Baking is the technique of cooking food by dry heat, usually in an oven, but also in hot ashes, or on hot stones. The key to successful baking is getting the proper ratio between the oven temperature and the baking time. This ratio is determined by the size or weight of the item to be baked. The larger and more dense the item, the longer it will take to cook; the smaller and less dense, the less time. Baking is a skill that anyone can learn. With a little practice and patience, you will be able to read and follow a recipe like a pro. When you carefully follow the instructions on the recipe and take care to measure your ingredients correctly, you will end up with beautiful and tasty baked goods, usually at a fraction of the cost of buying them.
There are endless tools available on the market for the home baker. While many of these tools may make baking a bit easier there are a few gadgets you truly need. A good mixing bowl, a wooden spoon, rolling pin, dry and liquid measuring cups, measuring spoons, an electric mixer (hand or stand), and some baking sheets and pans should do the trick.
Tips for successful baking:
Baking is a little bit like a science project going on in the kitchen with all kinds of fun and interesting chemical reactions taking place. Most baked goods are nothing more than flour, sugar, a fat (like butter or oil), eggs, a moistener (like water or milk), and leaveners (like baking soda, baking powder, or yeast). But just think about the endless possibilities you can create with these few ingredients! The more you understand the chemical reactions that take place with these ingredients when you add heat and the more prepared you are, the better at baking you will be. Here are some things to keep in mind when making your favorite baked good:
Read the recipe thoroughly. Be sure you have the time, ingredients, and utensils, you will need. Make sure you understand the terms and techniques required to complete the recipe and the order of procedure.
Follow the recipe closely. Most recipes for baked goods have you add ingredients in a certain order and in a certain way. For instance, most cake and cookie recipes tell you to 'cream' the butter and sugar together before adding the other ingredients. This is necessary for the product to rise, giving it a light and delicate texture. If you skip this step, you could end up with a coarse and dense product. It won't necessarily be ruined but it won't be the masterpiece you could make by following the instructions. It is a good idea once you finish a step to double check it and make sure nothing was omitted.
Gather necessary equipment and ingredients. For best results, use the pan size the recipe specifies.
Use correct measuring tools. Use standard dry measures for dry ingredients such as flour, sugar, cocoa, brown sugar, cornmeal, etc. Use standard measuring spoons for amounts less than 1/4 cup (4 tablespoons). Use a standard liquid measuring cups for liquids such as water, oil, milk, honey, or corn syrup.
Check oven. Make sure the racks are in the right place for the pans and recipe. It is usually preferable to place the item in the center of the oven to allow even distribution of heat. Preheat the oven as the recipe directs-allow 10 minutes for your oven to reach the temperature specified.
Measure ingredients accurately
Properly place pan(s) in the oven. Pans should not touch each other or the oven sides. Do not place pans on racks directly below or above another pan.
Do not open the oven door during baking. Use the oven light and window to see how things are going. When the product is finished baking, remove the pan(s) carefully from the oven using oven mitts or hot pads.
Cool properly. Follow the recipe directions for cooling before removing the product from the pans.
Benefits of Baking:
Many baked goods available in the store are highly processed and include a lot of ingredients. Baking at home gives you the power to control exactly what goes into your cookies, cakes, or breads. You can choose whole grain flours or heart healthy fats to make your home baked goods more nutritious than those you can buy in the store. Buying the ingredients for a baked item is also generally much cheaper than buying baked items at the grocery store. And who doesn't love the smell of fresh baked cookies wafting through their house?
Best foods to Bake:
The list here is truly endless but don't forget that it is not only sweets and breads that can be baked. Chicken, fish, meats, vegetables, casseroles, even fruits can also be prepared using the baking method.