5 Dangerous Baking Mistakes You're Making

Fortunately, you can replace these mistakes with safer, natural options for your baking.

October 19, 2016
cookies
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Cookies shouldn't contain hidden chemicals—and neither should pies, scones, and cakes, for that matter. But as manufacturers continue to sneak harmful chemicals into everything from cookie sheets and cupcake liners to the ingredients list itself, it's tough to know what's actually in baked treats. But here's some good news: You can make scrumptious baked goods that are free of questionable chemicals by steering clear of these common mistakes.

(Find seasonal recipes, inspiring imagery, and gardening tips every day inside the Rodale’s Organic Life 2017 Calendar!)

muffin tin
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You Use Nonstick

Many pans, baking sheets, and cupcake trays on the market are coated with the nonstick chemical Teflon. This type of chemical has been linked to thyroid disease, ADHD, male infertility, and high cholesterol. Scientists have even linked it to rheumatoid arthritis. While it's not economical to throw out all of your nonstick kitchen supplies, we recommend replacing them with safer alternatives when you start to see nicks and scratches in the finish. Chefs like using uncoated aluminum baking sheets, pans, and trays because aluminum is prized for its even heat distribution. Acid foods can cause metal leaching, so it's best to be extra safe and cover the sheet with unbleached parchment paper. Some good alternatives: cast iron, stainless steel, stoneware, enamel-covered cast iron, and glass (Rodale's offers tons of safe bakeware). 

To prevent sticking, bypass nonstick bakeware and use an old-fashioned trick: Before pouring in the batter or dough, dip your clean fingers in organic butter and evenly rub over the tray's surface—the warmth of your fingers will soften the butter.

Related: 3-Ingredient Appetizers + Treats For The Holidays

cupcakes
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You Fall Into The Festive Fake Color Trap

We all love a little color, especially during the winter holidays. But if you're coloring frosting or using sprinkles or other culinary decorations, be sure your food dyes are not synthetic. (Many harmful synthetic food colors are banned in Europe.) Artificial colors are in many baking and decorating products, and the petrochemical-derived colors have been linked to brain cancer, allergic reactions, and ADHD. 

To know your colors are safe, turn to Mother Nature's ingredients to give your baked goods some holiday hue: Nature's Flavors offers certified-organic flavors, extracts, syrups, and food coloring. India Tree's Nature's Colors line features vegetable-based food dyes and sprinkles. You can add color to plain frostings and sugar by mixing them with a few drops of natural food coloring in a bowl. Use them immediately, or in the case of the sugar, spread it out, allow it to dry, and then put it in an airtight container.

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cupcake
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You Choose Toxic Baking Accessories

When it comes to cupcakes, you don't really need baking cup liners at all, but if you still prefer to use them, opt out of dyed, bleached versions that put carcinogenic dioxins into the environment, and go with the earthy unbleached baking cups, such as the ones from If You Care. All If You Care paper products are Forest Stewardship Council-approved, which means they come from forests that are protected from overharvesting. The company's cupcake liners are also compostable.

Instead of baking in throwaway aluminum baking pans or dangerous nonstick bakeware, why not get creative? You can bypass standard bakeware altogether and bake a cake right in wide-mouth glass canning jars using cake jar recipes that differ only slightly from regular cake recipes. Or whip up single-serve cakes in jelly glasses or half-pint wide-mouth glass jars. 

Related: What Nutritionists Eat During Holiday Party Season

baking ingredients
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You Don't Seek Organic Ingredients

Chemicals used in large-scale agrichemical farming have been linked to cancer, diabetes, birth defects, and a wide range of other problems—and some pesticides actually wind up inside the food, not just on it. So choose organic ingredients whenever you can; they're created without the use of synthetic pesticides or chemicals. For popular holiday baking ingredients, such as chocolate, it's also important to look for Fair Trade–certified goods, which ensures safe and fair work conditions for the farmers who grew the cocoa. 

baked goods gift
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You Forget About Safer Packaging

If you're a fan of giving baked goods as holiday treats, you know that presentation is almost as important as the actual baked present for some gift-givers. But to keep your gift-giving from adding more packaging to the landfills or leaching plastic chemicals into the food, try these ideas: Bake and present homemade pies given as gifts in reusable glass pie pans. You can also hit up thrift stores to find china plates or platters that you can give away with food gifts and cover the food with recyclable aluminum foil. Consider wrapping items in vintage linens, which serve as an extra gift, as well as adding a vintage touch or sew reusable bags out of natural fiber, or even an old cotton tablecloth.