Baking is so much fun! It doesn’t matter if you are doing it as a hobby or if it has become a profession for you, there’s always enjoyment to be had in the kitchen!
If you want to seriously impress in the kitchen though, here’s a few neat tricks that can take your baking to the next level.
Read the recipe
This might seem so obvious as to be insulting, but your be surprised how many bakes are ruined because people simply fail to read the recipe correctly. Reading the recipe from start to finish before you start a single step is essential. Don’t read it for the first time, as you go along. Getting halfway through and then realising you don’t have a vital piece of equipment or ingredient is sure to put a spanner in the works. And don’t skip steps. Greasing and lining the tray isn’t an optional extra; it’s been put in because the expert who wrote the recipe knows it’ll produce the best results. So make sure you have read the recipe a couple of times before you start. It only takes only a few minutes but it will give you confidence and clarity as to what you require and how to go about it. And that will show in your finished bake.
Mise En Place
If you haven’t heard this term before it is a French cooking phrase that translates to ‘keep everything in place’ and forms the basis of good practice in every type of cooking, not just baking. So start with making sure you have all the items that you need for your baking and all the ingredients that you require, all weighed out and prepared as per the recipe. This means that when you make a start on your baking, your full concentration is on following the recipe instructions which you can do speedily and without having to stop to finding things, which might cause your baking to be ruined in the process.
Room temperature is critical
When it comes to baking, more often than not, the recipe asks for items such as butter and eggs to be mixed at room temperature. People often ignore this piece of guidance but if a method asks for something at room temperature, it’s for an important reason. Foods are easier to blend when they have a similar average temperature and mixing ingredients with different temperatures can result in your raw ingredients splitting, curdling or cooking! Take out the ingredients needed at room temperature an hour before you start baking for the best results.
Get an oven thermometer
We usually depend on the oven to tell us the temperature at which we’re cooking our food, but they aren’t always a reliable guide when it comes to precise readings. It is therefore useful to buy an oven thermometer which tells the exact temperature inside the cooker. If you want a professional bake, it’s worth investing in one as even a few degrees centigrade can result in your cake being hard and your pastries staying soft.
Measure ingredients precisely
Baking is different from cooking in that you can’t just mix ingredients together, guessing at ratios; you need to measure ingredients very accurately. You need to be precise with your techniques and measurements for really good baking.
Use digital scales for measurements
Following on from the above point, the best way to get accurate measurements is with digital scales.
Keep the oven closed
It’s so tempting isn’t it! You want to have a peek and see how the rise is going or the colour of the bake. But try your absolute hardest to resist the temptation for as long as possible. Opening the door drops the temperature inside which not only ultimately increases the baking time, but which can affect the quality and appearance of the end product. Instead, let it bake for the advised time, then quickly open the oven door, take the food trays out and close the door. If the food needs more cooking time, then put it back in, in this way the heat will stay inside, and there will be minimal risk involved to your bake.
Buy quality products
If you want to take up baking, then you should always invest in quality bakeware. This will not only result in better cakes, breads, biscuits and pies, but also save you from having to buy the bakeware again in the not too distant future, as cheap equipment will not last as long as quality products. Investing in good quality baking sheets, tins, mixers, pans, food trays, oven gloves, and spatulas will pay dividends.
Be careful with the dry products
If you keep dry products in a container for a long time, they can become clumpy or moist, which can result in the end product being less than perfect. Make sure you buy a sifter so that you can sift ingredients such as baking powder, baking soda, sugar, flour and cocoa powder easily. If you do not have a sifter, then another tip is to whisk all the dry ingredients with each other.
Don’t cool anything in the pan
Do not let your baked product stay in the oven longer than is required because it can result in them being overcooked, even if the oven is turned off. Similarly, when the items are done, take them out and let them cool in the pan for between three and ten minutes, depending on what you have baked, before moving them onto the cooling rack. It helps to maintain the shape and the moistness of the cookie or cake respectively, and if you move them quickly, they might break or crumble.
When it comes to baking, you don’t have any margin for error. One mistake, one slight miscalculation and all your hard work goes down the drain. Therefore everything requires precision and following these tips will ensure that you have a better baking experience and more professional, more delicious bakes!