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Why is scratch baking so difficult?

post #1 of 29
Thread Starter 
I've been doing some reading online and I came across a lot of posts and blogs saying that scratch baking can be tricky. What is it that you have noticed makes it this way and why do so many have challenges producing the same quality from scratch recipes each time or say they have given up on scratch recipes? I know they say you will get 99% accuracy with box mixes each time because of all the additives. I am curious to know what is causing these challenges with scratch baking.
post #2 of 29
I do all my baking (I do not sell my cakes) from scratch and I don't think it's tricky at all. Perhaps, since I have been baking for so many years I already have the know how? Practice makes perfect or so they say. Trust me, there is nothing better than from scratch. Ladies, I don't want anyone who bakes from a mix to be offended. That's just my opinion. icon_smile.gif
post #3 of 29
I completely agree. I have been baking for years as well. I have done both, but mostly from scratch. I don't find anything difficult about it.
post #4 of 29
I think that a big part of what makes it tricky is that one person's cup is not the same as someone else's. Measure out a cup of flour and then weigh it. Dump it back in the bag and do it again. Two different weights. When you find out what a cup of flour is supposed to weigh and then use a digital scale, not only will your measurements be accurate, it's faster and cleaner. I don't use vegetable shortening that much, but I know it's a bigger hassle to clean it out of a measuring cup than it is to put a piece of plastic wrap on the scale and weigh it.

Then of course, there's learning what properly creamed butter and sugar looks like and how it should look once your eggs are incorporated and not under-mixing or over-mixing the final batter. So, yes, even with the digital assist, practice does count for a lot icon_wink.gif.
post #5 of 29
I think it is just learning what things are supposed to look like, feel like, etc. For example, my sis in law asked for my sugar cookie recipe which does not require refrigeration and to me is the simplest recipe I have. Her cookies looked perfect but they were dry and some bites were a bit salty. Turns out her idea of creaming the butter and sugar was mixing it for a minute just until the butter and sugar were mixed. And I don't think she mixed the entire dough long enough. Just practice and general know how. Also a lot of those posts are about altering scratch recipes where it is useful to know what every ingredient is for, whether it's an acid or a base, what it will do when mixed with other ingredients? Again if you use it a lot you probably have a pretty good idea what it does icon_smile.gif
post #6 of 29
As others have said I do not find it difficult at all. I would say most of the difficulty comes from things individuals do and not any inherent difficulty in the process of scratch baking. Do they read recipes carefully? And if so do they follow the recipe/formula? Failure to do either would certainly impact one's ability to successfully execute and replicate a recipe. Neither however is difficult, however not doing them could making scratch making seem more difficult.

Do they bother to learn techniques? Again this involves some reading if you have not been taught techniques associated with scratch recipes--e.g. creaming, folding, beating egg whites. And as one does not have to do any of these with a mix, some might think this makes scratch baking more difficult. None of these techniques are difficult, however, if you have no idea what is entailed in these techniques it would make scratch baking appear difficult. Yet there are many books and videos that teach these methods. If a person does not take the time to learn about them well then scratch baking would seem to be more difficult. Scratch baking maybe more labor intensive but again that labor is not inherently difficult to learn or master.

Like many things, scratch baking will appear to be more difficult if you have not bothered to learn about techniques associated with scratch baking and if you cannot follow directions. But those have more to do with the person attempting to bake from scratch than anything inherent to scratch baking. Simply because most recipes require more than the dumping of a few ingredients into a bowl however does not mean scratch baking is more difficult.
post #7 of 29
Agree with the above, but I think that so many people think you can just throw stuff in a bowl and it will magically turn in to a cake because that's how box mixes are. Or you can swap out stuff or add more/less and it will still turn into a perfect cake. It just doesn't work that way!

People also overbake overbake OVERBAKE because they are looking for that fake golden brown like a box mix. If your cake is golden brown it's overbaked and dry as a biscuit!

There are also a ton of horrible recipes out there!
post #8 of 29
Originally Posted by FromScratchSF

People also overbake overbake OVERBAKE because they are looking for that fake golden brown like a box mix. If your cake is golden brown it's overbaked and dry as a biscuit!

Or they are following "rules" like "your cake is done when the toothpick comes out clean"---nope by then it is already overbaked.
post #9 of 29
I never even saw a mix until I was in high school - - by that time I had been baking for several years. Mixes just weren't used. I think it's like making a good cup of coffee - some people just have a knack for it. That's not to say that anyone can't become a fabulous baker. It just takes a little more work and practice to develop the skill.

The biggest problem with scratch baking comes when you don't follow the recipe. "I tried your recipe for custard, but I used baking soda instead of baking powder and butter flavoring instead of vanilla and I only cooked it for 2 minutes instead of 5. Why doesn't it taste like yours?" icon_confused.gif Really? Learn the science and know before you start what a substitution will do to your recipe. You'll get to where you can taste something and know what needs to be done to make it better.
post #10 of 29
With a few good habits, scratch baking simple recipes is easy. The dificulty lies in more advanced recipes and developing your own recipes.

Box mixes will magically become cake with cold eggs, temp off calibration in the oven, too much mixing, inaccurate ingredients by measuring cups bought at the Dollar Store, and yes, over-baking. But some scratch recipes may not. The baker with the bad oven and sub-standard tools will erroniously think that she can't bake when the problem lies with equipment. And the monumental amount of bad web recipes is another culprit for bakers giving up too soon on scratch baking.

There have been many recipes that have kicked my butt and recipes that are so temperamental that the stars have to align to make it work. Even too much swing in the oven temp can cause failure. But these recipes are also the best in my opinion. That's why I keep pushing myself.
post #11 of 29
Thread Starter 
Wow thanks for all the responses guys. I have been scratch baking for 10 years now even when it was a hobby. It was how I was taught to make cakes. I had no idea that people used to throw things into a bowl and add in more ingredients than called more but I do know that my 1 cup of flour isn't going to equal another person's 1 cup of flour especially using those dry ingredients measuring cups. I still do scratch baking but wanted to be clear on why it was touted as being so difficult especially when training new people to bake. Of course, I want the same quality each time regardless of if I bake it or another kitchen person does.

Thanks again for all the posts.
post #12 of 29
I love to bake from scratch. I really love spending time in a kitchen and carefully measuring and mixing my ingredients. I am not a fan of boxed mixes but don't judge those that do. I am making 19 cupcakes from 6 flavors from scratch. I ended up switching all measurements to grams so I can accurately scale down the recipes.
post #13 of 29
BAKING IS CHEMISTRY! Until people learn that, they are prone to failure.

Also as others have said, one person's cup isn't the same as another. Even the "experts" at cooks illustrated and king Arthur can't agree on what a "cup" of flour should weigh. Cook's Illustrated says 5 oz. King Arthur says 4.25 ounces, that's a fairly significant difference, imagine how much of a swing people have with different brands of measuring cups and different ways of scooping flour.

My most trusted recipes were written with weight measurments first. When converting my own recipes to weight, I measure using my technique and weigh it, since I know my way works, (my "cup" usually comes in at 4.5 oz.).

Cakes are especially prone to failure with even the smallest substitution.
I have a scratch baking blog!
I have a scratch baking blog!
post #14 of 29
bakechef, I agree. Years ago when I started weighing, my scale came with a book. The weight of flour was 5 oz. This is fine but all of my recipes are based on the 5 oz plan for adjustments. I will always have to stick with this. But usually the others will be similar, such as the sugar being a little higher too. I do use top chefs' weights when using their recipes, such as RLB.
post #15 of 29
When I first started scratch baking, things were a little difficult to master for the reasons stated above. I found though that I tended to get more consistent results using one method (reverse creaming) over another (creaming). Creaming was too temperamental for me, and I never put in the time to master it.

Sometimes you just have to find what works for you and go from there.
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