With the Christmas season right around the corner, now’s the time for you to bring out your mixing bowls, weighing scales and other kitchen appliances and whip up some baked goods!
If you’re new to baking, though, it can be a little intimidating. Baking is precise and involves science. You can’t add too much flour or too little sugar. You’ve got to consider the humidity of the kitchen, the temperature of the oven, and all sorts of other details that might lead you to resign yourself to buying from a bakery.
When done right, baking can be a really rewarding and enjoyable activity. Here are eight useful tips for those who would like to get their hands white for the first time.
Mise-en-place basically means preparing your ingredients and required materials in advance to streamline the baking process. Pre-measure your ingredients and have all the necessary materials close to you.
This allows you to focus on the recipe rather than having to pause to measure your ingredients or search for tools as you go. A little preparation saves you a lot of time.
2. Read and reread the recipe
Take time to learn the entire recipe. Take note of all the ingredients, appliances, kitchenware, and steps required without overlooking anything. Baking is about precision and care.
3. The right ingredients
The right ingredients will lead you to the right place. Choose high-quality ingredients for the best results.
Always label your food items, take note of expiration dates, and store them appropriately. Ingredients like nuts and flour go rancid easily, while baking powder and soda lose their potency over time.
4. When in doubt, go for room temperature
When a recipe calls for room-temperature eggs, butter or milk, don’t ignore it. Baking usually involves creaming butter and sugar together, which is undoubtedly easier with softened ingredients than with a brick of hard butter.
Always add hot ingredients to hot ingredients, and cold ingredients to cold.
Another suggestion is to temper, which is to slowly bring up the temperature of a cooler item that might be sensitive to heat to prevent it from curdling or breaking.
5. Weigh it, scale it, measure it
Accurate measurement is essential. One cup doesn’t refer to a mug or coffee cup – use standard measuring cups and spoons.
It is also best to use a digital weighing scale for dry ingredients to get the most accurate results.
6. Don’t mess with time and temperature
You might be short on time, but if a recipe calls for 175°C and 20 minutes in the oven, do not increase the heat to cut down on baking time.
Cakes lose moisture when exposed to high heat over a short period of time, increasing the likelihood of burning.
7. Let it cool, let it cool, let it cool
Temperatures are high when your goodies come out of the oven. The cooling process allows steam to evaporate, making them easier to handle.
Imagine trying to add buttercream frosting to a warm cake!
8. Mistakes are inevitable
You’ve followed all of the steps above, and yet your bread didn’t turn out the way you wanted. Oh well, everyone makes mistakes – learn from it and move on.
Unexpected baking results do not have to be seen as failures. Shift your mindset, then use the bread to make a delicious bread and butter pudding.
This article first appeared in butterkicap.com.
Butterkicap is a food and culture platform and community that enables anyone to experience Malaysia through stories of its people, food and places.