Do you often misread “tablespoon” as “teaspoon” on recipes?
Are you sick of cakes coming out hard and chewy?
Chances are you suck at cooking or baking or both. Don’t fret, we all suck at something.
But, What Should You Do If You Suck At Baking And Cooking?
Well, they say “baking is a science, cooking is an art”. I don’t know who exactly said it but they had a point. Both arts and sciences can be learned, quite easily if you have the zeal and time. For instance, the journey to becoming a great cook starts with owning a great cookbook. If you can follow the directions in any cookbook, then you definitely can be a great cook or baker. Confidence comes second.
1. Learn How To Learn
One of the major, if not the only, reason why you suck at baking and cooking is your reluctance to learn.
Research and learning are important in cookery not only to keep you creative but to also find routes around the most challenging parts of cooking.
You will be shocked by how cooking shows can boost your attitude and skill level.
Outside YouTube and Instagram cooking/baking pages and channels, you can count on such blogs as:
2. Before You Buy A Cookbook, Break Your Bad Habits
Maybe you are tied down by a few bad habits.
Some can be difficult to see, like defrosting food incorrectly, not preheating your pan/oven, checking your food too often, and overfilling your pan.
Some can be obvious, like using inappropriate or expired ingredients, using a single cutting board/mixing bowl for everything, or washing ingredients/foods that shouldn’t be washed.
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Pay attention to those little unorthodox things you normally do in your kitchen and push them aside.
3. For Baking Tasks, Always Get Off To The Right Start
How and where you get started in your baking journey can influence whether you will end up with a great cake.
So ensure you always get off to the right start.
I’d recommend Wayne Gisslen’s Professional Baking 7th Edition.
4. Flavors Must Balance
One of the reasons why many people suck at cooking is their poor balancing skills when it comes to flavors.
Are you often frustrated with the way your food always turns out to be too sweet or salty?
You have a flavor balancing problem. The problem may extend to spices and every other ingredient.
5. Downplay Dislikable Flavors
The trick to balancing your flavors, other than strictly adhering to the instructions in your recipe, is downplaying an extreme flavor with a milder flavor.
For instance, you can add something sweet, say, a pinch of white sugar, or sour, say, vinegar or sour juice, to downplay the saltiness.
For stews and soups, you can neutralize the flavor by sprinkling some water or saltless stock.
However, downplaying is known to mess with the consistency of the meal.
6. Know The Two Principles Of Baking
Below two principles of baking are integral to the preparation of a perfect cake.
Chances are you already know them. But since they are some of the easiest essentials to forget or even disregard, let’s reiterate them:
Sounds like a repetition but measurements are some of the most critical parts of the baking process.
Precise measurements are a must-do because, as it’s usual with reactions, you must go with precise amounts of ingredients.
In baking, you’d rather weigh your ingredients than use volume measurements such as pints and cups – the former is more precise.
A cup of flour today may not be exactly the same thing next year.
So get yourself a scale (preferably digital) for this purpose. Better yet, you can opt for metric measurements to imperial – the former is easy to scale and a whole lot accurate.
The Power Of Texture
The texture is to baking what mixing is to cocktails.
The reason why texture is tough to grasp is that there are just many types of it, all of which can be achieved with the most basic ingredients.
So there’s no easy way to master the art of a perfect texture other than sustained practice and a bit of advice from baking gurus.
7. Taste With Your Eyes
Don’t put too much emphasis on how the food tastes.
Try to eat with your eyes first, then judge the taste.
Color and appearance can influence how you and others perceive your food.
These two can go a long way to even influence the taste. That’s why we often furnish food with garnish and edible colorings.
8. Choose The Right Yeast For Your Baking, Also Don’t Rush It
Yeast-related mistakes can be devastating at times. The type and extent to which the yeast rises can influence the quality of your cakes.
So, maybe your baking woes have something to do with the wrong choice of yeast or incomplete rise.
For cakes, stick to regular powdered yeast (you can alternate it with yeast infused with vanilla-flavored sugar, still in powder form).
Conversely, bread uses fresh yeast (cake form rather than powder), preferably frozen.
Let the yeast rise without disturbance lest you end up with baked goods full of bubbles air spaces.
9. Do Your Pastries Suck As Well? Your Hot Hands Could Be The Problem
It’s easy to ruin your pastries without knowing.
First off, you better have light fingers, or else the short crust won’t form.
Secondly, understand that cold hands make the best pastries.
The same extends to ingredients and mixing bowls – keep the temperature of these items as low as possible.
Low temperature makes your pastries easily malleable.
10. Maybe Your Oven And Pan Sucks Too
Many ovens are poor at baking because they have hot spots.
If you must rotate the tray to get an evenly baked cake, your oven is the reason why you suck at baking.
Things can get worse if you find out that the knobs can’t deliver the price temperature written on them. This problem is quite common in older ovens.
Oven malfunctions aside, refrain from opening the oven while baking is in progress to prevent temperature swings.
11. Bake One Cake At A Time
In the world of baking, you don’t kill two birds with one stone.
While it can be tempting in some situations, following two or more receipts at the same time is no joke. Remember that baking temperatures and time need to be watched closely.
Your cakes probably come out scorched or hardened because you often try to keep your eyes on more than one type of cake baking at the same time.
12. Start With Your Best Ingredients
Imported spices are more likely to be better than local produce.
Fresh eggs are great for cakes, better than a tray that has been lying idle for ages in the corner of the kitchen.
Maybe you suck at cooking because your ingredients are stale most of the time.
To summarize everything, here’s what to do to improve your cooking/baking skills:
- Start with your best ingredients
- Always balance your flavors
- Know the 2 principles of baking
- Always get off to the right start
- Break your bad habits