These are my top 7 tips on how to bake from scratch successfully
There seems to be a lot of confusion out there on how to bake from scratch. Some seem to think that they don't have the talent for it or that scratch recipes never work for them. I'm here to tell you that anyone can bake from scratch. If you follow my 7 simple tips on how to bake from scratch, you too can have a baking win!
I recently got a copy of Baking Basics from one of my favorite authors Rose Levy Beranbaum, author of the Baking Bible. One of my most trusted sources of cake recipes. I wanted to try out her brownie recipe and thought this would be a great time to share my process for testing out new recipes.
How to bake from scratch tip #1 - Get your recipes from a trusted source
I know it's tempting to just go to pinterest when you want to try a new recipe but literally ANYONE can write a recipe and say it's the best. You never know if this person can really bake or not or what their idea of "best" is.
I once tried a banana cream pie recipe that was ranked #2 on google. I thought wow, it's ranked so high, it MUST be good. The photo looked amazing, the reviews seemed like it would be good.
Well... it might be considered tasty to others but for me, it just gave me a stomach ache. WAY WAY WAY too sweet. I couldn't even taste any banana. I should have searched my cook books first.
Try asking in a cake or baking group if anyone has a trusted recipe that they love and could recommend. Look for recipes from highly rated cook books. Try a recipe from a well-known baking source like Sugar Geek Show.
How to bake from scratch tip #2 - Read the WHOLE recipe before you start
I can't tell you how many times I have had people leave comments under my own recipes stating that the recipe did not turn out. I ask, did you read the recipe. "well... sorta.... I skimmed it". *facepalm*
I get it, I hate reading recipes too. But you know what I hate more? Wasting ingredients. Usually recipes contain a lot of helpful info that will help you find success the first time you try it out.
There might be tips for trouble-shooting problems or even things to make sure you don't do to avoid failure. Whomever wrote the recipe has most-likely spent a lot of time testing and re-testing the recipe for success so make sure you take advantage of that experience and read the recipe!
When you read the recipe it also gives you a chance to look up any techniques that you may not understand like whipping to soft peaks or folding.
How to bake from scratch tip #3 - Check your ingredients
Make sure you have all the ingredients the recipe calls for before you even start mixing. If you have to run to the store then it's better to do it now then in the middle of mixing.
Some recipes will actually not turn out right if you stop in the middle of mixing.
How to bake from scratch tip #4 - Weigh your ingredients ahead of time
If your recipe calls for a scale, use a scale. If it says to use cups, use cups. Trying to convert recipes often results in disaster. Almost all my recipes call for ingredients by weight so that you get accurate measurements. Measuring by volume (cups) leaves a lot of room for mistakes. Maybe your flour is too packed, you aren't exact with your measuring or you're doubling the recipe. All these things can lead to disaster.
I measure all my ingredients before I start mixing. Sometimes I don't realize I don't have enough of a certain ingredient until I start measuring. Or I think I had an ingredient but I actually don't. That happens to me ALL THE TIME. Just ask my husband, poor guy is always being sent to the store last minute.
Measuring out your ingredients ahead of time also ensures you don't forget any ingredients. I will read through the ingredients one by one and tap the bowl to the corresponding ingredient. Better safe to double check then waste all those ingredients because you forgot the sugar.
How to bake from scratch tip #5 - Ingredients need to be room temperature or slightly warm
Some things do not like to mix. Oil and water or ingredients that are warm/cold. Things like butter that are oil based will not mix with eggs if the butter is warm and soft and the eggs are cold. Same thing with milk, cream cheese, sour cream etc. This is the second most common mistake people make when making a recipe from scratch.
This is how I warm various ingredients before baking so they are all the same temp.
- Eggs - While still in the shell, place into a bowl of warm water for 5 minutes
- Milk - Warm in the microwave until it feels body temperature
- Butter - I microwave mine in 10 second increments until soft enough to impress my finger into the surface but it still holds it's shape.
- Cream cheese - Cut into small chunks and place onto a plate. Place a hot glass bowl over the top of the cream cheese for 5 minutes. I warm my bowl by heating it with hot tap water.
- Sour cream or mayonnaise - Microwave for 10 seconds and stir
How to bake from scratch tip #6 - Don't make any changes the first time you try it
I love to make adjustments to recipes after I have tried them so they are more to my preference but I always follow the recipe as is the first time. You never know if you're totally ruining the recipe by making a slight adjustment.
Sometimes the author will put some notes at the bottom of the recipe for known acceptable substitutions.
How to bake from scratch tip #7 - Read through the directions as you are making the recipe
It can be difficult to remember everything a recipe says to do so I have the recipe nearby as I am mixing to make sure I don't miss a step. Even as an experienced baker, I know it can be very easy to accidentally make a mistake.
Baking from scratch can seem very intimidating when you're first learning and I totally get it. No one explains these simple techniques for testing out new recipes. Often times the recipe does not turn out and you're left feeling like maybe you can't bake at all and it's pointless to try again!
I hope these tips have given you the confidence to try your hand at baking from scratch and if you're looking for inspiration, check out the full list of free, tried-and-true recipes on our blog.