Baking Basics – Setting the Stage

Here’s the list of some simple steps that will help you make the most of your recipes and get the desired results every time. You might think it’s too much work before you even start baking! Trust me, these work. They help you plan your time and efforts better. No more crying foul over missing an ingredient or missing a step!

Baking Basics - Setting the stage 1

  • Read the recipe thoroughly. It’s a map. Use it wisely.
    • Some recipes may look long but might be straightforward and easy. Some recipes may look short but require some skills that you may be new to.
    • Notice the difficulty level and the time (both prep and baking).
    • Any terms or techniques you don’t understand in the recipe? Google it, talk to other bakers/friends who might know about it.
    • Check for any footnotes or do’s and don’ts mentioned in the recipe.
    • Some recipes are full-on projects – a lot of active work and techniques. Some recipes may take longer overall but not a lot of active work (like chilling dough between folds for a puff pastry dough). Some recipes might have components that you can make days in advance. Some recipes may involve a lot of assembly of components before serving. Plan accordingly.
    • Understand the storage of final baked items – some may need refrigeration and some would stay good at your counter.
  • Check the list of ingredients
    • Do you have all of them? Are they available to you locally? Would you need to substitute anything?
    • Punctuations are important in the list of ingredients. “1 cup chopped walnuts” is different from “1 cup walnuts, chopped”.
  • Check the equipment needed
    • Bowls, hand mixer, stand mixer, wooden spoons, spatulas, whisks, sifter, cups & spoons – keep them handy, clean and plugged in.
  • Are there any do-ahead tasks?
    • Check if ingredients need to be at room temperature. Is there any chocolate that needs melting or any nuts that need roasting? Any fruits that need to be chopped or pureed?
    • Know when to pre-heat the oven.
    • Prepping your pans is equally important – with parchment paper or rubbing with butter and coating with flour, or using a non-stick spray.
  • Weigh your ingredients
    • Weighing is always more accurate than using cups & spoons. They give consistent results every time. (Use this conversion chart for reference)
    • Weigh out everything in separate bowls/cups. This way you’ll not miss out on anything or add anything twice.
  • Clean up everything else
    • Apart from your equipment and ingredients, clear your work surface of everything else. Trust me, it makes the process so much easier and smoother.
  • Go through the recipe once again
    • Check if you have all the ingredients at right temperatures, the oven is pre-heated, your pans are prepped.
    • Understand the order of steps in the process.  Also, look for the mixing process at different stages – butter and sugar have to be creamed for few minutes until light and fluffy, how flour must be lightly folded in, egg whites should be folded gently so as to not lose any air, whats the right way to gauge if the bread is kneaded enough.
  • Bake away!!
    • Most recipes with leavening agents (example, baking soda) start reacting as soon as it comes in contact with acids in batter, so the batter must go into a hot oven as soon as possible. Hence the preparation of pans and weighing on ingredients beforehand is an important step.
  • Know how to check for doneness
    • A toothpick inserted in cakes or the golden brown edges of cookies or even the smell is a better indicator than your timer.

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