Whether you bake once a month or once a year, you know that the bags of flour and sugar and tubs of baking soda and baking powder will eventually produce cookies, muffins, bread or cake. But deep down, you know that baking is really a production of love. This is probably why you want your homemade baked goods to stay fresh as long as possible – to give everyone a chance to fully enjoy the fruits of your labor. Heeding a few pointers will help ensure that your baked goods more than go the distance.
Use only fresh ingredients for your homemade baked goods. This point may seem obvious, but it’s easy to get careless about properly storing ingredients in airtight containers or keeping track of expiration dates.
Test the freshness of baking powder by stirring 2 teaspoons of baking powder in 1 cup of water. The mixture should fizz and foam immediately if it’s fresh; if it doesn’t, throw away the baking powder. To “proof” active yeast, drop 1 teaspoon of sugar into ¼ cup warm water in a glass measuring cup. Stir in 2 ¼ teaspoons of yeast. If the yeast emits foam extending up to the ½ cup mark, the yeast is truly active.
Remain vigilant about following a recipe’s call for butter, margarine or shortening. Some baking substitutions work nicely, but others could drastically alter the quality of your baked goods. In particular, don’t substitute vegetable oil spreads and other “light” versions of butter or margarine for the real thing.
Keep unfrosted cakes, cookies and other homemade baked goods on your counter for as long as a week as long as they’re covered. Store cookies in an airtight cookie jar, bread in a bread box, brownies or bars in a plastic-covered pan and other baked goods under a domed cake plate. If you live in a hot climate or one in which there is high humidity, store the baked goods in the refrigerator. Cool the baked goods first before covering them to ensure that they stay fresh.
Add half an apple to containers holding bread, cake or cookies. The apple will emit moisture that will help keep your baked goods fresh and soft longer.
Refrigerate cakes or other baked goods that contain frosting or icing made with cream cheese, custard, eggs or whipped cream – and keep them covered while there. Do the same with fruit-filled baked goods and cheesecake. Refrigeration can sometimes “shrink” flavors, so let your baked goods come to room temperature before serving them.
Make good use of your freezer if you’ve “baked up a storm” and fear that your baked goods will go to waste on your counter or in the refrigerator. Wrap cookie dough in several sheets of plastic wrap and then a sheet of aluminum foil; the flavor and consistency should remain unchanged for up to a month. Wrap baked goods in plastic wrap and place them in a freezer bag. As the baked goods thaw in the bag, any moisture lost during the freezing process will be reabsorbed to preserve the flavors.
- If you don’t have a glass cake plate with a dome, turn a large bowl upside down and use it to cover your baked goods.
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