Monday, March 15, 2010

Oven Temperature

Before you bake a single thing, run out and get yourself an oven thermometer! Do it,! An oven thermometer is one of the most important tools needed for baking. Since all ovens vary slightly, especially older ovens, a thermometer is the only way to know how accurate yours is. Also, I find it very difficult to rely on my eyesight while trying to line up the little dash on the dial, unless you have a digital oven.

Oven temperature varies depending on the type of product and quantity of batter or dough. Generally, if the temperature is too low during baking, the product may not rise properly or dry out by the time it is cooked. If the temperature is too high, the product may brown too quickly, form a hard crust and have an undercooked interior with an overcooked exterior.

Cakes baked in 8 or 9-inch pans usually use 350°F, which allows for even rising and cooking without over-browning. Below this temperature, the batter bakes too slowly, allowing air bubbles to merge together and produce a dense texture. Larger cakes that are more than 10 inches in diameter, and even some recipes for 9-inch cakes, may use 325°F due to the large quantity of batter required to achieve the same height as an 8-inch cake. If baked at 350°F, the resulting cake may brown excessively before it has time to cook properly in the center.

Quick breads, such as muffins, scones and biscuits, typically have higher baking temperatures between 375 and 425°F because they contain a high amount of leavening agent. The high temperature encourages rapid rising by quickly activating chemical leaveners and increasing the reaction speed to produce a light and flakey texture. As long as the baking time is followed properly, the product will not be undercooked since these types of doughs are not as wet as cake batters.

Pies normally use two different cooking temperatures. First, pies are baked at a high temperature between 400 and 450°F in order to seal and cook the crust. This helps to prevent the base from being soggy and also helps to prevent leakage of fruit juices through the seams. Then, the temperature is reduced to about 350°F in order to evenly cook the fruit filling without burning the crust.

Most cookies bake at 350°F and are usually under-baked intentionally to produce a nice brown crust with a chewy and soft center. Higher temperatures are used to make drier and crispier cookies, while lower temperatures are used to make softer cookies with less browning.
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