All of them will likely improve your baking game. But one part of the baking experience, a big part, is largely out of your control: your oven. Unless you are lucky enough to have professional-level home equipment, it’s likely that your oven has some unique… eccentricities.
If you’ve carefully followed the recipes, yet the time and temperature resulted in a lackluster finished product, it’s worth checking your oven. They often have minds of their own.
Get This $6 Tool
First, like a digital scale, I consider an oven thermometer an essential piece of kitchen baking equipment. You need to be able to rely on your oven’s temperature to have any shot at making a good recipe.
Luckily, you don’t need anything fancy. I love and use this one. It’s well rated and typically sells for less than six bucks on Amazon. Get one, it will help you adjust your oven temp properly to the recipe.
Do This Test Regularly
Next, do a hot-spot test. Line a standard baking sheet with parchment and then spread out a cup of sugar. Bake it at 400 F for 10 minutes. Then take out the pan and check where the sugar has melted or browned. Those are the hot spots.
If you have hot spots, or more than one, don’t worry, it’s very common, but also why it’s important to not skip that standard recipe note to rotate your pans during baking.
If you’re lucky enough not to have any spots, then hooray, and feel free not to rotate those pans.
You should repeat the hot-spot test every couple years as your oven ages.
Always remember, recipes in published cookbooks are thoroughly tested and vetted but they are only suggestions. Only you know your oven. With a simple, cheap thermometer and an easy hot-spot test you’ll really make friends with your oven and get better results because of it.