The other day in my post about Pumpkin Peanut Butter Oatmeal Bars, I posted this:
“If I was in charge of writing The Rules You Must Bake By, I think that all cookies, brownies, and bars all should have a slightly crispy edge with soft centers.
And never be dry. Dry = not worth my chew
And the pumpkin peanut butter oat bars deliver if held up to my self-created Rules You Must Bake By.”
Bria suggested in her comment to me that I do a Baking Rules post, so I thought I’d take her up on it.
Here are My Baking Rules:
(your mileage and opinions may vary, of course)
1. Nuts do not belong in baked goods. If you put walnuts in brownies or macadamia nuts in white chocolate cookies, I will not be able to eat them. There is something about nuts in baked goods that just doesn’t work for me, at all. Blech! And I will hunt you down for ruining perfectly good desserts by contaminating them with nuts.
2. All rules have exceptions though.
My Raw Vegan Chocolate Chip Cookie Dough Balls are made of nuts, among other ingredients.
However, in that application, the raw cashews in the recipe take the place of butter and the finished product has zero nutty taste.
The cookie dough balls taste like cookie dough. Not at all like nuts or nutty in the least. If they tasted like nuts, I wouldn’t fiend for them. And would spit them out instead. I do like nuts (even if I really can’t eat them very much anymore), but I definitely do not want to “taste” them in desserts.
3. All cookies, brownies, and bars all should have a slightly crispy edge with soft centers.
Case in point, Caramel Apple Bars
4. And never be dry.
Dry = not worth my chew
I want things that are moist and just melt in my mouth because they are rich, decadent, saucy, or drippy.
Deep Dish Double Chocolate Golden Grahams Smores Bars (Vegan & GF options) lives up to that rule
5. Do not confuse desserts with health food.
If I want healthy, I will eat more broccoli.
If I want desserts, I will eat those.
They each have their place but I don’t believe all foods need to be all things, i.e. desserts don’t have to be healthy. They just need to be….dessert.
Sorry, I’m not into making desserts healthy. And actually, I’m not sorry. I like butter and sugar in desserts. So there.
6. Which leads to this baking rule, about Eating Everything in Moderation
Yes, I eat every single dessert I make and feature on my blog. A portion or two, whatever floats my boat that day.
However, I don’t take down a pan of bars or a dozen cookies in a sitting, either.
I do not believe that one brownie, two cookies, or even three big, drippy, gooey marshmallowey smores bars are going to “derail everything”.
If you think that one full-fat, fully decadent, full-on gooey brownie is going to “ruin everything” then I suggest you really look at your life, your food and exercise choices, your mental outlook, and perhaps make some mental shifts or other changes. Or not. Whatever works for you, of course.
For me, baking is not fun if I don’t eat what I make. Or at have some BLTs when I’m mixing the batter <—Bites, Licks, Tastes
7. When it comes to baking things, err on the side of underbaking.
If you think something is maybe done or are unsure, take it out of the oven and wait 3-5 minutes. You will be able to tell by then that it’s done as it has cooled a bit and come closer to room temperature.
If it truly isn’t done, then pop it back in the oven but it probably is done.
Remember, you can always put it back into the oven, but you can’t un-do overbaking, which leads to dryness. Which would be breaking Rule 4. Bad girl.
8. I’ve also read that once you can really smell the item baking, i.e. the smell of baking cookies is just beginning to waft through the house, that’s when they are done. Or almost done. Race to your oven and check on them.
9. If you can, I suggest just not leaving the kitchen when you’re baking. If you can find something to do for 10 to 20 minutes, or whatever the recommended baking time is, just stay in the kitchen.
Work on all those dirty dishes
Organize your drawers
Just find something to do but try not to leave the kitchen if humanly possible.
I cannot tell you how many things I have ruined because I go into another room to check my email or just do “one little thing” and 3 minutes turns into 6, and the item is ruined. Had I just not left the kitchen, it never would have happened. When you’re baking, this is not the time to be in another room multi-tasking. Stay close by your oven.
10. In general, I find that if a recipe calls for the items to be done in 10-12 minutes, take them out at 1o. And start watching at about 8 minutes. I never use the upper end of the baking time guidelines. Never.
I always wonder who writes those guideline ranges. Most people I know like things a bit chewier and softer as compared to dry hockey pucks that crumble everywhere. Just a couple minutes in the oven can make all the difference from soft and wonderful to crumbly and gross.
Mrs. Fields did not become a multi-billion dollar empire because she overbaked. Everything in my opinion is a touch underbaked. Just the way I like it.
11. When working with peppermint extract, it’s not at all like vanilla extract. A little, tiny bit goes a long, long way.
Add far less than you think you need because you can’t undo it. It’s very strong, very powerful, and be careful with it. Christmas baking is coming up and a touch of peppermint is all you need and unless you enjoy drinking Listerine, go light-handed with peppermint extract.
And make these Creme de Menthe Bars (No-Bake, Vegan) if you are a peppermint fan. Just watch it with how much you add, and they are always a big hit with folks.
12. Don’t be afraid to experiment! You never know what is going to work out, what’s not going to, and you can “save” almost any dough:
If it’s too wet or runny, add more oats, flour, or dry ingredients
If it’s too dry or not coming together, add liquid sweeteners, butter/margarine, egg/flax egg, nut butter
If it’s too sweet, add some unsweetened cocoa powder in chocolate baking or other flour/dry ingredients in non-chocolate recipes to cut the sweetness <– I’ve never actually had anything be too sweet. Ahem.
If it’s not sweet enough, add sweeteners (either liquid forms like honey/agave/maple syrup or dry forms like white sugar/brown sugar/stevia)
This is not rocket science, it’s baking.
You will never know if something is going to work until you just try it!
And if for some reason it’s a total flop, you probably have less than $5 worth of ingredients invested. And in exchange for that, you’ve learned valuable lessons in the kitchen and what to do, or not do, next time.
This is coming from me, a woman who in my early 20s couldn’t boil water, but I have learned how to bake. And do so as a vegan/vegetarian + Gluten-Free baker in most of my recipes.
So take everything I’ve said, of course, with a grain of salt. Or with a heaping cup of sugar, which is how I’d prefer it.
What baking rules do you live by?
What cooking, baking, or kitchen lessons have you learned?
Thanks for the Manna Bread Giveaway entries