Baking is really just science. Particular ingredients will react to one another, which has an effect on your overall final product. When you beat eggs and sugar together it creates the perfect cracked layer on top of your brownies. When you cream butter and sugar together it evenly disperses the sugar throughout the batter, creating a light texture in cookies and cakes. There is a method to baking with tricks that will produce different results in recipes.
The tips and tricks in this blog post will instantly improve your baking skills and make your sweets that much tastier.
If you try these tips, come back and leave a comment below! I am always interested to hear how a recipe turned out differently for someone once they applied these methods to their own recipes.
10 Tips to Instantly Improve Your Baking Skills
1. Use High-Quality Butter - European butter is personally my favorite type of butter to use for baking. It is rich and has a high-fat content which makes a creamier softer butter. American and European kinds of butter are not always interchangeable. They offer different fat-to-water ratios, but if the recipe you are using calls for European butter, don’t skip it. All of my recipes are made using European butter. Also note that unless the recipe specifies, always assume unsalted butter. It WILL change the taste of your recipe, even if just the slightest by switching out salted butter when the recipe calls for unsalted.
2. Use Quality Ingredients - Along the same lines as European butter, use high-quality ingredients. This means using the best chocolate, cocoa, unbleached high-quality flour, and making it a point to buy the best ingredients possible when baking.
3. Don’t Overmix - It’s important to understand how over-mixing can affect the gluten in your dough or batter. When flour is mixed with water (or fluids), gluten is created. This is great for bread, but for cookies and doughy sweets - not so much. Don’t overmix your batter and be sure to follow the directions for mixing. There IS such a thing as overmixing.
4. Follow the Recipe - Don’t get me wrong, adding more chocolate chips to a recipe is always acceptable. The point I’m trying to make here is that if a recipe says to chill your dough, you should chill your dough. Don’t skip steps. Recipes have been tested and tested and as I mentioned earlier, baking is a science.
5. Rotate Your Pan - Once I started rotating my pan, I really noticed a difference. Rotating allows your baked goods to bake more evenly, dispersing heat to all sides of the pan. I rotate halfway through my baking time.
6. Measure Your Ingredients Properly - I was talking to a friend recently who mentioned that she prefers to eye ingredients when she’s in the kitchen. I thought back to our conversation, thinking I do the same, but not with baking. When I am cooking there is more freedom. You can throw in ingredients, test taste, and add more of what it needs. With baking, adding in more chocolate chips is acceptable. But adding more flour is not. I prefer to measure to the exact amount because I know it will produce the best tasting cookie, every time. With that said, if you read my 20 Baking Tool Must-Haves and How To Use Them, then you know that the method you use to measure ingredients is important. I recommend using a scale for the most accurate measurements. If you’re not into the idea of pulling out a scale every time (I’m not either) at least take the time to use the proper measuring spoons and cups to do the job.
7. Use a Baking Stone For Cookies - Another one of my number one tips when baking is to use a stone. Baking stones are great for homemade pizza, but we use them even more often for every batch of cookies that we make. You will see me recommend this in all of my cookie recipes because it bakes the cookies more evenly on the bottom. Baking stones are porous where they don’t absorb as much heat, which transfers less heat into your cookies, creating even heating throughout.
8. Temperature Matters - You know when you go to bake, read the recipe, and realize you have cold eggs when the recipe calls for room temperature? The temperature of your ingredients DOES matter. Ingredients react in different ways including too warm or too cold. It’s important to follow the recipe, even in the correct temperatures for the ingredients. It’s not always convenient, but it will yield a better cookie/brownie/cake. Trust me.
9. Use a Baking Stone For Cookies - I recommend using a baking stone if you're baking cookies. If you don’t have one, either a light metal pan or a pan lined with a sheet of parchment will do. The best way to describe the necessity of the correct pan is this - picture a hot asphalt in the summertime absorbing all of the sunshine and heat. Black asphalts attract more heat than a light-colored sidewalk. A dark-colored pan will absorb more heat which is transferred to your baked good.
10. Spoon Your Flour, Don’t Scoop - This one plays into measuring your ingredients properly, but I thought it deserved its own explanation. It is recommended that you spoon flour into your measuring cup instead of dipping the cup into the flour jar. This allows the flour to settle while measuring instead of being too densely packed into the cup. You don’t want a packed measuring cup unless the recipe very specifically calls for it. By spooning the flour into the cup yourself, you avoid over-measuring. There is such a thing. For the MOST accurate measurement, weighing your ingredients is the best method. However, not all recipes have the measurements in weight and I get that not everyone has a scale on hand. A friend of mine wanted to bake her own wedding cake, so for a task as serious as this, I suggested measuring in weight. If you're looking to just have fun and whip up some baked goods one evening, spooning vs scooping your flour will make an improvement all on its own.