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Nothing to Fear But Self-Rising Flour
It’s not just the soufflé that falls—you could swear you followed the directions perfectly when you were making that chocolate cake, yet it cracked and fell apart when you finally managed to wrestle it out of the pan. Pastry chef and cookbook author Emily Luchetti understands that the science and precision of baking intimidates some people. So she wrote The Fearless Baker: Scrumptious Cakes, Pies, Cobblers, Cookies, and Quickbreads That You Can Make to Impress Your Friends and Yourself (Little, Brown) with food writer Lisa Weiss. Take a look at Luchetti’s list of common baking pitfalls:
1. Not using a timer when doing something simple, like toasting nuts. “I’ve burned more nuts than I care to admit. That’s why timers were invented.”
2. Screwing up the ingredients. Don’t crack an egg on the side of a bowl; “the egg shell can shatter, and you’re more likely to get little pieces of shell into the white. Crack the egg on the counter in one or two decisive taps.” And when measuring flour, put your cup into the canister first to loosen the flour. Then, “scoop up an overflowing measure,” and use your finger to level it off. Finally: “Always read over the list of ingredients. You don’t want to say later, ‘Oh shoot, I forgot the cream.’”
After the jump: three more to avoid.
3. Overworking pie dough. “You want to form it into a disk but you don’t want to work the bejeebies out of it.” It should form small clumps but not a huge ball.
4. Using a loaf pan that’s too small. If you fill it too full, the batter will rise up and the cake will be overdone on the outside and too gooey in the middle. Let the batter come halfway to two-thirds of the way up the pan. In a pinch, you can substitute a larger pan for a smaller one. Just remember the cake will take less time to bake and will come out flatter.
5. Judging cookies’ doneness by looking at the tops. “You also need to check the bottoms. [Some] cookies can go from golden brown to burnt really fast.” Often, cookies may seem underdone and kind of gooey on top, but they’ll firm up as they cool.