Just when you think you’ve perfected your favorite baking recipes, along comes a rainy, humid day. Or maybe you live where high humidity is the natural environment.
Moisture in the air from the high humidity can change completely the outcome of any recipe. Muffins may be flat and under baked and that Devil’s Chocolate Cake that’s your signature recipe may not be as moist as it usually is.
Don’t let humidity be the ruin of your baking. Use the following tips and tricks when baking to ensure that your banana bread or dinner buns come out of the oven smelling and tasting of perfection.
1 – What High Humidity Does to Baking
Whether you’re baking a cake or yeasted bread, high humidity causes moisture in the air to become locked into the dry ingredients. This includes flour, sugar, cocoa powder, baking powder, and baking soda.
This extra moisture alters the texture and outcome of baked products, turning your foolproof recipes into a hit or miss baking day.
As well as affecting the ingredients, humidity also changes baking time. The usual 35 minutes it takes to bake squares is just a bit too short to remove all the extra moisture.
Most recipes will need additional time to bake, so you’ll have to add on some minutes to your recipe.
2 – How to Check Humidity Levels
How do you know what the humidity is in your kitchen? The simplest way is by purchasing a hygrometer, which measures humidity levels.
The gauge will let you know when humidity is high. 50% is a normal level – anything over 70% means you’ll want to adapt your baking ingredients and methods.
Another way to test for humidity is by using the ice cube method. Place 4 ice cubes into a glass of water. Stir and wait for 5 minutes. If there’s condensation on the outside of the glass, it’s a good indication that the humidity is high.
3 – Use Less Liquid
Modify the ingredients in a recipe by using less liquid. The dry ingredients will hold more moisture, so reducing the liquid can balance the consistency. If your cake calls for 1 cup of buttermilk, reduce the amount to ¾ cup.
After mixing, check for consistency. If it’s too dry, add one tablespoon at a time until the batter looks right, being careful not to use more than the 1 cup called for in the recipe.
If your kitchen is hot as well as humid, add chilled liquid to the batter or dough. This will slow the melting of butter or other fats in the recipe. Be sure the liquid isn’t too cold or mixing a batter that contains eggs can change its stability.
4 – Modify Baking Time
In high humidity, you’ll need to extend the baking time of the recipe to account for the extra moisture. Leave your cake in the oven for an extra 3 minutes. Then check for doneness. Keep testing every 2 to 3 minutes so you don’t overbake!
For cookies, only up the baking time by 1 minute increments – it’s far too easy to burn cookies by overbaking for even 30 seconds.
A note here on raising the temperature of the oven. Although it might make sense to bake at a higher baking temperature, baking just happens faster at the higher heat. This can quickly lead to a dry cake or tough, dense cookies.
5 – Keep Dry Ingredients in The Fridge
Keeping the dry ingredients that you regularly use for baking in the pantry exposes them to humidity and moisture in the air. By putting them in the refrigerator, less moisture will soak into these ingredients.
During the summer, when humidity is more of a problem, I store flour, sugar, and baking powder and soda in the fridge, taking them out about 1 hour before baking so they can warm up to room temperature.
6 – Use A Marble Board
If you’re baking flakey pastry or pie crust, baking in high humidity is even trickier than other baked goods. As soon as you roll out the pastry, moisture will start to build up and soften the dough. And soft dough is going to the change the texture of your baking, making it hard and tough.
Avoid this problem by using a marble board. Place the board in the fridge for at least 2 hours prior to baking. Then roll out the dough on the chilled board. This will keep the butter in the dough cold, so your baking is buttery and has those delicious flakey layers.
7 – Chill Cookie Dough Before Baking
It’s not just delicate baked goods such as pastry that benefit from being chilled. On humid days, I also put my cookie dough in the fridge before baking.
8 – Cool the Air
Even in humid conditions, cooler air doesn’t hold as much moisture as hot air on a summer day. An hour or longer before you begin baking, close the windows and turn on a fan or the air conditioning. Or use a dehumidifier if you have one.
These methods will lower humidity and clear the air in your kitchen of excess moisture.
9 – Let Muffins and Cupcakes Rest
High humidity can keep your muffins and cupcakes from rising and have them fall instead. One of the ways to avoid this is by letting the batter rest for about 20 minutes at room temperature.
This will weaken the leavening in the muffins or cupcakes and result in nicely rounded tops.
10 – Chill Bowls and Pans
Before you start baking, put the bowls, pans, and cookie sheets into the fridge. The goal behind this is to keep anything that touches the dough or batter nice and chilled. Butter in the recipe will stay cold and melt slower when put into the oven.
Don’t let humidity ruin your baking day. Use my tips for baking in high humidity so that your favorite cakes, cookies, and pastries come out of the oven perfectly each and every time.
Sarah is the founder of Baking Kneads, LLC, a blog sharing guides, tips, and recipes for those learning how to bake. Growing up as the daughter of a baker, she spent much of her childhood learning the basics in a local bakery.