My Tips for Baking

Now that you’re getting ready to bake, here are some overall tips to ensure your time in the kitchen is as stress-free and fun as possible:

  1. Read the recipe a couple times before starting: I think this is on every cookbook and cooking website, but this really helps in ensuring that you have an rough idea of what you’re doing. This doesn’t mean you need to memorize it before you start, but somewhat knowing what order to add ingredients or stir is really helpful in creating a less stressful environment. With most of these recipes, you can get them memorized after just a few repetitions.
  2. Make sure you have everything before starting: There were times I overestimated the amount of certain ingredients and ended up having a less stable or more bland bake because I didn’t have the right things. Making sure you have more than enough (rather than just enough) ensures you have a little wiggle room in case you mess up something.
  3. Have everything ready before starting: Once you’ve read the recipe and made sure you have everything, you can get all your ingredients together and measure them out. Reading the recipe before helps with measuring ingredients out the right way (e.g. sometimes you’ll need to divide your sugar in half, use only some of the milk, etc.). This also allows you to continue on your recipe without stalling to measure things out; sometimes those couple minutes in between steps can make a difference in your bake. This also includes making sure butter or eggs are at the right temperature!
  4. Plan out additional steps economically: When will you really grease the pan? Preheat the oven? I’ve written the recipe for myself as I know my oven, but you may need more or less time preheating your oven before it’s ready at 375F. I tend to grease my pan right after I finish mixing everything, and preheat my oven about 5-7 minutes before I need it. That may mean I do it while I’m mixing, or just as I’m finishing cutting my last few cookies. Once you figure out your working times, you’ll get good at getting the oven ready just as you finish pouring your batter.
  5. Bake a recipe at least once before modifying it: I usually follow the original recipe once or twice before I modify it for my own tastes, whether that be adding more spices, lessening the fruit, or substituting the sugar or flour for a different one. Most of the recipes here should be in their original form as I found them, but I’ve added my modifications on the bottom for reference. You can follow the modification straight with your first bake as I’ve tested them before. The easiest modifications to make to a recipe is substituting water for other liquids (be careful with milk), adding small amounts of dry ingredients (less than ¼ cup), or adding small amounts of extracts for different flavors.
    • Don’t try anything for the first time before you need it: Nothing’s more stressful than an unsuccessful bake before a big party or event you to which were meaning to bring it. When you’re planning to make something for a gathering, make sure you’ve tried it at least once prior so you don’t run the risk of having a mess-up and resorting to getting a store-bought bake. 😦
  6. Don’t be afraid to throw things away: Sometimes you know you’ve messed something up—scones aren’t rising correctly, the cake looks dry, or the bread is doughy in the middle. As much as it sucks, don’t worry about it and just throw most of it away. If I did a modification, I like to make sure it tastes alright by eating the edible parts, but I’ve thrown away bakes before. I’m sure everyone has!
  7. Don’t be afraid to give things away: It’s nerve-wracking giving things away, but if you have people you trust (e.g. family, friends, coworkers, etc.), you can get valuable feedback as to whether or not bakes have the right flavor. Don’t worry too much about texture unless you know it’s really off.
  8. Trust your instinct: Even without baking experience, you can kind of tell what a dough or batter is supposed to look/feel like; sometimes it’ll look too thin or feel too wet. Trust your instinct when you think something doesn’t look/feel right and modify it (e.g. add flour or liquid a small bit at a time, stir a little more, etc.) if it looks salvageable or throw it out and start over.
  9. Make baking your excuse to eat more bakes: When you get reasonably good at baking (i.e. you have an idea what ingredient does what to a recipe, or how temperatures affect a recipe), you can start to reverse engineer bakes you really like to recreate them. I’ve been able to recreate a lighter version of a passion-orange-guava cake I once had just by adding some reduced juice concentrate to both the cake and frosting, and I’ve added/reduced butter and eggs to either crisp up or soften my cookies. Sometimes, you may even encounter flavors you really want to try!
  10. Finally, don’t be stressed out about it: Easier said than done, but at the end of the day, it’s just a bake. No one’s died, a few people have cried, but it’s not the end of the world if it doesn’t come out. Just readjust and retry!

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