10 Biggest mistakes

when following a recipe

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1. Not reading through the recipe before starting.

Haven’t we all started out preparing a recipe and with real excitement you can almost taste the end-result, only to realize that in one of the steps it should chill overnight? And then you thought “Well how important can that be?” – chances are that it is important, see point 3 on being impatient.

Skimming over a recipe can help you plan your time, phases and processes accordingly and prevent disappointment when a recipe will only be ready the next day.

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2. Not using the correct equipment.

All of us have tried cooking with an overcrowded pan of have our baked treats rise over the edge of the pan.

Many recipes indicate the size of the pan, skillet, etc that is needed for the amount of ingredients mentioned. Granted, some recipes don’t disclose this – we forgive you for those mistakes!

Also, attempting recipes that require equipment you don’t have would usually result in an unexpected end-product. For instance, have you ever tried beating egg whites to stiff peaks without a hand-mixer? Just note: it is much harder with a fork and a lemon meringue with egg-goo on top isn’t very attractive or appetizing.

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3. Being impatient.

You are on a tight time schedule and you still have to bake a cake, no problem – just reduce the cooking time and increase the baking temperature by a few degrees Celsius? And that, my friends is how you end up with a burnt unplanned molten cake.

Not preheating or cooking at a shorter time at a higher temperature definitely influences the texture, look and overall experience of a dish.
For instance, food needs to stick to the pan when sautéing and that cannot happen at cooler temperatures. The surface needs to be hot enough to brown the ingredients and seal the juices.

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4. Not following the instructions exactly.

Have you ever had the thought, “Well, all these ingredients are going to end up in the same bowl eventually, so why not just skip a few steps to save time?” (see point number 3)

Unfortunately, this doesn’t always work out well. It’s imperative to take the time to follow the instructions—and to do them diligently and thoroughly.

Creaming together butter and sugar, for example, should be done before the addition of wetter ingredients, like eggs. Because the butter holds air, and, when whipped, expands. If you skip that step your end result will be dense and heavy.

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5. Disregarding your skill-level.

You found this wonderful recipe on Pinterest and you can envision yourself arriving with this wonderful dish and everyone being impressed with you. One problem?

Tempering chocolate, making a mirror glaze, deboning a chicken. All these steps in recipes are unavoidable but takes a certain level of skill.

If you would like to improve your skill level, be sure to sign up to the En Bonne Santé cooking classes.

6. Adapting ingredients without thorough consideration.

Some adjustments if made doesn’t turn out horrendous, however some adaptations can really affect the quality of your cooking.

As an example, using dried herbs in the place of fresh ones leads to a severely over seasoned meal. Or mistaking baking soda for baking powder.

7. Not measuring ingredients diligently.

I am a firm believer in the power of a digital scale. Successful baking and cooking means preventing and eliminating as much potential for error as possible, thus making sure your measurements are exact.

Using a few cups of flour in a recipe (measured in volume), for example, can vary as much as 150ml / 75g —an amount that can mean the difference between buttery and flaky—and dense and lumpy.

A good digital scale eliminates all the guesswork and the need to wash measuring cups (yay, less clean up).

8. Not taking the temperature of ingredients into account.

Various recipes call for room-temperature butter, eggs, and milk. It’s a step you should not ignore. Besides the difficulty of creaming together rock-hard butter and sugar, which is made infinitely easier with gently warmed ingredients. Using cold milk instead of room temperature can also result in it curdling (very unpleasant).

When baking, you’ve got to either plan ahead (see point number 1) or be patient (see point number 3). Take out eggs and butter and leave it on the counter overnight, then begin your project in the morning. They will slowly come to the perfect temperature while you sleep.

9. Using international recipes.

Each country has their own unique ingredients that you wouldn’t usually find somewhere else. That makes it very difficult so successfully cook that recipe unless a substitution is made, which will also affect the quality of the end result.

Something else to consider is the fact that different countries also use different metric systems as measurement (click here for an easy conversion table).

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10. Using old ingredients.

The majority of dry ingredients—like baking soda, baking powder, yeast and flour—have a relatively short shelf life. So, if you don’t bake frequently, purchase them in small quantities so they don’t sit in your cupboard, quietly going rancid.

If you’re not sure how fresh an ingredient is, test it. To check the freshness of baking powder, pour boiling water over a small quantity—if it bubbles, it’s still fresh.

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