Basic Rules of Baking
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Prepare the pan carefully according to the recipe. Place pans as near the center of the oven as possible. Do not place pans directly over another and do not crowd the oven (this makes for uneven baking).
Use top-quality ingredients and assemble the ingredients before starting: You can't expect a first-rate product using second-rate ingredients. Be sure your ingredients are fresh and of the finest quality. If your recipe says the ingredient must be room temperature, be sure it is room temperature before proceeding.
Use a glass measuring cup. The glass permits you to see the level of the liquid being measured. The cup for liquids should have additional space above the one-cup line, so that a full cup can be accurately measured without spilling. Check the measurement at eye level.
Measuring dry ingredients:
Use standard individual cups. Lightly spoon dry ingredients into correct cup size, heat up, and level off with edge of spatula by cutting across the top. Use measuring spoons in this way too.
Flour need not be sifted before measuring unless recipe specifies it. Sifting flour onto a sheet of wax paper instead of into a bowl cuts down on dishwashing.
Measure brown sugar by packing it firmly into a measuring cup or into a measuring spoon.
It is a good idea to check your oven temperature with a freestanding oven thermometer. An oven thermometer is very handy (and inexpensive) to find out what temperature your oven really is cooking at. An oven thermometer can be left in the oven to verify that the oven is heating to the desired temperatures.
If the oven is not maintaining the set temperature, the oven thermostat will have to be adjusted by a service center representative authorized by the manufacturer. However, if, after testing the oven temperature at several settings (325, 350, 375, and 400°F), it is consistently high or low by the same amount (say, 25°F), this can be factored into the temperature setting. For example, if you know that your oven runs "hot" by 25°F and you need to bake something at 350°F, set the oven for 325°F. Always check the oven thermometer to verify the temperature.