Recipes - What does it mean when it says ...
Recipes are the baker's map to a successful product. Preheat, combine, cream, sift. What do these terms mean? I get questions all the time about recipe instructions so from time to time I'm going to address some of these terms and instructions.
The very first instruction in a recipe often times is "Preheat your oven to ____." Preheating your oven to the temperature called for in the recipe is very important. An oven that is too cool or too hot will greatly affect the finished bread, cake or cookie. So how do you know that your oven has reached the proper temperature? My oven beeps when the desired temperature is reached. Or does it? In fact, most home oven temperature indicators are inaccurate. To be certain that your oven is preheated, you should turn it on at least 30 minutes before you slide in the first pan of cookies.
You have preheated you oven for 30 minutes so you oven must be at the correct temperature; right? Not necessarily. Several years ago, I discovered that my oven was not properly calibrated. I was baking a loaf of quick bread. The recipe called for baking the bread in a 350 degree oven for 60 minutes or until a tester came out clean. The timer went off after 60 minutes and I could tell that the bread was not even remotely close to being done. It took an additional 45 minutes before the loaf was done. I knew that I had mixed the batter correctly so I became suspicious that the oven calibration was off.
I bought an oven thermometer and discovered that my oven was off by 25 degrees. Yikes!! The next time I set out to bake, I set the oven for 25 degrees higher than the temperature called for in the recipe. After 30 minutes, I checked the oven thermometer and my oven was heated to the proper baking temperature. Problem solved. I just left the thermometer hanging off the rack in the oven and every time I baked, I set the oven temperature 25 degrees higher than the temp called for in the recipe.
Baking at the proper temperature is essential to a successful end product. So, if you are having problems with your final baked goods being over- or under-baked after the suggested baking time in the recipe, perhaps your oven calibration is off. Check it with an oven thermometer. You can obtain an oven thermometer relatively inexpensively from Amazon. I replaced my old range a couple of years ago and I still use my hanging oven thermometer to be sure that my oven is at the proper temperature.