Nothing warms up a fall or winter gathering quite like a batch of baked goods emerging from a hot oven. While the end result can be the stuff of Instagram fantasies, we know that in reality, baking for your friends and family is often stressful and full of uncertainty. To help you achieve your baking dreams this year, here are 5 awesome tips from baking guru Katie Olsen.
1. Assemble and measure all of your ingredients before you start.
This is an easy way to make sure you have everything you need to make the recipe a success. No more getting halfway through a recipe only to realize you’re missing something crucial like eggs or have an awkwardly small amount of flour. This one tip alone will save you so much time and heartache in the long run!
2. Measure your flour with the spoon and level method.
Scooping flour directly out of the bag can result in baked goods that have too much flour in them and end up too dry. By using the spoon and level method or using a baking scale to weigh your flour, you’ll end up with the perfect amount of flour for the recipe at hand. Remember that baking, unlike cooking, is more chemistry than art, so little tips like this one yield big improvements.
3. Mix wet and dry ingredients separately.
Use one bowl to mix your wet ingredients like oil, sugar, eggs, and vanilla and another bowl to mix your dry ingredients like flour, baking soda, salt, and spices. Mixing them separately and then combining at the end is an easy way to avoid awkward pockets of a potentially overpowering ingredient like salt or cloves.
4. Once you add the flour, don’t over mix your dough!
When flour meets liquid, it begins to form gluten, a 3D network of proteins that gives bread its distinctive chewy texture. While developing gluten is essential for baguettes or pretzels, it’s not a texture you want in sweets like zucchini bread, cupcakes, or cookies. To avoid creating too much gluten in your sweets, mix the flour into the wet ingredients just until it’s incorporated, but not any further.
5. Check your oven temperature.
Did you know that many ovens actually run 5-10 degrees hotter or colder than what the oven temperature gauge says? This means that when you think you’re baking at 350F, you may actually be baking at anywhere between 340F and 360F. Katie recommends investing in a good oven thermometer so you can adjust your oven to the appropriate temperature for the recipe you’re making.
By embracing these 5 principles every time you bake, you’ll be able to make better cakes, cookies, and pies with less stress, worry, and second-guessing—and that means your delicious treats will be perfectly devourable without any going to waste! After all, baking should be about savoring the sweet things in life, not sprinting to the store or burning cookies minutes before guests arrive. We hope these tips help you become the type of baker you’ve always wanted to be this holiday season.
If you make something awesome with your next Imperfect delivery, be sure to tag us @imperfectfoods so we can follow along!
Here are a few holiday recipes to get you started!