Baking is as much a science as it is an art. Unlike cooking, there’s a much narrower margin for error when you bake: even the smallest mistake at any stage of the process could cost you dearly.
For example, when you make grilled chicken wings, you don’t have to stick to the exact measurements of a marinade recipe, and you can adjust seasoning as you go.
With baking, it is important to follow the steps accurately, as it is quite hard to correct the common baking mistakes midway through the cooking process. Most novice bakers don’t even know they’ve messed up until the finished product is already out of the oven.
To keep from wasting time and precious ingredients, we’ve compiled a list of the five most common baking mistakes that newbie bakers make so that you can learn from them without having to experience them yourself:
Starting Without Reading the Recipe Through
In their eagerness to get some fresh-baked goods, a surprising number of novice bakers tend to start mixing ingredients in a bowl without reading the recipe fully. This can be costly, especially if they don’t have a crucial ingredient or piece of equipment on hand.
It’s true that you can bake almost anything if you have basic pantry ingredients lying around. These include all-purpose flour, butter, sugar, and eggs. However, certain recipes require certain special ingredients that you may not have on hand unless you’ve been baking for a while. Baking powder, baking soda, shortening, and yeast are a few examples of these. In some cases, the ingredient in question is impossible to substitute for another one.
The same is true for equipment. Certain recipes will require the use of a stand mixer and a food processor—your trusty whisk and hand mixer simply won’t cut it. Make sure that you read the recipe all the way through and thoroughly before gathering your ingredients.
Forgetting an Ingredient
Some recipes for baking call for a long list of ingredients, which is why it’s completely possible for a baker to forget to incorporate one. This can happen even if you have the recipe right in front of you! Forgetting to add even just one ingredient can have an impact on the taste, texture, and even appearance of your final product.
An easy way to avoid this is by setting up a mise en place before starting. Mise en place is a French culinary term that means “everything in its place”. It involves preparing all of the ingredients needed in the recipe ahead of time and gathering them all in one place. Any ingredients that require measuring and weighing should be measured and weighed out; ideally, you’ll want to lay your mise out sensibly, like putting ingredients in order of use according to the recipe.
Forgetting to Preheat the Oven
One of the most common mistakes that first-time bakers tend to make is putting their food in a cold oven. This usually results in baked goods that don’t rise properly or undercooked food, among other tragedies.
Preheating means giving your oven time to rise to the specified temperature. It prevents temperature fluctuations from affecting your food and cooks it more evenly. In the case of cookies, for instance, you want the butter to melt at the same rate that the eggs and flour in the dough firm up. In a cold oven, the butter will start to melt before the dough has that chance. Not preheating the oven will effectively ruin your cookies – a common baking mistake
When baking, your first step should always be to preheat the oven. Most ovens usually take 20 minutes to achieve the desired internal temperature. You can just leave it alone while you prepare your ingredients.
Baking Soda vs. Baking Powder
Just because they both have “baking” in the name and appear identical at first glance doesn’t mean that you can directly substitute baking soda for recipes that call for baking powder, and vice versa.
Baking soda is also known by its chemical name, sodium bicarbonate. It’s a base that creates a chemical reaction with acids in baking applications. In simple terms, it causes dough to rise.
On the other hand, Baking powder contains baking soda, as well as an acidifying agent known as cream of tartar. Baking powder also incorporates cornstarch in its mix. Like baking soda, it too causes dough to rise.
Using baking powder and baking soda will affect the texture and lightness of your finished product. Some recipes call for only one, or both. However, directly substituting one for the other can have a big effect on flavor. Your baked good may not taste the way it’s supposed to, so be sure to avoid this common baking mistake.
Cooking Meats Straight From The Refrigerator
Cooking meats, whether it is pork loin, beef, or lamb right after it’s taken out of the fridge can result in uneven heating. In most cases, this will result in undercooked meat – on of the most common baking mistakes. To avoid this, you will need to either increase the cooking time by a few minutes.
However, the best way is to simply let the meat stand at room temperature for 20-30 minutes prior to cooking. This will allow the meat to get to room temperature, and is the best way to cook it.
Also, to save time, while the meat is resting, you can prepare the other ingredients.
Cooking is not complicated, but simply requires some time to practice to avoid these baking mistakes. If you are starting out in cooking, please follow these tips to help you with the process. As with any other skill, the best way to get better at baking is to keep on practicing.