In my opinion, one of the most misunderstood hobbies is baking. Unlike cooking, where chefs can experiment with relatively dier consequences, in baking if you try to diverge away from the recipe and simply “make it up as you go along” the results will rarely be successful.
As more bakers rise into stardom, more of us are inspired daily to get into our kitchens and create. Whether baking beginners or daily indulgers we’re all busy making something, and Instagram and Bloglovin are with us all the way to prove it.
However, social media show us the successful bakes. Very rarely do we ever see the failures, which is fine, I understand, but it’s important we’re all accepting that these failures happen, and perhaps even more importantly, show that we’re not ashamed of them.
If you encounter a disaster in the kitchen, don’t be hard on yourself. Baking is a science, it’s not easy and mistakes are sometimes inevitable. I am by no means an expert, in fact I’d still class myself a beginner as there are so many bakes I’m yet to make. However when I do bake what I’m confident with, believe me mistakes still happen. Sometimes it’s my fault, and I’ll put my hands up and admit that, other times, it’s an environmental factor like the weather outside, or because I’m using a new oven. These things are sadly out of my control.
“The moment you take the time to understand just why sugar and butter are so important is the moment you become a baker”
I guess what I’m trying to say is that being a beginner or expert doesn’t even come into it as some of the best bakers in the world have been known to have a bad day in the kitchen. What is important though is understanding what the mistakes are, as by being aware of them means you’re more inclined to avoid them.
Below you will read my Top 5 Mistakes to Avoid When Baking and these apply to almost every bake I know. I hope you find these useful so please do let me know what you think in the comments below.
Rushing through the recipe
A mistake I made most often when starting out was rushing through the recipe and not actually taking the time to read the steps. I was so focused on the end result that I forgot to understand and learn the process. It’s the latter stage that I truly believe take you from one level to the next. The moment you take the time to understand just why sugar and butter are so important is the moment you become a baker.
Not all recipes are laid out in chronological order so reading it through prior to getting started may highlight something vital. There have been times where I got all prepared for a bake, only to read half way down that I needed to chill the mixture in the fridge for 24 hours and let me tell you that sucked!!
Ahh the lazy baker. Don’t be ashamed we’ve all been there. That little voice tells us that we know what we’re doing, because we’ve made this 20 times already. “I know what 200g of sugar looks like”, “What does a little extra flour matter anyway?”, “That 20g over on the butter isn’t that big a deal right?” WRONG. Nobody knows what 200g of sugar looks like, add a little extra flour to a brownie and you have a cake, and add too much butter to a cake and you have a sinking, shrinking grease muffin. Don’t say I didn’t warn you.
If you struggle with scales or heaven forbid you find yours broken, check out this article on GoodtoKnow.co.uk which converts all grams to cups. Oh and also make sure you have your own set of Measuring Cups for this moment.
Not preheating the oven
Forgetting to preheat the oven isn’t the biggest mistake you could make, but forgetting to do so is not an efficient use of your time, especially if you’re being timed. The time it takes for your oven to preheat will obviously depend on whether you’re using a fan or gas oven as well as the heat you’re preheating it to, but on average it takes a fan oven 10 minutes to reach 170 degrees C.
Sometimes a recipe will ask you to preheat the oven mid-way through a bake, and this will be because your creation may need to rest prior to going in the oven. Others however ask you to do so straight away so it has reached the desired temperature at the exact time it needs to be baked. Take cake for example, there’s a good reason preheating the oven comes first as raising agents get to work straight away. Therefore to ensure a good rise, your cake mixture should go into the oven the moment it’s ready.
BONUS TIP FOR CAKES:
Never open your oven mid bake. Letting a sudden rush of cold air into the oven will cause it to deflate and sink. I always wait till 5 minutes before my timer to check.
Not timing your bake
Ovens do vary so it’s important to get to know the oven you’re working with, or at the very least ensure you’re watching your bake more consciously as it cooks. Regardless of all this, timing your bake accurately is a huge must in my opinion and I speak from experience. On quite a few occasions I’ve forgotten to set the timer on a bake only to realise half way through and guess what time I had left. On these occasions, when removed from the oven, although my cake tester came out deceivingly clean, my cakes sunk.
Some bakes require more attentive timing than others, such as macarons, however timing everything with equal attention is always recommended. If you tend to walk away from the kitchen during baking, use the timer on your phone so you always have your eye on the time.
Impatience – Not letting it cool down or rest
Perhaps my biggest vice and one that catches me out more than too often is impatience. Letting your cakes cool before icing or storing, and leaving your macarons to rest and form feet before going into the oven are two huge examples, but there are many more. Not many people realise the importance of being patient as surely “Once it’s baked nothing can go wrong?” Think again. Take cupcakes for instance, not letting them cool fully before storing will cause the heat inside them to condensate and peel away from the cases. It’s at this point that they also form a sticky top and potentially shrink. So many disasters from a single mistake.
It can take up to 4 hours or longer for bakes to fully cool so if you can’t control yourself, leave the house or start a Game of Thrones marathon to keep yourself occupied.
I hope you’ve found these useful. If you have any more examples of mistakes you know to avoid please share in the comments below.