In the midst of these damp days, and on the edge of the Jewish New Year’s challah production, our thoughts turn to baking. We have watched enough “Great British Baking Show” episodes to know that one must soldier on through the drips and let the meringues and sugar work droop where they may.
But should we worry about the effect of humidity when we bake crumby goods at home?
If you’re used to weighing ingredients, you may notice a difference in the flour, brown sugar and salt. Professional bakers will reduce the amount of liquid or add dry ingredients to counter the effects. Veteran bread bakers tend to adjust the amount of salt or liquid by the “feel” of their doughs as those come together.
The website OurEveryDayLife.com recommends increasing the oven temperature by 15 degrees for baking shortening-based cakes on especially humid days and reducing the baking time by five minutes when baking other kinds of cakes, “because the atmospheric pressure is lower on rainy days and moisture evaporates faster.” And if it’s raining as you stir water to form a batter, think about holding back some of that liquid; you should be able to tell whether the batter feels sluggish or smooth.
Our resident baking expert reminds us that butter should be only thumb-pushable soft; left to come to room temperature on a humid day, it might become too soft and oily quicker than usual. Because the critical cooling down of baked goods is also a drying period — that’s why most things are turned out of their pans and put on racks — she advises wrapping the baked goods as soon as they reach room temperature.
Some bakers who are quite familiar with baking in such conditions, say the humidity does lessen the absorption capacity of the flour as well as some leavenings — but of the latter, most modern ones seem to be impervious. Self-rising flour leavenings seem consistent and stable.
The bottom line: Keep the humidity factor in mind when you’re preheating this weekend. You might need to toss more flour into that challah dough or apple cake batter than you’re used to or add more than the recipe calls for, but not to worry. It’ll work out fine.
Source: washingtonpost.com, 9-30-2016