Baking Fails are the worst. In cooking, you can add some spices, herbs, a little bit of butter without major issues. If you start going off track when it comes to baking you most likely end up with something very different than you intended to bake. I test recipes at least 3 times to make sure they work. Often I even bake them while writing the blog post to make sure my recipes make sense.
Because I want everyone to be successful in the kitchen and have no more baking fails, I would like to share some basic baking tips and tricks. This will help to increase your odds of having perfect baked treats every time you bake.
Read the Recipe Ingredient Notes and the Recipe
This seems very obvious to me but let’s be honest, we have all started working on a recipe just to realize we should have saved half of the chocolate for later. I try to cover as much information as possible in the part above the recipe on my website. I write about which ingredients to use, explain a technique, and answer frequently asked questions. There are no personal stories, it’s all facts and knowledge to help you create the best gluten free baked goods there are. (Between you and me, I am not a fan of the “Jump to Recipe” button)
Measuring is Key
You have heard me say this many times before – the only accurate way to bake is by weight. Maybe this is the European in me but please, let go of your measuring cups and invest in a digital kitchen scale. They are always on sale on Amazon.com. I always provide measurements in teaspoons and tablespoons for leavening agents and spices.
Invest in some good equipment
A few weeks ago I shared my favorite kitchen tools. If you missed the list, it can be found online on my website. Invest in some good equipment such as sheet trays, a digital scale (you knew I would say that), a cookie scooper, and some mixing bowls. And get yourself a cute apron. Because why not!
Start with the right room temperature butter
Almost every recipe I share starts with room temperature unsalted butter. I prefer my butter soft, but cool and should not appear shiny or greasy. Especially during the summer month I only allow for it to sit out for 5 minutes before using it. The ideal temperature for butter is actually 65F which is a lot colder than many of us consider room temperature. To test if your butter is at room temperature nudge it with your finger. You should see an indent but the butter should not feel like you can poke right through it.
Cold butter is used in recipes where we want to build layers and structure such as my Gluten Free Flaky Biscuits or my Gluten Free Levain Style Cookies. If you use too warm butter in either recipe you will sadly be “rewarded” with one of those baking fails.
Use the right salt
There is nothing worse than an oversalted recipe. I use Diamond Crystal Kosher Salt in all my recipes and Maldon’s Flaky Sea Salt as my finishing salt (the flaky sea salt I put on almost all my baked goods). Not all salts are created equal. If you use Morton’s Kosher Salt please be aware that their salt granules are smaller in size, denser, and crunchier. 1 teaspoon of Diamond Crystal Kosher salt weighs roughly 3 grams while 1 teaspoon of Morton’s Kosher Salt weighs almost 5 grams. Therefore if use another brand other than Diamonds Crystal Kosher Salt please be aware that this can throw off the entire recipe
Egg Size Matters
All my recipes call for large eggs. Large eggs must be a minimum of 680 grams per dozen or an average of 56.7 grams each. I allow my eggs to sit at room temperature 10-15 minutes before using them. Fun fact: Eggs in Austria are sold at room temperature. You will not find them in the refrigerated section.
Use the right flour to avoid those baking fails
I test every recipe shared on my website with 2-3 different gluten free flour blends including my own blend. Not all gluten free flour blends are created equally. Cup4Cup works the best for delicate applications, King Arthur Measure for Measure is great for a baked good where you want structure and Bob’s Red Mill 1 for 1 is great for cookies and cakes. I did an extensive bake off which you can find more about here: The Cookie Bake Off. Please remember – you can NOT substitute a gluten free flour blend with one single product such as almond flour or coconut flour. You will receive the best results when using blends. I understand not everyone has access to products available in the US. But, you can always contact me and ask for help with the flours you have access to. When you do contact me, please include a link to the product you plan on using and which recipe you would like to make. Using the right flour can ensure you won’t have no more baking fails.
Check your ingredients Best By Dates
I use fresh baking powder and baking soda every 3 months. I also bake a lot. Those products do have a good shelf life is stored correctly but I recommend buying fresh products on a regular basis. Spices such as cinnamon have a shelf life of around a year, then they will lose their umph.
Cream your Butter and Sugar
Creaming butter and sugar is not creaming isn’t about combining the two ingredients, it’s about aerating them. You may have also heard this being described as “mechanical leavening”. The creaming will generate small air bubbles which will help rising your cookies and baked goods. Unless otherwise mentioned, I cream my butter and sugar for 5 minutes, add the egg(s) and cream for an additional minute.
Scrape down the bowl
Yes, I mention this in every single one of my recipes: Scrape down the bowl. Without scraping down the sides, butter/sugar builds up on the sides of the bowl. When you add the flour, that film of butter will create random streaks of fat in your dough. And we have all seen those ugly cookies where a pocket of butter makes them look sloppy. So avoid this, I recommend scraping your bowl once mid-creaming, after adding the egg, and after adding the flour. Every time making sure to whip your dough for 10 seconds or so after.
Chill your cookie dough
Chilling the cookie dough prevents cookies from spreading out too quickly once they’re in the oven. It allows the fat in your dough to solidify (harden back up). If you skip the chilling step, you’re more likely to wind up with very sad, thin, unhappy-looking cookies instead of flavorful, thick, chewy cookies.
Also during chilling your dough will develop flavors (kinda like marinating). The liquids in your dough (eggs) get a chance to hydrate the starches found in your flour. This hydration makes the dough less wet, concentrating the flavors and you will be rewarded with an even bake and golden brown cookies.
Check your oven temperature
Unless you have a brand new oven, most ovens run either too hot or too cold. I invested in a $5 Oven Thermometer to keep an eye on my oven. Also – ignore the peep that says your oven has preheated. It takes at least 15-20 minutes for a standard American Oven to be fully preheated. All my recipes are for conventional ovens. If you are baking with convection (fan forced), please adjust the recipes accordingly. Be also prepared that the convection oven can cause your baked goods to dry out quickly and still be raw inside.
Keep your oven door closed
I used to work with a Chef who would tell me “There is a reason oven doors have windows – so we do not keep opening them!”. I know opening the oven door is tempting but every time you do so, the oven temperature drops. And it will take some time for it to come back up. So keep your oven door closed unless it’s for rotating your sheet tray or checking doneness (or garnishing cookies). Just make sure you do those things quickly.
Allow your baked goods to cool
I know, I am not that patient either but please allow your baked goods to fully cool. This is especially important for cakes or anything we will top with frosting or glaze. Please do not place hot baked goods in your fridge or freezer because this will cause the fridge/fridge temperatures to rise and cause a whole other set of issues.
Ask questions to make sure there are no more baking fails
It’s okay to ask questions. You may feel like your question is stupid but if a recipe does not make sense or you are having issues: Please ask questions. I want to help you to avoid baking fails. This is what the comment section is here for. I will do my best to answer them and explain things.
Last but not least: Have fun!
Remember, we get to bake – we don’t have to! After closing my bakery in 2016 I did not bake for 3 months. It was strange but I had no desire to bake. Turn on your favorite music, pour yourself a glass (or cup of coffee), and have fun baking.