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Baking Tips for Improving Flavor

By Cook's Illustrated Published September 2011

Reliable recipes and top-quality equipment will get you far, but knowing how to get the most from your baking can make a big difference.

1. Brown your bread 

Always bake bread until the crust is well browned—even if that means leaving the loaf in the oven beyond its recommended doneness temperature (most dough contains plenty of moisture and won’t dry out). Flavor compounds in a browned crust are volatile and travel inward toward the crumb, enhancing the flavor of the loaf inside as well as out. 

2. Go for deep golden pastry

Browning is also important in pastry: A well-browned crust will be more flavorful than a blond one. We bake all pies in glass pie plates so we can track color development. When working with puff pastry or other flaky dough on a baking sheet, we lift up the bottom of individual pieces and look for even browning.

3. Beware of overbaking chocolate desserts

Baking chocolate cakes and brownies past the point of doneness will not only dry them out but also dull the chocolate’s flavor. To determine doneness, use a skewer and look for moist crumbs.