Baking Tips

Read these 77 Baking Tips tips to make your life smarter, better, faster and wiser. Each tip is approved by our Editors and created by expert writers so great we call them Gurus. LifeTips is the place to go when you need to know about Dessert tips and hundreds of other topics.

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Can I make allspice myself?

Allspice Substitution

You can make allspice using 2 parts cinnamon and 1 part each nutmeg and ground cloves.

   
Can I use honey instead of sugar in recipes?

Using Honey Instead of Sugar

If you prefer to use honey instead of sugar when baking, you can use it in most recipes as long as you remember these rules. When making cakes and cookies, you can replace up to half the sugar with honey, but reduce liquid by 1/4 cup for every cup of sugar that is replaced. In fruit bars you can replace up to 2/3 the amount of sugar, again reducing the liquid by 1/4 cup for every cup sugar.

   
How do I substitute for cake flour?

Substituting for Cake Flour

To substitute for 1 cup of cake flour, use 3/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons flour plus 2 tablespoons cornstarch. Sift twice before using.

   
Can I bake with honey?

Baking with Honey

Baked items that use honey as a substitute for sugar will brown faster, so remember to reduce the oven temperature by 25 degrees.

   
How can I soften my hardened honey?

Crystallized Honey

If your honey has hardened, that means the sugar has crystallized. To liquefy it again, place the jar or bottle in warm water until the crystals dissolve. You can also heat the honey in the microwave but take care that you don't overheat it. With either method, stir it during heating.

   
How can I speed up making desserts?

Softening Butter

To bring butter or margarine to room temperature quickly, use a grater to shred it into your mixing bowl.

   
Is there an easy way to measure honey or syrup?

Measuring Honey

When measuring sticky liquids such as honey, first brush the cup or spoon with oil or spray with cooking spray. The liquid will slide right out of the utensil.

   
How do I substitute for unsweetened chocolate?

Substituting for Chocolate

To substitute for one ounce of unsweetened chocolate, use 3 tablespoons of cocoa powder plus one tablespoon of solid shortening.

   
How can I speed up making desserts?

Egg Warming

If you need to quickly warm eggs directly from the refrigerator, place the unbroken eggs in a bowl of warm water for a few minutes.

   
My baking powder has expired, can I still use it?

Is your baking powder too old to use?

If the dust you blew off the top of your baking powder container isn't enough proof that it is old, try this test to check if it is still usable. Mix one teaspoon powder with 1/3 cup of hot water. If the mixture doesn't foam, the powder is stale and should be replaced.

   
Can I substitute honey for sugar in baked goods?

Substituting Honey

To substitute honey for sugar in a recipe, use 3/4 cup plus 1 tablespoon of honey for each cup of sugar, and reduce the amount of liquid in the recipe by 2 tablespoons.

If the recipe doesn't use sour cream or buttermilk, also add a pinch of baking soda to reduce acidity that honey adds to baked products.

   
When I bake in glass pans, everything gets too brown. Why?

Turn down the heat!

If you are using glass pans for baking, reduce the oven temperature by 25 degrees. Glass conducts heat better than metal so products baked in glass pans have a tendency to overcook.

   
How do I keep egg yolks from curdling?

Keep Eggs from Curdling

When you are adding egg yolks to a hot mixture such as a chocolate sauce, first add just a bit of the hot mixture to the yolks to warm them up and then stir the yolk mixture back into the first pan. This is called tempering, and will help prevent the heat from curdling the yolks.

   
Can I freeze pies ahead of time?

Freezing Fruit Pies

Unbaked fruit pies freeze well. Just add a little extra thickening agent to fruit pies destined for the freezer.

   
What are temperature equivalents for European Gas Mark?

Temperature Conversions

Conversions for Fahrenheit to Gas Mark:

300 degrees F = Gas Mark 2
325 degrees F = Gas Mark 3
350 degrees F = Gas Mark 4
375 degrees F = Gas Mark 5
400 degrees F = Gas Mark 6
425 degrees F = Gas Mark 7
450 degrees F = Gas Mark 8
475 degrees F = Gas Mark 9
Broil = Grill

   
Do you have any tips for making meringue?

Whipping Egg Whites

Egg whites WILL NOT WHIP (they just won't) if they come into contact with even the slightest trace of fat, grease or egg yolk. This is why it's a good idea when separating eggs to have three bowls: one for the yolks, one for the whites and one bowl to separate over so that you won't have to throw out a whole batch if one yolk breaks while separating. It is also a good idea to wash your hands, beaters and bowl before beginning as well, to make sure they are grease free.

   
Is there a substitute for sweetened condensed milk?

Homemade Sweetened Condensed Milk

Out of sweetened condensed milk? Here's a homemade version that really works!

Homemade Sweetened Condensed Milk

1-1/2 cups instant non-fat dry milk powder
1/2 cup water
2/3 cup sugar
1 tsp. vanilla

In a 4 cup glass measure, mix dry milk and water until smooth. Stir in sugar and vanilla. Microwave at high power for 30 seconds to 1-1/2 minutes until hot but not boiling, stirring every 30 seconds. This equals to 1 14-oz. can sweetened condensed milk and can be substituted for it in baking.

   
What can I use instead of raw egg whites?

Meringue Powder

If a dessert calls for egg whites that will not be cooked, it is safer to use meringue powder. You can usually find this in the grocery store's baking section or at a bakery supply store. 2 tablespoons powder + 2 tablespoons water = 1 egg white.

   
How can I get more juice from lemons?

Juice Those Lemons

To get more juice from citrus fruits, zap it first in the microwave for 15-20 seconds and then gently roll it on the counter before cutting in half.

   
How can I soften raisins up before using them?

Plump Those Raisins

Before baking with raisins, soak them in hot apple juice for about 20 minutes. They will be more flavorful and softer this way.

   
Is there an easier way to grease and flour baking pans?

Simplify greasing and flouring your pans!

Hate to grease and flour your pans? Combine them in this excellent pan coating product. Beat 2 1/2 cups of solid vegetable shortening with 3/4 cup of flour, and then add 1/3 cup of oil. Beat the mixture until it is fluffy. Store in sealed container. Use a small pastry brush to apply to your baking pans.

   
How can I warm eggs up quickly?

Warming Eggs

Eggs beat better if they are room temperature. If you forget to take them out ahead of time, you can warm them up by placing uncracked eggs in a bowl of warm (not hot) water for a few minutes. Take this time to gather the rest of your ingredients.

   
Can my young child eat honey?

Honey Warning

Do not use honey in items that will be eaten by children under the age of one. Honey can contain bacterial spores that cause infant botulism.

   
What are poppy seeds?

Poppy Seeds

Poppy seeds are tiny, slate blue seeds that come from the opium plant. They have a nutty flavor and can be ground and used as a pastry filling, or added to cakes and cookies for flavor and texture. Do watch out because high consumption of the seeds can cause a drug test to come up with a questionable result!

   
Why do pasteurized eggs take longer to beat?

Pasteurized Eggs

Pasteurized eggs will take longer to beat than plain raw eggs. This is because the protein has been denatured slightly by the heat used in the pasteurization process. Just keep beating and you will eventually get fluffy results!

   
How can I substitute for brown sugar?

Brown Sugar Substitution

To substitute for one cup of brown sugar, use one cup white sugar plus two tablespoons molasses.

   
How do I make cinnamon sugar?

Cinnamon Sugar

Cinnamon sugar is great to have around the house to sprinkle on toast or coffee. Make your own and save yourself some money. Mix 7/8 cup of sugar with 2 tablespoons cinnamon and store in a shaker.

   
How long can I leave a dessert at room temperature?

Safe temperatures

You don't have to worry about food safety with most desserts. The amount of sugar in most of them will help prevent bacterial growth. BUT - if a dessert has cream cheese in it, or uncooked eggs (pasteurized only, please) the food should be left out at room temperature for no more than 2 hours - 1 hour if the temperature is above 90 degrees.

   
When I measure something sticky, how can I keep it from sticking?

Sticky Containers

When measuring sticky ingredients, like peanut butter or marshmallow cream, lightly coat the measuring cup with vegetable oil or spray with cooking spray first, and the ingredients will slip right out.

   
What can I use in place of cheesecloth?

No Cheesecloth? What to Do?

If you don't have cheesecloth handy for straining really fine particles, just cut a piece of fabric from old but clean linens.

   
How can I quickly chill a cooked sauce?

Cooling Sauces

The best and fastest way to cool sauces is to place the container holding the hot sauce in another, larger container partially filled with ice and water. Stir the sauce frequently to accelerate cooling time.

   
How can I keep my cookies and cakes from falling apart?

Let them cool

To avoid breaking and crumbling, cool bar cookies and cakes completely before cutting.

   
Are there different types of cocoa powder?

Cocoa Powder

Try using Dutch process cocoa powder in your baking instead of natural cocoa. Dutch process cocoa is treated with an alkali, which reduces its acidity. The flavor is smoother and less harsh.

   
Where should I store my fruits in the refrigerator?

Refrigerated Fruits

Whole melons should be stored in the middle section of your refrigerator, where the temperature is more moderate. Berries and other delicate fruits do best on the bottom shelf where it's warmer. And apples and grapes are best stored in the back of the top shelf, the coldest spot in the appliance.

   
Can I use low fat spreads when making baked products?

Spreads - can I use them for baking?

It is very important to use only regular margarine or butter in your recipes because the low fat versions have water and air whipped into them. Your baked products will fail if you use the low fat spreads.

   
What can I substitute for nuts?

Out Of Nuts?

If you are out of nuts, try using Grape Nuts cereal as a substitution. Toasted rolled oats also work well, with the added bonus of less fat and more fiber!

   
What´s the best way to store brown sugar?

Brown Sugar Storage

To keep brown sugar soft and make measuring easier, store it in a large zippered heavy duty plastic bag. You can easily place a measuring cup inside the bag, and use the bag itself to press the sugar into the cup.

   
What is single acting baking powder?

Using Grandma's Recipe?

Many old, old recipes used single acting baking powder and will not work with today's double acting version, which produces carbon dioxide when exposed to liquid and when exposed to heat. Instead combine 2 tablespoons cream of tartar, 1 tablespoon baking soda and 1 tablespoon cornstarch. Use what you need and store the rest for next time.

   
How do I get a dessert out of a mold?

Unmolding Desserts

If you are having trouble with unmolding a dessert or turning out a cake, wrap the pan briefly in a warm towel. Then place a plate over the pan or mold, invert, shake gently, and the product should slip right out.

   
What are caraway seeds?

Caraway Seeds

Caraway seeds are small, brown and crescent shaped with lengthwise ridges. The seeds taste like licorice and are used in cakes, main dishes, and rye breads.

   
How long can I keep a cheesecake frozen?

Storing Cheesecake

A tightly wrapped cheesecake can be stored in the freezer for up to three weeks.

   
How can I spice up my baked goods?

Black Pepper Trick

Try using a little black pepper to give baked goods more character. Many people don't realize that pepper, along with ginger, gives gingerbread its characteristic bite.

   
How do I toast nuts?

Toasting Nuts

To toast nuts, preheat oven to 350 degrees. Spread nuts out in a single layer on a baking sheet and bake until nuts are golden brown, about 5-10 minutes. Stir a few times while toasting to ensure even browning, and watch carefully. Because of their high fat content, nuts burn very quickly.

   
Is there anything I should do when trying out a new recipe?

Cautious Flour

When making a new cake, cookie or bread recipe for the first time, it's a good idea to use slightly less flour than called for, then add the rest if the batter warrants it. You can always add, but you can't take it out if there's too much.

   
One of my recipes uses metric - how do I convert it?

Conversions for Liquid Measures

There are three basic standards of measurements:
American, Metric and British Imperial.

The conversion for liquids is as follows:

1 cup = 236 ml = 10 oz.
(note that the Imperial cup is 10 oz. rather than 8)

   
Do I have to grease and flour my cake pans?

Greasing and Flouring Your Pans

If you are going to be removing your cake from the pan, be sure to grease and flour both the bottom and the sides. If you will be serving in the pan, grease the bottom only (no flour).

   
What is the substitution for almond extract?

Almond Extract Substitutions

Almond extract is one of the most potent extracts in the cooking world. This is why most recipes call for a very small amount. It has a great flavor and is wonderful in certain baked goods.

If a recipe calls for almond extract and the cook has none on hand, there are substitutions that can be made. Make sure to accurately follow the substitutions or the recipe may not taste as it should.

Vanilla extract can be used in place of almond extract. Try using a tad more vanilla extract than what you would have used for almond extract.

Bitter almond oil can also be used as a substitute for almond extract. Most conversion charts call for 1/8 of a teaspoon of the oil to one teaspoon of extract. More can always be added if the taste isn't quite strong enough. 1/8 of a teaspoon is a good starting point.

A person can also use an almond liqueur for an almond extract replacement. It is recommended to use four to eight times as much liqueur than extract.

Whatever a recipe may be, if it calls for almond extract and there is none available, there are plenty of choices for substitutions.

   
How much cream can I whip at one time?

Whipping Cream

Do not try to whip more than two cups of whipping cream at a time.

   
What is Anise?

Anise

Anise are small brown oval seeds that taste like licorice.

   
I made too much whipped cream, what can I do with it?

Too much whipped cream?

If you have whipped more cream than you need, freeze the extra! Spoon cream into mounds on a baking sheet lined with waxed paper and freeze until firm. Store in sealed container and keep frozen for up to a month. Defrost at room temperature for five minutes.

   
How can I keep cookies and cakes from sticking to the pan?

unsalted for greasing

If you are using butter for the purpose of greasing pans, be sure to use unsalted butter or the foods will probably stick.

   
What´s an easy way to whip cream?

Shaken, Not Stirred

When you don't feel like dragging out the electric mixer to make whipped cream, try pouring 1 cup of heavy cream into a 1 pint plastic food storage container, and shake hard until the cream is whipped. This should take about 3 minutes.

   
How do I store spices?

Storing Spices

Store spices in airtight jars in a dry place and away from light. For maximum longevity, store them in the freezer.

   
Why do I need to use cooling racks when baking?

Why use wire racks for cooling?

Cooling baked items on a wire rack allows air circulation around the product. This prevents the formation of condensation which can make the baked item soggy.

   
Do I have to sift flour?

Measuring Counts

Be sure to measure your ingredients accurately to ensure success. If a recipe tells you sift the flour, do it. Sifting increases the volume of the flour so you may use less than when it is unsifted.

   
How do I keep my kitchen safe?

Wash Your Hands!

Whenever you handle raw eggs, please remember to wash your hands thoroughly! Use lots of soap, warm water, and keep on washing through a slow singing of "Happy Birthday To You". That's how to ensure you wash for a minimum of 10 seconds.

   
How do I make an older recipe that uses uncooked eggs?

Pasteurized Eggs

When an older recipe calls for using uncooked eggs, you can still make it if you use pasteurized eggs. These can be found in most grocery stores. The eggs have been heated enough to kill bacteria, but not enough to cook them. Be sure to check the use-by date on the carton.

   
Wehn do I need to wash my hands during cooking?

eggs

Whenever you handle raw eggs, make sure to wash your hands with hot, soapy water to prevent salmonella food poisoning. Even handling the shell can be risky! So wash and wash again!

   
What are cloves?

Cloves

Cloves are unopened flower buds that are dried. They can be purchased whole or ground. Use whole cloves to decorate oranges, and use ground cloves in pies, cookies, and spice cakes.

   
I am out of shortening. What else can I use?

Put On the Mayo

You can substitute mayonnaise for part of the shortening in your baking recipes. It adds moistness and makes for a tender texture. Be careful though. Try using half mayo and half shortening at first.

   
What are some basic organizing tips?

Organize Before Starting!

Get organized before you start cooking. Read the recipe, gather your ingredients and arrange in order of use, set out the bowls and utensils that you will need. Everything will move much more smoothly this way. The French call this 'mise en place'.

   
Can I make my own self-rising flour?

Make Your Own Self-Rising Flour

To make your own self-rising flour, mix the following:

6 cups regular all purpose flour
3 tablespoons baking powder
1 tablespoon salt

Store in an airtight container.

   
How can I get the skin off of nuts?

Skinning Nuts

To remove the skins from hazelnuts or filberts, toast them on a baking sheet at 325 F for about 20 minutes (don't over brown). Remove from oven and cover with a damp kitchen towel, then cover with another baking sheet. This allows the steam from the towel to help remove the skins from the nuts. To finish the job, take a handful of nuts at a time, and rub vigorously between the folds of a clean towel.

   
Should I spend more money on certain ingredients?

Choose Only High Quality Items

When you are making desserts be sure to select only high quality items - the best chocolate that you can afford, the freshest fruits, and brand name dairy products. It will definitely make a difference in the quality of your dish.

   
What can I substitute for buttermilk?

Substitute for buttermilk

To make your own buttermilk substitute: mix 1 cup whole milk with 1 tablespoon lemon juice or vinegar. Let sit for five minutes before using in recipe.

   
How do I melt butter quickly?

Thank You Microwave

The microwave is the easiest, quickest way to heat liquids and melt butter or chocolate.

   
What is Nutmeg?

Nutmeg

Nutmeg is the kernel of the fruit mace and is mainly grown in the West Indies. It is about the size of an unshelled walnut. Ground, it can be sprinkled on eggnog and custards and is used to flavor many desserts. During the middle ages, people would carry a kernel and grinder with them to season their drinks.

   
What are sesame seeds?

Sesame Seeds - Not Just for Hamburger Buns

Sesame seeds have been used by various cultures for thousands of years as a spice. The seeds have a sweet nutty flavor and can be used in cookies and pastries. They are very high in fat and in calcium.

   
Which measuring cups do I use for flour?

Measuring ingredients

Always remember to use nested measuring cups for solid ingredients such as flour or shortening and use a flat blade knife to flatten and remove excess.

Use a glass or plastic measuring cup marketed specifically for liquids and always read at eye-level while the cup is on a flat surface.

   
How can I soften brown sugar?

Soften Brown Sugar

If your brown sugar has turned to rock, you can easily soften it by putting it in a glass bowl, sprinkling with a little bit of water and placing in the microwave. Try high power for about 10-15 seconds. Zap it again if necessary, stirring after each heating, until fully softened.

   
One of my recipes uses metric - how do I convert it?

Conversions for Dry Measures

There are three different standards of measurements -
American, Metric, and British Imperial

For dry measures the conversions are as follows:

flour-
1 cup = 150 grams = 5 oz.

granulated sugar-
1/2 cup = 85 grams = 3 oz.

powdered sugar-
1/2 cup = 40 grams = 1 1/3 oz.

brown sugar-
1/2 cup = 80 grams = 2 2/3 oz.

   
Can I decrease the amount of sugar in a dessert recipe?

Decreasing sugar in baking

You can reduce the sugar in many desserts by using up to a third less sugar in the recipe. For example, if a recipe calls for 1 cup of sugar, try using only 3/4 or 2/3 of a cup and see how it turns out. Remember that you may have to experiment with the amount to get good results.

   
Do you have any tips for making meringue?

Whipping Temperature

Egg whites that are at room temperature will whip easier and faster, and will have more volume. The proteins in the whites are more relaxed when warmer, and the foam will form more easily.

   
Please tell me how to eliminate the fallen center of my sour cream pound cake. I use two loaf pans, also I am at an altitude of 5,600 ft.

Baking at High Altitudes

When baking at high altitudes (greater than 3000 feet above sea level), you may want to decrease the amount of baking powder and sugar used, and increase the amount of liquid and egg used. Baked goods will often overinflate and collapse at high altitudes, unless the recipes are modified. There are several books available, which contain recipes appropriate for cooking and baking at high altitudes.

   
What can I substitute for baking powder?

Substitution for Baking Powder

Substitution for 1 teaspoon baking powder: 1/2 teaspoon cream of tartar plus 1/4 teaspoon baking soda. This is single-acting baking powder, so your baked goods won't rise in the oven too as they do with purchased double-acting baking powder.

   
What is Ginger?

Ginger (the spice not the girl)

Ginger is a root and is available in many forms such as ground, crystallized (candied), or fresh. It is frequently used in Asian foods and in gingersnaps, gingerbread, and marinades.

   
Is there a substitute for nuts?

Substitute For Nuts

To substitute for nuts in any recipe, use dried raisins or cherries.

   
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Guru Spotlight
Linda Handiak