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Old 01-03-2010, 04:38 PM   #1
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Why am I a failure at baking?

Everything I bake comes out badly. After the recommended time the food isn't done, so I leave it in longer, then eventually it's dried out, flat, and tastes bad. Could any of these be the problem:

- I live in Colorado at an altitude of 5400 feet. Should I adjust recipes for high altitudes?

- I have an electric oven. I bought an oven thermometer, it said that my oven was about 25 degrees too low, so I always add 25 degrees to the temperature in recipes.

- I have the lower rack covered with aluminum foil to catch spills. Is this radiant barrier stopping heat from reaching the food on the middle rack? I hate cleaning ovens, and have housemates who spill food in the oven and don't clean up.

- I often substitute whole wheat flour for white flour, and fructose for sugar.

- I don't always have the sizes of pans recipes call for, so I sometimes use a pan that's too big or too small, or square instead of round, etc.

- My oven doesn't have a temperature indicator. To preheat the oven you wait about 15 minutes and then it beeps when it reaches the temperature you selected. But if you're not in the room or don't hear the beep, you don't know if the oven is preheated so sometimes I put food in the oven before it has preheated to the desired temperature.

Any other ideas of what could be the problem? I'm thinking of buying a convection microwave and getting rid of this oven.

And nobody makes any puns about me being half-baked! :-)

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Old 01-03-2010, 04:45 PM   #2
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I saw the thread title and wondered when I had posted this!!!!! It wasn't me! So...on that note I'll let a "baker" answer your questions.
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Old 01-03-2010, 05:14 PM   #3
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All the factors you listed could be factors in ruining a recipe.

Get an oven thermometer an leave it hanging from the rack in the middle of the oven. Go by that to determine when your oven is ready.

You cannot always just sub ingredients without making other adjustments.

Different size pans change the baking times for recipes. Different pan materials change baking times as well.

Yes, the foil on the shelf can impact heat circulation within the oven and its ability to maintain a set temperature.

You could be using crappy recipes.

...and, yes, altitude does make a difference.
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Old 01-03-2010, 08:01 PM   #4
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Instead of the foil on the bottom rack, put it on the floor of the oven. Usually the heating element will lift up enough to slide it under. You can also purchase oven liners at the store that do the same thing. That will take care of one problem. Try following a recipe exactly with the appropriate pans until you get the hang of it. When baking, I try not to make too many substitutions since it is very much chemical reactions than straight cooking. If you don't have the correct size pan, get one! You can find pans fairly inexpensively at many stores.
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Old 01-03-2010, 08:38 PM   #5
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Quote:
Originally Posted by El Comandante View Post
Everything I bake comes out badly. After the recommended time the food isn't done, so I leave it in longer, then eventually it's dried out, flat, and tastes bad. Could any of these be the problem:

- I live in Colorado at an altitude of 5400 feet. Should I adjust recipes for high altitudes?
Yes you need to adjust recipes. There are lots of places that can help. I won't give you specifics because there are calculations to be made. Often its as simple as adding a tbsp of flour


Quote:
Originally Posted by El Comandante View Post
- I have an electric oven. I bought an oven thermometer, it said that my oven was about 25 degrees too low, so I always add 25 degrees to the temperature in recipes.

- I have the lower rack covered with aluminum foil to catch spills. Is this radiant barrier stopping heat from reaching the food on the middle rack? I hate cleaning ovens, and have housemates who spill food in the oven and don't clean up.
Andy has addressed this as has Jabbur.

Quote:
Originally Posted by El Comandante View Post
- I often substitute whole wheat flour for white flour, and fructose for sugar.

- I don't always have the sizes of pans recipes call for, so I sometimes use a pan that's too big or too small, or square instead of round, etc.

this is definitely an issue. Whole wheat flour doesn't behave the same way as white flour, and I don't even know how you would adjust for fructose. Sorry!

Might I suggest that you start by looking after the temperature in your oven? The next thing you could try is making one of your recipes without any substitutions and see how it works out. If it works well then you know the recipe is OK. THEN you can do some research on how you would substitute the things you want to substitute.

Baking is NOT like cooking. Its based on chemistry and is more like a science experiment than anything else. For example, if you use baking soda instead of baking powder you need to make sure there is an acid to activate the baking soda or the leavening action will not happen. The balance of fat, sugar and leavening agents are important and there are some recipes that are more flexible than others.

Post back and let us know what you did to fix your issues.
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Old 01-07-2010, 07:53 AM   #6
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You have got a lot of really great advice that I think you should follow. If a recipe calls for one size of pan you should try to use that bc recipes are designed that way 100% and that can effect a lot of things.

What kinds of things have you tried baking that you feel you have failed at?
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