Baking can sometimes feel a little daunting, involving a lot of seemingly pedantic rules that make you too overwhelmed to start. We’re here to change that!
While it may not have quite the same ad lib freedom as cooking, baking is still an extremely creative and rewarding hobby once you get to know the basics. These 10 golden rules of baking lay down an essential blueprint to guide you through all your NOMU MiniMakes baking ventures, for seasoned bakers and novices alike.
#1 Read through the recipe
How do you know what to do when you don’t know where you’re going? An important question for baking, and the occasional quarter-life crisis. Make sure to quickly skim the recipe before you start baking to understand the general flow and key steps. You can even make notes on the recipe or highlight key points to help you along.
#2 Preheat the oven
Your oven needs to be primed and waiting at the right temperature for your baked goods as soon as you’re ready, so make sure to preheat your oven before you start the recipe. Cake batters in particular should be baked very soon after mixing to give them the best possible rise and fluffy texture.
(Of course, there’s always an exception to the rule. Some MiniMakes recipes, like our classic chewy and snap cookies, require an hour chill before baking so the oven only needs to be preheated later on – an example why we always #1 read through the recipe).
#3 Prepare your baking tins
Likewise with preheating your oven, get into the habit of preparing your baking tins before you start the recipe. It streamlines the baking process and prevents any delay getting your bakes in the oven. We like to grease AND line our tins for a double layer of non-stick assurance. Plus, greasing first helps the baking paper cling better to the tin.
Don’t use greaseproof or wax paper! Although they may seem similar to baking paper, they will aggressively stick to your bakes when they come out the oven.
#4 Measure your ingredients accurately
The accuracy of measurements in baking is important, especially on smaller scales with Small Batch Baking. Invest in a reliable kitchen scale and a set of measuring cups and pay close attention to your precision. Luckily with NOMU MiniMakes mixes, lots of the measuring work is done for you already!
#5 The temperature of your ingredients matter
Make sure to follow the recipe when it comes to the temperature of ingredients. Scalding-hot melted butter can cook eggs when mixed together, so it needs to be properly cooled. On the other hand, fridge-cold butter won’t blend into a light and creamy texture when making buttercream and cookie dough, so should be left to warm up at room temperature until softened. (Tip: You can microwave your cubed butter in one or two 10-second bursts to soften it if you’re in a pinch).
It’s good practice to use ingredients like eggs, butter, and dairy products at room temperature for baking to ensure proper emulsion and uniform texture in your baked goods.
#6 Mix until just combined
Make sure to mix your NOMU MiniMakes batter or dough until the dry ingredients are just incorporated, but no further! Overmixing can cause your bakes to take on an unpleasant tough, chewy or dense texture.
This is a result of developing gluten, a protein found in flour. In bread-making, gluten is intentionally developed by kneading the dough to create a strong, elastic structure that gives bread its unique texture. In baking, however, you don’t want to develop any gluten to ensure your final bakes are pillowy-soft and tender.
#7 Don’t open the oven door too early
We all know the temptation to take a quick peek at your baked goods in the oven, but you must resist! The sudden temperature changes caused by opening the oven door too early or frequently can be the difference between a perfect cake and a collapsed one.
#8 Set your timer a few minutes less than the recipe states
All ovens differ in terms of temperature and heating power, so it’s best to play it safe with baking times. Set your timer 5-10 minutes less than the recipe states to make sure you’re on the right track and won’t overcook your baked goods.
Find out more about how oven settings affect your bakes.
#9 Check your bakes with the skewer test
You’ll soon learn the tells of properly baked goods, but in the meantime, the skewer test is a great way to check for doneness.
For perfectly baked cake batter, a skewer poked into the middle of the bake should come out completely clean. For fudgy blondies and brownies, a few sticky crumbs should cling to the skewer (if it comes out clean, they will be cakey and overbaked). If, for any baked goods, wet batter coats the skewer, put it back in the oven for a few more minutes to cook through.
#10 Give your bakes time to cool
It can be a test of spirit to have to wait for baked goods to cool before you tuck in. Cooling is an essential step to help the interior texture of bakes firm up and set, and to prevent them from breaking when removing them from the tin. We recommend cooling your bakes for at least 10 minutes in the baking tin first before transferring to a wire rack to cool further. Brownies and cookies can be enjoyed while still warm, but cakes should be cooled completely, especially before icing.
*BONUS TIP*: Don’t waste time with eggshells
This is a game-changing tip that we wish we’d known earlier! EVERYONE get shards of eggshell in their mixing bowl at some point, and it can be immensely frustrating trying to trap and fish it out using a spoon. Instead, use one of the halves of your eggshell to quickly scoop it out – a notable hack that will save you from a lot of pain!
Feature image: by Ivan Samkov from Pexels