Baking like a professional can take years to learn. That doesn’t mean you don’t bake at all. Everyone needs to know how to bake a basic cake, bake cookies-because it never hurts-to be prepared and there will come a time when you will need to use these basic skills and prepare a dessert. Most times you have to follow the recipe measurements right down to the it. But what happens when you don’t always follow the measurements? Sometimes you get a cake that isn’t sweet enough or maybe the cookie turned out to be a rock. Here are some tips to get you out of the rut when baking.
1. Cake batter is gently folded in together for less than 1 minute
You fold cake batter in gently. You must never beat cake batter unless you are looking to make rock cakes. Baking a cake can seem like a herculean task but you don’t need herculean muscles to mix the batter. You can have cloud soft cake by just folding in all the ingredients quickly and it takes less than a minute to fold the batter in.
2. Baking soda and baking powder are not the same
Baking soda is not the same as powder, the soda is stronger than powder and you must never confuse the two. You can always switch baking soda and powder but the proportions change. Because the proportions change and you can almost never really remember that 1 teaspoon of baking soda equals 2-3 teaspoons baking powder. And it is better to remember less is more. So simply remember twice powder is once soda.
3. If you don’t have baking paper use flour
Baking paper is so convenient! But what happens when you are out of baking paper and have already made your batter. Simply grease the pan and dust it with flour, leave a little extra flour if the batter is loose. If you are baking meat simply use oil or use aluminium foil. Don’t forget to drain it before serving.
4. Keep an eye on the food when inside the oven
Never leave your food in the oven for the stipulated time. Each meat cooks differently, and environment temperatures also affect baking time. Cakes can take 30 minutes to rise but there will be a few cakes that will rise within 15 minutes. Leaving food for too long in the oven will burn, harden or make your food dry.
5. Use your sense of smell
Use your nose to figure out when your food is ready. Once you get used to baking, you will be able to tell when your food is ready. You will sometimes find that your food is ready well before the timer goes off. This does not mean you open the oven door every few minutes.
6. Ingredient measurements vary
While following a recipe down to the very last measurement is going to get you the desired result, there will be times when it may not. Sometimes you simply need to add in your flavours and spices by using your common sense. More often than not you’ll know that even a little bit of something extra can go a long way. For example, when adding eggs to a cake batter adding a little pineapple essence with vanilla extract hides the smell of eggs more evenly than just vanilla extract.
7. Learn substitutes
There is always a substitute that you can use in your recipe. If the recipe calls for a red wine vinegar and you don’t have any, substitute with an apple cider vinegar or simply use red wine with a little white vinegar. If you know what ingredients you have at hand it will be easy to understand what the ingredient is bringing to your dish and you can substitute it.
8. Extract and essence are different
Almost everyone substitutes extract and essence. These two, like baking soda and baking powder, too are not the same and cannot be substituted. The main difference the two is while one gives flavour (extract) the other gives aroma (essence). Vanilla extract won’t have a strong smell as compared to vanilla essence but try a cake that has been baked with extract you’ll be able to taste the flavour while with essence it will be your nose that realises the vanilla smell. Too much essence can make the food bitter! So be careful.
9. Using a balloon whisk over an electric whisk
You know how they use fancy electric whisks on TV shows? You’d think it was a gadget you’d love to have around. In all honesty, before the electric whisks we had the simple balloon whisks. The trick to using a balloon whisk is to flick the wrist and not use strength.
10. Ingredients always at room temperature
Always bring out your ingredients well before you begin baking. Sometimes you can’t do that, use the heat of your stove or simply microwave your ingredients for a few seconds and let it cool down a little before putting them together.
Extra tip: You can try the microwave baking
Baking is normally done in an oven. But thanks to the microwave oven most of your baking can be easily done in less than half the time you’d need with a regular oven. Of course it is not the same, but sometimes you have less time for food.