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Why the dough fails, 12 common baking mistakes

Baking is one of the oldest and most popular forms of food preparation. From the first bread baked on hot stones thousands of years ago to the sophisticated desserts that grace today’s tables, baking has built a special place in the hearts and cultures of people around the world. It is not only a way to satisfy hunger, but also an art form that allows for creative expression and brings people together. Although baking can bring great joy and satisfaction, it can also be a source of frustration, especially when things don’t turn out as expected.

The difference between success and failure in baking often lies in the details – accurate measurement, understanding the effect of temperature, choosing the right ingredients, and mastering kneading and fermentation techniques. Each step in the baking process has its reasons, and deviations from best practices can lead to unpredictable and often undesirable results. Why is the dough sometimes too hard, while other times it is too sticky or undercooked? The answer often lies in the method of preparation, which can be overlooked or misinterpreted.

On the way to the perfect pastry, it is essential to understand the basic principles and learn how to avoid typical mistakes that can discourage both novice and experienced bakers. Whether you’re an avid home baker looking to perfect your craft, or a novice just looking to get the first step right, it’s important to accept that baking is a process of learning, experimenting and adapting.

A mistake no. 1: Incorrect measurement of raw materials

The problem: Baking requires precision. Measuring incorrectly can cause the batter to be too stiff or too runny.

How to fix it: Use a kitchen scale to measure ingredients instead of measuring cups. This way you get the exact amount of ingredients needed for your recipe.

A mistake no. 2: Failure to respect the temperature of the raw materials

Problem: Some recipes call for room temperature ingredients while others call for cold ingredients. Incorrect temperature of ingredients can affect the structure and result of baking.

How to fix it: Always follow the recipe instructions regarding the temperature of the ingredients. If you need ingredients at room temperature, remove them from the refrigerator at least 30 minutes before you start baking.

A mistake no. 3: Reworking the dough

Problem: Over-kneading the dough can lead to the formation of too much gluten, causing the final product to be hard and heavy.

How to fix it: Knead the dough just until the ingredients come together. For some types of dough, such as puff pastry, it is even desirable to minimize kneading to an absolute minimum.

A mistake no. 4: Failure to respect rest time

The problem: Dough often needs a certain amount of time to rest to allow the gluten to loosen and make the dough easier to work with.

How to fix it: Follow the rest time specified in the recipe. If the recipe specifies that the dough should rest in the refrigerator, do not skip this step.

A mistake no. 5: Incorrect baking temperature

Problem: Every recipe calls for baking at a certain temperature. The wrong temperature can cause the dough to not be baked properly – either it will not be matured enough or it will be too dry.

How to fix it: Always make sure your oven is preheated to the desired temperature before putting the dough inside.

A mistake no. 6: Ignoring the humidity of the environment

Problem: High humidity can affect the amount of flour needed in a recipe, which can lead to a dough that’s too sticky or too dry.

How to fix it: If you’re baking in a particularly humid environment, you may need to adjust the amount of flour or liquids in the recipe. Start with the amount listed in the recipe and adjust as needed.

A mistake no. 7: Use of raw materials after warranty

Problem: Ingredients like baking powder or baking soda can lose their effectiveness over time, which can affect the airiness and texture of the dough.

How to fix it: Regularly check the expiration dates on your ingredients and replace old products with fresh ones.

A mistake no. 8: Insufficient ventilation of the oven

Problem: If the air inside the oven does not circulate properly, it can cause uneven baking.

How to fix it: Don’t cover the dough with too big baking sheets and don’t place the baking sheets too close together. This will ensure better air circulation.

A mistake no. 9: Insufficient kneading

Problem: Insufficient kneading does not allow the gluten to fully develop, resulting in a stiff or airless dough.

How to fix it: Knead long enough to make the dough smooth and elastic. For most types of bread, this usually takes at least 10 minutes of hand kneading. But be careful not to overmix the dough.

A mistake no. 10: Incorrect temperature of sourdough or yeast

Problem: Too hot or too cold water can kill the yeast, preventing the dough from rising.

How to fix it: Use water that is warm to the touch, around 37-43°C, which is ideal for activating the yeast but not hot enough to kill it.

A mistake no. 11: Insufficient fermentation

Problem: If you don’t let the dough rise enough, it won’t have enough time to create an airy structure.

How to fix it: Let the dough rise in a warm, draft-free place. The time it takes to rise can vary, so focus on how the dough looks (it should double in size) rather than the exact time.

A mistake no. 12: Overleavened dough

The Problem: Fermenting for too long can cause the dough to over-sour, resulting in a loss of texture and a different flavor.

Solution: Keep an eye on the dough and bake it when it doubles or reaches the desired volume. Do not exceed the recommended rising time.

Baking can be a complex process full of subtleties and details. By paying attention to details, following recipes, and understanding the basic principles, you can avoid many of the mistakes that lead to failure. Experiment, learn from mistakes and don’t be afraid to try new techniques. With a little practice and patience, you can master the art of baking and create perfect pastries every day.

Questions and answers

Why is it important to use accurate measurements when baking?

When baking, the chemical reaction between the ingredients is precisely balanced, so it is important to follow the exact amounts of the ingredients as indicated in the recipe. Deviations can lead to failure, such as too hard or too sticky dough.

How can I make my dough airy and light?

The key is to knead the dough properly and use fresh ingredients such as baking powder or baking soda. It is also important not to overwork the dough to prevent excessive gluten formation.

What should I do if my dough is too dry or too sticky?

If the dough is too dry, you can add a small amount of liquid, such as milk or water, until you reach the desired consistency. If the dough is too sticky, you can add a little flour, but be careful not to overdo it and make a too stiff dough.

Why did my pastry rise unevenly or fall?

This can be caused by various factors, such as the wrong baking temperature, opening the oven door during baking or the use of outdated ingredients. Make sure you follow the recipe directions and that you use all the ingredients fresh.

How can I prevent the pastry from drying out too much?

Bake at the correct temperature and time indicated in the recipe. Using parchment paper or aluminum foil can help retain moisture. Additionally, let the pastry rest in the oven with the heat off and the door slightly ajar at the end of baking to allow it to cool slowly and retain its moisture.

What should I do if my oven bakes unevenly?

Regular maintenance and calibration of your oven can help ensure even baking. Using a turntable or rotating the pastry regularly during baking also helps to ensure that all parts are evenly baked.

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