Baking can be a wonderful hobby or even a successful business venture. Although baking is a relatively easy skill to learn, some complain that they are wonderful cooks but poor bakers. This is probably because cooking is much more forgiving in terms of ingredient measurements and technique, while baking requires more precision.
“The proportions of basic ingredients can’t be improvised (in baking), but all flavors certainly can,” says Duff Goldman, Food Network star and expert baker.
Cooking is a science and ingredients combine to form chemical reactions that ultimately produce the desired results. This is just one area where cooking mishaps can occur.
Read on to learn about other common problems and how to avoid and fix them if you find yourself in a cooking emergency.
Incorrect measurement: Bakers must be very precise when measuring ingredients. Always lightly pour flour into a measuring cup without tamping it down; don’t just dunk the cup in the flour container. Level with the straight edge of a knife. When measuring sourdoughs, such as baking powder or baking soda, do the same by leveling the product.
Substitute ingredients intentionally or unintentionally: You don’t have all-purpose flour on hand, which means you can use cake flour, right? Not exactly. Ingredients have a purpose in recipes and every effort should be made to use what the recipe calls for. You cannot use baking soda and baking powder interchangeably.
Ignoring recipe instructions: Not understanding a cooking term or what the recipe conveys can lead to costly mistakes. According to Duff, it is a person’s tendency to gloss over instructions that are not easy to understand. But people are encouraged to read a recipe first, then search for terms they don’t understand before continuing.
Temperature errors with ingredients: Read the entire recipe before you start cooking. Some call for items like eggs or butter to be at room temperature for a light, fluffy “creaming” for cookies or cakes. Other recipes call for the butter to be cold to ensure flaking of pie and cookie crusts and some cookies.
Overmixing Ingredients: According to Grand Central Bakery, overmixing the dough or overworking the dough activates the gluten proteins in the flour and will lead to gummy, tough baked goods. The more tender the desired results, the lighter the handling and mixing should be.
Cooking at the wrong temperature: Temperature is often critical when cooking. You can’t turn up the heat to cook something faster if it’s not specified in the recipe. Some bakers inadvertently bake at the wrong temperature because they don’t realize their oven thermostats are malfunctioning. Invest in an internal oven thermometer to verify that the temperature displayed matches that produced inside the oven.
Not-So-Fresh Ingredients: Sourdoughs can lose potency over time and egg whites may not rise properly if the eggs are not fresh. Pay attention to ingredient expiration dates and discard items that are past those dates.