When it comes to baking, even the most tried and true recipes can still flop. Usually it’s a combination of little things you may not be aware of that add up to a recipe disaster.
One such issue often arises when measuring dry ingredients. Always use the spoon and level method to measure your flour (and any other dry ingredient). This will ensure you don’t pack in too much and end up with a dry baked good.
1. Measure Your Dry Ingredients Properly
Whether you’re baking cookies or preparing a casserole, accurate measurements are essential to getting the results you want. Using measuring cups and spoons is one of the easiest ways to ensure that you get the right amounts of ingredients. These sets typically come with a range of graduated sizes in both imperial (1/2 cup, 1/3 cup and 1/4 cup) and metric (50, 75 and 250 mL) measurements.
For dry ingredients, such as flour and sugar, you should scoop them into the measuring cup rather than pouring them in, and make sure to pack the ingredient firmly into the measuring cup. This method helps to eliminate air pockets, which could change the overall texture and result of your baked goods. Brown sugar should be packed especially firmly into the measuring cup. This will help to prevent the sugar from being sifted back and forth over the top of the cup when you’re trying to level it off.
Liquids should be measured in a clear glass measuring cup that has a liquid measurement spout and measurement lines. When you’re measuring a liquid, be sure to bend down and look at the liquid from eye level to ensure that it’s EXACTLY at the required measurement line.
Butter, sour cream, yogurt and other semi-liquid ingredients should be measured in a dry measuring cup because they’re too thick to be accurately measured in a liquid measuring cup. Spoon these ingredients into the measuring cup, and then use a knife to carefully level off the top.
2. Keep Your Eggs at Room Temperature
Many baking recipes call for room temperature eggs. This is because, in most of the world (though not all), eggs aren’t refrigerated. Refrigeration, especially frequent opening and closing of the fridge door, can cause the egg temperature to fluctuate. This causes the egg’s protective layer to break down. It also allows bacteria to grow faster, making the egg go bad more quickly.
In America, commercial eggs must go through a washing and sanitizing process before being sold in stores. This removes the natural protective layer and makes the egg more susceptible to salmonella. This is why American eggs must be refrigerated.
But for home-raised or fresh-from-the-farm eggs, you can keep them at cool room temperature without fear of salmonella or other bacteria. Just make sure they aren’t exposed to direct sunlight and that they are stored in a cool dry place. If you are worried, a light coating of mineral oil can help keep your eggs safe.
If you do need to warm up your eggs, run a large bowl of water (not hot or scalding) over the eggs until they’re room temperature. Then, test them with your fingertips and use as directed. This method is also much faster than running cold water over the eggs. It’s a good idea to do this before you start baking, though, to ensure that the eggs are room temperature when you need them.
3. Scrape the Bottom of Your Mixing Bowl
When a recipe tells you to scrape down the bowl, don’t be tempted to skip this step. It’s not just housekeeping — it’s a vital part of making sure that all the ingredients are mixed evenly. Leaving a film of butter and sugar, or flour and oil on the sides of your mixer can result in flat cakes and cookies that don’t bake evenly.
To prevent this, be sure to scrape down your mixing bowl every time you add a new ingredient. This will make it easier for the next batch of cookies or batter to mix in with the previous ones. You can also use a flexible bowl scraper to help you reach all the corners of your bowl.
A good-quality silicone spatula is another handy tool that can help you get to the bottom of your bowl and scrape up any clinging ingredients without scratching the side of your bowl. And if you want to avoid this mess altogether, try using a silicone baking mat or parchment paper in your pan instead.
Whether you’re a self-proclaimed baking master or a total novice, these tips can help ensure that your next batch of cookies or cake turns out perfectly. So, the next time you’re making something in the kitchen, keep these helpful baking hacks in mind — they’ll save you a lot of frustration, stress, and possibly even a failed treat or two.
4. Store Your Cookies With a Piece of Bread
When cookies are kept in a sealed container, they start to dry out over time. This is because whatever moisture is in the cookies starts to evaporate, and the sugars and starches solidify. One easy way to slow this process is by adding a piece of bread to the container with the cookies.
Using a slice of bread as a storage hack is a great idea for cookie enthusiasts who bake a large batch and need to keep the extras fresh until everyone can enjoy them. According to Pure Wow, putting a slice of white sandwich bread in the same container with the cookies keeps the cookies soft and fresh by leaching out some of the moisture in the cookies and redistributing it.
This trick works best with cookies that are not too fragile, like chocolate chip cookies or peanut butter cookies. It’s also best if you use a slice of neutral-tasting bread for this purpose, as it won’t transfer its own flavors to the cookies.
This baking/cooking tip is especially handy if you’re handing out cookies to friends or family members. The added moisture will ensure that the treats are fresh and chewy when they arrive. It’s a great way to share your love of baking with others! You can also try this trick with other types of foods that tend to go hard over time, such as apples or pears.