Can’t seem to figure out why your cakes aren’t tasting moist and looking fluffy? Or why your cookies are spreading and not coming out right? Are you measuring your ingredients properly?
You’re properly thinking “What’s the big deal? Take a scoop of flour, take some eggs and sugar and that’s that.” Not quite. Baking is a science, and there’s a little more to it than that. Try some of these tips below and you’ll see the difference in your baked goods.
Measuring Dry and Liquid Ingredients
For liquids like oil or milk, measure at eye level to make sure you have an exact measurement. Put these in a glass measuring cup or else you won’t be able to get an accurate measurement. When measuring dry ingredients, always make sure you level off the top of the measuring cup with a knife so you’re getting an even measurement.
The most important thing about your flour is to make sure you DO NOT pack it. Packing your flour means you take your measuring cup, stick it in the flour and shake off the excess.
What happens if you pack flour into your measuring cup? This ends up adding a significant amount of flour to your dough or batter than you would like. Adding more flour to your dough or batter will cause it to turn out dry and crumbly.
Using your measuring cup, stir the flour slightly. Then, using a spoon, spoon in the flour into the measuring cup. With a knife, gently scrape off the excess of the flour. This goes for all types of flour, including gluten-free.
If a recipe calls for 1 cup of flour, spoon in 1 cup of flour into a measuring cup, until slightly overflowing, and level off the excess with a knife. If a recipe calls for 1 cup of flour sifted, be sure to spoon and level the flour, and then sift it.
With cocoa powder, it’s best to stir it before using it since it tends to clump up. Because of that I always recommend sifting it to get rid of all the unwanted clumps.
White Granulated Sugar
White granulated sugar is very simple. If a recipe calls for 1 cup of white sugar, all you need to do is take your measuring cup and scoop up the cup of sugar. It’s different than other ingredients. Since it’s fairly heavier, it’s not likely that you would add more sugar per measuring cup.
Light and dark brown sugar works the same way. But first things first – what’s the difference between light and dark brown sugar? Both light and dark brown sugars contain molasses. Dark brown sugar has a little more molasses than light brown sugar, and it also has a darker color and a bit of a stronger flavor.
When a recipe calls for brown sugar, packed, this means to scoop the brown sugar into the measuring cup and using a spoon, squish it in there. This way when the brown sugar comes out of the measuring cup, it will hold its shape.
When a recipe calls for lightly packed, which is most of my recipes, scoop up the brown sugar but don’t pack it in there. Just level off the excess with a knife.
Baking Soda and Baking Powder
Baking soda and baking powder can end up getting packed down over time. It’s best to stir or shake the container before measuring. Note: Baking soda and baking powder are not the same. It’s very important to read the recipe carefully and make sure you use what the recipe calls for.
Powdered Sugar (Confectioners’ Sugar)
Confectioners’ sugar clumps up. When using it for recipes it’s best to use the spoon and level method like you would flour, otherwise, you end up with extra clumps in your batter. Because powdered sugar clumps, it’s best to make sure you sift it before adding it to your batter, especially if the recipe calls for it.
It’s very important to make sure you use room temperature eggs if the recipe calls for it. Generally speaking, if you need to whip up eggs to make meringues or to fluff up your cake, you need to make sure they are at room temperature. Cold eggs won’t whip up as well, and you’ll be left with a dense cake instead of a light and fluffy one.
If the recipe calls for your eggs to be separated, you’ll want to separate them while they’re still cold. Cold eggs separate better while room temperature eggs tend to mold together, and it’ll be harder to separate them.
Butter and margarine work the same way. Make sure they’re always softened to room temperature before beginning to bake. Here’s an easy tip on how to soften them quicker. If you use butter or margarine for your recipes straight out of the fridge, then it will be tough to mix them smoothly. Instead, you’ll end with clumps of butter/margarine in your dish and no one wants to eat a spoonful of butter in their smooth buttercream. Make sure if the recipe calls for unsalted butter, to use unsalted butter. If you use salted butter then simply forgo the salt in the recipe
If a recipe calls for oil, always know to use a neutral-flavored oil. I usually like to use vegetable oil or canola oil, but use whichever neutral oil you have in your pantry. If you’re substituting oil for butter, use 3/4 cup of oil per 1 cup of butter.
Whether you’re using chocolate chips, peanut butter chips, or white chocolate chips, there is no right or wrong way to measure them. It’s always best to use a dry measuring cup over a wet measuring cup, but I usually just like to eyeball it. If I get more chocolate chips in my cookies than the recipe calls for, is that so bad?