It does not take having a special gift or a magic touch to work wonders in the kitchen. The secret is practice. Some people seem to be able to toss things together and achieve wonderful results. This is a skill they achieved by many years of cooking and baking. Remember that skill and confidence come with practice. Below are the most basic rules of baking.
Follow the recipe carefully: Be sure you have all the ingredients called for and that you understand the recipe clearly.
Do it right the first time: If it is worth doing, it is worth doing right! Baking demands accuracy and care. Unlike other kinds of cooking, such as soups or stews, you cannot improvise or substitute ingredients. Never carry on another activity while you are mixing a recipe. Distractions, no matter how small, lead to mistakes.
Use good tools and utensils: Assemble all the bowls, pans, and utensils you will need on your counter or work table before starting. Use standard measuring cups and spoons (see below).
Use correct pan sizes: Use the type of pan specified in the recipe. Recipes are carefully calculated as to yield and changing the pan size also alters the baking temperature and time. Larger, more shallow pans need increased heat; smaller, deeper pans need decreased heat. The size of a baking pan or dish is measured across the top of the container from the inside edge to inside edge. The depth also is measured on the inside of the pan or dish from the bottom to the top of the rim. Prepare the pan carefully according to the recipe. Place pans as near the center of the oven as possible. Do not place pans directly over another and do not crowd the oven (this makes for uneven baking).
Use top-quality ingredients: You cannot expect a first-rate product using second-rate ingredients. Be sure your ingredients are fresh and of the finest quality. If your recipe says the ingredient must be room temperature, be sure it is room temperature before proceeding.
Measure the quantities correctly: This is a baking must! One common cause of cooking failures is inaccurate measurement of ingredients. You can use the best ingredients in the world, but if you do not measure correctly, the recipe will not come out properly. Also always use level measurements (all measurements in a recipe are level).
Use correct oven temperatures: Never increase a cooking temperature because you are in a hurry. Make sure the racks are placed properly before heating the oven. If the recipe calls for a preheated oven, preheat it! Preheat at least 15 minutes before baking. Do not open the oven door prematurely. A draft may cause your baked product to fall. You can ruin a cake with a slow start in a cool oven because the cake can rise too quickly and then fall when the oven heat takes a spurt upward.
If the oven is not maintaining the set temperature, the oven thermostat will have to be adjusted by a service center representative authorized by the manufacturer. Always check the oven thermometer to verify the temperature.
Use a cooking thermometer as your guide
Always follow internal cooking temperatures to be safe! A cooking or meat thermometer should not be a “sometime thing.” A cooking thermometer can be used for all foods, not just meat. It measures the internal temperature of your cooked meat, poultry, seafood, breads, baked goods, and/or casseroles to assure that a safe temperature has been reached and that harmful bacteria have been destroyed.