18 Biggest Baking Mishaps and How To Avoid Them

18 Biggest Baking Mishaps and How To Avoid Them
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18 Biggest Baking Mishaps and How To Avoid Them

Unlike other methods of cooking, baking has less room for error. Measurements, equipment and technique do matter, and one mistake can lead to unshapely cakes, bland bread and cookies that fall flat. Read to to find out 18 biggest baking mishaps and how you can avoid them.

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Overbaking cookies

As a general rule of thumb, it's better to underbake than overbake cookies. Check on your baked goods at the minimum baking time and watch carefully for signs of doneness, which can vary between types of cookies. For example, cake-like cookies should have inserted toothpicks come out clean, while sugar cookies should have a light golden color and an even crackle-like texture.

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Opening the oven door too often.

We know it's hard to resist the urge to open the oven door and check on your baked goods, but the oven will lose heat and its temperature will fluctuate. Don't open the door early in the baking process, and minimize the number of checks.

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Overmixing Dough

Too much beating can make the gluten tough, which produces dense baked goods. Always stop beating the dough as soon as you see that all the flour has been incorporated into it.

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Deflated Egg Whites

Egg whites can be fickle to whip. Choose glass or metal bowls over plastic, make sure they are clean and avoid getting any egg yolk in your whites. Don’t over-whip, or your whites will separate!

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Sunken Cake

Open the oven door too early and too often, and an underbaked cake might crack or cave in the middle. The early stages in the process of baking can be crucial for the proper development of baked goods (especially for certain foods like cheesecake and popovers).

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Domed Cake

There are many reasons why cakes come out domed, from an oven temperature that is too hot to a baking pan that is too small. For a quick fix, level the top of the cake with a knife, flip upside down and—voila—you'll have an even surface to frost. Next time, try wrapping the pan's edges with Bake Even Strips or a DIY version using water-soaked towel or newspaper strips fastened with a safety pin.

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Cake That's Stuck in the Pan

Non-stick bakeware isn't foolproof, so we highly recommended that you always prepare your pans to prevent cakes from sticking. Grease is usually enough for most jobs; just make sure to get all the sides and corners.Flour will help extra-sticky cakes slide right out. You can also try lining the bottom of the pan with waxed or parchment paper.

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Overcrowding the Oven

Too many pans in the oven can alter the required cooking time and make even heat distribution difficult. Make sure pans have at least a few inches between each other and between each pan and the sides of the oven.

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Soggy Bottoms

Don't let baked goods finish cooling in their pans or tins. Without the air circulation that a wire rack provides, you'll risk moisture condensing at the bottom of your breads and muffins, leading to damp undersides.

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Doubling or tripling the batter in one go

Doubling or tripling a recipe can lead to disaster; there's more room for error, and you'll need to adjust the baking times. If you need to make a large batch, it's better to err on the side of caution and make and bake individual batches.

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Forgetting to sift

Skip the sifter, and you might find your baked goods turn out dense or crumbly. Sifting aerates flour and allows you to make proper measurements, so your baked goods have a fluffy texture and higher rise. One article in Parade found one cup of unsifted flour weighed 25 grams more than one cup of sifted—a huge difference!

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Not checking the oven's temperature

It’s smart to invest in an oven thermometer to find out if your oven heats to the correct temperature. You should also check for oven hot spots by doing a bread test. Bake a rack covered with bread slices for a few minutes to see which corners get burnt.

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Forgetting to soften butter

To successfully cream butter and sugar, your butter needs to be at room temperature beforehand. If you’re in a pinch, try cutting up the butter in small pieces and setting them by a warm oven. Another great tip is to put the butter in a plastic bag and pound it flat with a rolling pin.

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Zapping Butter in the Microwave

It might seem convenient to stick butter in the microwave to quickly soften it, but it's just as easy to accidently melt it. Overly soft butter will make cookies spread thin while baking and won't cream properly with sugar to make fluffy cakes.

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Substitute Ingredients Without Knowing the Science

It's commonly believed that applesauce can substitute oil when baking, but the texture and taste of your baked goods change. Oil works to "shorten" gluten strands for a light, crisp texture. Fruit purees contain pectin which prevent some formation of gluten, but pectin won't give you as nearly crisp of a cookie. Plus, you may need to adjust the ratio of sugar in your recipe to account for apple sauce's sugar content. Understanding the science behind baking will help you perfect your recipes.

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Storing Baked Goods in the Fridge

Experts recommend storing covered cakes at room temperature for up to several days, and most cookies can last in an air-tight container on the counter for three to five days. Refrigeration can draw out the moisture in your baked goods and is only necessary on hot days. If you're not planning to serve your goods within three days, it's better to cover them in plastic wrap and/or foil and freeze them.

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Switching Baking Powder for Baking Soda

While they might look the same, baking soda requires an acidic ingredient to be activated while baking powder already has the acid added in. Swapping one for the other can affect the taste and rise of your baked goods.

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Not Preheating the Oven

Don't miss this step for the best results. A properly heated oven will ensure even baking. Famous cookbook author Dorie Greenspan explains in her blog that ovens cycle on and off to maintain an average temperature, and it takes several cycles to finally reach a consistent temperature.

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Unlike other methods of cooking, baking has less room for error. Measurements, equipment and technique do matter, and one mistake can lead to unshapely cakes, bland bread and cookies that fall flat.

As a general rule of thumb, the most important advice we can give is to read the recipe completely before you start baking. Although it sounds simple enough, it happens all too often that we find ourselves half-way through a recipe before we realize we're missing an ingredient or we've skipped a crucial preparation step. We've rounded up 18 more common baking mistakes and show you how you can avoid them.

Check out the slideshow above to discover the 18 biggest baking mishaps and how you can avoid them.

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