Why Do So Many Recipes Bake at 350°F?

 Muffins and quick bread, dips, and pies almost always start with the same instruction: “Preheat the oven to 350°F.” Why?

Why is that?

What makes 350°F the magical temperature?

Why is it that so many types of baked foods from cake to bread go in a 350°F oven and come out perfectly after a relatively brief bake?

The answer to that is one part science and one part, well, human laziness.

Putting something in a hot oven sets off a series of chemical reactions that turn the gooey dough into a bouncing bread or sheets of puff pastry into flaky pastries. A temperature of around 350°F is hot enough to complete a lot of these steps quickly.

Step 1. At 90°F, fats begin to melt and combine with the gluten proteins (flour). Gases from the baking soda or baking powder are released, which helps make the baked good tender.

Step 2..At 140°F, the gluten proteins (flour) begin to swell and dry out. That’s when cake or cookies go from wet batter to dry food.

Step 3. At 300°F, sugar starts to caramelize.

Step 4. The Maillard Reaction, a point at which foods begin to brown and develop their distinctive flavor, happens around 320°F.

So why 350°F? It’s good enough to make all those necessary steps happen quickly, even if your oven runs a little cold and it’s not so hot you have to worry about burning.

But how did we decide to bake things at 350°F and not 340°F or 360°F?

That requires a trip back to the turn of the century.

Before we had ovens that could be warmed up in 5-degree increments like we do today, we had ovens that could bake at three settings: slow, moderate, or high. Recipes for baked goods often called for “moderate ovens.”

After World War II, oven manufacturers capitalized on some technological improvements from the war. Newer models of ovens gave cooks slightly more control by letting them set their gas and electric ovens in 25°F increments. Today, many modern ovens will let you set your oven in 5°F increments.

Attempting to adapt antiquated recipe instructions to match the modern day appliances, recipe writers converted a “moderate” temperature to 350°F, which was typically halfway between an oven’s lowest setting, around 200°F, and its highest, around 500°F.

Is 350°F really the best temperature for baking?

No, probably not. Ovens are notoriously unreliable, so setting your oven to 350°F promises you’ll land somewhere between 330-370°F. You’ll hit 350°F only if your oven is well-calibrated. That being said, most ovens have hot spots and cool spots, so it’s not a good bet that you’re really cooking at precisely 350°F.

Recipe writers and food marketers know that it’s better to err on the side of caution with the “moderate” temperature than to get very specific and have a failed recipe.

Some baked goods, like crusty baguettes,  benefit from baking at a higher temperature, but a too-high temp could sink it. The higher heat will help the bread rise more quickly and set the crust before the gluten in the bread has a chance to dry out and stiffen.

The same can be true for muffins: the muffin tops rise taller in the higher heat, and you can lower the temp to finish baking them and prevent them from drying out.

Likewise, many chocolate chip cookie recipes bake at a higher temp as high as 425°F or start hot and finish at a lower temp. The hot start gets the dough to the caramelization and Maillard Reaction stages faster and then slows the cooking down to keep the cookies from drying out or burning.

Until ovens become almost foolproof and manufacturers can guarantee an oven really is the temp it says, we’ll stick with the magical 350°F. It’s good enough to get the job done.

I like keeping an oven thermometer close at hand to check my oven temperature from time to time.

Why Do So Many Recipes Bake at 350°F?

Reese’s Stuffed Rice Krispies Treats 

Talk about easy and way too delicious!   These are the new Rice Krispy Treats.  It’s not that traditional Rice Krispies aren’t good,  they’re just a little boring and safe. These are the opposite. They’re over-the-top and surprising in a way that everyone, including Krispies, treats purists, will love.

And it just does not get any easier….

Ingredients
Cooking spray, for pan
5 tbsp. butter
1 (10-oz.) bag marshmallows
1/2 c. smooth peanut butter
Pinch kosher salt
6 c. Rice Krispies Cereal
12 Reese’s cups
1/4 c. melted peanut butter, for garnish
1/4 c. melted chocolate, for garnish
Directions
  1. Line a 9”-x-13” pan with parchment paper and grease with cooking spray. In a large pot over medium-low heat, melt butter. Stir in marshmallows, peanut butter, and salt and stir until mixture is melted. Remove from heat.
  2. Immediately add Rice Krispies and stir with a rubber spatula until combined. Working quickly, press half of mixture into an even layer in the pan, then top with a layer of Reese’s. Press remaining mixture over Reese’s.
  3. Drizzle with melted chocolate and peanut butter, then refrigerate until cool, about 30 minutes.
  4. Slice into squares and serve.  Maybe that should say slice & eat!
Reese’s Stuffed Rice Krispies Treats 

PECAN PIE CHEESECAKE

I am not a big Cheesecake fan, but I do LOVE Pecan Pie, so this combination just might be beyond wonderful. Test it out and let me know what you think.  I will be trying it later this month.

Screen Shot 2018-03-26 at 8.05.30 AM

INGREDIENTS

GRAHAM CRACKER CRUST

      • 1 1/2 cups graham cracker crumbs
      • 1/3 cup sugar
      • 8 tablespoons butter, melted

PECAN FILLING

    • 6 tablespoons unsalted butter
    • 1/2 cup packed light brown sugar
    • 3/4 cup dark corn syrup
    • 1 1/2 cups chopped pecans
    • 2 eggs, beaten
    • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
    • 1 pinch salt

INGREDIENTS

CHEESECAKE FILLING

      • 24 ounces cream cheese
      • 1 cup packed light brown sugar
      • 1/4 cup all-purpose flour
      • 4 large eggs
      • 1 cup heavy cream

PECAN TOPPING

    • 4 tablespoons unsalted butter
    • 1/2 cup light brown sugar, packed
    • 1 1/2 cups toasted pecans, chopped
    • 1/3 cup heavy cream
    • 1 pinch salt

DIRECTIONS

  1. Preheat oven to 325 degrees F. In a large bowl, combine graham cracker crumbs, sugar, and butter. Press evenly into bottom and halfway up the side of a 9-inch springform pan. Bake for 6-8 minutes; set aside to cool.
  2. In a small saucepan over medium heat, melt 6 tablespoons butter. Add 1/2 cup light brown sugar and cook, stirring occasionally, until starting to bubble and sugar is dissolved, about 2 minutes. Remove from heat and stir in dark corn syrup, 1 1/2 cup chopped pecans, eggs, vanilla extract, and salt. Pour into prepared crust; set aside.
  3. In a stand mixer with paddle attachment, beat cream cheese, 1 cup light brown sugar and flour until fluffy. Add eggs, one at a time, beating after each addition until just combined. Add 1 cup heavy cream and stir until well combined. Pour over pecan pie filling and place springform pan on a baking sheet. Bake for 60-70 minutes until cake jiggles slightly when moved or toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. Turn off oven and leave the cake in for 1 hour, then remove from oven and let cool completely.
  4. To Make the Pecan Topping:

DIRECTIONS

  1. Melt butter in a small saucepan over medium heat. Add brown sugar and cook until bubbling, about 3-5 minutes. Remove from heat and stir in 1 1/2 cups toasted pecans, 1/3 cup heavy cream, and pinch of salt. Let cool to room temperature then spoon over.
  2. cooled cheesecake. Slice to serve or store refrigerated.

 

PECAN PIE CHEESECAKE

What is your state’s dessert?

Here is how to explore desserts, one state at a time by “The Daily Dish”

Minnesota: Seven-Layer Bars

ALABAMA: CREAM CHEESE POUND CAKE

“I’m a northern girl, who tries so hard to cook southern delights — this cake does not disappoint. It was a HIT!”

Idaho: Spudnuts

Louisiana: Brennan's Bananas Foster

 

What is your state’s dessert?

White Chocolate Raspberry Brownies

One of my dear friends is turning 70 tomorrow and a lot of people are giving her a party on a Tuesday.  Since I work I had to come up with an “appetizer” to share that could sit in my car and be made with what I had in the pantry.  So Brownies are not exactly an appetizer, but I don’t think anyone will complain.  These should be yummy.  Screen Shot 2018-03-05 at 7.49.46 PM

People think that box mixes produce the perfect combination of chewy and moist brownies. Results should be at least as good as a mix without all the processing and questionable ingredients without dirtying many dishes. For one-bowl brownies with the proper level of chewiness both butter and oil is used. Using both cocoa and unsweetened chocolate add to the intense chocolaty richness and create a platform of flavor for any add-ins. By being strategic with the addition of ingredients, saved dishes and combined the batter all in one large bowl. Baked on the lowest rack in the oven, the brownies cooked nicely on the bottom and edges without overcooking and drying out. Folding white chocolate chips into the batter and swirling in raspberry jam gave the brownies colorful character and a fruitiness to offset their deep chocolate flavor.

INGREDIENTS

½ cup plus 2 tablespoons boiling water
2 ounces unsweetened chocolate, chopped fine
cup (1 ounce) Dutch-processed cocoa powder
2 ½ cups (17 1/2 ounces) sugar
½ cup plus 2 tablespoons vegetable oil
2 large eggs plus 2 large yolks
4 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1 ¾ cups (8 3/4 ounces) all-purpose flour
¾ teaspoon salt
1 cup (6 ounces) white chocolate chips

I used a combination of milk and semi-sweet as that is what I had on hand. 

cup raspberry jam
White Chocolate Raspberry Brownies