How to be a better baker
Whether you pride yourself on your baking skills or you're an amateur who's just learning the ropes, there's always room for improvement. Baking can be fickle and complicated, subject to changes in climate or altitude.
But, beyond the factors out of your control, there are universal truths that will help you hone your skills.
In order to do this, we consulted our resident food blogger, who has made it her goal to constantly get better at baking. After months of trial and error, she has discovered a handful of methods to create a better product.
Based on her recommendations, here are our tips for bettering your baking, from ingredients to final product.
1. Weigh your ingredients precisely
Above all else, we recommend investing in a digital scale if you want to improve your baked goods; out of all the changes you can make, this will have the most significant effect. Baking is an exact science, so you need to exactly measure your ingredients in order to get the best possible product.
Best of the best: If you're serious about baking and you want to be accurate down to the gram, the My Weigh Bakers Math can't be beat. It's a more substantial financial commitment, but it's worth it for the precision and durability you're getting.
Best bang for your buck: If you haven't bought a kitchen scale because you don't want to drop too much cash, we highly recommend the Ozeri Pronto. At less than $10, this is an invaluable tool for improving the quality of your baked goods, though it's not quite as precise as higher-end models.
2. Improvise better, if you must
If you lack the kitchen space for a digital scale or if you're convinced you can measure accurately enough without one, then you'll need to perfect your technique in order to make sure you're getting the appropriate amounts of flour and sugar.
Flour: When you're putting flour into a measuring cup, you should never dip the cup directly into the bag; instead, gently add flour spoonful by spoonful, without pushing down. You want it to be light and airy. In order to level off the top of the cup, use an offset spatula.
Sugar: White sugar is the easiest to measure because you can just pour it directly into your measuring cup and use an offset spatula to take extra off the top. Brown sugar is a bit more involved; unlike flour, you do want to push this down into the cup so that's it's compacted as much as possible.
Measuring cup set: We prefer metal measuring cups because they're more durable; the numbers on plastic measuring cups often rub off over time. The last thing you want is to spend time carefully measuring, only to have used the wrong size. Our favorite is this set of cups and spoons from 1Easylife.
Offset spatula: This is a multipurpose baking tool, as it's also ideal for icing cakes. This set from LEGERM has three offset spatulas of various sizes, so they'll fit any need you might have.
3. Sift all powder ingredients
Before adding flour, baking soda, baking powder, or any other ingredient with a powder-like consistency to your mixing bowl, we highly recommend sifting first. This helps prevent clumping, which can negatively affect the consistency of your final product.
Flour sifter: A flour sifter is the best kitchen tool for sifting powdery ingredients -- that's literally what it was made for. This Bellemain Stainless Steel Sifter is easy to use and has a classic appearance.
Mesh strainer: If you don't have the cabinet space for a special tool, you can use a mesh strainer in lieu of a sifter, which can double as a strainer for pasta noodles, beans, etc. We like this set of strainers from IPOW because the various sizes give you a few useful options.
4. Mix it up
A KitchenAid mixer is a must for those who want to perfect their baked goods. We know they're pricey, heavy, and bulky, but they do the job better than any inferior stand or hand mixer, and through our testing, we stand firm that a KitchenAid is a baker's best friend. If you have the budget and the counter space, here are our favorite models:
Best of the best: For those who want to invest in the absolute top-of-the-line KitchenAid option -- if you're going to get one, why not get the best available? -- then check out the Pro Line. This is a professional-grade mixer, and it boasts a 7-quart capacity so you can churn out baked goods like never before.
Best bang for your buck: Though the KitchenAid Artisan Tilt-Head is affordable, it doesn't sacrifice quality; it's still a state-of-the-art mixing machine. It comes with all the attachments you'll need, and there are so many color choices you're sure to find one to match your kitchen's color scheme.
5. Get ready to bake
Baking isn't just about getting all your ingredients perfectly measured and mixed; the bakeware is almost equally important. Different materials conduct heat differently, so take this into account when selecting your implement. Metal is good for high heat and anything that needs a crispy exterior (like pizza crusts, cookies, and bread); glass and ceramic heat evenly, making them ideal for brownies, rolls, and pies; silicone is a poor heat conductor that should only be used for light-colored muffins, bread, cakes, and similar (think angel food cake).
Metal bakeware: Our favorite metal bakeware set is Rachel Ray's 10-Piece Steel Set, which includes every size and shape of baking vessel we could possibly want. They're durable and nonstick, so they check all our boxes.
Glass bakeware: The best thing about this Pyrex 5-Piece Glass Bakeware Set? Each piece has a lid, so it doubles as its own container, making transport easy. Plus, Pyrex is one of the best names in the game.
6. Do a temperature check
Even though your oven displays its internal temperature, don't trust it to be accurate. An oven thermometer will let you get your oven to precisely the temperature called for in your recipe, which is essential for producing the best possible baked goods.
Oven thermometer: These are cheap and take up next to no space, so if you really want to improve your baking, there's no excuse for not having one. Rubbermaid makes an extremely affordable model that takes precise measurements and is easy to read.
7. Cool it down
We know it's easy to get overeager and want to pull your baked goods off the sheet or out of the pan as soon as they leave the oven, but like most things in life, they'll turn out better if you practice patience. Letting your products fully cool before you move them onto a plate or into a container will give you a better result that's less likely to crack or crumble.
Cooling racks: While you leave your cakes, pies, loaves, and cookies to cool within their bakeware, it's best to set the pan on a cooling rack so that the bottom doesn't stay warm enough to continue cooking. After a few minutes, you can transfer the product out of its container and directly onto the rack in order to continue the cooling process. The Kitchenatics model is our personal favorite.
Sarah Pitts is a writer for BestReviews. BestReviews is a product review company with a singular mission: to help simplify your purchasing decisions and save you time and money. BestReviews never accepts free products from manufacturers and purchases every product it reviews with its own funds.
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