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Baking Basics: Testing for Doneness

By Cook's Illustrated Published September 2003

Here are a few tips when testing baked goods for doneness.

For Pies and Pastry

Doneness is usually gauged by color. Baked only until pale blond, pastry is less than crisp and has a floury taste. When baked until a deep nut-brown—which is our preference—the flavor is fuller and the texture is crisp and flaky.

For Cakes, Muffins, and Quick Breads

A cake tester or skewer inserted into the center of the item should come out clean. If batter clings to the tester or skewer, the baked good needs more time in the oven. Fully baked, cakes, muffins, and quick breads will feel springy and resilient when the center is gently pressed with fingers. If an impression is left in the surface, the item is not done.

For Cookies

For a soft, chewy texture, cookies are best removed from the oven when they appear to be a bit underbaked. Cooling the sheet of cookies for a few minutes on a rack allows them to set slightly.

A skewer inserted into the center of a baked item should come out clean.

Fully baked items should be springy and resilient to the touch.

Remove cookies from the oven when they appear a bit underbaked.