Baking can sometimes be a bit tricky to get your head around. Everything has to be done in balance and you can’t really ‘wing it’ when it comes to measuring ingredients and blending them. It’s not like cooking where freestyle is actively encouraged, you have to be precise and calculating in your method.
Here are some of the best tips I can offer you if you’re just getting started, or a little refresher if you’re a regular on the scene.
Always preheat your oven
Your oven needs to be at the temperature needed to bake when the tin goes in. There’s no point putting a tin in a cold oven and waiting for it to heat up while your cake or whatever is cooking. All this is going to do is mess up your heating times and bake the food wrong. Temperatures are set for a reason and this needs to be adhered to. So don’t be impatient. Heat up the oven properly.
Butter and Sugar needs creaming properly
This method is just one of the ways to get air into your baked goods, like whisking egg whites it makes any bakes light and fluffy and just generally a lot nicer. Try to not use a food processor, but a good old wooden spoon and elbow grease work best. If you insist on being lazy, a stand mixer will do the job well enough. Don’t use butter straight from the fridge as it will be too hard! Allow it to soften a little before you start creaming.
Double boil chocolate to melt it
This is the best way to melt chocolate. It’s fine to do it in the microwave but heating over boiling water will ensure your chocolate never gets burnt when you’re trying to melt it/ It’s really easy to do, just heat up about an inch of water until it’s bubbling furiously and then remove from the heat, then placed chopped chocolate in a separate bowl resting on top of the saucepan. It’s really important that the bottom of the bowl doesn’t touch the water.
Cooling cookies the right way helps make them perfect
Allowing cookies to cool a little and rest will stop them from going crusty in unwanted places and will stop fragile cookies dropping. Invest in a good cooling tray and adapt your cooling technique for the type of cookie that your baking.
Be light but furious with whisking
The trick to a good whisk is in the speed and wrist movement. If your recipe requires something to be whisked, you need to go in at full pelt, the reason or whisking is to get air and body into the mixture (usually eggs and sugar, but other things may require this technique). It’s imperative for the touch to be light-handed so that the cake or meringue is light and airy rather than dense and crumbly.
Snip your piping bag just right
Piping is great for getting intricate shapes or more even servings of a mixture. I use it a lot in decorating as it’s the perfect way to get the shape and pattern that you want. You don’t have to buy a fancy set. Just use a zip lock bag, fill it up with the mixture and cut a small hole in the corner. Make sure it’s not too small or too big as small will make it take AGES and big will just make it uncontrollable.
Coat flour particles in butter
When you’re rubbing butter into flour your main objective is to coat as many particles of flour as possible. You can even use a food processor for this! Remember to do it in pulses though so the combination doesn’t get too creamy. The best way to do it though is by using your fingers to pinch little pieces of flour and butter and gently rub them together. Also, keep your hands cool or the butter will just melt into the pastry!
This isn’t an exhaustive list – far from it in fact! These are just the tips that I wish I’d known when I first starting experimenting in the kitchen with baking and different techniques. It’s funny how things can seem so simple when we grow up watching our parents and grandparents dabble in the kitchen, but when it comes to doing it ourselves, we just get lost!
If you’ve got a top tip or something you want some help with, get in touch with me and I’ll add anything you’d like to the list!