Baking is a pastime enjoyed by billions of people worldwide. Almost every culture has a rich history of making baked goods, and popular TV shows glamorize and teach us the basics and essential techniques of the craft. However, you can take improve your baking when you understand specific uses, methods, and cooking rules. For example, preparing pastries for baking requires a cold environment. Also, the butter needs to be in different states depending on what you are making. And most oven temperature readings can be off by as much as 100 degrees.
Keep Your Hands Cold
Along with keeping your ingredients at the right temperature, working with pastry requires cold hands. Actually, working with pastry requires pretty much everything to be chilled. In most recipes, ingredients must be at specific temperatures. Some call for room temperature, but pastries usually need eggs, butter, and milk to cool. It also helps if your work surface and kitchen are cold as well. For example, metallic countertops are perfect for working with pastry instead of wood which warms. You can help by chilling pastry in the fridge beforehand.
Use Organic Eggs
Like most foods, eggs are the best organic. You might think organic is a fad, but there are necessary steps taken in the process of developing organic foods. For example, the chickens are given the full range of wide-open space when it comes to eggs. The stress and cruelty-free environment translate to the flavor and texture of the produced eggs. Organic eggs are superior to caged and even free-range eggs. The texture is fluffier than eggs produced with other methods. Try this cupcake recipe with organic eggs to taste a remarkable difference.
Check Your Butter
Another essential ingredient for baking cakes, dough, and pastries is butter. Butter is rich and creamy, which is why it adds so much flavor to your end results. However, for the best results when baking, some recipes require butter of different consistencies. For example, flaky pastries like puff pastry for pies require chilled butter to form pockets of air. Conversely, cupcakes need to hold their shape and stay moist, so room temperature butter is needed. And to make the best cookies, melted (not hot) butter works best.
Ensure Exact Measurements
Baking is both an art and a science. Literally, cooking is a branch of chemistry. And although anyone can mix ingredients and place them in an oven, it takes an artist to make something beautiful. But science is still science and is based on the premise of repeated results. For the same effects to occur each time, exact measurements are required. If you don’t follow a recipe as written, you run the risk of cooking something different or inadequate. Always measure your dry ingredients using scoops and spoons and liquids in measuring jugs. And always use correct weights with a kitchen scale.
Never Open the Oven Door
For some reason, inexperienced cooks love to open the oven door. Understandably, some ovens don’t have a window, and people are naturally curious about cooking their food. But with a window opening, the door is complete madness. Opening the door releases a sudden gust of hot air. While your family taco casserole will be largely unaffected by this, it is disastrous when baking. Constant heat is essential to help build air inside a cake, bread, or pastry. This is what makes it rise. Souffles all over the world are ruined because someone just couldn’t wait.
Don’t Trust Your Oven Temperature
In addition to keeping the door closed, you should not trust your oven temperature dial. Even some of the most expensive range ovens provide you with inaccurate temperatures. They are meant more of a guide rather than an exact measurement. Some are a little cooler than you might think, and some are hotter. Due to the precise nature of baking, proper temperatures are crucial. Fortunately, you can purchase thermometers for your oven. Even better, they are inexpensive. Some can be placed inside, and others sit on the outside for more straightforward readings.
Understand the Golden Rule
When you cook anything, natural sugars are heated and released. When that happens, they brown. Browning occurs when you heat molecules containing a mixture of proteins, sugars, and amino acids. This process is known as the Maillard reaction. Maillard was a French chemist who studied baking. Through his research, he discovered molecules change their composition at 350 degrees Fahrenheit. Therefore, most food can be cooked at this temperature. Because of this, cooking at this exact heat is known as the Golden Rule of cooking.
We hope these suggestions give you some new ideas and techniques to try, and that you’re able to significantly improve your baking!