Baking 101: Just How Important Is It To Follow The Recipe?
When cooking; following a recipe, isn’t really a “must-have” unless it comes to the cooking temperature and time. But when baking; that is a whole new story.
Baking is a science. Ingredients are there for a reason; each ingredient does a specific job.
Eggs; their job in baking is to bind, aerate, leaven, and/or thicken.
Dry ingredients such as flours, sugars, baking powders, baking sodas, salts also have specific jobs to do in baking desserts or breads. These ingredients tenderize or strengthen a dough or recipe; depending on the amount and type (flour) used. Mixing techniques also alter the job of many of these ingredients.
- Always and I do mean; always read the recipe from beginning to end before you start. Go through the ingredients to make sure you have exactly what is called for. Then, go through the steps of preparation (instructions); as these may have hidden ingredients such as water, butter, separating eggs, etc.
- Make sure to mix and blend in the order called given. In baking; sometimes it is necessary to mix all dry ingredients and then add to wet ingredients. Also, going in order of the recipe gives us a better chance for mistakes (over adding an ingredient, forgetting an ingredient).
- Pay attention to the commas. In culinary world; the comma is very important. Take this ingredient: 1 cup of chocolate chips, chopped. This means to measure the 1 cup first and then chop them. If the recipe states: 1 cup of chopped chocolate chips; you will chop first and measure later. The easy way to remember this is looking at where the word chopped is located; at the beginning of the ingredient: chop first. At the end of the end of the ingredient; chop last.
- “Softened”,“packed”, “preheated”…. If the recipe calls for packed brown sugar; fill measuring cup with sugar and pack down using the back of a spoon. Add more sugar if needed until the packed sugar becomes level with the top of the measuring cup. You can soften butter or cream cheese by allowing to stand at room temperature for about 30 minutes. Softened butters and cream cheese allows for better creaming. A pre-heated oven is a must! Some baking recipes need to be entered into that HOT oven and cannot wait in a warming oven for it to reach that 400° point. Your baking will go much smoother if you pre-heat your oven first.
- DO NOT OPEN….we get so excited (and nervous) about desserts we bake; that we tend to open and close the oven door repeatedly (even I am guilty of this). By doing this we allow the oven to cool down and this lengthens the baking time or can even destroy what you are baking (baked Alaska, soufflés, etc.). If the time calls for 30-33 minutes; then by all means, check for doneness at the 30 minute mark. Some of us have ovens that bake slower or faster than the norm and taking this into consideration will save your desserts. For instance; I have a double oven and if I bake cupcakes or cookies in the top oven; they will bake about 6 minutes faster (and sometimes burn before they are finished baking).