As part of our A Better Baker series, I’m sharing my top ten tips to help up your baking game. From cakes to cookies and brownies to bundts, learn how to make the perfect desserts every time.

Okay, so you’ve recently started baking up a storm but you still can’t figure out why your cookies are greasy and your cakes keep deflating. You’re constantly wondering if your butter is too cold and if your oven is too hot. Not to worry! Read on for a roundup up my ten top baking tips that are tried and true by bakers everywhere. Follow these guidelines and you’ll be a master baker in no time!

1. KNOW YOUR OVEN

If there is one thing I’ve learned in all my years of baking, it’s that no two ovens are created equal. Every oven runs differently and no two are the same. Some run hot. Others run cold. To take the guesswork out of figuring out your oven temperature, invest in a simple oven thermometer. Position it on the center rack of your oven and adjust your baking temperature as needed. Keep in mind that oven-safe thermometers are relatively inexpensive and do wear out over time. I set a calendar reminder to replace mine once a year. And always, always preheat your oven.

2. USE ROOM TEMPERATURE INGREDIENTS

I share this tip in almost each and every blog post and fairly certain that I must sound like a broken record by now. But this golden rule of baking is critical to finding success with 95% of the recipes you will encounter. Ingredients such as eggs, butter, milk, and yogurt should generally be at room temperature to ensure a smooth batter that bakes evenly. Cold ingredients do not combine well and can lead to a lumpy batter and sinking cakes. Take the butter and dairy items out of the refrigerator and allow them to rest on the counter at room temperature for at least one hour before baking. In a hurry for that cookie fix?? To bring your butter to room temperature faster, cut the butter into cubes. The greater the surface area, the quicker the butter will reach the desired temperature.  Properly softened butter should leave a slight indentation when lightly pressed. The temperature should be around 67-70 degrees. I do not suggest microwaving your butter to speed up the process as most microwaves are so powerful that the result is, well, melted butter. If it is a warm day, place the cubed butter outside in the sunshine for 10 minutes max to help soften it.

3. READ THE RECIPE FROM START FINISH BEFORE YOU BEGIN

This tip sounds reasonable enough, but you would be surprised at how often bakers {myself included!} rush into a recipe only to find out they were supposed to allow time to chill the dough or they are missing a critical ingredient. For best results, read the entire recipe from start to finish and assemble all of your ingredients on the counter top before you begin baking. This ensures you aren’t missing any ingredients and that you have each item ready in advance. There’s an old saying that cooking is an art and baking is a science. Recipes are meant to be followed. If you want to alter a recipe, first bake it following the steps exactly and then make changes to the recipe the second time around.

4. USE QUALITY INGREDIENTS

This goes without saying, but the better your ingredients, the better the taste and quality of your baked goods. There are dozens of different brands of butter, flour, chocolate and sugar and each one varies in terms of the quality of the ingredients. It’s not always true that the most expensive brands are the best quality so take time to experiment with various options to find the ingredients that work best. I’ve listed my favorite brands for each of the basic ingredients below for reference. Not sponsored, just a fan.

Flour: King Arthur Flour, Bob’s Red Mill, Swans Down Cake Flour

Sugar: C & H, Domino, Wholesome Organic Cane Sugar

Butter: Danish Creamery, Kerrygold, Challenge Butter, Trader Joes

Chocolate: Valrhona, Guittard, Ghirardelli

Vanilla Extract: Rodelle Gourmet Vanilla Extract

5. STOCK UP ON THE ESSENTIALS

Baking doesn’t require fancy ingredients. Some of my favorite recipes are made in just one bowl with a wooden spoon. But once you’ve been bitten by the baking bug, you may decide to invest in some quality equipment to make your life easier. Pro-tip: Get yourself a stand mixer. Its pretty much the gold standard of kitchen tools. You can’t go wrong with an expertly crafted appliance that mixes perfect cookie dough, whips the fluffiest meringue and stirs silky smooth buttercream. A good quality mixer will last you for years to come. Check out my list below for the other baking essentials I use on the daily.

baking pans + cookie sheets

digital scale

measuring cups +spoons

whisks, large + small

heat resistant spatulas

silpat baking mats

wooden spoon

mixing bowls

sifter

cookie scoop

cooling racks

offset spatula

6. KNOW YOUR BAKING HACKS 

Below are a few go-to baking hacks to keep in your back pocket just in case you run out of ingredients or want to make a substitution in a recipe. These can be a lifesaver if you don’t want to make an extra trip to the store.

To make buttermilk: Pour one cup of whole milk. Remove 1 TBSP of the milk. Add in 1 TBSP of lemon juice or apple cider vinegar. Allow the mixture to sit for 10 minutes or until curdled. Stir with a fork to combine and use as directed.

To make cake flour: Measure one cup of flour. Remove 2 TBSP of the flour. Replace with 2 TBSP cornstarch. Sift to combine well.

To make egg substitute {flax egg}: Combine 1 TBSP ground flaxseed with 3 TBSP warm water. Mix well in a blender until creamy.

To make cream: Combine 1 cup whole milk with 1 TBSP melted butter.

Generally speaking, one cup of full fat buttermilk equals one cup of sour cream equals one cup of greek yogurt. In most cases, you can use them interchangeably without affecting the recipe.

7. DO NOT OVER MIX

This tip should really be numero uno on the list. Beginning bakers often like to arm wrestle with their dough or stir a batter a few too many times for fear that it’s not quite done. But over working dough and batter affects the texture and volume of your bakes. Too much stirring can cause cakes to crash and muffins to deflate. Unless a recipe instructs you otherwise, be sure to gently mix just until the ingredients are incorporated. This will create light and fluffy cakes, quickbreads and cookies. If a recipe directs you to “cream” the butter and sugars you’ll want to do this using an electric mixer. Alternatively, “folding” a mixture requires you to use a spatula to gently incorporate the batter by hand.

8. MEASURE INGREDIENTS CORRECTLY

I know, I know. You want a cookie and you want it now. You can’t really be bothered with measuring the ingredients to a T and you don’t own a kitchen scale yet. But measuring matters people, and too much or too little of an ingredient can make or break a recipe. For best results, we would all use a kitchen scale to accurately weigh ingredients. If only this were a perfect world. But since so many of our recipes are written in cups and spoons, weighing flours and sugars isn’t always practical. Not to worry. This simple trick can make all the difference. To measure your dry ingredients, especially flour, first use a fork to fluff the flour in the bag or container. Then use a large table spoon to scoop the flour into the measuring cup. Over fill it just slightly.  Finally, take the back of a table knife and level the top of the flour. tah-dah! It’s that easy.

9. KEEP YOUR LEAVENERS FRESH

Leaveners are those ingredients that are responsible for adding rise and height to your baked goods and include items such as baking powder, baking soda and yeast. These ingredients loose their effectiveness over time and it’s best to replace them every six months or so. To lengthen the lifespan of yeast, it can be stored in the refrigerator.

10. STOCK UP ON PARCHMENT PAPER

I go through parchment paper like it’s going out of style. Parchment helps with easy removal of cakes and cookies from their pans and makes for easy clean up too. A single layer of parchment can keep cookies from spreading too much in the oven can even be shaped to use as muffin liners or piping bags in a pinch. It really is a baker’s best friend so be sure to add it to your grocery list!

And there you have it bakers, all the tips and tricks I’ve learned over time that will help YOU be a better baker too. Bookmark this post or “pin” it so you have it handy for easy reference.

Happy baking friends!

If you like this post on the Top 10 Tips To Become A Better Baker, you may also like:

Classic Chocolate Chip Cookies & Five Tips for Perfect Cookies Every Time

A Better Baker : All About Chocolate

Beginner’s Guide to French Macarons

Ten Best Cookbooks for Holiday Gifts

 

 

 

 

 

  • Reply
    Kris - your neighbor
    March 24, 2020 at 10:43 pm

    I am always out of heavy whipping cream – what effect does the butter have on the milk? Do I need to whip or does it naturally thicken the milk on its own…?

    • Reply
      Heather Mubarak
      March 31, 2020 at 6:15 am

      Hi Kris! This hack works because the butter adds the fat component that is present in heavy cream but not in regular milk. You simply stir together the melted butter with the milk and you have a suitable substitute for heavy cream. It will not whip up into peaks like normal whip cream but it works for adding in liquid form to a recipe.

Leave a Reply