Baking for dummies: A cheat sheet

Meet our ultimate quarantine BFFs: spatula, nonstick bowl and a bunch of instant baking mixes

“I need a distraction.” Everyone and their dogs know how rough it’s been for the past eight (going nine) months in quarantine. And you probably never imagined going anywhere near an oven to bake, but here you are. 

You’re kinda late to the quarantine baking party, but hey, you’re still very welcome! Before you bring out the equipment and ingredients though, here are three hacks you need to know that can save you from setting your kitchen on fire.

Settle for instant baking mixes—for now

Betty Crocker’s triple berry muffin mix and Angel Food confetti cake mix. Available at All About Baking

Since you’re still working on your baking skills, it’s best to use instant baking mixes to avoid kitchen disasters. Want to learn how to bake brownies? What about a cake? Chocolate chip cookies? Triple berry muffins? Name it, and All About Baking has every baking mix every beginner needs and more.

Add some Guittard Chips Semisweet Chocolate for extra flavor. Available at All About Baking

Do instant mixes limit your baking freedom? No. In fact, there are tons of easy (and appetizing, mind you) recipes that use instant mixes. Maybe you can try them out on your first session!

Follow the recipe word for word

We get it, most people would say it’s alright not to always stick to the recipe and put your own twist on it. But for the love of God, just follow the instructions exactly as they’re written, especially if you’re baking for the first time. Don’t ever try to skip steps or use alternate tools or ingredients if you don’t want to mess up. If the recipe specifically says to use aluminum pans and trays, then use aluminum pans and trays.

11” x 16” aluminum all-purpose tray. Available at All About Baking

There’s no room for experimenting because: one, baking tools and ingredients are pricey AF and two, there’s already so much food waste in the world. You don’t want to contribute to that, do you? Play around with the recipe once you’re really capable of doing so. But for now, recipes are the besties you need to fully trust.

READ: OMG, Korean cream cheese garlic bread is my new fave

Invest in measuring cups and spoons

Baking is all about accuracy. Measuring is its make or break moment. And guess what, guesstimating and eyeballing are two of the major reasons most novice bakers fail. You can’t settle for “measuring” terms like pinch, smidge, dollop and handful. There’s a reason you need to put, say, three precise teaspoons of baking soda.

Measuring cups and spoons in color peach. Available at All About Baking

The amount of certain ingredients you use can change the shape and structure of your pastry. Too much flour can make the dough too tough while too much water can make it runny. So if the recipe tells you to put two cups of water, get your measuring cup and fill it up with water twice—no more, no less. Remember: One tiny mistake and you won’t get the result you’re aiming for.

But how exactly do you measure ingredients? Weighing them is best. For dry ingredients: Scoop in the ingredient until it’s slightly overflowing your measuring tool, then slide the side of your spatula or knife over the rim to level it. For liquids: Place your measuring tool on a flat surface before pouring in the ingredient until it’s full to the brim.

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