You found a new recipe. You made sure you had all the ingredients. You pulled them out of the cupboard, put them in a bowl, and mixed. You put it in a pan, popped it in the oven, and waited for your delicious dessert to be done.
You take it out of the oven, let it cool a little, and sneak a bite before you have to share…only to discover it’s slightly overdone and there’s raw flour in your mouth!
What HAPPENED?! What went wrong?!
We may have a few ideas.
On the surface, baking can seem like a simple process: put ingredients in a bowl, stir, and put in a hot oven.
But baking is chemistry. The measurements, ingredients, and directions are important and there for a reason.
It’s not like cooking where you can throw ingredients together and see what happens. Baking ingredients rely on each other to produce the final product you’re looking for. When something is off, it can be catastrophic.
But don’t worry! We’ve rounded up some of the most common baking problems and how to solve them.
While we can’t promise your upcoming holiday baking will go off without a hitch, we can help you get a little closer to perfection.
1. Inaccurate measuring
Did you know liquid and dry measuring cups are separate for a reason? Yes, it actually matters that you use dry measuring cups for dry ingredients and liquid measuring cups for liquid ingredients.
How you measure your ingredients can have a HUGE impact on your final result. A packed cup of flour is going to put more flour into your baked goods than the “dip and sweep” method. Measuring your milk in a liquid measuring cup is going to give you a more accurate reading than using a dry measuring cup.
A good rule of thumb is:
- For dry ingredients, the measuring cup should be filled to a level top (no heaping mountains!)
- For wet ingredients, the liquid should be poured to the desired marking with the liquid line meeting the measurement line.
2. Not following the recipe
It may seem like recipes are just guidelines, but when it comes to baking, they are the laws!
We can’t tell you the number of times we’ve received comments from people trying our Real Kitchen recipes who say it didn’t turn out. However, when we investigate a little further, nine times out of ten the issue was because they didn’t follow the recipe.
Cooking is an art. You can throw different ingredients together, and most of the time, it will turn out.
Baking on the other hand?
Baking is a science!
The ingredients are put together to cause chemical reactions, resulting in those light and fluffy cakes, ooey-gooey brownies, or golden, flakey croissants.
As you become more familiar with the recipe itself, go ahead and make a couple changes if your heart desires. But the first time through? And even the second? Follow the recipe to a T.
3. Substituting ingredients
Substituting ingredients can gave disastrous effects on your baked goods. Swapping out simple things like dark chocolate chips for milk chocolate chips or blueberries for strawberries are typically fine, but other ingredients are there for a reason.
As we mentioned before, the ingredients are there to cause chemical reactions. Those chemical reactions change when the ingredients change.
For example, bread flour has a much higher protein content than all-purpose flour, which is perfect for chewy loaves of bread but not what you want when eating a piece of cake.
If the recipes says baking soda, use baking soda. If the recipe says use heavy cream, use heavy cream.
Some of the “extra” ingredients we mentioned before like chocolate or fruit can be swapped out, but be warned- they may still affect your baking due to differences in moisture or sugar content.
4. Forgetting to scrape the bowl
Whether you’re mixing with a whisk, hand beater, or stand mixer, forgetting to scrape down the bowl is one of the biggest mistakes we see at The Real Kitchen.
When you’re mixing, the beaters are only accessing the bottom and very bottom sides of your bowl (IF you’re mixing well). This means any ingredients that splash up the side get stuck there instead of being mixed into the batter.
When you don’t scrape down the sides of your bowl, those ingredients you so carefully measured out will stay stuck to the sides and not get mixed in. Remember when we talked about how important it is to measure properly? Not scraping the bowl takes away some of those measurements, leaving your batter with the wrong ingredient ratio.
Not scraping down the sides of the bowl also leaves raw ingredients separated in your batter, causing your final result to have pockets of unmixed ingredients. No one wants scrambled egg or pockets of flour when they take a bite of your delicious snickerdoodle cookies.
Scrape down the sides of your bowl (and the corners where the sides meet the bottom – flour likes to hide there) after your initial mix when adding new ingredients. This ensures all the ingredients are mixed in evenly, and you’ll get that perfect result you’re looking for.
5. Baking at the wrong temperature
It’s crazy to think in today’s world of amazing technology that oven temperature settings aren’t always reliable.
But it’s true!
Ovens temperatures can range 60 degrees different from oven to oven. That means just because you set your oven temperature to 350 doesn’t mean it’s actually cooking at 350.
In addition, ovens are typically hotter towards the bottom and towards the back (That’s why you should turn and swap your cookie trays halfway through if you’re ever baking two sheets at once).
The best way to make sure you’re always cooking at the right temperature is to use an oven thermometer and adjust your temperature accordingly.
Do a trial run to see what the true temperature of your oven is. Set your oven to 350, let it preheat, and see what the oven temperature reads once the oven is ready. If your oven temperature reads 375, it is baking 25 degrees hotter than you want. Now you know to set your oven to 325 next time you want to bake something at 350.
Knowing the true temperature of your oven will save you the heartbreak of accidentally over-baking those cookies you worked so hard for.
Simple mistakes are some of the easiest ways to take your baking from great to just okay. But fixing those mistakes and taking that extra minute to do things right is all you need to take your baking from great to amazing.
Don’t take our word for it! Try these baking tips and let us know how they worked for you.
Here are a few recipes to try them out with:
Do you have baking tips you’ve learned throughout the years or were passed on to you from others? Let us know! Tell us how you get perfect bakes every time.