Besides the aroma, the taste of fresh baked breads, cakes, cupcakes, cookies, muffins, croissants, favorite quick breads and holiday favorites, homemade baked goods always "takes the cake" over store-bought everytime.
For beginners, here are some easy, practical tips from experts that will have you baking like a pro in no time at all:
Make a fresh start. There is nothing that takes away from the taste of fresh-baked faster than stale ingredients. Throw out the old flour, baking powder or yeast, trash the dried-out baker's chocolate, and thoroughly clean all baking pans and utensils before you begin.
Follow all measurements and instructions. Although it's tempting to add an extra dash of sugar here or butter there, more recipes are ruined than actually improved by experimenting. Timing and temperature are also important, so always keep an eye on the clock or use a kitchen timer when baking. Remember to note the actual time when you begin so you can
know with certainty when to test for doneness.
Opt for metal pans rather than glass when baking. Besides being more durable, metal baking pans and muffin tins often result in more evenly browned breads, muffins and cakes.
Chocolate melts quickly and evenly when first cut into small pieces before heating. Stirring and watching are critical so that the chocolate doesn't overcook and burn. Moisture only makes heated chocolate seize up and become unworkable, so make sure pots and utensils are thoroughly dry before you begin.
Pie dough that has been thoroughly chilled makes for much flakier crust.
Cookie dough that has been thoroughly chilled makes for plumper, chewier cookies.
If you're just starting out, the best technique for learning is...by doing! Begin here with some of the most popular recipes submitted by visitors for cakes, pies and cookies, as well as hand-picked baking instructions & resources around the Web that we know you'll want to bookmark.
Easy Pound Cake
This is probably the easiest beginner baking recipe around. The eggs act as the leavener, and the butter and sugar makes for a sweet, moist cake for any holiday or family get-together:
Recipe Source - Breads & Baked Goods Recipes - Here's the motherlode, with hundreds of tested recipes for breads, scones, pastries, buns and bagels, plus tool around the rest of the site for hundreds more soup-to-nuts ideas.
Quick Bread Recipes - Check out this About.com guide offering recipes and instructions for homemade date nut bread, zucchini bread and more with related recipes for sweet rolls, muffins, and biscuits.