Many people don’t recognize the huge difference between baking and cooking. Cooking is an art, in which you can do some experiments with the meals and dishes that you make, but baking is a science and it is a chemical reaction of ingredients which means you always need exact measurements and carefully follow the instructions of the recipe. So we recommend that you leave the improvisation to cooking.
These are some of the common mistakes even experienced bakers usually make.
1. Baking in an oven not yet preheated
Baking at the right temperature is crucial. Forgetting to preheat the oven can create a total disaster, it could prevent your cake from rising evenly. Wait until the oven is properly heated before baking.
To save time, you can preheat the oven while preparing the ingredients.
2. Using ingredients at the wrong temperature
Always use room temperature ingredients unless the recipe says otherwise. It’s important to carefully follow the instructions in the recipe since cold ingredients do not corporate together as easily as when the ingredients are at room temperature. Prearrange everything at room temperature before starting.
3. Not sifting ingredients when the recipe requires it
Some dry ingredients are lumpy and should be sifted. Sifting them will break the lumps and will get you a more accurate measurement since sifted flour/cocoa is much lighter than when they are unsifted. Sifting also helps to combine the ingredients evenly.
4. Forgetting to set the timer
Setting the timer is very important if you don’t want to burn what you are baking. Burnt pastry isn’t very tasty.
5. Not reading the recipe all the way through before baking
Before anything else, make sure to read the recipe thoroughly before committing to it. Not reading the recipe all the way through before baking can result in throwing away ingredients or even having to go back to where you started. Have everything ready especially the ingredients for a less stressful and more pleasant experience.
6. Mistaking baking soda and baking powder
These are anything but interchangeable. Do not settle for whichever you have on hand, substituting one for the other is very risky. But still, depending on the situation and on what you are baking, you might still be able to fix it.
7. Constantly opening the oven while baking
Opening the oven lets the heat flow out and decreases the temperature inside so it actually makes them become ready even slower. Every time you open it, the temperature goes down. Be patient and look through the door until the timer goes off or just until the cake has started to set.
8. Substituting ingredients
Substituting ingredients may affect both the taste and the texture of what you are baking, thus understanding the part of the ingredient you are substituting in the recipe is very important.
9. Adding eggs to the hot batter
Adding eggs directly to the hot batter will cause it to curdle or form lumps. However, tempering might not be necessary unless the recipe requires it.
10. Using the wrong pan
Size matters particularly when it comes to baking time and temperature. The size of the tin or pan affects the time and how thick or thin your cake will turn out. Too small a pan might cause the top to get burnt or spill out of the pan.
11. Not accurately measuring the ingredients
Baking is a chemical reaction and it requires accuracy. Your ingredient measurements have to be exact to get the reaction you need to have that ideal result every time. The difference between cooking and baking is precision, and leave the improvisation to cooking.
The most accurate way to measure ingredients is to weigh them. However, for dry ingredients, you can scrape the top of the measuring cup with a knife or a spoon to remove the excess.
The batter can get aerated when it is overmixed and can result in extra gluten development which will make your cakes, muffins, cookies, etc. unpleasantly chewy. Mix the batter until it is evenly combined. Sometimes, we are so afraid to over-mix that we under-mix. Mix just enough, but not too much.
13. Not using a reliable recipe
Using a recipe from an unreliable source may lead to total failure. Before you start, make sure the recipe is reliable by looking it up on other sites, make sure it has clear directions, exact measurements and order of the ingredients according to their use, has been tested, and has good reviews.