The holiday season is steeped in tradition. Baking is one tradition that comes with the holiday territory.
Many people may only bake in November and December, so it’s understandable if they’re a little rusty come the holiday season. These baking tips can lead to successful yields of cookies, cakes and other holiday treats.
Follow the recipe carefully
When cooking, it is easy to add an extra dash of this or a pinch of that. But baking is a science and the ingredients are used in a ratio to produce a desired chemical reaction while cooking. To ensure success, do not substitute ingredients unless the recipe tells you how to do so, and measure each addition carefully.
Spoon out your measurements
It can be tempting to dig a measuring cup right into a bag of flour, but scooping packs the ingredients down – potentially causing you to use more than the recipe calls for. Instead, spoon the flour into your measuring cup gently and use a straight edge to level it out. Even better, use a scale and metric measurements to ensure exact amounts of wet and dry ingredients.
Read up on temperature
Certain ingredients, like butter and eggs, are temperature-dependent. Cold butter in biscuits helps them to rise up flaky and delicious. Eggs brought to room temperature enable the emulsification process to work more readily. The difference in temperature can mean a completely different chemical reaction, so follow the recipe accordingly.
Calibrate the oven
Purchase an oven thermometer, set your oven to 350 F, the standard baking temperature, and see what the thermometer reads. If it is different, adjust cooking times accordingly or have the oven repaired. Cooking at the wrong temperature might mean the recipe doesn’t turn out right.
Use unsalted butter
Most recipes will call for unsalted butter so you aren’t adding unwanted sodium to the recipe, affecting dough consistency and flavor.
Position pans centrally
Pans should be on the center rack of the oven. If the oven isn’t wide enough to put multiple pans side by side, place them on different racks and slightly offset them to enable air circulation.
Use parchment paper
This unsung hero of baking can keep cookies from spreading out on baking sheets, prevent cakes from sticking to pans and may even help batter and dough bake evenly.
Cool cakes upside down on a cooling rack. This will help flatten out the tops, which makes it easier to stack and level cakes for layered cakes.