by Hari Won
Baking is, always has been and always will be, one of the most fun hobbies that anyone can think of. It’s creative, it’s delicious, it’s rewarding - and most importantly, people love whatever you have made.
So, whether your passion is cakes, cookies or pies, know that you have found one of the rare joys of human life.
If you love baking, you’ll know the importance of having a good baking oven. A special baking oven is indispensable when you are making something, whatever you are baking. The best baking ovens will always give you the best results and the best tastes.
On the other hand, if you are new to this, i.e. if you have just been inspired to bake by watching someone else, you need a basic lesson in using a baking oven.
These ovens are completely different from microwave ovens and grill ovens, so it is always better that you know the initial workings of a baking oven before you start working with one.
Initially, a baking oven is for baking - everything from birthday cakes to pies, cupcakes to the occasional homemade pizzas. But there are some more recipes that you can prepare using your baking oven, i.e.
Dry legumes and seeds for snacks
Vegetable Puree for making soup
Roast beets for salads and pickles
Roasted vegetables for salads
Caramelized Tomato Sauce
Caramelized or roasted onions
The next lesson in baking should be about using your baking oven, which is easy to do but can seem complicated to the inexperienced.
You can make up your own rules as you start baking and gain experience, but as a beginner, there are some basic steps that everyone needs to follow.
This is rule number one in baking, always. For everything you put inside your oven to bake, it is very important that you always preheat the oven for around 10 to 15 minutes at the temperature required for your recipe.
This way, when you put your prepared tray or casserole inside the oven, the temperature inside is just right for your recipe. This is extremely important in baking?
What happens if you don’t preheat your oven? From the time it takes your oven and your food to reach the necessary temperature from room temperature, there is going to be a thin layer of crust on whatever ingredients you have prepared.
This isn’t a particularly bad thing but a thin crust means that the temperature would have a hard time thoroughly cooking the innermost part of your food, and the insides may still be raw by the time you take your cookies, cake or pie out. This is exactly why the inside of your baking oven needs to reach the exact temperature you need for your recipe.
A baking oven usually has heat bars both at the top and the bottom of the oven. These help evenly bake your food from both sides - up and down. Your recipe will tell you which side to use to properly cook your food, but most of the time, you have to use both the heat bars together.
Sometimes, with recipes like pizza, the heat bar on the top needs to be on for a longer time, even after the bottom bar has been extinguished, to make sure your toppings have cooked properly.
The same goes for oven-baked pasta, where the top bar is used for longer to give your food a more baked look than the part in the middle or at the bottom.
Usually, the instructions for the heat bars can be found inside the recipe; if not, the usage of these bars depends on the type of baked food you are making.
When you are new to baking, you should always follow the more detailed recipes, i.e. recipes which doesn’t just tell you the steps for preparing your food, but also everything else you need to know about the baking part.
This includes the temperature you need to bake at, the amount of time you need to preheat the oven, the heat bars you need to use, the total time needed for baking, and whether you need to keep your food inside the oven for a little while after turning off the oven.
You’ll be more sure about these details when you are a pro but in the beginning, it is always better to have all the details ready in front of you.
A baking oven with adjustable racks is the best one; some of them even come with two racks, very helpful if you are baking two pizzas at the same time or baking a large batch of cookies.
However, if you have adjustable racks or two racks placed simultaneously inside the oven, you need to know how to operate them. If your rack is too close to the heat bars, they may burn on the outside and remain raw in the middle.
The middle position is the perfect place for your single racks to be, but the situation is different when you are using both racks.
When you are using two racks together (for pizza or cookies), they need to be placed in the top and the bottom position, with optimum space in between for hot air to pass.
The rack should be on the top position when you want a slightly burnt/baked look on your food, i.e. oven-baked pasta or pizza toppings, and on the bottom position when you are baking bread or want your pizza crust to cook properly.
Unlike a microwave oven, the racks of a baking oven don’t rotate or turn. Halfway through the total baking time, it is important that you open the oven door and rotate the tray a little.
Even when the heat coming from above and below is equal on all sides, rotating your tray will ensure that everything is cooking perfectly from all the sides.
In the case of cookies, muffins and bread, the tray should be rotated all 90 degrees, and in case you are baking a casserole, your tray needs to be rotated and moved several times in between.
Light-colored or transparent cookware is recommended for baking ovens instead of dark-colored ones. This is because dark colors always attract more heat and may cause your food to burn around the edge even before the middle part has cooked properly.
Therefore, whether you are using tin or glass, always look for cookware and bakeware in a light color.
Keeping your baking oven clean is just as important as maintaining it properly. It is important that you clean your oven at least twice a week if you are a regular user, or once if you use it rarely.
If your oven comes with a self-cleaning feature, your job will be easier. All you need to do is to turn on the knob and the oven will lock itself for two hours to clean. If not, you have to use a damp towel to clean the walls, the top and the bottom. Soak the towel in a mixture of vinegar or lemon juice, which will leave your oven clean, sterilized and smelling good.
If you are using chemicals, make sure there’s no smell lingering inside before you bake again. Make sure that the oven is completely cool before you start cleaning it.
The racks need to be cleaned under running water, with a vigorous rubbing of soap with a brush. Most of your spills happen on the racks and if you don’t clean them regularly, your racks will become oily and sticky.
Baking ovens are usually simple kitchen gadgets that work fine for a long time. There’s almost no maintenance needed for baking ovens if you use them correctly and keep them clean.
Overusing might be harmful for your baking oven, so it is recommended that you give your baking oven to cool down between batches of food.
Otherwise, both using and maintaining a baking oven is quite easy and won’t take long to get used to.
About Hari Won
Hari has been a close friend with Josh since kindergarten. Her place is right around the corner from Josh’s.
She claims they are only friends. Hari also loves to drink. By accident, she tried her first taste of beer in middle school; felt in love with them since then.
Life has been up and down lately for Hari. She and/or other friends often meet up with Josh for a few packs. They may drink through the night, while taking turn to tell their life stories.
Hari received her BS degree in biochemistry from University of Phoenix. She hoped to become a great brewmaster someday...