If you are a beginning baker, you may need a little more than just a recipe to get started. Even experienced bakers can learn from the following tips and tricks that can help ensure that your baked goods turn out perfect every time:
- Read the directions. This may seem simple, but the first thing you must do is gather the ingredients and equipment. Read the recipe all the way through before you start following the first step. This should be done before you start mixing anything; otherwise, you may make it halfway through the recipe before realizing that you're out of eggs. Your baked items will turn out much better if you don't have to improvise. Use the pan size suggested in the recipe; although substitutions are possible, the baked items have the best chance of turning out as intended if you use the right pan. Make sure all supplies you plan to use have been washed and dried so they'll be ready when you need them.
- Use the right ingredients. Always use fresh ingredients. This is especially important when dealing with yeast, as yeast can stop working completely if it is past its shelf life. Store ingredients correctly so that they will stay fresh. Choose the best quality you can find; for example, choose real extracts instead of imitation. Double-check that you have the right kind of flour for the recipe; there are many kinds of flour, and your recipe may not turn out right if you use the wrong kind of flour. Do not try to make substitutions unless you know how the substation will affect the recipe.
- Measure carefully. Too much or too little of any ingredient can drastically change the texture of the finished baked goods.
- Do not over or under-mix. Again, follow the directions exactly with regards to mixing the ingredients. With many baking recipes, it is very important not to under or over-mix the batter or dough, because it can make the baked goods too dense or too airy. Use a kitchen timer or watch the clock if the recipe says to mix for a specific length of time.
- Bake the item correctly. Before baking, be sure to prepare or grease the pans as called for in the recipe. For most baked goods, adjust the oven rack so that it is in the center of the oven, not too high or too low. This is often what causes the bottom of baked goods to become burnt while the top is still doughy. Do not overcrowd the oven, and avoid opening the oven door while it is baking. Still, watch your baked goods carefully through the oven door, to avoid overbaking or underbaking. With most baked items, a toothpick inserted into the center should come out clean when it is fully baked.
- Allow the baked goods to cool. Use a wire rack to let the baked goods cool completely before you try to serve them. Store in clean containers or plastic bags.
Baking is easy, but it can take a few tries to get the hang of it. The most important thing to remember is to follow the recipe as best as you can, and watch the baked goods carefully as they come together.