These tips will help you perfect your cookies, pies, and cakes no matter how hot it gets in your kitchen.
It’s prime baking season, which means your kitchen and oven are working overtime. You may not realize that the temperature of your kitchen and the baking tools you use impacts your cooking. This is especially true when it comes to baking, which is a more exact science. Starting a baking project when your kitchen is cool in the morning will yield different results than if you bake later in the day, when your kitchen is warm from an oven that has been on for hours. Hot or cold, dry or humid — the temperature of the room and the temperature of the tools and ingredients affects the outcome of whatever you are baking.
We’ve pulled together some baking tips and advice from Food & Wine editors to help you become a better baker all year round.
Rest and Chill Your Cookie Dough
When it comes to cookies, you can and should choose your own adventure, but there is one rule everyone should follow. ”Rest and chill your cookie dough,” instructs associate food editor Kelsey Youngman.
Resting your cookie dough (and your pie dough!) allows the ingredients to hydrate. This gives the moisture in the dough more time to absorb into the dry ingredients, which in turn improves the overall crumb and texture. You’ll also create a more rich and robust flavor profile, as the flavors will have had time to meld.
Chill Your Tools Before Making Whipped Cream
Whipping cream is one of the easiest tasks in the kitchen. These simple tips will help you be even more successful, whether you’re working in a hot kitchen or just want to expedite the whipping process
“Freeze your metal mixing bowl 15 minutes before whipping cream,” advises executive editor Karen Shizmu.
Start with using a metal mixing bowl and balloon whisk or whisk attachment for a stand mixer. Place the bowl and whisk in the freezer 15 minutes before preparing the whipped cream. A metal mixing bowl will cool much faster than a glass mixing bowl. We also recommend starting with cold whipping cream. The chilled bowl and cream will help you whip cream faster and create more volume. Be cautious while whisking though. Faster whipped cream means it’s easier to over whisk.
Start With Room Temperature Eggs
“Room temperature eggs are the secret to baking success,” says associate food editor Paige Grandjean.
Cold eggs equal stiff eggs. Warming eggs to room temperature gives them more flexibility, which means they can better do their job in a dough or batter. For example, if you just creamed butter and sugar together into a fluffy mixture, adding cold eggs will stiffen the mixture, eliminate the air you just whipped into the butter, and even curdle the mixture. Warm eggs are more flexible, allowing more air into the mixture without constricting the ingredients. Let eggs rest on the countertop for 1 to 2 hours until they are about 70 degrees.
If you find yourself baking dessert at the last minute, or forgot to pull out the eggs in time, don’t worry — there are a couple methods of gently warming eggs. You can place eggs in a bowl of warm (not hot!) water to quickly bring them to room temperature. Or, try the glass method: Place a hot glass or bowl over the eggs on the countertop and let the heat gently warm them like an incubator.
Watch the Weather
What’s happening in the Earth’s atmosphere can greatly impact the baking experience in your kitchen. Here are our favorite hot-weather baking tips:
Baking in the summer can be difficult if your kitchen is hot and/or humid. A hot kitchen can make or break a cookie or pie dough. The fat melts making a pie dough crumbly and difficult to work with. Soft butter in the cookie dough impacts how a cookie rises. “Sometimes if the kitchen is hot, we'll put ice packs out on the counter before working with dough,” explains Youngman.
“In the summertime, I like to bake first thing in the morning while my kitchen is still cool,” notes senior food editor Amelia Rampe. If you’re lucky enough to have air conditioning, set up your workstation nearby to take advantage of the cool breeze.”
Meringues are an egg white mixture that is slowly dehydrated in a low-temperature oven. If you’re cooking in a humid environment, be prepared for a longer bake time. Or, save those recipes for cooler, drier days. “Candies and meringues work best at low humidity,” says Grandjean.