Getting Started With Baking
1. Preparing for Baking
- Grease baking pan or dish only if the recipe directs. Apply a thin layer of vegetable shortening with a paper towel or lightly coat with no-stick cooking spray.
- Use the back of a large spoon or your fingers to press stiff batters or doughs into the baking pan or dish. Use a spatula to evenly spread moist batters.
- Use your fingers to pat oatmeal or crumb crusts onto the bottom and sides of a baking pan or dish.
2. Baking and Testing for Doneness
- Preheat oven 10-15 minutes before inserting the baking pan. Check oven temperature with an oven thermometer.
- For more even baking, position oven rack in the center and bake only one baking pan at a time. If you must bake two pans, space racks so the oven is divided into thirds and switch pans top to bottom and back to front halfway through baking.
- When testing for doneness, your best guides are time and appearance - be sure to follow the recipe instructions.
3. Baking Equipment
- Measuring Equipment
Dry Measuring CupsDry measuring cups allow you to fill the cup to the top and then "level off" or remove any extra with a straight edge knife or metal spatula. Available in nested sets of 4 to 8 cups. Made of metal or plastic, these cups do not have a pouring spout.
Measuring BowlsMeasuring bowls are indispensable for the accurate measuring of dry and liquid ingredients. Food measuring bowls are usually made of glass. Available in graduated sizes, glass dry measuring cups are flat-bottomed with flat edges. For measuring liquids, glass marked-in bowls are used. Lips and handles ensure easy pouring.
Measuring SpoonsAvailable in metal or plastic, measuring spoons are used to measure small quantities of liquid and dry ingredients.
Liquid Measuring CupsMade of glass or plastic, these cups have a lip for pouring. Measuring cups made of glass or clear plastic are easiest to use and most accurate.
Oven ThermometersOven thermometers are designed to either stand or hang on an oven rack. Since oven temperatures can vary from one part of an oven to another, position the thermometer on the oven rack where the baking sheet or pan will be placed. If there's room, keep the thermometer positioned next to the baking sheet during baking, so that you can determine if the temperature is changing too much during baking or when cookie sheets are switched. If the thermometer reads differently than the oven temperature you select, change the oven temperature accordingly (i.e., if the thermometer reads 25°F too high, reduce the temperature by 25°F). If your oven is off 75°F or more, it would be advisable to call a service technician to professionally calibrate the oven.
Oven thermometers can be purchased in the housewares department of grocery and hardware stores or anywhere baking equipment is sold. Instant read thermometers or meat and candy thermometers are NOT suitable for checking oven temperature.
Candy ThermometerA candy thermometer is used to test the temperature during the cooking of candy, jams and jellies. It often has an adjustable clip so that it can rest against the sides of a heavy-gauge saucepan.
Baking Pans, Dishes & Sheets
Shiny Aluminum PansThe best choice for baked goods consistent in color and texture. It prevents biscuits, quick bread loaves and coffeecakes from becoming too dark on the bottom and around the sides of the pan.
Insulated PansConsists of two thin sheets of aluminum with a layer of air between them. Baked goods baked in insulated baking pans may require more baking time, and they often don't brown well on the bottoms and sides.
Ovenproof GlassOvenproof glass loaf pans and baking dishes are sometimes used to bake quick breads, loaves and coffeecakes. Baked goods baked in glass brown well and you can see the coloring all around. When substituting a glass baking dish for a metal baking pan, reduce the oven temperature by 25°F.
Disposable Aluminum PansReadily available in supermarkets, these are perfect for baked goods which will be given away as gifts. While available in sizes comparable to aluminum baking pans and glass baking dishes, they are often 1/4- to 1/2-inch smaller in length, width and depth. Baking times will need to be adjusted accordingly.
Dark nonstickThese pans help keep your baked goods from sticking. However, they tend to brown their contents quickly, particularly on the edges and the bottom. Many nonstick baking pan manufacturers recommend reducing the oven temperature by 25ºF.
Springform PanThis round pan, used for making cheesecakes and other desserts that are tricky to remove from their pans, has a bottom that is separate from the side. A clamp holds the pan together and opens to allow the side to easily be pulled away from the baked dessert.
Tart PanTart pans come in many different shapes and sizes. Their removable bottom makes it easy to neatly transfer a tart to a serving plate. Tart pans come in both dark-colored and shiny pan varieties, and can also have varying depths with deeper tart pans used for quiche, and shallower pans used for delicate dessert tarts.
Pie Tins/PansGenerally, pies are baked in a relatively deep pan with sloped sides that can hold a large amount of filling. Materials for pie plates range from ovenproof glass, glazed ceramic, heavy foil, aluminum, tinned steel, stainless steel and nonstick coated steel.
Standard Muffin PansAvailable in 12-and 6-cup pans, the standard muffin cup is about 2-3/4 inches in diameter and 1-1/8 inches deep and holds a scant 1/2 cup batter.
Jumbo Muffin PansAvailable in 6-cup pans, the jumbo muffin cups are at least 3 inches in diameter and 1-1/2 inches deep. Each jumbo muffin cup holds approximately 1 cup batter.
Mini Muffin PansAvailable in 12- and 24-cup pans, the mini muffin cup is approximately 1-3/4 inches in diameter and 7/8-inch deep. Each muffin cup holds approximately 2 tablespoons batter.
Muffin Tops (Caps) PansAvailable in 6-cup pans, each muffin top cup is approximately 3 inches in diameter and 1/2-inch deep. Each muffin top cup holds approximately 3 tablespoons batter.
Shiny Aluminum Muffin PansShiny aluminum pans prevent muffins from becoming too dark around the sides.
Dark Nonstick Muffin PansDark nonstick pans keep the muffins from sticking. They tend to brown muffin edges and bottoms quickly. Many nonstick baking pan manufacturers recommend reducing the oven temperature by 25°F.
Loaf PanAluminum loaf pans can turn out tender cakes, while dark, nonstick or glass pans will produce a crunchy-chewy crust. You can make quick breads, brioche and meatloaf in a loaf pan.
Bundt/Tube PanAlso known as an angel food cake pan, this deep pan has a hollow tube in the center that promotes even baking. Most tube pans have removable bottoms.
Fluted Tube PanThe fluted sides bring a decorative look to the finished product. It comes in various sizes; a 12-cup pan is the most common.
Double BoilerA double-pan arrangement that features two pots formed to fit together, with one sitting partway inside the other. A single lid fits both pans. The lower pot is used to hold simmering water, which gently heats the mixture in the upper pot. Double boilers are used to warm or cook heat-sensitive food such as custards, delicate sauces and chocolate.
Baking DishBaking "dish" refers to a glass baking dish. For best results, use the correct size baking dish called for in your recipe. To measure the size of a baking dish, measure the top inside of the dish with a ruler for length or width. To determine the depth of a baking dish, measure the inside from the bottom to the top edge. To measure the volume of a baking dish, set it flat on the kitchen counter or table. Fill the dish with water, 1 cup at a time, until the water reaches the rim of the baking dish.
If you do not have the baking dish size specified in the recipe, substitute a dish of equal volume. Baking time will need to be adjusted.
RamekinAn individual baking dish (3 to 4 inches in diameter) that resembles a miniature soufflé dish. Ramekins are usually made of porcelain or earthenware and can be used for both sweet and savory dishes - either baked or chilled. A tiny baked pastry filled with a creamy cheese custard is also referred to as a "Ramekin".
Soufflé DishSoufflés are customarily baked in a classic soufflé dish, which is round and has straight sides to facilitate the soufflé's rising. These special dishes are ovenproof and come in a variety of sizes ranging from 3 1/2-ounce (individual) to 2-quart. They're available in kitchenware shops and the housewares section of most department stores. Foil or parchment "collars" are sometimes wrapped around the outside of a soufflé dish so that the top of the foil or paper rises about 2 inches above the rim of the dish. Such collars are used for cold dessert soufflés so that the sides of the frozen or molded mixture are supported until they set. Once the collar is removed, the soufflé stands tall and appears to "rise" out of the dish.
Baking/Cookie SheetsPerhaps one of the most essential pieces of bakeware, these flat, rigid sheets of metal are where such comforting confections as cookies, breads and biscuits are baked. It usually has one or more turned-up sides for ease in handling. Common sizes for baking sheets are: 17x14-inch and 12x15-inch. For even heat circulation, baking sheets should be at least 2 inches smaller all around than the interior of the oven. There are a variety of kinds of baking sheets, the three most common are aluminum, dark nonstick and insulated sheets.
Aluminum SheetsShiny, heavy-gauge aluminum baking sheets are good heat conductors and will produce evenly baked and browned goods.
Dark Nonstick SheetsDark sheets absorb heat and should be used only for items on which a dark, crisp exterior is desired.
Insulated SheetsInsulated baking sheets (two sheets of aluminum with an air space sealed between them) are good for soft cookies or bread crusts, but many baked goods will not get crisp on them.
Baking StoneA heavy, thick plate of beige or brown stone that can be placed in the oven to replicate the baking qualities of a brick-floored bread oven. Baking stones can be round or rectangular.
Straight Edge SpatulaThe straight edge spatula is similar in shape to a knife but rarely has a sharp edge. It is used for spreading foods like frosting, jams, cream cheese, cake and bar cookie batters, etc. It also is used when measuring dry ingredients to "level off," or remove excess ingredient from the measuring cup.
Pancake TurnerA pancake turner is sometimes referred to as a metal spatula, particularly when it is smaller in size. This utensil is wide at the base which picks up the food, and it has an easy-to-grip handle. It is used to remove baked foods from baking sheets (i.e., cookies) or foods from skillets and griddles (i.e., pancakes, eggs). The sharp edge of the metal literally "cuts" the cookie from the cookie sheet. Plastic spatulas are too thick to remove delicate, warm cookies from cookie sheets.
Rubber Scraper or Rubber SpatulaA rubber scraper or rubber spatula has a wooden or plastic handle with a flexible rubber paddle-shaped end. Used in baking, the rubber end can scrape batter from the sides of a bowl or pan and helps remove all the batter or dough from a bowl.
Parchment PaperA heavy, grease- and moisture-resistant paper with a number of culinary uses including lining baking pans and wrapping foods that are to be baked. Parchment paper is available in gourmet kitchenware stores and many supermarkets.
Wax PaperSemitransparent paper with a thin coating of wax on both sides. Because of its moisture-proof and nonstick characteristics, wax paper plays a major role in the kitchen for duties such as covering food and lining baking pans.
Aluminum FoilAluminum that has been rolled into a thin, pliable sheet. It's an excellent barrier to moisture, air and odors and can withstand flaming heat and freezing cold. It comes in regular weight (for wrapping food and covering containers) and heavy-duty weight (for freezer storage and lining pans and grills).
CheeseclothCheesecloth is a lightweight natural cotton cloth that does not fall apart when wet and will not flavor the food it touches. Cheesecloth has a multitude of culinary uses including straining liquids, forming a packet for herbs and spices that can be dropped into a soup or stock pot and lining molds. It comes in both fine and coarse weaves and is available in gourmet shops, supermarkets and the kitchen section of many department stores.
Electric Hand-Held MixerAn electric mixer is a kitchen appliance used to beat, mix or whip batter.
Electric Stand-Up or Table-Top MixerAn electric mixer is a kitchen appliance used to beat, mix or whip batter. Many of the more powerful stand mixers have special attachments such as dough hooks or paddle beaters.