From time to time, some of you comment that the baking times I suggest in my recipes do not seem to work, and that quick breads, bars and cakes need to bake longer than my recipes say. First of all, let me acknowledge that I slightly understate the amount of time I think baked goods need to be in the oven, because if you check your cake and it’s not quite done, you can leave it in a little bit longer, whereas if it’s already burnt, it may be a total loss. Knowing the best possible moment to take baked goods out of the oven is one the trickiest skills in all of cooking and baking. It seems to me that predicting exact baking times is a fool’s errand because there are so many variables. Oven thermostats vary in accuracy, and convection ovens (which I use) usually bake faster than conventional ones. Temperature matters, cold ingredients going into the oven will take longer than warm ingredients. And the size and material of the baking pan you use is also a factor; aluminum conducts heat and bakes faster than stainless steel, which is faster than glass. Also, every time you open the oven door, you loose heat and extend the baking time. Those of you who live at altitudes above 2,500 feet may need to adjust my sea level recipes (read more about those adjustments here.)
So, bear with me. My recipes are ones that worked for me, in my kitchen, on the day I wrote them down. Some recipes I’ve made successfully time and again, while others are experimental, works in progress. I once toured General Mills’ Betty Crocker test kitchens in Minneapolis, where teams of home economists test and retest recipes to make sure they will work under varied conditions in home kitchens. And good for them, but I don’t have a team of home economists, and in a sense, you are the testers. So, please, continue to tell me how the recipes work for you. Praise, brickbats, all sort of comments are welcome. I depend on you to let me know how to make this blog serve you better. And, thanks for reading.
Art: Bread shop, Northern Italy, early 15th Century (via Wikipedia)
All of my recipes are turning out under cooked, I think its all your fault. It certainly is not mine…Someone has to take the blame for this problem…
Aren’t we supposed to bake longer at altitude too? You are near sea level, right? And I’m about a mile high, so it should be different. I seem to recall that there is some formula that you use that changes not only the baking time, but the oven temperature. Guess I’ll go hunt it down.
Laurel, I don’t have direct experience cooking or baking at higher altitudes, and yes I am not much above sea level. Apparently sea level recipes work o.k. up to 2,500-3,000 feet, then adjustments need to be made, including using less leavening, and increasing oven temperature or baking time. There’s a good explanation of high altitude baking here: http://www.epicurious.com/articlesguides/howtocook/primers/altitudebaking
When I commented before, you said that you use a convection oven, I would think that would make a big difference too, but wasn’t mentioned in this article.
Well, now it looks like it’s in there, maybe I skimmed too fast. Thanks for the article.