When cooking casseroles, meats or fish you can always put them back in the oven when they are under done. But baked goods are different though. An accurate test for baked goods isn’t always the toothpick coming out clean. Or even watching the cake or brownie bounce back after being touched is not the answer to “Is it done yet?”
Here are some examples of testing doneness for the most popular recipes.
Brownies and Blondies
Most of the time you want to under bake them to achieve that ideal moist, fudgy texture. The key is not under baking them either too much or too little.
The toothpick test should produce a few errant crumbs stuck to the tester but not a smear of batter. The edges will feel firm to the touch but will not spring back.
The more you bake your cookie the crisper it’ll be. For a chocolate chip cookie look for that contrast between a crisp edge and a chewy center. (These are my favorite!) The cookie will seem under baked on the cookie sheet but will firm up as it cools. The cookie is done when you poke the edge of the cookie and your finger does not leave an indentation.
When ready to take out of the oven bar cookies will pull away from the edge of the pan just slightly.
Cakes, Muffins and Quick Breads
If you’ve ever baked a cake before you’re probably familiar with the the toothpick test. Many recipes tell you to stick a cake tester, skewer, or toothpick into the middle of the cake and if it comes out clean, the cake is done.
Sometimes oil based cakes or quickbreads produce a clean tester before the batter is fully cooked. Or you may have not tested different spots of the cake.
Use your finger to tap lightly in the center of the cake. It should feel firm and lightly springy to the touch. If the batter sticks to your finger or doesn’t produce a bit of resistance, it’s not done.
For white or yellow cakes, the surface should be golden brown all the way across. Raw batter is shiny because of the butter or oil content. And cooked batter is dull. If the edges are dark but the center is still pale and shiny reduce the oven temperature by 25° and keep baking.
Use a glass pie plate and look for the crust to be very brown on the bottom. The bottom crust takes the longest to cook, and most people never cook it long enough. Don’t pull the pie until you see the filling juices bubbling in the center as well as around the edges. This should take well over an hour or more at 350°F.
Custard Based Pies
Custards are baked goods made from a mixture of eggs and dairy. This includes things like cheesecake, crème brulée, and pumpkin pie.
The eggs slowly set in the oven to produce a soft, silky, scoop able texture. Because the eggs will eventually overcook and curdle you want to remove a custard from the oven just at the point of doneness.
When you take it out, the residual heat continues to cook the eggs. Like cookies knowing that the custard is just set enough in the oven. And that it will finish cooking as it cools.
If you nudge a pumpkin pie during baking and the center produces very slow movement it’s done. Pulling it too soon will result in a pie that isn’t fully set and will run in the center when sliced.
I hope this article helps you feel better about knowing when the item is done. I have nightmares of raw cakes or cookies being served. And I often burn a pie trying to make sure it is done. Now I don’t have to!
Research from Bon Appetit and Martha Stewart.
Most images in my Tip Friday Series use free stock photos.
This article is part of the Tips That Help in the Kitchen Series, Tip Friday.