Delicate egg or dairy-based foods such as souffles, cheesecakes, custards, and pate merit delicate preparation. Baking them in a water bath ensures they uphold their reputation for being creamy, rich, and moist. Baking with a water bath essentially means baking a dish of food within a larger, shallow pan filled with hot water. The water bath gently cooks the food at a lower temperature and at a slower rate, protecting it from the direct heat of the oven. It also prevents a whole slew of problems including cracking, curdling, crust formation, uneven baking, and scorching.
Prepare the food according to your preferred recipe's instructions up until the baking step.
Move the oven rack to the middle position and preheat the oven to the temperature that your recipe indicates.
Take out a large, shallow baking dish. The dish should be about 2 to 3 inches wider all around than the dish you are baking your food in. Effective dishes for this purpose include a 13- by 9-inch baking pan, the bottom of a broiler pan, or a 12-inch round cake pan, depending on the size of your smaller baking dish.
Place a kitchen towel in the bottom of the large, shallow baking dish. The towel helps prevent splashing when you pour the hot water into the dish and also provides an extra layer of insulation for your food while it bakes.
Place your dish of food into the large, shallow baking dish. If you are baking your food in multiple dishes such as ramekins, make sure the dishes don't touch so that there is adequate water circulation.
Carefully pour hot water into the large, shallow baking dish. The depth of the water should be about half the height of the baking dish you are baking your food in.
Gently place the prepared water bath into the oven and bake according to your recipe's instructions.
If the water in your water bath starts to boil while baking, you can add a few ice cubes to the water to bring the temperature back down.
If you are baking a smooth custard, you can cover it with a layer of foil to prevent a skin from forming.
Use a standard cake pan when baking cheesecake rather than a springform pan to prevent water leakage.
Remove your food from the water bath as soon as it is done baking to avoid overcooking.
Avoid adding water or tampering with the water bath while baking is in progress unless it is absolutely necessary.