Preheating a passion | Taylor Is Baking

Friday, January 08, 2021


I want a home that forever smells of cookies in the oven. With a bread box that's always full and a pantry made from scratch. 

Baking is something I've always enjoyed, but it's never been something I've really thought about. A teaspoon of baking soda here, a splash of lemon there, a resting period for whatever reason. None of what takes place in a recipe ever really made sense to me, I always just followed the steps and wondered where I went wrong when the cheesecake came out lumpy or the bread was a little dense.

There are chemical reactions happening from the moment the first ingredient enter the bowl. There is a science happening the moment the oven is preheated.

Maybe this was common knowledge, but to me, it felt like a well-kept secret.

Like most, each quarantine led to a plethora of new creations, several hours spent in a warm kitchen, and a well-fed boyfriend who looked so sweet when he tried to assure me the creations were good. After a couple of successes, a handful of failures, and a lot of dishes that were very okay, I decided I wanted to learn baking. 

I want to learn this secret science.

So, this is the start of my baking journey. For those of you also interested in bettering your baking skills or learning what happens throughout a recipe, I'm creating this series to share my findings and hopefully get a clue as to what I've been doing wrong.

To start this series, I thought I would talk about oven temperatures & baking times.

The simplest way to talk about baking temperatures is probably with cookies because I assume everyone who is reading this has baked a cookie. And because Kansas State University had a nice break down on their website of their research.

They say that setting the oven above 350 degrees Fahrenheit gives the cookie a nice tan color and that caramelization starts at 356 degrees F. This gives you your usual grandma's cookies with the nice browned top.

Their research claims that the temperature of the butter can also play a role in how the cookie comes out. Using cold chunks of butter in the batter means that the butter will melt in the oven and cause the cookie to spread less than when using melted butter. Using melted butter will cause the cookie to spread more. This is because the batter will already be wetter and will spread more. 

So for cookies shaped more like small mounds, use colder butter, and for flatter disk-like cookies, use melted butter.

The temperature of this ingredients also changes the texture. Air pockets change the crumb of the cookie. While in the oven, they say that the water in the butter converts to gas and using melted butter creates more, smaller holes and a chewier cookie. Using cold butter creates larger holes and a fluffy cookie.

But back to the oven.

Fine Cooking says that if you wish to make a thin, crispy cookie, use a low temperature and a long bake time. For the opposite, a soft, thick cookie, use a hotter temperature and a shorter baking time. They also recommend baking on the center rack, presumably for achieving the best heat circulation.

My ideal cookie is thick and chewy, so I believe my experiments will best be spent trying cold butter and hot, short bake times. While this will be a trial for the future, I'll be sure to document it on my Instagram at @taylorisreading as I always do.

If you put anything you've learned in this post to use, be sure to tag me on Instagram and use #TaylorIsBaking so I can see and we can learn together!

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