In this post, we will touch the technical part of baking. To begin with, no one is born with a baking sheet in their hands. And most people get into the oven for the first time and ask themselves the same questions: how to bake in the oven, at what temperature to bake, should I use a cold or preheated oven, which oven mode for baking, what level should I put the baking sheet on, how to understand the oven temperature, how long does it take to bake, can I open the oven while baking, when and how to check the readiness of the baking, and many other similar questions.
At one time, I was just as confused and tried my hand at it. And now, with almost 10 years of experience (4 of which have been in baking as my main activity), I teach other beginners not to be afraid to try and master baking, because it will bring much more pleasant emotions to you and your loved ones.
Over time, you get to a point where you can easily answer all those questions and almost intuitively choose the right baking mode without even looking at the recipe. But how you can get to that point? Is it only by taking a baking course?
No, not only that. You can learn this on your own. How exactly? Oddly enough, there is only one answer – bake in the oven. All ovens are different, and only if you know the features of yours, you can easily cook any dish.
Choose a simple and inexpensive recipe (for example, chocolate muffins with buttermilk) and cook it several times, slightly changing the baking conditions. Which ones?
First, set the temperature specified in the recipe and see what happens:
- it’s baking too long, so next time increase the temperature by 10 degrees;
- the dish is burnt on the outside, but not baked on the inside – the temperature is too high, next time reduce it by 10 degrees.
And so, with each next baking, you gradually find the right temperature. Be sure to write it down or make a mark on the oven, so you don’t forget it over time.
Often, the temperature indicated on the oven does not match the temperature inside the oven during baking. This happens even with new ovens.
For example, my oven (which is only 2 years old) has a misstep of 20 degrees. I intuitively realized this after several dishes were
spoiled baked in it.
After that, I bought a special thermometer for ovens, and the difference in values was confirmed. There is only one drawback of such a thermometer: it records the temperature more slowly than the oven reaches the desired temperature. That is, for example, the oven has already heated up to 180ºC, but the thermometer will show it in 5-10 minutes. But in general, just a few measurements are enough to understand and memorize the features of your oven.
And keep in mind that the oven’s misstep may vary at different temperatures. So, for example, in my oven, at 180ºC, the misstep is 20ºC, and at 100ºC, it is only 5ºC.
The most common are top-down and convection. You can often find top-down plus convection, but I advise you to master top-down first. In different modes, the oven can behave differently, for example, convection in household ovens often “limps” – it bakes more on one side than on the other. That’s why top-bottom is a more reliable option for beginners.
Level of the baking sheet
In an electric oven, this is most often the medium level, although there are ovens, especially old ones, in which, for example, the bottom “fries” more than the top, or the opposite. In this case, move the baking sheet to another level and remember this feature of your oven.
This way, after only 3-4 bakes, you’ll know how your oven works and can easily adapt the recipes.
Can I put the dish in a cold oven?
Just remember: ALWAYS put the dish in a well preheated oven.
Can I open the oven while baking?
No, at least for the first half of the baking time, unless specifically stated in the recipe. For example, the recipe calls for a cupcake to be baked for 40 minutes. So, for the first 20 minutes at least, do not open the oven door, otherwise the dough that has risen will settle (“fall”), and there is no way to fix it – the cupcake will not be cooked.
When and how to check the baking doneness?
You can start checking the doneness of the baked goods 8-10 minutes before the end of baking time specified in the recipe. First, visually assess how brown the crust is. If it is a sponge cake or yeast dough pastry product, then insert a clean toothpick into it at its highest point (usually the middle). If the cake is done, the toothpick will come out dry and clean.
Can I leave a cooked meal in the oven after turning it off?
No, unless it is clearly stated in the recipe. Most types of baked goods spoil if left to cool in the oven, even if it is open. For example, muffins will dry out and harden. However, meringues or cheesecakes are usually left in the oven off until they cool completely.
How to bake in a gas oven?
All of the above tips apply to gas ovens, but they require special attention and perhaps an increased amount of nerves, at least because most recipes are usually written for electric equipment.
Older gas ovens usually do not have any temperature settings, meaning that the temperature is set intuitively. Modern ovens have temperature settings, and the instructions should indicate how each setting corresponds to the temperature in an electric oven. However, they may not be very accurate and require additional trials, preferably using a thermometer.
In a gas oven, it is worth experimenting with the level of the baking tray, especially if the heating element is only at the bottom.
The disadvantage of gas ovens is that it is difficult to set and reproduce the exact temperature. Many modern desserts require a very precise value of this parameter, down to the degree. For example, macarons can be baked at 132ºC (depending on many factors). However, if you own a gas oven and don’t want to make gourmet desserts, your assistant may be just fine.
So, let’s summarize, how to bake in the oven.
Default baking conditions
(if different, it will be indicated in the recipe itself)
Mode – “top-bottom” most often
Level – medium
Place in a preheated oven – always
Open the oven during cooking – no
Leave the dish in the oven off – no
That’s all I have for now about how to bake in the oven. If you have any questions, write in the comments.
And may you have perfect ovens!