The science of baking

How do you get your baked goods to come out just right? Science! Baking is trial and error, followed by repetition. Here are a few tips to make sure your baked goods come out great each time.

Measuring Ingredients

To measure dry ingredients, you’ll want a set of measuring cups meant for dry ingredients. My favorite dry measuring cups are from Progressive. This set comes with everything from 2C to 1/32 tsp. They also come in more sizes, like a 3/4 C measurer. Makes measuring faster!

Now to the technique. For almost all dry ingredients, you should start with a light and fluffy stock. Before flour is shipped, it is sifted, but during shipping the flour settles. So if your flour seems densely packed, use a fork to fluff the bag. Or if you have a sifter, you can sift the flour before you measure to help get just the right amount of flour. Sprinkle in the dry ingredient into the cup measurer with a spoon and level off the top with a knife.

For liquids, you’ll want a nice level surface and a 2 C or 1 C measure. I like the Pyrex ones. If you’re trying to measure viscous liquids, like honey or syrup, you can grease the cup measure with butter or oil so that it falls out of the cup easily.

My new favorite way to measure ingredients is by mass. Once you have the density of a certain ingredient, you can just weigh it in a bowl. For example, 1 cup of all purpose flour is equivalent to 4.2-4.4 oz flour. Luckily for you and I, someone else has already carefully measured the densities of flour and sugar and made handy calculators.

Know your air

If it’s a wet day, tread lightly on your flour. It can be a rainy day in Seattle, a humid summer day in Hong Kong, or a foggy night in San Francisco. If the air is wet, your flour will trap more moisture, which will change your dough. This is especially important for breads. So if you’re baking on a wet day, you should add a little less flour than usual and ramp up until the dough has the right consistency.

Know your oven

 Hopefully you have a lovely brand new oven that likes to maintain temperature. If you’re unfortunate, like me, you’ll have a crazy oven that thinks being set to 350°F means 450°F. So if you’re moving into a new place, make sure you buy a thermometer to monitor your oven’s consistency. Trust me, it’s worth it…It’s much better than burning your fiance’s birthday cake.

Build your arsenal

If you like meringues and cookies, you’ll need a hand mixer or stand mixer as well as a glass or metal bowl. If you obsess over cupcakes or tiny little tea cookies, find yourself a piping tool. If you like fried delicacies, caramels, hard candies, or brittles, you’ll definitely need a good candy thermometer and a cast iron dutch oven. If you live and breath for cake pops, you’ll want an infinite supply of sprinkles, lollipop sticks, and a decorating stand (check out your local JoAnn’s for cakepop decorations). Basically, as you find different types of baking techniques that you love, research what equipment you’ll need to make them well, and find yourself some extra shelf space! If you ever need advice on what to get, just comment and I’ll try to help.

And of course, remember to have fun with your food

Of course, in baking there is also technique. I’ll try my best to cover those specific techniques in the blog postings, but if you ever have questions about a technique, just comment, and I’ll try to help you the best I can!

Enjoy!

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