A Beginner’s Baking Guide
Where to start to find success as a brand-new baker
By Taylor Shillam
A Beginner’s Baking Guide
It’s autumn, and for many, enjoying a cozy pastime helps ease the transition to cooler, shorter days. Aside from the comforting treats that come as a result, baking can be a comforting form of both mental and physical therapy. The concentration required to follow a recipe and carefully measure ingredients, mixed with the creativity that comes with a chance to experiment with flavors, makes baking a unique activity that is often considered more than just a hobby.
If you’re new to the realm of baking, there are a few steps you can take to find success as a beginning baker. Once you have a few key elements down, including starting with the right tools and techniques, you’ll feel like an expert in no time!
Where to Start: Baking Equipment
Set yourself up for success with quality baking tools. The right equipment will make your road to becoming a seasoned baker much sweeter, as quality bakeware makes for easier cleanups and more evenly cooked results.
Invest in quality, non-stick bakeware. A non-stick or silicone baking mat will help you skip the sticky baking sprays and endless rolls of parchment paper—plus save you from cleaning up a sticky mess later. There are non-stick options for just about every piece of baking equipment, from muffin tins to cake pans, so if you’re watching your budget, start by investing in the pieces you’ll use most often.
Make sure your measuring tools are in order, including measuring cups, a set of teaspoons and tablespoons, and a quality liquid measuring cup. A set of dependable, accurate, easy-to-use measuring tools comes in handy not just for baking but for recipes of all kinds.
While your remaining baking equipment will depend on your needs, tastes and budget, many experts advocate for an investment in a standing mixer. Compared to a handheld beater, standing mixers ensure an easy, even blend of your ingredients. It helps you expend less energy and save time, with the ability to multitask while your ingredients mix away. A KitchenAid isn’t required—there are plenty of budget-friendly options that produce similar results.
Use High-Quality Ingredients
Investing in high-quality ingredients where you can will yield a noticeable difference in taste. For example, there’s a difference between pure vanilla extract and artificial vanilla extract—the real deal will produce a stronger, more authentic flavor.
As much as you can, look for high-quality ingredients to produce the best results. Pure extracts and real spices might be pricier, but a little bit goes a long way, and the results are guaranteed to be noticed.
Some experts advocate for additional ingredient upgrades like swapping table salt for sea salt to produce a more complex flavor profile, or using browned butter for more tender, flaky results. Choose the upgrades that are best for your specific recipe, baking interests and budget.
Take your recipe with you when shopping for ingredients, so you’ll know exactly how much you need.
Set the Stage
When your equipment is purchased and your ingredients ready, it’s time to begin. Set the stage by placing all ingredients on the counter and thoroughly reading your recipe for key details.
Read the recipe to completion before you pour or mix anything. You’ll have a better idea of timing, measurements and techniques needed to complete the recipe.
Look for the phrase “room temperature”—you won’t want to ignore that instruction. Temperature is a more critical component producing your desired outcome than you may expect. Room temperature supports a proper emulsion, which promotes an ideal texture in the finished product. Allow any refrigerated ingredients listed that are called to be room temperature to sit out on the counter for some time before you begin.
If your recipe requires any ingredients to be “warmed,” be careful to keep that ingredient warm—not hot. Mixing in hot ingredients will often wreak havoc on the quality of the result and the chemical reactions between other ingredients. Keep any and all warmed ingredients in the recipe lukewarm at best.
When you’re ready to start mixing ingredients, follow the recipe in order. As tempting as it may be to get creative and experiment, most recipes are trusted for a reason. As you further develop your baking skills, you’ll have the experience and knowledge base to successfully experiment in the future.
Take Time to Enjoy the Process
Like any skill, art or hobby, baking takes time to learn. Don’t rush—allow yourself to be patient and learn from your mistakes. During those first few recipes, give yourself plenty of time and grace.
If you’re brand new to baking, you can save yourself a bit of stress by starting with a simple recipe. Chocolate chip cookies, brownies and muffins are all straightforward and give beginning bakers a great starting foundation. Take time to enjoy the taste tests along the way!
Becoming a skilled, comfortable baker doesn’t happen overnight. It takes time, and practicing is key. You can keep baking practice varied and fun, both by trying new recipes and perfecting familiar classics.
Start simple, and start today—as we head into the holiday season, you'll be ready to contribute fresh, expertly baked treats to your family gatherings and festive events. After all, one of the best, most rewarding aspects of developing your baking skills is sharing them! All you have to do now is choose that first recipe and begin.