In the winter, you would never think twice about turning on your oven to do a little baking. During the summer, when it is scorching hot outdoors, the idea of turning on the oven for any length of time becomes a lot less appealing. Those freshly baked cookies are tempting all year round, however, so sometimes you just have to bite the bullet and turn on the oven to do a little baking – even in the summer. It can be more challenging to bake when temperatures are high, so you may find that your recipes don’t turn out quite the same way during the summer as they do in colder months. Not to worry, though, these 5 Tips for Hot Weather Baking will help get you through the summer baking season smoothly!
- Butter will soften much more quickly than usual. Oversoftened butter is partially melted and cannot be creamed into sugar the same way that properly softened butter can be. It can completely change the outcome of a recipe. It also cannot be used to make a smooth, spreadable frosting because it is simply too liquidy. Take care not to oversoften the butter by only taking it out a few minutes before you need it if your kitchen is warm. Check the butter frequently (by pressing it with a fingertip) to test its progress. And have a backup stick of butter in the fridge in case you need to start over.
- Try to use the oven late in the evening. Turning on your oven early in the day, unless it is only for a few minutes, can heat up your kitchen very quickly. When it is hot outside, that heat has nowhere to go and your house will feel even hotter. By baking in the evening, your kitchen, your oven and your baked goods will have plenty of time to cool down after you are done baking for the night.
- Cookie dough needs to go into the oven very quickly. The butter in cookie dough will start to melt as it is left out in a warm room. In very high heat (such as next to the stove), the butter in your dough can even start to separate. This will change the texture of your cookies and give you much flatter cookies than your recipe would normally produce. Try to get your dough into the oven as quickly as possible after making it. If necessary, chill your dough in the refrigerator for a few minutes between batches to keep it firm.
- Yeast dough will rise much faster than usual. Most yeast doughs call for dough to proof, or rise for a period of time. In a cool kitchen, the proofing period can take anywhere from one hour to a few hours. In a hot kitchen, this period may only take 20 minutes. Although the dough has risen dramatically, a super short rise is not long enough for the dough to fully develop its flavor and texture. Proof your dough in a cooler place (even a small space cooled with a few freezer packs or a bowl of ice cubes) or start your bread a day in advance and allow it to rise overnight in the fridge. Different recipes may work better with different methods, but a more controlled rise will give you a more flavorful finished bread.
- Turn your car into an oven. Save energy and keep your kitchen cool by not using your oven at all to bake that batch of cookies. On a hot summer day, when temperatures are over 100F, it can reach temperatures of over 180F inside of your car – and that is hot enough to bake a batch of cookies! Car-baked cookies (pictured above) are definitely a novelty, but they’re the perfect way of proving that you can make great, creative use of the summer sun. They’re also great for impressing family and friends who have been complaining about a heat wave.