Build confidence in the kitchen with advice from our bakers
There’s nothing sadder than a dessert disaster. You take precious time from your day to shop, measure, mix and clean up. And somehow you end up with disappointing results. 🤦♀️
Meanwhile you’re STILL craving a fresh-from-the-oven treat.
With so many recipes and videos out there begging you to try them, where’s the advice on the basics?
We’re here to help. Use our tips and advice on avoiding common mistakes to CRUSH IT the next time you head into the kitchen. By following guidelines from our seasoned bakers, you’ll get better home-made desserts. And we promise, you’ll have more fun making them.
Mistake No. 1: Not using good ingredients
Fresh ingredients make a huge difference in the flavor and overall appearance of baked goods. Make sure flour and leavening (baking soda and powder) are fresh by tasting, smelling, and checking the use by dates on packaging. Nuts, seeds and whole-grain flours go rancid quickly; keep these in the fridge or freezer if not used immediately. Toast nuts before using to add more flavor (do this in batches and freezer for convenience). Use real vanilla extract, high-quality chocolate and real butter (especially in pastry and pie dough). Taste or smell ingredients before putting them into a mixing bowl.
Mistake 2: Bad baking pans
Invest in heavy-duty light colored baking sheets and pans. Commercial-grade natural aluminum cookie sheets and cake pans are very affordable, practically indestructible and will pay off with baked goods that are evenly browned and tender. (Glass pie pans can be handy for checking the bottom crust, but otherwise we prefer metal for baking.) Rimmed 13-by-18 aluminum baking sheets are our go-to for cookies and toasting nuts and bread cubes – not to mention granola, sheet-pan dinners and roasted veggies. You can find them at restaurant supply and houseware stores.
Mistake No. 3: Underbaking
Pale biscuits and washed-out pie crusts mean you’ve missed out on extra flavor and optimal texture. Let pastries, cookies and pizza crust develop a deep golden hue and toasty tinge. This adds nutty, sweet, caramelized flavors and flaky, crisp texture to pie crust, biscuits, many types of cookies, and breads. Experienced bakers often gauge when things are done just by the toasty aroma! Watch closely in the final minutes so you get the most flavor without burning the edges.
Mistake No. 4: Not following directions
Goofs, forgotten ingredients and missed steps happen – but here’s a dead simple way to prevent it: Read through the recipe completely before starting anything, and make sure you understand the technique before getting started. Always weigh or measure out all ingredients beforehand, too.
Mistake No. 5: Over- or under-creaming
This step seems so basic, but it’s important! “Creaming” means whipping sugar crystals into butter. It creates air pockets that translate to lighter cakes and muffins and light crisp cookies. To do it right, butter must be softened (but not too soft – no warmer than room temperature, please!) and combined with sugar at moderate speed for 2-3 minutes. You’ll know you’ve done it right when the mixture is lightened in color, smooth and visibly fluffy, and not clinging to the bowl.
Mistake No. 6: Overmixing
The problem with overmixing batter (or overworking dough) is that it activates the gluten proteins in flour and leads to tough, gummy baked goods. The gentler you mix, the more tender they will be. After adding flour, do the minimum amount of mixing necessary to make a uniform batter or dough. For light and flaky pie crust, biscuits and scones, handle the dough minimally, leaving tiny bits of butter or shortening.
Pick up The Grand Central Baking Book for more baking secrets and a full collection of Grand Central Bakery recipes.
We’re here to help
Need a baking assist? Purchase our frozen U-bake doughs and products for a head start at home.