3 Common Conundrums, Solved by Science

When you can’t figure out what went awry in the baking process, turn to science for the answers.

The result: The center of your cake fell during or baking, so it looks sunken in the middle.
What happened? If the cake started to go south during baking, there wasn’t enough moisture in the batter. This might have been because you added too much flour, a common mistake when you measure it using measuring cups rather than a scale and don’t sift. A cake also falls if you open the oven door during the baking process, interrupting the chemical reactions occurring due to heat. If the cake falls after baking, the opposite is true: The batter had too much moisture, which could be a result of humidity in the air.

The result: The pie crust is overly tough.
What happened? Gluten forms not only in bread dough, but in pastry dough, too. If you overmixed the pie dough or used too much rerolled scrap dough, the gluten had too much opportunity to build its tough strands. Aim to mix only until the dough begins to come together, and only reroll the dough once to reuse.

The result: The cookies spread too much.
What happened? The fat in the dough got too warm. This could have been because you took a shortcut by melting the butter in the microwave, or you worked with the dough too much and your hands heated it up—or you skipped the crucial step of chilling the dough.

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