The baking season is upon us. Time for cookies, desserts for parties, chocolate for treats…and so much more. But, what happens when you end up with a problem? Check out these common problems and their solutions. Happy Baking…
If your sticky ingredients, like honey, molasses, or syrup leave your utensils a mess…try this first. Coat the measuring cup or spoon with cooking spray before you measure and the sticky ingredient will slide right out. You’ll also have the right amount, and cleanup will be a lot easier.
If you make the mistake of using dry and liquid measuring cups interchangeably…you could have inaccurate measurements and not a perfect baked cake. Did you know liquid measuring cups are usually glass or plastic with a handle and a spout and they allow you to pour the liquid so that it reaches the measurement line without overflowing? Dry measuring cups hold the exact amount and are designed to be leveled with a flat edge. Fill that dry cup with liquid and you have a spill on your hands. Here’s the bigger issue: ounces. Liquid measuring cups indicate that 1 cup equals 8 ounces, but really it means 1 cup of liquid equals 8 fluid ounces. Dry ingredients like flour and sugar vary in weight. For example, 1 cup of all-purpose flour weighs 4.5 ounces, not 8. For dry ingredients, weigh the ingredient or use the dry cup measurement called for in the ingredient list to make sure you get the correct amount.
What happens if you need twice what the recipe calls for, you double the recipe for baked goods, and they don’t turn out quite right? Isn’t twice the amount of everything going to yield twice the size or amount? Not necessarily. Actually, doubling or halving a recipe changes the calculated chemistry of the ingredients and affects the rate at which they cook. You would probably be better off if you made the same recipe in multiple batches.
You need to whip some egg whites, but you forgot to take them out of the refrigerator. Will that still be okay? Well, your meringue won’t form, your cake layers will fall flat, and your soufflés won’t have a lift. Why? Because properly beaten egg whites are voluminous, creamy, and glossy, but they require care. You probably already know that you first must separate whites from yolks carefully; a speck of yolk can prevent the whites from whipping up fully. After separating, you will want to let the whites stand for a few minutes. When they’re at room temperature they whip up better than when cold. Whip with clean, dry beaters at high speed just until stiff peaks form, meaning until the peak created when you lift the beater out of the bowl stands upright. If you overbeat, the whites will turn grainy or dry, or they may separate. When the whites are perfectly beaten, gently fold them into the cake batter or soufflé base. Beat them in too hard and you’ll deflate them.
Do you measure or eyeball cookie dough portions? Unevenly portioned dough bakes at different rates, potentially leaving you with some cookies that are overdone while others are still soft and doughy. A small ice-cream scoop is a helpful tool if you bake cookies often. It allows you to portion the dough quickly and evenly.
How do you cut your brownies? With a standard stainless-steel knife? Do you get edges that are mangled and not very attractive? Try using a plastic knife or thin silicone spatula. Both lack sharp edges for the brownie bits to cling to, so they cut more smoothly without picking up crumbs. Best part, they work even if you’re cutting brownies that haven’t completely cooled. Another plus…plastic and silicone won’t damage pans like metal knives will.
We’ve probably all taken our cheesecake out of the oven and had a crack running right through the center. Do you know why that happened? You beat cheesecake batter until it was fluffy. Seriously.
Excess beating causes the mixture to get really fluffy. Then when it bakes and cools, cracks show up. Another thing…make sure all ingredients are at room temperature before stirring them together. Also, don’t bake it until it looks done. If it still looks underdone, it’s time to turn off the oven. When it comes to cheesecakes, the center is actually the 3-inch area in the middle of the cake, and it should slightly jiggle when you shake the pan to test doneness.
Can you microwave butter to soften it? Not a good idea for cookies or cakes…as cookies spread too much and cakes will be too dense. It’s definitely better to let it stand at room temperature for 30 to 45 minutes to get the right consistency. Try to speed the process significantly by cutting butter into tablespoon-sized portions and letting it stand at room temperature.
If it’s too soft, the butter makes your cookie dough more like batter and it will spread too much as it bakes and lose shape. Butter that’s too soft also won’t cream properly with sugar, and creaming is essential to creating fluffy, tender cakes.
Can you boil low-fat milk products? Not really, as the milk curdles or “breaks,” giving you grainy mac and cheese, ice cream, or pudding. You can boil cream…just not other milk products. You will need to cook lower-fat dairy products to a temperature of 180° or less. Use a clip-on thermometer to get the correct temp or stabilize milk with starch, like cornstarch or flour, if you want to bring it to a boil, The starch will prevent curdling and it’ll thicken the milk, too.
You overheat chocolate and now you have a grainy or scorched mess. What do you do? Remember to melt your chocolate slowly, stirring often. If you are using the microwave, proceed cautiously, stopping every 20 to 30 seconds to stir. If using a double boiler, make sure the water is simmering, not boiling. It’s very easy to ruin chocolate, and there is no road back. Also, be careful not to get any water droplets in the chocolate. It will not melt properly.