Steamy or rainy weather can wreak havoc on everything from your home to your hair. And baked goods are no exception. That’s because humidity – a measurement that tells us how much moisture is in the air – can be a baker’s worst nightmare.
On muggy or rainy days, when humidity is extremely high (think 70 percent or more), your dry baking ingredients like flour, sugar, salt, baking powder, and baking soda actually soak up moisture from the surrounding air. If you’ve ever seen your flour clumped or “caked” together, this is the reason why. And this tiny amount of extra moisture is enough to alter the quality of your cookies, cakes, candies, and breads in not-so-good ways.
But before you throw in the kitchen towel, try these easy tips to weatherproof your baked goods on the most humid of days:
1. Lessen the Recipe’s Liquid
To help counterbalance the additional moisture your dry ingredients soak up from the air, try reducing the amount of liquid in the recipe by about one-quarter. (For example, if your cake recipe calls for 1 cup of milk, reduce it to ¾ cup. Reserve the other ¼ cup.) If your cake batter looks too dry once all the ingredients are mixed together, add a splash of milk from the amount you set aside. Do this one tablespoon at a time until your batter softens to the desired consistency.
2. Store Flour and Sugar in the Refrigerator or Freezer
If flour and sugar are stored in the refrigerator or freezer rather than your pantry, humidity can’t get to either one as easily. As an added benefit, keeping these ingredients cool also helps keep them fresher longer, as well as bug-free. Just remember to always return your flour and sugar to room temperature before mixing! If you don’t, your breads and cakes won’t rise.
3. Increase Baking Time
Have you ever tested for doneness after the shortest baking time, only to find your baked goods are still a tad underdone? The extra water in your ingredients is likely to blame. To correct this, leave your goods in the oven to bake for an additional 3-5 minutes (which allows extra time for the liquid to cook off). To avoid overbaking, continue testing for doneness every couple of minutes.
4. Run a Fan or the A/C
To help lower humidity levels in your kitchen on these dog days of summer, first, close all kitchen windows. Having them open only invites humid air indoors. Next, run a ceiling fan, dehumidifier, or your home’s air conditioning system for at least an hour before you start baking. Cooler air isn’t able to hold as much moisture as warm air, so doing this helps push any extra moisture out of the room.
5. Store Baked Goods in an Airtight Container, Or in the Fridge
Even after baking, there’s still a chance humidity could ruin your fresh-baked goods. When left out at room temperature, they can absorb moisture, which can turn your crispy ginger snaps into sticky, soft, or stale inedibles that you’ll end up tossing in the trash. To avoid this, be sure to cover or store cookies, cupcakes, and cakes in an airtight container or in the refrigerator. A spot next to the flour will do nicely!
Got any other “bad weather” baking tips and tricks? We’d love to hear them!