We all know how to do something well — write a post that teaches readers how to do something you know and/or love to do.
What is it that I do particularly well??
Bitch and whinge about stuff…
Actually, I do love to bake. Sometimes I kinda wish that I could spend my days just baking all kinds of stuff. Experimenting with recipes that I’ve never made, so that even if I fuck them up, I can use them as a learning experience and then get better with each attempt.
However, the problem with that kind of pipe dream is that it’s expensive. Ingredients aren’t exactly cheap, and when I bake, I like to use quality ingredients. I’ve baked stuff before using cheap ingredients, and there’s a certain lack in terms of taste, texture and general quality in the final product – and I’m not one of those people – I like to do things properly, and if I don’t I feel like I’m cheating.
I think that there are just really simple rules when it comes to baking – especially when it’s baking desserts:
Always use the best quality ingredients that you can afford. It also, in turn, gives you some bragging rights. Rather than making a chocolate cake using crappy home-brand cooking chocolate, buy something a little more expensive like Lindt Professional-grade 80% dark couverture chocolate… it just sounds more fancy!
ALWAYS ALWAYS ALWAYS read a recipe at least two to three times, and be clear of all the ingredients and the proper order of processes.
ALWAYS make sure that you use exact measurements, using a little bit more flour, or not enough sugar might seem minor to you, but it can actually make or break a cake.
Never substitute ingredients. For example, powdered egg whites are not the same as real egg whites. This is what Step 2 (above) is all about.
Always pre-heat your oven before you do anything, and grease and line your tins so that everything is ready to go by the time you mix all your ingredients.
I would strongly suggest buying an oven thermometer. Did you know that a majority of older ovens have ‘hot spots’? Neither did I until I did some looking into it. It’s an actual thing. With a thermometer, you’ll be able to determine whether your oven is exactly at 180C (356F). By doing this myself, I realised that our old oven was actually 15-20 cooler than what the dial was set to, hence why all my baking took a bit longer whenever I cooked something.
Generally speaking, whenever it comes to baking you should use unsalted butter, however, for really sweet desserts like cakes / muffins etc, sometimes buying regular salted butter can give a better result, as the salt in the butter will help reduce the sweetness of the dessert – try experimenting.
Whilst I’m talking about butter, generally speaking, you should always have it at room temperature before you start baking so it’s soft enough to beat / cream etc. However, if you accidentally forget to take it out of the fridge before hand, grab your grater, and grate the butter (I know, it sounds crazy), but by grating the butter, you’ll make a small squiggly pile of yellow greasy goodness, and it will reach room temperature within minutes.
Even if it doesn’t say so, ALWAYS sift your flours and icing sugar. It’s just an extra step you can take to make sure that you get all the lumps out.
If you can afford to do so, buy yourself a bench mixer / stand mixer. I’m not saying you need to go out and sell a kidney so you can buy a KitchenAid mixer for $700. They really do make life so much easier. Generally, they allow you to set a speed from a gentle mix, to a full on aerating / whipping speed, which allows you to then go and focus on the next process of your recipe. Some, like my one, actually has a digital timer, so if a recipe says to cream the butter and sugar for 5mins, you can set the timer for 5 minutes and it will do it’s thing and then stop when the timer reacher zero to prevent over-beating. sidenote: if you do get a bench mixer, or if you’ve already got a bench mixer and it happens to sometimes start to dance across the bench as it mixes, grab a small rubber drawer liner, and place it under your mixer and voila! No more dancing bench mixer!