The holidays are upon us, and it’s the time of year when we look back at seasons past to reflect upon the great memories created. Many of those memories are so wonderful because they include both family and food.
So, why not take some time this holiday season to continue sharing those good times with loved ones by pulling out your favorite recipes of the season and baking up some sumptuous treats. But, before you get started, it’s always a good idea to refresh your culinary knowledge. Baking really is as much science as art, and each recipe requires its own set of rules.
Here are some of our tried-and-true tips for achieving “baked perfection.”
Read before proceeding. It probably goes without saying… but always begin by thoroughly reading the recipe. This will ensure that you have a complete list of ingredients, are familiar with the techniques and tools needed, and know how much time the process requires from start to finish.
Measure up. Prepare your ingredients by carefully measuring or weighing them to confirm that you have the precise proportions needed for baking. Even a slight error in measurement can mean the difference between a great tasting cake or pie and one that (literally) falls flat.
Ingredients for success. The temperature of ingredients is an essential factor in baking and can significantly influence the texture and appearance of baked goods.
When baking cookies or cakes, eggs and butter should be at room temperature. Not only will this create a smoother batter, but cakes will be fluffier, and cookies will be crunchy around the edges with a chewy center. When preparing brownies or muffins, melt the butter to achieve a moist, decadent texture.
When making biscuits or pastry dough, butter should be as cold as possible. Always make sure to factor in enough time to chill the dough before baking. This will harden the fats in the dough, which helps to maintain the structure of the pastry and create a rich, flaky result.
TIP: Try one of our colorful Northstar refrigerators to chill your dough. These cool fridges look like they belong in the 1950s but offer the modern conveniences and high performance of today.
On the other hand, recipes that contain yeast need to rest at room temperature to rise. A cooled oven is a great place to store resting bread dough. Keep in mind that some bread recipes require two periods of rest and rising before baking.
Take your temperature. Cooking baked items at the correct temperature is a crucial – and often-overlooked factor. Many people assume their ovens are displaying accurate temperature readings, but the truth is each oven is different and temperatures can vary. Invest in an oven thermometer to determine whether you need to adjust your oven settings when baking.
To ensure your oven is up to temperature before baking, allow it to preheat for an additional ten minutes after the indicator signals it has reached temperature. True convection ovens are excellent for baking multiple sheets of cookies. They provide terrific air circulation to ensure that the top rack is the same temperature as the bottom rack – no more burnt cookies on the bottom sheet!
Additionally, opening your oven too frequently while cooking can lower the oven’s temperature, and lengthen cooking time. Only open the door when you think the item is ready to prevent the oven from losing heat and to help ensure an even bake.
TIP: You can make your favorite childhood recipes in cozy fashion with an Elmira Fireview range. Available in three models, this 1890’s styled wood-burning stove includes a fire-viewing window, oven, warming compartment(s), and optional gas side burners.
Level set. When preparing cakes, make sure to level the batter in the pan before placing it in the oven so that it bakes evenly. This will make it easier to layer the cake for decorating and creates a more aesthetically pleasing result.
Get the scoop. For cookies, use an ice cream scoop to portion out cookies that are uniform in size. Fill the scoop with dough, scrape the excess off by using the edge of the bowl, and press and release onto the baking sheet.
Avoid these common baking blunders
Baking requires time and patience to achieve the desired results. Ensure that you create baked goods that are both visually appealing and delicious by avoiding these common mistakes.
Don’t get too heated. A common mistake many people make when baking is overcooking, leading to dryness and a crumbly texture. Keep in mind that food continues to cook for a few minutes after you remove it from the oven. Once the batter or dough has fully set and is a light golden brown, it should be ready to exit the oven and cool.
Do a proper cool down. Resist the temptation to quickly frost or cut baked goods when you remove them from the oven. Cutting into a cake when it is too warm will make it crumble and, and applying icing to a warm cake will cause the icing to melt. Experts recommend waiting at least two hours to cut fudge, brownies or a pie, two to three hours before icing a freshly baked cake and about 30 minutes for cupcakes.
It is easy to forget small details when baking, but you can prepare for success by following these simple baking guidelines to help you whip up holiday goodies that everyone is sure to love… while creating memories for years to come.
Having trouble deciding what to make for the holidays? Check out the Elmira Stove Works Facebook page for great retro recipes!