Answers to your burning baking questions

We asked our baking specialists to put down their oven mitts and take a few minutes to answer some important questions from your fellow scratch bakers. Follow the exchanges below. For more in-depth insights, view our full list of Frequently Asked Questions.

If you have a question of your own, email us at progressivebaker@cargill.com and we’ll do our best to help.



Cakes

Q. 1. "How can I avoid cakes with a sticky crust?"

A. Sticky crusts can be attributed to a number of issues, such as covering the cake while it's still warm or using an oven that contains too much steam. To avoid a sticky situation in the future, be sure to let the cake cool to room temperature before covering, or open the oven's damper slightly to decrease moisture present in the oven. And be sure to use high quality cake flour – it can make all the difference!

Q. 2. "I carefully followed a new cake recipe and the end result was uneven. I just had my oven burner checked – what else could the cause be?"

A. If you have already checked your oven burner for defects, an uneven cake could be the result of unbalanced distribution of sugar or leavening. Blend leavening thoroughly with flour, and make sure to distribute sugar evenly throughout the batter.

Breads

Q. 1. "I have a great bread recipe but sometimes the crust comes out too thick. Any tips?"

A. If you're already confident that overbaking isn't the culprit, a thick crust could be due to a lack of necessary moisture in the proofer. There should be enough humidity in the proofer to prevent skinning of dough. If that doesn't do the trick, make sure you're using the proper amount of dough for your pan size. Underscaling leads to bread without enough body, which allows heat to penetrate further than normal.

Q. 2. "My crust color turns out too pale, but I'm afraid to cook the bread any longer for fear it will overbake. What's the deal?"

A. Pale crust is usually caused by using dough that is old or an oven that is too cool. In old dough, the sugars become contaminated with yeast, hindering the browning process. Using an oven that isn't the proper temperature also interferes with browning, so double check you're using the correct temperature.

Donuts

Q. 1. "I know correct dough temperature matters when baking yeast raised donuts. What is the right temperature and what can happen if the dough is too warm or too cold?"

A. The correct dough temperature is 78°F to 80°F (25°C to 27°C) under normal conditions. Sometimes, because small shops have lower room temperatures, smaller batches need slightly higher temperatures (82°F to 85°F or 28°C to 29°C). Dough that is too warm will ferment too fast and likely overproof. If the dough is too cold, it will ferment too slowly, resulting in a donut that doesn't have desired expansion or grain texture.

Q. 2. "My cake donuts are cracking on the bottom, and I've already double checked mix weight, water amount and water temperature. Help!"

A. It could be caused by using old shortening. Check your shortening with litmus paper and change or filter frying shortening when necessary. Another cause could be fat that is too hot or not frying the donuts long enough on the first side. In addition, the shortening level in the fryer should be 2 1/2 inches from screen/inverted basket to the surface of the shortening.