outcome.
Few baking recipes need prior preparations but a last minute decision to bake inevitably makes you compromise on many things, which leads to disasters. For example, say a recipe requires every ingredient to be at room temperature but because you did not prepare yourself, and did not bother to bring ingredients to room temperature, results are entirely different than your expectations.
Just read the recipe…twice
This is one of the biggest mistakes most of the new bakers make. Sure, the enthusiasm is high and you want to get to baking as quickly as possible. However, reading the recipe carefully and following it step by step will avoid any surprises.
A new baker often tends to skip a few steps, consciously or unconsciously, thinking these are extra steps. But remember, every step has its importance and has some science behind it. So, follow the recipe step by step if you really want to get a good bake.
No variations, please…
On the surface level, it might sound alright to just change the flour from all-purpose to whole wheat and make the recipe healthy, however without making necessary required other changes, it will not work. Just changing the flour means the absorption capacity of the flour is now different. Which means that liquid contents are required differently and this is just an example.
...And no substitutions either!
Using the wrong substitute can lead to a complete disaster. Sonia gives the perfect example for this, citing the famous Malai Cake Recipe from her blog - “I have clearly mentioned that we need Fresh Malai (Cream) accumulated from milk. However, a few visitors read the recipe but used market bought cream, instead of fresh cream accumulated from the milk. Ultimately, the recipe did not work for them. A ready-made cream was not an alternative here for the fresh cream from milk.”
One + One = two… One + half = DISASTER
A few times, when you try to outsmart a recipe, you put yourself at the risk of a disastrous outcome. Let’s say the recipe called for 1 tea spoon of baking powder, however, you only had ½ tsp of baking powder at home. You thought that that ½ tsp less of baking powder is ok and you can live with that. Are you sure? Well, the answer is an emphatic NO. The quantity of the ingredient, even if it’s a pinch of it, can make a substantial difference in the taste and texture of your baked item.
The perfect recipe needs the perfect ingredients
Using the ingredients after its best period to use is often disastrous. Let’s say the baking powder you are using was left open and has absorbed moisture. Obviously, it has lost its property and when you use this baking powder in your cake or muffin, they will sink instead or rising. Be careful to check the appropriateness of the ingredients.
No half measures (pun intended!)
Wrong measurement is another reason which causes baking fails. When a recipe calls for a cup of milk, it does not mean you use tea cups! For baking measurements, you need to have the right tools (Click here to find out more about must-have baking tools). Remember to use a single set of cups/spoons for measurements. Cups from different sets might be of different capacities, for example, one could be of 250ml and the other could be of 240 ml. When you mix the measuring tools, you are most likely going ruin the ratio of the ingredients.
Your sneak peeks will not help…
You lack in patience or let’s just say you are over enthusiastic and keep fiddling with your oven by opening the door to check if your bake is done or not. Excitement is good, but continuous interference with the oven will affect the temperature and the results as well. If the recipe has called for 30 minutes of baking time, it’s important to set the timer and leave your oven to work for 30 minutes without any external interference.
KYC KYO – Know your oven
It is also important to understand your oven properly. Using an oven thermometer will always help. In most of the ovens, you will see a variation in the inside temperature to what it is set on the dial. The difference could be anywhere between 5 degrees to 20 degrees Celsius, high or low. Once you know how your oven behaves, you will be able to adjust the dial accordingly to set the right temperature for your bakes.
Your dough needs proving!
Proofing, in simple terms, refers to the rest period required for the dough to rise before going into the oven. “Lack of patience” and “how bad can it be?” - both approaches will almost inevitably lead to baking fails. Under proofed dough is a result of “lack of patience” and over proofed is a result of “how bad can it be?” approach. If you need the perfect bake, you must ensure that your dough is right proofed before it goes into the oven.
Get some rest… before de-mold…
You did not give enough resting time to you baked item or may be vice versa ðŸ˜Š. You must hold your nerve and should not de-mold your baked item, as soon as they come out of the oven. It’s important to give it a 5-minute rest before you de-mold it. However, a longer resting time before you de-mold will make your bread soggy.
..And a lot of it, before you dig in
Similarly, after you have de-molded your bread, you must give it a minimum of 2 hours before you slice it. The heat inside the bread is still baking the bread. Until the bread cools down, you should control your excitement to cut the bread. Otherwise, you are risking yourself to an uncooked, soggy, and bitter bread.
One size does NOT fit all
Last but not the least, the size of your baking tins and pans can change the entire outcome of your baking. If the recipe calls for a tall tin and instead you used a wider tin, the bread loaf will look like a cake. Now, what good would that be?
These points mentioned above might be overwhelming for the amateur baker and may look like too much to remember, but read them again, they are all inter connected and are very basic steps that anyone can follow. Is it really that difficult to not interfere with your oven? When you are new to baking, you must make a check list and follow that. Trust me in just a few days, everything will get embedded in your subconscious and baking will be more of fun. Remember, when you first took your driving lesson. Didn’t driving look a mammoth task and you felt that you will never be able to learn driving. But today you drive like a Pro. Practice is the Key
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Message from Sonia – baker extraordinaire
I like to thank everyone for reading this series on baking and encouraging me with your feedback. The series of baking might have come to an end, however, my association with you does not end here. If you have any more questions, do leave a comment in the comments section below. I will be there to assist you. You can also connect with me on FaceBook, my Blog, Twitter or just an email.
My special thanks to Kirti Yadav for coming up with this idea of the ‘Baking series’ and giving me the ability to share my knowledge with you all on the Plattershare platform. Thanks, Kirti!
Cheers and Happy Baking!