Identifying Your Common Baking Errors
Home baking can be a very rewarding hobby, turning simple ingredients into delicious cakes, biscuits, breads and other baked goods.
Yet even with the easiest recipes, the outcome can sometimes be a disaster. Here are a few hints, tips and tricks to avoid common baking problems.
There are a few essential Baker’s basic skills to grasp. You don’t need to be a master baker to make terrific cakes & baked goods, with care and patience and a little information about the basic rules, there is no valid reason why you should not realize remarkable results every time.
The first crucial skill is to read the recipe thoroughly prior to you start and try to appreciate the steps involved. A little advanced preparation, such as assembling together all the ingredients and utensils required. Let ingredients such as eggs and butter return to room temperature a good 30 minutes prior to using them, with the exception of pastry recipes where butter needs to remain cold.
For cakes, preheat your oven to the temperature called for in the recipe prior to starting work on the ingredients. When making bread however, you will not need to preheat the oven until the first rise of the dough is done.
Oven temperature is crucial to successful baking. While the temperature settings on most ovens are sort of accurate, it would be advisable to check your oven with a separate oven thermometer accessible at most kitchenware shops. Do this on a regular basis to ensure consistent results.
Use the correct tin size wherever possible. If a cake recipe calls for a 6 inch tin, but you only have an 8 inch tin available, then the resulting cake will be slimmer and take less time to cook, so either you need to increase the measurements of the ingredients, or lessen the cooking time.
A very good set of scales is essential for accurately measuring the ingredients. Baking is more like a science than an art, so using inappropriate or vague measurements will more often than no result in disaster. Get yourself a good set of scales, measuring jugs and spoons. If these have both imperial and metric measurement marks you will be able to quickly adhere to recipe measurements from anywhere in the world, otherwise you’ll need a conversion table to work out pounds vs grams or pints vs liters every time you use a new recipe.
What can go awry.
Baking is quite an precise art. Even the experienced bakers who look like they are throwing in ingredients by the mug or hand full comprehend that the ratio needs to be maintained.
Many problems occur when the oven is too hot or too cold. Having the oven too high will result in the outside layer of the bread or cake becoming dark or burnt before the inside is cooked properly. An extremely hot oven will kill off yeast in bread mixture prior to the loaf rising, resulting in a dense house brick instead of a light fluffy loaf. Having your oven too high will cause cakes to “dome” and burn instead of rising uniformly.
On the other end of the scale, if your oven is too low, bread will fail to rise adequately and cakes are likely to remain pale and will most likely sag in the center.
Tins need to be greased correctly to prevent mixture from sticking & large cakes should be protected by one or two layers of greaseproof paper to prevent the outer layer from overcooking.
Cakes with a domed top reveal that the mixture may not have been beaten enough or that the oven was too hot or that the cake was placed too high in the oven. It may also be a sign that the mixture wasn’t quite right. Maybe a little dry or too much raising agent.
Cakes with a sunken center show that they weren’t baked long enough or the oven was too low, or that you were a little too curious and opened the oven door too early in the cooking process.
Cakes with a damp or doughy center are an indication of the mixture being too wet with too much liquid and not enough flour, or that the oven was way too hot.
Bread that is dense or doughy indicates not enough yeast or that the water used wasn’t warm enough to activate the yeast, or was too hot and had killed off the yeast. If your loaf of bread requires a sharp knife to cut into it, your bread dough may have been too wet, or the dough was not given enough time to rise or that not enough effort was used in the kneading process. Dense bread may also be an indication of an incorrect oven temperature.
If your bread overflows the tin or the top cracks and burns you may have used too much yeast or the dough was allowed to rise for too long.
So all in all, baking can be satisfying process as long as you stick to the basics.