Professional Chef tips: How to solve common cooking mistakes

Saturday 12th Dec 2020 |

We’re all the same at the moment…Cooking more at home this year, which means more adventurous dishes, but also more amateur cooking catastrophes!

Often we only make simple cooking mistakes, which means they can be rectified easily. Wouldn’t it be handy to have all that information to hand without having to scroll through cookbooks or getting lost on Google?

Below, are a series of short cooking tips from professional baker Gerhard Jenne, founder of London bakery chain, Konditor

Mistake: Biscuits burned on the bottom

Reason: Make sure your oven is baking at the temperature it says. Get an oven thermometer to check, as ovens can be out by 20C. You should bake on the middle crack for conventional heat, while in some fan in ovens you may still have to rotate trays

Cooking Mistakes: Biscuits too hard

Reason: Depends on the recipe, but it could be over mixed, too much flour, or not enough shortening (using fat (egg yolks) to make sure the dough is crumbly)

Cooking Mistakes: Cake rises too high in the middle

Reason: Oven temperature is probably too high, trying turning it down or measuring it with an oven thermometer

Cooking Mistakes: Cake is under baked or too doughy

Reason: Not enough baking time, or it may be handled too soon or roughly after taking it out of the oven. There also might not be enough creaming of butter and sugar – we need to make sure the sugar has aerated (created enough bubbles) the butter to make a lighter and better-textured sponge. Equally, the egg might need more mixing into the butter before flour is added. It’s important to consider all of these things if your cakes are under baked!

Cooking Mistakes: Icing full of crumbs

Reason: Cake iced too fresh, not given the cake a crumb coat (a thin layer/coat of frosting that picks up any loose bits of cake and evens out the surface) and chilled in between giving the final coat.

Cooking Mistakes: Pastry is soggy or chewy

Reason: Your oven temperature is probably too low, or not baked enough. Other reasons may be that your pastry might also be overworked, or using whole eggs, just use the egg yolk next time.

Cooking Mistakes: Soggy pastry bottom

Reason: Probably no blind baking (when you bake the pastry before adding the contents), or it’s not low enough rack in the oven. The filling could also be too wet if it hasn’t been blind baked.

Cooking Mistakes: Pastry crumbly and difficult to roll

Reason: You might have let the pastry dry out too much, often if it’s in the fridge uncovered the pastry will have become more dry. or you might need some milk or egg yolks. It could also be not mixed enough

Cooking Mistakes: Collapsed puff pastry

Reason: Removed too soon from the oven, but another cause could be because the lamination not good enough. For example if rest periods in between turns have not been observed

Cooking Mistakes: Dough is too sticky to knead

Reason: You might be using the wrong flour, for instance cake flour instead of strong. Too much liquid in the recipe, strong flour quality may vary too and ability to absorb water differs between different mills/brands

Cooking Mistakes: Bread won’t rise

Reason: It’s likely there’s too much salt in your mixture, you have bad yeast, or the dough too tight and hasn’t been proofed properly.

Cooking Mistakes: Icing is too sloppy

Reason: Royal icing doesn’t have enough sugar or has been whipped enough. Cream cheese frosting – different cream cheeses give better consistency, therefore the icing sugar may need to be adjusted within it. Occasionally, you may find that there’s been too little beating, or that your butter is too hot when mixing.

Cooking Mistakes: Collapsed cake

Reason: Cut out the collapsed centre and make it into Bundt cake (donut shaped cake)…use the sponge to line tarts to stop them going soggy (apple pies etc)

Cooking Mistakes: Burned tasting brownies

Reason: The cocoa solids are too high in the brownie mix. Would only use 53% in a cake/brownie mix not 70%. Choc chips can be added with higher cocoa percentage though.  

Cooking Mistakes: You’ve made it too salty

Reason: Too salty – if you use salted butter in cakes you don’t need to add more salt, but make sure you have enough salt to enhance the flavour. 

Cooking Mistakes: Lumps of flour in a mix

Reason: Flour not sifted enough, or it’s kept in a damp place in your cupboard so it clumps up.

Cooking Mistakes: Sweet pastry/it has blotchy appearance

Reason: Never use granulated sugar as it does not dissolve in the pastry. Caster sugar vs granulated : much better to use caster as it dissolves more quickly in pastries or when creaming with butter.

Cooking Mistakes: Bread has a thick crust

Reason: Not enough steam in the oven and temperature too low. Perhaps purchase a dutch oven, some lava rocks, or try rolling some wet tea towels and place them in a baking tray – this should create a constant stream of steam in your oven.

Cooking Mistakes: Cake mixture splits when beating with eggs

Reason: This could be because the temperatures of the ingredients are uneven, or you’ve used too much egg. Next time try alternating the egg with flour, and you should find the right mixture consistency.