My Final Baking Mistakes & How to Avoid Them
Mistake #7 – Improper Storage
Once you have taken the time to bake something from scratch, you’ll want to make sure that you keep it at its best. There are four main ways to store baked goods:
At room temperature in a breathable container
At room temperature in a closed container
Different products call for different storage options, and since you’re not baking with preservatives, make sure you choose the right one.
The Fix – Store Your Baked Goods Appropriately
Your recipe should tell you how you should store your baked goods. Generally, breads should be stored loosely covered at room temperature for no more than a day or two.
Any leftovers should be frozen. Many cookies and un-frosted cakes can be stored, sealed, at room temperature for two or three days.
If your cake or cookies contain any ingredients that might spoil – mousses, custard filling, French buttercream frosting, etc – store them in the refrigerator.
Any baked good that you’re going to keep for more than a few days should be stored in the freezer.
Read your recipe, understand how your baked goods should be stored, and then follow directions. If anything, err on the side of caution so you don’t end up having to throw away half of your bread or cake.
For example, after my bread cools, I slice it, wrap it well and then store it in the freezer. That way, I can take out a couple of pieces at a time, put them in the toaster oven for a minute or so, and have bread that tastes as fresh as the day that I made it.
Baking Troubleshooting Guide
This is not a comprehensive list, but this chart should help you diagnose some of the more common baking mistakes.
|The Problem||The Possible Mistakes||The Fixes|
|Bread doesn’t rise||Yeast is dead||Make sure yeast isn’t past its expiration. Proof first in some warm water to make sure it’s alive.|
|Water too hot||Make sure the water is around 100F-115F; water over 140F will kill yeast|
|Too cold in the kitchen||Let dough rise in the oven with the light on—dough needs to rise in a warm place, about 80F or so.|
|Breads too dense||Too little kneading||Knead until the dough is smooth, silky and springy. If you don’t knead enough, your dough won’t form enough gluten, and it won’t rise very high.|
|Rise too short||Give the dough time to rise. A one-rise dough will probably need at least an hour to double in bulk. The second rise (if called for) will probably take at least half an hour to 45 minutes|
|Tunnels in muffins||Over mixing the dough||Muffins should be extremely tender. They are almost the exact opposite of bread—you only want minimal gluten development. When mixing muffin batter, fold the dry ingredients gently into the wet ingredients until just barely combined.|
|Cake never sets up||pH of the batter is too high||If the batter is too alkaline, your cake won’t set. Make sure that your recipe is balanced. If a recipe calls for regular cocoa powder, do not substitute Dutch process or alkalized cocoa, or you run the risk of making pudding cake.|
|Cookies too brown||Oven temperature too high||Make sure your oven temperature is correct. Don’t walk away from cookies. They are so small that they can over-bake in a matter of just a few seconds.|
|Too much sugar||Cut back on sugar just a bit, if close monitoring in the oven doesn’t help.|
|Using the wrong fat||Switch out a little shortening for all or part of the butter. Butter browns more easily than shortening.|
|Baked goods not brown enough||Not enough sugar||Check your measurements; sugar aids in browning|
|Oven too cold||Know your oven and check the temperature. Monitor closely for doneness.|
|Too dry/too crumbly||Not enough sugar||Sugar not only makes things taste sweet, but it is also a tenderizer. Make sure you have measured correctly.|
|Not enough fat||Fat is also a tenderizer, so make sure you are using enough. Again, check your measurements.|
|Domed Cake||Too much leavening||Check your measurements—baking powder and especially baking soda are very powerful. If you use a little too much, you’ll get extra rise that you don’t want. If you use way too much, it could backfire and the cake could collapse because the structure is being torn apart by too many bubbles expanding.|
|Temperature too high||Check your oven temperature. If the temp. is too high, the sides could set well before the center, resulting in a dome. Don’t bake in dark cake pans—they will transfer too much heat to the sides of the cake through conduction, making them set and brown too quickly. Use shiny aluminum pans.|
|Cake too Chewy||Over-mixing the batter||
Overmixing the flour and liquid ingredients can develop a lot of gluten, leading to a chewy cake. Mix just until the batter comes together smoothly. You could also be using the wrong mixing method. Make sure you understand the mixing method before you begin mixing.