5 Mistakes You’re Probably Making When You Bake
Raise your hand if you’ve ever set out to bake cookies or a cake and ended up with burned edges or a weird, not-fluffy consistency. *Raises hand* We certainly have, which is why we checked in with Ryan Butler, the Michelin-starred pastry chef behind Brooklyn’s excellent bake shop Butler, to learn about common baking mistakes, as well as a few tips for avoiding them.
You Don’t Pay Attention to Temperature
Ingredient temperature, that is. Especially when your recipe calls for ingredients like eggs, butter or milk. For example, if you’re baking scones or puff pastry, you want all ingredients to be as cold as possible—even the water. Cookie dough, on the other hand, should be made with room temperature butter (which is soft enough to mix). If ingredient temperature is important, the recipe will say as much. Your job is to actually follow the advice.
You Eyeball Measurements
You’d think a chef as experienced as Butler would’ve gotten to a point by now that he can just throw ingredients into a bowl, measuring by eye. That’s not the case, he tells us. Noting that baking is equal parts science and art, Butler recommends using an ingredient scale instead of a measuring cup (or, God forbid, your own estimation) to achieve the perfect balance of ingredients.
You Cut Corners
If you’re anything like us, you view certain steps in recipes as light suggestions as opposed to hard and fast rules. One such step is the whole sifted flour thing. This isn’t one to ignore, Butler says. When a recipe calls for you to sift flour, he told us—even if you’re using pre-sifted flour, you should re-sift it anyway. Reason being, even sifted flour often becomes clumpy in the bag. And “clumpy” is not an adjective we ever want to associate with our baked goods.
You Set It and Forget It
As nice as it would be to pop a cake into the oven, go do something else and come back to a perfectly-cooked confection 40 minutes later, Butler stressed that, since all ovens have hot spots, it’s essential to rotate your baked dishes halfway through the bake. This will prevent one side of your tray from being burned and one from being undercooked.
You Don’t Shop Right
Sometimes, Butler says, baking mistakes start before you even get to the kitchen. Choosing the right ingredients (and knowing when to use them) is crucial to successful attempts at your favorite sweet treats. For example, whole wheat flour doesn’t contain as much gluten as white flour, so substituting one for the other in the same measurement won’t work. And if a recipe calls for confectioners’ sugar and you don’t have any on hand, it’s worth a trip to the store. Confectioners’ sugar is sugar mixed with cornstarch (which creates a smooth texture), so if you substitute refined sugar for confectioners’, the result will be gritty and, quite frankly, gross.