How to tell if a baked good is DONE!
THINK THE 3 MAIN FACTORS:
1) TIME: The average small baked good (think: cookies, scones, biscuits, etc) take only 10-20 minutes in the oven. Smaller items = less baking times versus large items. Like how a turkey breast takes quicker to cook versus a whole turkey, a cookie takes less time in the oven versus a large pan of brownies.
2) TEMP: The average temperature of the oven should be 325-350 degrees F. Remember my "know your oven!" blog? Well, make sure you truly KNOW your oven. The newer the oven, the hotter will be, thus a 325 degrees oven will be around 350 degrees F. The older the oven is, the cooler it will be, thus a 325 degree oven will be around 300 degrees F.
3) TOUCH: Touch your baked good AFTER it is baked. It should feel soft to the touch. Touching your baked good DURING baking can lead to a mishaped baked good, esp. with cakes.
What do you baked your goodies on?
Use a flat sheet pan (also called "jelly roll" pans or "cookie" pans) lined with parchment paper. The parchment paper helps the baked good from sticking to the pan and makes for an easy clean up! When you bake a goodie directly on the sheet pan, with bottom will brown too fast. The parchment paper acts like a barrier between the bottom of the baked good and sheet pan.
When baking cakes and brownies, I like to cut the parchment paper to fit the pan and spray with non-stick spray (like PAM).
TIP: When baking a cake "lightened" with egg whites (like angel food cake or "chiffon" type cakes) DO NOT spray your pan! If you spray it, the cake will not "grow" into its proper shape.
Do I cool the baked goods on the sheet pan itself or a wire cooling rack?
See when you leave the baked goods on the sheet pan to cool, they will SLIGHTLY continue to cook (like how a turkey "keeps on cooking" once you take it from the oven). I like to under bake my goodies, by one minute, and leave it to cool on the sheet pan. Why? People like a softer cookie versus a harder cookie. Plus, putting the cookie on a wire rack takes up much needed space in the kitchen! And it is another thing to clean up.
My recipe says to insert a toothpick to test the doneness with my cakes, why?
Yes, please do this! It is difficult to "see" if a cake is done, esp. with large cakes. Carefully, insert the toothpick in the middle (because it is the "thickest" part) of the cake and remove. Comes out clean? It is done! Comes out with batter on it? Not finished! If you do not have any toothpicks, you can use a small knife.
How do you truly know once something is done?
PRACTICE! Yes, you will over bake and under bake items. Practice and knowledge is key. Make sure you read and understand your recipe and what you're baking. Ask questions. Read baking books. Check baking blogs.
Baking should be fun and exciting! Yes, you may get discourage when something does not turn out perfect, but that is part of the learn process. Baking knowledge = baking success!