1. Use Room-Temperature Ingredients
Many baked goods start by creaming together butter and sugar, which is made easier with gently warmed ingredients. The more important reason the butter needs to be at room temperature is, it allows the sugar to aerate the butter properly, which results in a lighter product.
2. Invest in Quality Bakeware
I am always looking to save money but you get what you pay for in bakeware. Ask your husband, to do a great job you need good tools. Flimsy, thin pans and sheet trays won’t conduct heat efficiently, causing your cake, pie, cookies, or pastries to bake unevenly.
3. Butter and Flour Your Pans Generously
When a recipe calls for a greased and/or floured pan, it’s for a reason. Your batter or dough has the potential to bake on and adhere to the pan. Be generous and thorough with your application, get into corners and at the seams where the bottom and sides meet.
If you’re also flouring a pan, add in more than enough to cover, tip the pan to coat completely, then tap out the excess. Be careful where you hold it—finger marks on the interior leave the pan exposed, and are opportunities for the batter to stick.
4. Weigh Ingredients
I weight out everything, and once you get use to doing this, you will save so much time and labor on washing dishes. Weighing out the ingredients eliminates potential for error. A cup of flour measured in volume, for example, can vary as much as five ounces,which means the difference between buttery and flaky or and dense and cakey. A good digital scale will cost you about $20.00 and eliminates all the guesswork.
5. Toss the Old Stuff
The majority of ingredients used in baked goods, like baking soda, baking powder and yeast, have a relatively short shelf life. purchase them in small quantities so they don’t sit in your cupboard and go bad. If you’re not sure how fresh an ingredient is, either simply buy a new one or test it. To check the freshness of baking powder, pour boiling water over a small quantity—if it bubbles, it’s still fresh. Flour should smell fresh and feel light, not chalky; and fresh yeast dissolved in warm (110-115˚) water will bubble slightly after a few minutes.
6. Take Your Time to Fully Complete Each Step
There is a reason for the ingredients added in a certain order. It’s important to take the time to follow the instructions in the order they’re given. A good example is creaming together butter and sugar with a handheld or stand mixer. This should be done before the addition of the wetter ingredients, like eggs. The reason is the fat in butter holds air, and, when whipped or creamed. In this process, sharp sugar granules slice through the butter, creating air pockets that ultimately give the baked goods lift. Skip this step (or do it half-heartedly) and your end result will be dense and heavy.
Pay special attention to key instructions like “cream until light and fluffy,” “mix until just combined,” and “fold in gently.” Over mixing will develop the gluten and deflate the air pockets. Most of the time sifting is not needed. I do sift the baking powder and soda into the bowl because nothing is worse then getting a bite of baking soda in you muffin.
7. Use Salt
The half teaspoon of salt added to two dozen cookies won’t set you over your daily allotment, but leaving it out will drastically change the taste of the cookie. Salt isn’t necessarily in a recipe to make it taste salty it’s there to keep the baked good from tasting flat. Salt makes other ingredients, like vanilla, almond, lemon, and sugar come alive.
8. Rotate Halfway Through
Every oven has a hot spot, and if you don’t correct for it, you run the risk of unevenly baked goods When a recipe calls for turning a baking sheet or pan 180 degrees halfway through the process, don’t ignore it. If the back of your oven is hotter than the front, you need to give every corner and side of your baked item the same treatment. Don’t, however, open the oven constantly to check on progress, it’ll lower the temperature and alter the baking time.
9. Don’t Mess with the Oven Temperature and Cooking Time
If a recipe for custard calls for an hour at 300 degrees but you’re pressed for time, don’t tweak it to 30 minutes at 425: It won’t be as silky or luxuriously creamy. Cakes especially lose moisture when cooked hard and fast, and you also run the risk of burning more delicate ingredients, like an almond-meal crust.
Find out if your oven runs hot or cold. If it’s consistently 25 degrees colder than what you set it at, adjust accordingly. A thermometer that lives inside your oven will eliminate any guessing. Also important is that you set and use a timer. I could not live with out mine, they are cheap and you can use them for many other reminders like taking your medication at the correct time.
10. Let It Cool Completely
If you’ve taken the proper steps when buttering and flouring the pan you should have no problem removing it once it’s properly cooled. Some desserts and pastries must be removed from their pans as soon as they come out of the oven. Others, like a fragile chiffon cake, need to settle and cool completely before being handled.
Baking is a science and if you follow these simple tips your baked goods will be top notch every time.