“Baking is an art.” I am most agreeable with this. Taking example that two bakers use the same recipe, the final products of two are unique and different as the bakers use their own experience, philosophies, strategies and techniques to bake. Often. they also use their creativity to transform a simple baked goods into a marvelous art piece. Besides being an art, you often hear people call baking as science too. With all ingredients being measured, mixed to create rising reaction, fermentation…these require science! Before one master the art of baking, I ‘d suggest one to understand the science of baking first and make sure you avoid the 10 common mistakes below.
Mistake #1: Not preheating your oven
Ovens usually take 10 to 20 minutes to reach the temperature and stabilize. Not preheating your oven would mean that when you put your baked goods into the oven, the first 10 to 20 minutes are used to preheat. That also implies that you are going to get a half-cooked product. Well if you are lucky, you may get an under-browning or flat cake. A small tip is to start preheating your oven while you are preparing your ingredients. In this way, no time is wasted!
Mistake #2: Misusing of baking powder and baking soda interchangeably
If you have not read my previous blog, please click on the Baking Soda vs Baking. In the blog, I shared about the differences of baking soda and baking powder. They are totally different things and are applied at different scenarios. Misusing them interchangeably could result in disastrous consequences to your baked goods.
Mistake #3: Not sifting your Ingredients
Some recipes require ingredients like flour, cocoa powder and icing sugar, etc to be sieved. Sieving process helps to break up clumps in your ingredients which a lot of times cause your cakes to be lumpy. We do not necessary sieve the flour every time we bake however things like cocoa powder and icing sugar could be quite lumpy at times and is advisable to sieve.
Mistake #4: Using expired ingredients
If you do not have the habit to housekeep your ingredients, it is best to double check the expiry date before using. For ingredient that you keep in containers, always label the expiry date on the container. This will help you confirm its validity of use. Yeast, baking soda and baking powder are the ingredients that we need to pay special attention to. They could be inactive and will not help in rising your cake once past the expiry date. Not only that, baking soda and baking powder are no longer effective after opening for 3 months. If you have forgotten when do you start using them, you may use the methods below to test their validity.
Baking Soda: To test baking soda, pour 3 Tablespoons of white distilled vinegar into a small bowl. Add 1/2 teaspoon of baking soda. Give it a light stir. The mixture should rapidly bubble if the soda is fresh. If there is no reaction, toss the baking soda and buy a fresh package.
Baking Powder: Pour 3 Tablespoons of warm water into a small bowl. Add 1/2 teaspoon of baking powder. Give it a light stir. The mixture should moderately fizz if the powder is fresh. If there is no reaction, toss the baking powder and buy a fresh package.
Yeast: Dissolve ½ teaspoon of sugar in ½ cup warm water. Stir in a packet of active dry yeast or 2 teaspoons instant yeast. After 15 minutes, the mixture should be expanded and frothing if the yeast is alive.
Mistake #5: Beating cold egg whites
Wonder why sometimes your egg whites never reach its peak despite every attempt you whip them? If this occurs, then there may be several possible reasons. First, check if your eggs are fresh. Second, do you whip eggs just taken out from your fridge? Cold eggs are unlikely to whip well. Next time, make sure your eggs are in room temperature before you start whipping. Another reason could be your utensils are wet and has caused unwanted chemistry.
Mistake #6: overbeating your Batter
You should only beat your batter until no flour is seen and lump free. The more you beat your batter, the tougher and less delicate your cake will turn out. Stop at the right time.
Mistake #7: Opening your oven too often
Every time you open your oven, the hot air will flow out thus decreases the temperature. Opening your oven too often will result in unstable temperature. Beware that it could cause your cake to collapse.
Mistake #8: Wrong measurement of Ingredients
Make sure that the top of the scoop or measuring cup is level when you measure your flour or sugar. You may use a knife or something flat to level the top.
Mistake #9: Not Checking Oven Temperature
Before you put your batter into the oven, make sure it has reached the temperature instructed in the recipe. Remember that oven needs time to pick up the temperature.
Mistake #10: Only Reading Recipe Along with Your Baking
Read your recipe from the first line until the end before you do anything. Nothing is worse than finding out missing steps that you could have prepared two hours ago, such as chilling your dough before the next step could be taken place.
If you do not commit any of the mistakes above, your baked goods are half way there!