Water baths aren’t very well known outside professional kitchens, but anyone who runs some kind of eatery should think about buying one, especially if they do a lot of baking.
A water bath is relatively easy to understand – it’s simply a container of water that you place in an oven while baking. Sounds like an odd idea, right? Sure, but using a water bath while you bake comes with some undeniable benefits.
Provides More Even Heat
The water in your water bath won’t be heated up as quickly as the rest of the oven, and this helps distribute heat more evenly. That’s not so important for most dishes, but it’s vital when you’re baking certain desserts, including cheesecakes and custards. The direct heat of an oven just isn’t good for them, so you’ll need to use a water bath to achieve professional results. If you don’t use a water bath, the outside of your dessert will be perfectly cooked while the inside is raw, or the inside will be perfect while the outside is overcooked.
Adds Sufficient Moisture
Some of the water in your water bath will evaporate, turning into water vapour that circulates around the inside of the oven. This prevents baked goods from drying out and cracking. A cheesecake will end up cracked and unattractive if you don’t get the moisture inside the oven right, while custards are likely to become rubbery and unpleasant.
Prevents Curdling and Separation
Baked goods that require lots of eggs also require added care while they are in the oven. Such desserts are thickened mainly with egg proteins, and those proteins need to be protected from the most extreme heat of your oven. If they are not, eggs can curdle and separate. The end result will be far from ready to serve in any kind of commercial eatery.