Baking 101: A Comprehensive List Of Tips and Tricks
Krusteaz mixes are made from simple, real, quality ingredients and allow anyone to prepare, eat and share tasty made-at-home treats with a minimum of time and energy and a maximum of deliciousness. As convenient and easy as our mixes are, sometimes things don’t turn out exactly as expected. Our culinary specialists and food scientists have put together some helpful tips to ensure your baking success.
Opening the box is the first step – gathering your ingredients, baking pans and preparing your oven come next. We develop our mixes to be easy as, well, pie. Most of our mixes require just water or pantry basics that you’re likely to have on hand. Read through instructions completely and carefully first!
Krusteaz products are developed to be made with large-size eggs. Using the wrong size can lead to thin, flat, cake-like brownies or browner-edged muffins. A large egg equals 2 ounces. Use fresh, large eggs for best results. Let eggs come to room temperature or set them in a bowl of warm water for 5 minutes before adding to the mix.
Butter means salted or unsalted butter, depending on your taste preference. You can substitute margarine but, if you do, we recommend using one that contains at least 65% oil. The texture of the final product may be slightly different.
How soft is softened butter? You can tell if the butter is the right softness to use when you can pinch the center and there is no solid spot left in the middle. When using a microwave to soften butter, start with 10 seconds, adding on 5 seconds at a time until you can pinch the middle without having a melted center.
Oil means vegetable/canola oil. You can substitute other oils, such as olive, corn or coconut, but the texture and flavor of the final product may be slightly different.
Water temperature can play a critical role in certain baked goods: the colder the water, the lighter and fluffier your pancakes will be; warm water should be used to dissolve yeast; cold water can result in a more fudge-like brownie, etc. But how warm is warm and how hot is too hot?
- Lukewarm Water = Room Temp = 75˚ to 80˚F
- Warm Water = 100˚ to 110˚F
- Very Warm Water = 120˚ to 130˚F.
- Yeast is killed at 140˚F.
We recommend using sturdy aluminum pans and cookie sheets. If using glass pans, lower the oven temperature by 25 degrees and bake for the time called for in the recipe. Dark-colored pans may cause the bottoms and edges to over-brown. We don’t recommend using insulated cookie sheets.
If your recipe calls for an 8x8-inch pan, you can make a double batch in a 9x13-inch pan, using the same oven temperature and bake time.
Coat pans, baking sheets and griddles lightly with nonstick spray. Check to see if you’ve used too much spray by tilting the pan. If the oil pools, use a paper towel to gently dab out the excess. Too much spray can cause brownies to have an extra-crunchy, hard edge and can cause muffins to crawl up the side of pan and develop a ‘lip’.
Griddles and ovens should be preheated for approximately 20-30 minutes. Use an oven thermometer to ensure that your oven temperature is accurate. Moving the thermometer to different places (front, back, center) can help determine where ‘hot spots’ are.
Standard ovens only radiate heat from the bottom, so pans should be placed on the center rack. For the most even bake, only use one rack at a time when baking, otherwise be sure to rotate pans halfway through cooking time.
If you happen to be using a convection oven, you should set the temperature 25 degrees lower than what the recipe calls for and reduce the baking time by about 25%.
Measuring & Mixing:
Measuring dry ingredients is different from measuring liquids. To measure dry ingredients, spoon mix into a dry measuring cup, tap gently across the surface with the back of a knife and level off. Pancakes and waffles require dry mix measuring.
Measure liquids by placing a clear liquid measuring cup on a level surface at eye level.
Stir together wet ingredients with a fork before adding mix in order to make sure the egg is well-blended.
Overmixing can cause batters to become tough – especially muffins, biscuits and pancakes. Some batters will remain slightly lumpy; these are shortening bits that add light fluffy texture and flavor.
Using scoops to measure out batter or dough will give you more consistent yields and nicely rounded shapes.
Handy-Dandy Measuring Conversions
- 3 teaspoons = 1 tablespoon
- 2 tablespoons = 1/8 cup
- 4 tablespoons = 1/4 cup
- 5-1/3 tablespoons = 1/3 cup
- 8 tablespoons = 1/2 cup
- 12 tablespoons = 3/4 cup
- 16 tablespoons = 1 cup
- 2 cups = 1 pint
- 4 cups = 1 quart
- 4 quarts = 1 gallon
- 1 pound = 16 ounces*
- 1 cup = 8 fluid ounces*
- 1 package (12 oz.) chocolate chips = 2 cups
- 1 envelope active dry yeast = 2 1/4 teaspoons
*Remember that volume and weight ounces are different. Use volume ounces for measuring liquids and weight ounces for measuring dry ingredients.
Post-Check Ingredient List:
Before putting your creation into the oven, read through the list of recipe ingredients one more time to make sure an ingredient has not been left out.
If you missed an ingredient the directions called for in the beginning of the preparation, go ahead and add it now. Better late than never!
Testing for Doneness:
You can use the toothpick test for doneness on muffins, quick breads, cornbread and cakes: insert a round toothpick into the center of the pan; if it comes out clean, the product is done. You CANNOT use this test on brownies or citrus bars, as they are designed to be fudgy or gooey and will always cling to the toothpick.
To test if citrus bars are done, remove the pan from the oven and gently shake it bake and forth. If the top all moves as one, the bars are done. If there is a quarter-size or larger area in the center that still moves independently, bake the bars for a few more minutes.
The only way to determine brownie doneness is by accurate time and oven temperature. Use an oven thermometer. Freshly baked brownies may appear slightly undercooked, but finish setting as they cool.
Cookies will continue to set from the heat of the pan after being removed from the oven, so how do you know when to take them out? Open the oven door and insert the edge of a turner or spatula under the edge of one cookie. Lift gently. If the cookie stays flat across the bottom, and doesn't bend or break in the middle, it's ready to come out of the oven.
When ready to take out of the oven, bar cookies will pull away from the edge of the pan just slightly, and drop cookies will be golden brown at their edges.
Oven lights aren’t always accurate. Always remove product from the oven to check for doneness, especially for products where color is important, such as muffins.
Cooling and Storing:
Let baked products cool completely before you wrap them for storage. Otherwise, they may “sweat” and become wet on top or throughout.
Muffins, quick breads and pound cakes need to sit 5-10 minutes before removing from the pan. If you remove them immediately, they will be too tender and fall apart. If you wait until they completely cool, they may not release from the pan. Gluten-free muffins are a little different; let sit two minutes before removing.
Use a cooling rack when cooling products; it allows for good air flow, especially around the bottom of the pan.
Loaves must be completely cooled before glazing and cutting. Warm loaves will make glazes run more and the loaves will be crumbly and crack if cut too soon.
The best way to keep your baked goods from drying out is to wrap them tightly with nonstick foil or place in an airtight container.
Product Specific Tips
Use cold tap water to make pancakes. The colder the water, the lighter and fluffier your pancakes will be. Warm water = gummy pancakes.
Hand-mix for best results and allow batter to rest 2 minutes before using to ensure the mix is fully hydrated. Batter can be made up to 2 hours before cooking. Cover and refrigerate batter; stir before cooking.
Flip a pancake only once. Wait for bubbles to appear at the top of the pancake and the bottom to be golden before flipping (about 1 - 1 ½ minutes). Never pat, or “spank” your pancake – it will deflate the light, fluffy texture Krusteaz pancakes are known for and make them gummy.
Freeze cooked waffles in a single layer, wrapping in plastic freezer wrap – reheat on lightly greased, preheated waffle iron for approximately 1-1 ¼ minutes.
Fill cups 2/3 full for perfect peak and yield.
If you don’t have enough batter to fill all the cups in your pan, fill the empty cups with water to ensure more even baking.
Muffins are done when center springs back when lightly touched or when toothpick inserted into center comes out clean.
Let cool in pan 5-10 minutes before removing. Gluten-free muffins are a little different; let sit two minutes before removing.
Muffins are best served the same day they’re made. If you need to store them, it’s best to place them single layer, in a plastic or glass airtight container that is higher than the crown. Freeze muffins when storing for more than one day. Thaw before serving or reheating. Reheat in microwave, on HIGH power for 10-15 seconds.
My muffins look like volcanoes! Your oven temperature was probably too high.
My muffins are tough and chewy. You may have over-mixed your batter.
Scrape bowl to ensure batter consistency. Batter should be baked immediately after mixing.
Cornbread is done when crust is golden brown, sides are slightly pulled away from pan and toothpick inserted in center comes out clean. Don’t worry if cracks appear in the top – that’s completely normal. Cool for 5 minutes before serving for easier handling.
Store cooled cornbread in airtight wrap or container.
Cookies have a high fat content and usually don’t require pan preparation/spray.
Eggs should be room temperature.
Butter should be softened but not melted. If the butter is too soft or melted, your cookies will spread too much. If the butter is too hard, it will not incorporate well. If your butter was too soft and the dough seems very soft and/or sticky, chill the dough in the refrigerator before baking. Chilling the dough in the refrigerator helps to prevent the cookies from flattening or spreading too much, and helps to give a nice rounded center.
Level dough in scoop to ensure round, even cookies. Leave 2” between cookies so they have room to evenly bake and spread.
"Drop the dough by the tablespoonful" -- what does this really mean? Do you have to measure out an exact tablespoon of dough? When recipes call for scooping by the tablespoon, it’s expected that you’ll scoop a ball of dough, either with a spoon or a cookie scoop, that measures about the size of a ping-pong ball. This will result in the size of cookie and yield that the recipe intends.
Preheat oven for 20-30 minutes and check temperature before baking, as cookies bake quickly. Double-check your oven thermometer to make sure you won’t over-bake.
After you've removed a cookie sheet from the oven and transferred the baked cookies to a cooling rack, be sure the pan has cooled to room temperature before putting more cookie dough on it. Putting dough on hot pans will cause it to spread or lose its shape before it gets into the oven, increasing the risk of burned edges and flat cookies. If you want to continue scooping or shaping while your first pan of cookies is baking, just scoop the rest of the batter onto sheets of parchment, then lift the parchment onto the cooled sheets when they're ready.
If you like chewy cookies, leave them on the baking sheet for 5 minutes after you take the pan out of the oven. This gives the cookies a chance to firm up a bit. After 5 minutes, transfer the cookies to a cooling rack to finish cooling.
Bar cookies should cool in their baking pans on a rack. Don't cut them while they're warm; you'll make bars with very ragged edges, and they're much more likely to fall apart when you're taking them out of the pan.
Refrigerate dough between batches for best results.
Be sure cookies are entirely cool before you wrap them up to store. Wrapping a still-warm cookie will cause it to steam inside its container, which could yield soggy, stuck-together results. Cookies are best stored in an airtight container.
Blend all wet ingredients with a fork or whisk before adding dry mix. This will make sure the egg is mixed well so there are no pockets of egg in the finished product.
Scrape bowl well to ensure batter consistency.
Let batter rest in pan 10 minutes before baking. This gives time for the sugars to start breaking down, which assures a beautiful papery top all the way to the edge of pan.
Let cool completely or overnight before cutting. Using a plastic knife will create a cleaner cut.
Always prepare filling first to allow the starch to fully hydrate.
Pour filling onto HOT crust.
For best results, cut when cool or cold, or freeze bars before cutting. For a nice, clean edge, cut them straight from the freezer. They will thaw fully within a few minutes.
If dusting with powdered sugar, use a fine strainer or sieve and dust just before serving.
Use cool water and hand mix for best results.
When rolling out pie crust, use the smallest amount of flour you can for dusting or roll the crust between sheets of parchment or wax paper. Extra flour will make the crust tougher.
An easy way to make sure your crust is the right size is to draw a circle slightly larger than your pie pan edge on a piece of parchment paper and use that as a guide when rolling out your dough.
Chilling the dough slightly after placing in pan will help to reduce shrinkage when it bakes.
If prebaking the crust or baking an empty pie shell, prick bottom and sides of empty dough shell with a fork, line the crust with foil and use dried beans or pie weights until crust is dry around edges. Then remove foil with beans/weights and either fill and bake as recipe calls for or finish baking empty shell to be filled when cooled.
Use cool water. Use a minimum amount of dusting flour. Cut biscuits using a straight up-and-down motion. Place biscuits side by side with edges touching to achieve maximum height. Cutting biscuits into squares will eliminate waste and the need to rework scraps.
Brush tops with milk before baking for a glossy, golden crust; brush tops with melted butter after baking for buttery top.
Freeze baked biscuits, wrapping tightly in airtight wrap or container. Biscuit dough may be prepared and shaped and then securely covered and frozen. To bake, remove from freezer and bake as directed, adding 3-5 minutes to bake time.
Use cool water.
Blend all wet ingredients before adding dry. Stir until all mix is incorporated.
Scrape bowl well to ensure batter consistency. Be careful not to over-mix or cake will not rise as high as it should. Fill pans halfway full. Tap pan lightly to release any air bubbles.
Coffee filters make perfect liners for 8” baking pans.
Cool cakes upside down to flatten out the top, creating easy-to-stack layers for layer cakes. If the top of a cake is still too rounded, slice it off with a serrated knife.
Wrap cooled cake in airtight wrapping and store at room temperature. If eggs, oil or other perishable items have been added to batter, store cake in refrigerator.
Let cakes cool completely before frosting.
My cake sank in the middle! There are several things that can cause a cake to sink: over-mixing the batter; too much liquid in the batter; the oven temperature was too low; the cake was bumped during baking.
The top of my cake cracked! Again, there are several factors that can make a cake crack on top: over-mixing the batter, the oven temperature was too high; too much heat on the bottom of pan.
My bread collapsed! You may have let the dough rise for too long or the area where dough was rising was too warm.
The top of my loaf was flat! Knead the dough as directed; avoid under-kneading the dough. Also avoid over-rising.
Ew, my crust was soggy! Don’t let bread sit in pan after baking. Remove promptly and let cool on wire rack.
IN A PINCH
While you’re on our site because you love our delicious and convenient mixes, we understand that sometimes the occasion calls for some made-from-scratch love. And, when it matters most, your pantry lets you down and you don’t have exactly what the recipe calls for. We’ve put together a little list of common substitutions so you can still get Grandma’s 90th birthday cake (or little Susie’s straight-A report card cookies) made on time.
1 teaspoon baking powder = ½ teaspoon cream of tartar + ¼ teaspoon baking soda
1 cup buttermilk or sour milk = 1 tablespoon lemon juice or vinegar + milk or soy milk to make 1 cup (let stand 5 minutes); 1 cup plain yogurt; 1 cup sour cream
1 cup fresh whole milk = 1 cup skim (non-fat) milk + 2 tablespoons unsalted butter; ¼ cup powdered whole milk +7/8 cup water; ¼ cup powdered skim milk + 7/8 cup water +1 tablespoon unsalted butter; ½ cup evaporated whole milk = ½ cup water; 1 cup water + 2 tablespoons unsalted butter; 1 cup mild-flavored soy or nut milk; 1 cup fruit juice
1 ounce baking chocolate = 3 tablespoons cocoa + 1 tablespoon oil or melted shortening
1 cup cake flour = 2 tablespoons cornstarch + 7/8 cup all-purpose flour
1 cup self-rising flour = 1 cup all-purpose flour + 1 teaspoon baking powder + ½ teaspoon salt + ¼ teaspoon baking soda
1 envelope active dry yeast = 1 cube fresh yeast
1 large egg, whole = 2 large egg yolks + 1 tablespoon water (in baked goods); 2 large egg yolks (in custards, sauces, puddings, and mousses); 3½ tablespoons frozen whole egg, thawed; 3 to 4 tablespoons egg substitute; 2½ tablespoons powdered whole egg + 2½ tablespoons water
1 cup confectioner’s sugar = ½ cup + 1 tablespoon granulated sugar
1 cup granulated white sugar = 1 cup superfine sugar; 1 cup firmly packed light brown sugar; 1 cup raw sugar; 1¾ cup confectioner’s sugar, sifted; ¾ cup honey + ½ teaspoon baking soda (and decrease the liquid in the recipe by ¼ cup or increase the flour by ¼ cup.); 1 cup maple sugar + ½ teaspoon baking soda
1 cup light or dark brown sugar, firmly packed = 1 cup raw sugar; 1 cup granulated white sugar; 7/8 cup granulated sugar + ¼ cup molasses, maple syrup, dark corn syrup or honey; For light brown sugar, substitute ½ cup dark brown sugar + ½ cup granulated sugar