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Conspiracy Theory: Never baked enough


gfron1
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Okay, I've seen this statement so many times, and have experienced it myself...

I baked my _____ as long as the recipe says, but it wasn't long enough.

So, here's my theory because I don't remember this always being a reality in the oven. I think either 1) recipe writers are shortening the suggested time because they know every oven varies and the baker should be watching for doneness anyway, or 2) The gas and electric companies have found a way to reduce the heat in our ovens, and confuse our thermometers with ultra magnetic particle beams, thus making things actually take longer to bake than they should and thus causing us to use more energy.

I'm from New Mexico so we're used to these types of covert activities...in fact, I'm going to have to disappear for a while now that I've posted this theory publicly. bye.

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That's interesting! I have a small, Japanese table-top combined function/oven. I'm pretty sure it uses convection, though it doesn't say so in the manual - and I consistently find baking times are too long for my oven.

I've always thought that it was partly because my oven was pretty airtight, and the small size meant that heat reflected very efficiently??

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In a few weeks I will have an oven with a window!!!! and I wont care as much if things arent cooking as fast as the recipe says, but tonight my dessert took 50% longer than it should have.

must be restricted gas flow like you said

hmmm

tracey

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I think that judging when something is done baking is one of the most difficult parts of learning about it.

I remember as a young pastry student being very distressed when my instructor would make a statement like, "you bake it til it's done".

And I'd say "For how long?"

And he'd say "Depends."

And I'd say, "On what?"

And he'd say, "On what your oven temperature is, how full the oven is, how large the item is, what kind of pan you bake it in, how many times you open the oven door......."

And I'd say, "Then how do I know when it's done?"

And he'd say, "I was waiting for you to ask that question."

He was a good instructor.

I think recipe writers should stress what my baking instructor always stressed, and that is, that baking times are ONLY A GUIDELINE. There are just too many variables involved for anyone to estimate an exact bake time.

Recipes should always tell the baker what to look for when the item is done and the verbiage for the bake time should be worded like, "bake for approximately 20 minutes, but do not remove from oven until ________".

Now that I'm a seasoned baker, I only set my timer so I don't forget about stuff in the oven and burn everything. My timer says to me, "Hey! Do you remember you put cookies in here 15 minutes ago?" And I'm like....."Oh......yeah, right."

There is only one thing that I bake now, that I feel I need a timer for, and that's brownies. I can't tell if they're done by touching the top, or inserting a toothpick, because perfectly baked brownies don't pass the toothpick test.......the toothpick is SUPPOSED to come out fairly gooey. So I have this one brownie recipe that I always use and I always know how long it bakes in the particular oven I have at the time. If the oven changes, then I usually have to screw up a batch and readjust my baking time. Getting a perfectly baked brownie can really be a bitch sometimes. :laugh:

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I know you 'dismiss the conspiracy' types...probably work for the government. :hmmm:

But, that said, I will be eternally grateful to SugarSeattle who just a month or so ago taught me how to know if cheesecakes are done. I had always thought I knew, but when I had one using her guidelines, I knew I had been eating swill for years.

And as far as brownies, I can tell by the smell with one exception - Ling's brownies. I have never had them baked enough - but that hasn't stopped me from eating them.

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I know you 'dismiss the conspiracy' types...probably work for the government.  :hmmm:

But, that said, I will be eternally grateful to SugarSeattle who just a month or so ago taught me how to know if cheesecakes are done.  I had always thought I knew, but when I had one using her guidelines, I knew I had been eating swill for years.

And as far as brownies, I can tell by the smell with one exception - Ling's brownies.  I have never had them baked enough - but that hasn't stopped me from eating them.

So how did Sugar Seattle tell you how to know when cheesecakes are done???

Eileen

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As for butter versus margarine, I trust cows more than chemists. ~Joan Gussow

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i can also add that most people don't bake things long enough. the pasty, pale pastries that most people consider done are miles away from being finished. color is flavor (until it is burnt, of course).

when working with puff pastry and pate a choux especially, most people don't bake until thoroughly "dried" out.

my rule of thumb is that no oven bakes perfectly and no oven is truly accurate...so i compensate:

start off with a high temp to get color and lower the tempt to finish baking. always rotate from front to back and top to bottom at least once during baking.

chefpeon, i'm one of those instructors..."chef, how long do i bake this?"..."until it is done"...i try to give my students several ways to test whether something is done: sight, touch, toothpick, some indicator specific to the recipe. it's better than having every one of my students asking me one hundred times a class whether something is baked or not! especially with every one of them opening the oven door a dozen times per item.

rob, this still doesn't discount your conspiracy theory though!

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I just want to add one little detail - get your oven calibrated! It's not a substitute for all the techniques cited above, but you'll be amazed how much more accurate recipe times are when your oven has been professionally calibrated. It's fast, easy, cheap, and worthwhile.

Like right now, since my oven is baking in Celsius, I'm not only facing the conversion but the observation that I need to set it up 20 degrees C to approximate recipe times. Since it's a rental oven I probably will just go with my seat-of-the pants adjustment, but normally I'd have that calibrating guy out here in a nano.

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I think that judging when something is done baking is one of the most difficult parts of learning about it.

I remember as a young pastry student being very distressed when my instructor would make a statement like, "you bake it til it's done".

And I'd say "For how long?"

And he'd say "Depends."

And I'd say, "On what?"

And he'd say, "On what your oven temperature is, how full the oven is, how large the item is, what kind of pan you bake it in, how many times you open the oven door......."

And I'd say, "Then how do I know when it's done?"

And he'd say, "I was waiting for you to ask that question."

He was a good instructor.

I think recipe writers should stress what my baking instructor always stressed, and that is, that baking times are ONLY A GUIDELINE. There are just too many variables involved for anyone to estimate an exact bake time.

Recipes should always tell the baker what to look for when the item is done and the verbiage for the bake time should be worded like, "bake for approximately 20 minutes, but do not remove from oven until ________".

Now that I'm a seasoned baker, I only set my timer so I don't forget about stuff in the oven and burn everything. My timer says to me, "Hey! Do you remember you put cookies in here 15 minutes ago?" And I'm like....."Oh......yeah, right."

There is only one thing that I bake now, that I feel I need a timer for, and that's brownies. I can't tell if they're done by touching the top, or inserting a toothpick, because perfectly baked brownies don't pass the toothpick test.......the toothpick is SUPPOSED to come out fairly gooey. So I have this one brownie recipe that I always use and I always know how long it bakes in the particular oven I have at the time. If the oven changes, then I usually have to screw up a batch and readjust my baking time. Getting a perfectly baked brownie can really be a bitch sometimes. :laugh:

I too had similar experiences in culinary school. I've always used my nose whenever possible to help me determine when something is done. When it begins to "smell good" which is of course subjective, it is usually done, no matter what the writer has suggested.

And of course, I would love for you (chefpeon) to post your brownie formula. I've been using a recipe for years which is more cake like, and while I love it (it is great with a ganache topping), I'd love another more gooey (and proven) formula. I'll post mine in a bit. I always have trouble remembering the measure of one particular item.

Steve Lebowitz

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Steven Howard Confections

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And of course, I would love for you (chefpeon) to post your brownie formula.

Your wish has been *granted*!

I posted the recipe for all in the RecipeGullet here.

I posted the "easy to tell when done" home size formula.

When you convert this sucker up to bake a full sheet pan of these, waiting til the toothpick has moist crumbs means it's overbaked. At work I have to reduce the oven temp by about 25 degrees and pull 'em when the toothpick is still gooey. At home these brownies are a cinch....at work they make-a-me-crazy, but they're good. :wacko:

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i'm greatful to be blessed with an almost impervious baker's clock...it even works when i'm napping while waiting for a cake to be done. I set the timer only for backup, especially when there's distractions around the kitchen. I rarely ever use times listed on recipes. I'm with Annie...they're only a guideline. But I do have a few rules of my own...

I almost always take a peek after 7 minutes...that catches any upcoming disasters...overfilled cake pans, cookies that are starting to kiss in the oven, etc. And then I set the timer for my best guess on what the remaining time would be depending on what's in the oven.

Cookies, drop and shaped, thin sheet cakes (1/2" high), 9-14 mins.

Bar cookies, brownies, smaller cakes, some cheesecakes, tart shells, 22-30 minutes

larger cakes, big tarts, 30-45 mins

pies, super big cakes 45 mins to 1 hour

Like I said, when you peak, what I do is look for "what percentage is it done" so like after 7 mins it's 30% done, then I know to add about 14 mins, but I'll probably add 10 just to check.

I sort of wish I had exact times for some of the things I bake, and I have definitely come close to that for brownies, I think that's where a timer is better than the eye, especially since I've been overbaking them lately...very sad :(

Stephanie Crocker

Sugar Bakery + Cafe

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