The pandemic has led to a lot of free time, and if your Instagram feed is anything like mine, it seems that lots and lots of people are using that free time to bake.
From banana bread and decadent cakes to melty cookies and brownies, lots of people have been perfecting their baking skills from home.
Baking tasty treats is easy, but with a little know-how, you can bake like a pro.
6 Tips for Baking Delicious Treats at Home
#1. Fully read the recipe before you get started.
No one expects you to memorize a recipe before you get started on it. It’s totally acceptable to consult your recipe step by step as you go; however, the first time you read it should not be during showtime.
Before you start pulling out ingredients and measuring cups, take the time to fully read the recipe. Lots of novice bakers will check that they have everything on the ingredient list and call it good, but you can miss out on a lot if you only read as you go.
Prepare yourself for what you’ll need to do in the recipe by reading it ahead of time.
#2. Measure your ingredients properly.
Believe it or not, there’s a right way and a wrong way to measure your ingredients, and if you do it wrong, you can end up with way too much or way too little of an ingredient. That can leave you with an end result with a different texture, shape, size, or taste than what you wanted.
Here are a few tips for measuring your ingredients properly:
- Dry Ingredients – Measure sugar, flour, baking powder, and other dry ingredients by lightly spooning them into the measuring cup until they overflow, and then level it with a knife. Never dip your measuring cup directly into the ingredient; you could end up with up to 150 percent more than you need.
- Wet Ingredients – Measure liquids like milk, oil, or water using a clear measuring cup sitting on a level surface, and crouch down so that you are eye-level with the measuring cup. Measure vanilla and other liquids directly into measuring spoons, pouring over a sink to prevent overflow.
- Butter – Sticks of butter are typically eight tablespoons that are divided equally on the wrapper. Cut the butter and paper it’s wrapped in with a sharp knife.
#3. Get the consistency of your butter right.
The vast majority of baked goods have at least one thing in common — butter. Butter is the foundation of many-a-baked-good, and while you may not think the consistency of the butter will make or break anything, it’s actually incredibly important.
Here are the three butter consistencies you’ll run into and what they mean:
- Chilled – If a recipe is calling for chilled butter, it wants butter that’s been well-chilled — i.e. chilled in the refrigerator or freezer so well that it won’t melt while mixing. Chilled butter is what makes pie crusts, biscuits, and scones so flaky.
- Room-Temperature – A recipe that’s calling for room-temperature butter is looking for butter that’s cool to the touch. When you place your finger in it, it should leave an indent, but shouldn’t be so soft that it slides super easily. To achieve this consistency, set your butter on the counter for about an hour before you start a recipe.
- Melted – Melted butter should be completely liquified, but lukewarm, not hot. If the butter is too hot, it could cook the eggs in your batter (gross!). Melted butter helps to make chocolate chip cookies and brownies chewy and gooey.
#4. Prepare your ingredients ahead of time.
If you wait until you’re in the heat of the moment to scramble to prepare your ingredients, it can make baking feel a little hectic and stressful. Most people bake because it’s relaxing and comforting (and, let’s face it, because who doesn’t love pie?), and you’ll have a much more relaxed bake if you do a little preparation ahead of time.
Before you start preheating the oven, take a few minutes to pull out all of the ingredients you’ll need. To make baking even more peaceful, measure out your ingredients into separate bowls so that you have exactly what you need ahead of time.
Some ingredients will need to be at a specific consistency (see point #3) that you’ll need to prepare for ahead of time, and taking the time to prepare your ingredients before you get started will help you avoid any nasty surprises.
#5. Take recipes out of the oven sooner than directed.
Oven temperatures can vary wildly, and unless you’ve got a brand-spanking-new oven or your oven gets recalibrated on a regular basis, its temperature probably isn’t overly accurate.
Underbaking is much easier to remedy than overbaking, so always make sure to check the minimum baking time, and subtract five to 10 more minutes from it. This is when you should first check on your recipe.
#6. Resist the temptation to open your oven.
Every time you open the oven door, you’re letting a lot of heat out, which can completely change the internal temperature of your oven. This can prevent your recipes from rising or baking properly.
If your oven has a light feature, use that to keep an eye on your baked goods without opening the door. If you need to test how done something is, take it out of the oven quickly, and close the door. Then, do the toothpick test and, if necessary, place the recipe back into the oven, quickly closing the door when you’re done.
Baking is a fun way to fill the time, but most of us will never be able to rival the creations coming out of our favorite local bakeries. Bakeries may or may not be open to in-person business near you, but many are offering curbside pickup and even delivery.
Find a local bakery near you to show your support to with Top Rated Local®. With Top Rated Local, you can find the best bakeries in your area and read bakery reviews from across the web.
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