Some important steps to successful baking

Sandra R. Cain For Better Living

Imagine baking whole-grain breads, rolls or muffins. Or maybe you prefer cakes, cookies and bars. Whatever you bake, it will fill your kitchen with wonderful smells. Family baking projects teach kids cooking skills. And they create lifetime memories. Here are five tips to make every baking project a success.

1. Follow directions exactly.

You can be creative while cooking, but follow baking recipes exactly. To be a successful baker, you need to have the right ingredients. They need to be combined in the right order. Then they need to bake at the right temperature. Change any of these things, and you may end up with tough bread, a fallen cake or runny cookies.

2. Heat the oven correctly.

Most recipes say to pre-heat the oven. This means getting the oven to the right temperature before you put the item in. It takes about 10 minutes to pre-heat, so turn the oven on first. It will heat up while you measure and mix ingredients. Some bakers use an oven thermometer. They cost about $6. If you use one, you can be sure the oven is the right temperature. This is especially important for older ovens.

3. Measure accurately.

You should measure all ingredients with care. Measuring incorrectly is worse for some

ingredients than others. Be sure to use a dry measuring cup for dry ingredients and a liquid see-through measuring sup for liquid ingredients. This helps you get an accurate measure.

Some ingredients help baked goods to rise. These are called leavening agents. Examples are baking powder, baking soda and yeast. It is very important to measure leavening agents correctly. If you bake with yeast, be careful with sugar and salt. These help control the growth of yeast, so you need to have the right amount.

4. Add and mix carefully.

The way you add and mix ingredients matters. It makes a difference to the texture of your

baked good. Here are three common terms and their meanings. Beat means to stir quickly and completely. The reason you beat is to add air to the mixture. Blend means to stir together until just combined. The mixture may be lumpy. Mix means to stir until the ingredients are thoroughly combined. The texture should be uniform after mixing.

5. Substitute sensibly.

When you make a salad, it is easy to substitute. You can use one vegetable in place of another. It is harder to replace ingredients when you bake. Every ingredient has a role in a baked good. If you do not have an ingredient, you may be able to use something that will play the same role. For a long list of substitutions, go to

Sources: N.C. Department of Health and Human Services , Alabama Cooperative Extension


Apple Zucchini Loaf

1 ½ cups all-purpose flour

1 teaspoon ground cinnamon

½ teaspoon baking soda

¼ teaspoon baking powder

¼ teaspoon salt

1 jar (4 ½ ounces) diced apple baby food

1 egg

1 tablespoon canola oil

1 cup finely shredded zucchini


The topping

¼ cup quick-cooking oats

¼ cup flaked coconut

¼ cup packed brown sugar

2 tablespoons butter or stick margarine, melted

Dash of ground cinnamon

In a large bowl, combine the flour, sugar, cinnamon, baking soda, baking powder and salt. Drain apples, reserving juice. In another bowl, beat the egg, oil and reserved juice. Stir into the dry ingredients just until blended. Fold in zucchini and apples until moistened.

Pour into an 8”x4” loaf pan coated with nonstick cooking spray. Combine topping ingredients. Sprinkle over top. Bake at 350 degrees for 50 to 55 minutes or until a toothpick comes out clean. Cool for 10 minutes before removing from pan to a wire rack.

Sandra R. Cain is the Bladen County Extension director. She can be reached at or 910-862-4591.

Sandra R. Cain For Better Living R. Cain For Better Living