Baking

Nine cooking disasters and how to prevent them

A culinary disaster can put you off (Photo: Shutterstock)

Cooking can be a very satisfying therapeutic process. However, if your efforts don’t bear the results you hoped for, you may become discouraged and even give up on your dream of becoming the next Kenyan Bake-Off winner.

Fear nothing. Below are some common cooking disasters and what you need to do to prevent them.

1. Cake poured in the middle

The most common reason is that you opened the oven door while the cake was baking. This introduces cold air into the oven, which lowers the temperature, so your cake doesn’t rise and takes longer to bake.

Keep your oven door closed throughout the baking process and use a timer instead to give the cake enough time to bake.

2. Baking Soda Flavor Cake

If your cake tastes soapy and bitter, you probably added too much baking soda. To avoid this, be sure to use the correct measurements for the recipe. Invest in proper measuring spoons and cups instead of using regular kitchen utensils.

Using a small cake tin can make your cake rise too much (Photo: Shutterstock)

3. Burnt cookies at the bottom

It can be disheartening to bake cookies only to find they’re burnt on the bottom. This is because the oven temperature is too high. Some ovens may not be at the indicated temperature. Therefore, an oven thermometer will help ensure that your oven is set to the correct temperature.

4. Cake undercooked or not brown

If your cake, cookie or pie is undercooked or not browning as it should, your oven is probably at a lower temperature than it should be. Be sure to preheat your oven for the appropriate amount of time before putting your item in for cooking.

5. The cake is lumpy

Most flour recipes require you to sift the dry ingredients before adding the wet ingredients. This helps to aerate the mixture and avoid lumps.

Too hot an oven could result in burnt cookies (Picture: Shutterstock)

6. The cake is too dense

A well-baked cake should have a light crumb and not break into large, heavy pieces. Make sure your recipe is correct, i.e. it contains adequate amounts of eggs, fat and sugar. Next, cream your butter and sugar until pale in color, then gently fold in your flour until the mixture is just combined. Avoid over-mixing as it can make your cake dense, mushy, cloying, or all three.

7. Cracked Top Cake

Assuming you’ve followed the recipe religiously, a cake that’s cracked at the top could be because your oven temperature is too high or your pan is too small for the size of cake you’re making. Use an oven thermometer to make sure your oven is at the right temperature, and choose a cake tin that’s big enough to allow your cake to rise enough.

8. Hard Pie Dough

If your pie crust is hard and too chewy, it may be because you handled the dough too much during preparation. Avoid over-mixing your dough to ensure your pie dough stays light and crumbly.

9. The cake gets stuck in the mold

If your cake slices get stuck in your cake tin, it may be because your tin hasn’t been greased enough. Be sure to grease the surface of the cake tin well and then dust it with flour. You can also put parchment paper in your cake tin to prevent it from sticking to the sides.

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