By Savini Gauri
We often get so carried away with the artistic aspect of baking that we tend to forget that baking is as much a science as it is an art. There are several basic mistakes we make that tend to have a severe impact on the final product. We don't realise how the smallest of things we do can have such a big impact on the product we're baking. In this article, I will be highlighting a few of the common mistakes bakers tend to make and how to ensure that we avoid them to get the best results possible.
Welcome back to another post from my Back to Basics series. In this article we will be discussing mistakes we tend to make while baking. I will be explaining the effects of those mistakes and how we can ensure that we avoid making them. When it comes to the actual process of making a baked product it is a purely scientific process. The artsy side of baking comes out once the basic product has been baked successfully. All the things we do in the process of baking anything (be it cakes, breads, brownies etc..) are not just a fluke, there is science and logic behind it. From the quantity and proportions of ingredients to the temperature of the oven to even the order in which we mix the ingredients. It is all simple science.
Before we get started, here are my top 5 basic baking tools even non-bakers should have in their kitchen:
Measuring Cup and Spoons: Everybody does not like to measure and cook everything. However, the convenience they provide when it comes to just collecting ingredients is just incredible.
Mixing Bowls: It'll be crazy if I start listing all the mixing bowls I have. All I can say is get glass bowls that are microwave safe. They don't wear out and can even last you a lifetime (if you don't end up breaking them).
Kitchen Weighing Scale: You know I’m a stickler for weighing ingredients! That’s why I list all my baking recipes in cups and(or) grams. Why do we measure this way? Because a gram is always a gram.
Silicone Baking Mats: These were a life-changing discovery for me. And at the cost of sounding crazy, baking paper is great, but silicone baking mats give a better product (assuming you followed the recipe properly) why not bake and cook with something reusable? And something that lays flat on the baking tray.
Here I present to you 7 MISTAKES Every Baker Makes that can spike up the success rate of your kitchen adventures monumentally. If you’re a new baker looking to learn and avoid making mistakes while baking, or an experienced baker trying to understand where you might be going wrong, this article is for you.
1. NOT MEASURING INGREDIENTS PROPERLY
I cannot emphasise enough on how important it is to measure your ingredients properly. Do not forget that baking is a science and an art of precision. NEVER eyeball your ingredients. Measure them every time. Sometimes we tend to get complacent and feel like we'll be able to look and use an approximation for ingredients like baking soda or baking powder. But the smaller the quantity of the ingredients, the more important it is to get the quantity right. That’s why I list all my baking recipes in cups and(or) grams. Why do we measure this way? Because a gram is always a gram. Never bake without measuring your ingredients. There is no shortcut or other way of doing it if you want to avoid kitchen disasters and make a consistent product every time.
2. IGNORING THE TEMPERATURE OF INGREDIENTS
Often the recipes we make call for the ingredients to be at a specific temperature ranging from ice-cold, room temperature, lukewarm and even boiling hot. If the author of the recipe has cared enough to mention the temperature it simply means that the temperature is key to the success of the recipe. And in case there is no temperature mentioned, always assume it means that the ingredient(s) should be at room temperature. Say, a recipe calls for room temperature sugar, butter and eggs and we add all of them cold, the mixture will not even emulsify properly, it will rather turn out grainy or over mixed. Similarly, if we add these ingredients hot, the eggs will cook and you will have bits of scrambled eggs floating in your butter and sugar mix. So, never ignore the temperature of ingredients.
3. OVER-MIXING BATTERS AND COOKIE DOUGHS
Most of the batters do not require you to go at it, mixing your batters and doughs like a maniac. Whenever you add flour (or your dry ingredient mix) to your wet ingredients add all the dry ingredients at once. Do not add them in increments. Always add them in one go. Then mix your cake batters and cookie doughs only until there are no dry spots visible. Once there are no dry ingredients visible separately stop mixing immediately. If you over-mix your ingredients that leads to a loss of volume and air in your batter. As a result, it leads to a flat and deflated final product.
4. NOT USING THE CORRECT KIND OF SUGAR
We have to understand and come to terms with the fact that most ingredients are not perfect substitutes for each other. The same applies to sugar. There is a variety of sugar from white sugar, brown sugar, demerara sugar, coconut sugar etc... But most importantly and commonly baking is done using white sugar. And white sugar also comes in multiple forms: granules powdered, syrups, caster sugar, icing sugar etc... All these forms of sugar are not perfect substitutes for each other. If a recipe calls for sugar granules, use sugar granules, do not replace it with powdered sugar instead. The texture of the sugar has a huge value add to the recipe. For example, granulated sugar used in cookie doughs helps you give great volume and airiness to your cookies. So use whatever kind of sugar the recipe asks for.
5. BLINDLY FOLLOWING THE EXACT BAKING TIME
Never follow the baking time mentioned in your recipe. The baking time mentioned in recipes is just a ballpark figure. It is simply an approximation. Multiple factors affect the baking time of the product. From the quantity you are baking, the temperature of the place where you are, the type of oven being used (sometimes ovens are wrongly calibrated) etc... You need to understand what works best for you and your baked product. It takes time to understand your recipes and their baking time. Always check your baked products before taking them out of the oven. Make sure you are satisfied with how much it is cooked or baked. If you feel that it needs a few more minutes, go for it. Do not pull it out of the oven just because the recipe says so. Follow your gut.
6. USING POOR QUALITY INGREDIENTS
The higher the quality of the ingredients, the better will be the final product. There is no substitute for quality. Always choose quality over quantity. Baking ingredients can be very expensive and may even mess with your budget. But remember, that substandard ingredients will result in substandard results. So you would rather use and make smaller quantities of good quality products than larger quantities of poor quality products.
7. BEING IMPATIENT
Baking is 50% work and 50% PATIENCE. Baking is a working game as much as it is a patience game. When you're baking bread and waiting for the dough to rise, all you can do is wait for it to rise naturally in a warm and humid environment. You cannot just artificially crank up the temperature of the oven to make it rise. Instead of it rising properly, the dough will start developing a layer of cooked and dried up dough. So? What do you do? wait and stare at it while waiting. Similarly, if something needs to sit in the oven for over an hour then it needs to sit in the oven for that long. Again, you can't just crank up the temperature to bake it faster, because that will just lead to an overcooked exterior and raw interior or a simply burnt result.
I sincerely hope that this article helps you avoid making these mistakes and helps you enjoy the baking process even more. Let me know if you have any questions.
Question: What are some baking mistakes you tend to make?