Baking is a science and one that requires plenty of practice. If you’re new to the world of pastries, cakes, tarts and biscuits, you’ll doubtless recently have experienced the anguish of a meringue that refuses to rise, a cake that just won’t bake in the middle, and biscuits, which, no matter how low you turn the oven, continue to burn on the bottom. In truth, there is a way around each of these problems, but to find it requires experience and perseverance. To help you to improve your culinary skills, and to defuse some of the anxiety which inevitably accompanies making that first cake, I’ve put together a list of 8 pointers for basic baking.
1. Know Your Oven
Before you even get around to putting anything inside your oven, it’s important to get to grips with its little eccentricities. You’ll find some cook slightly to hot, some too cold and some, only on the left or right; some are not quite level and cause dishes to come out leaning to one side, and some become a furious inferno if you put a tray on the top shelf. In short, each one has its own personality, and you’ll need to find out what that is in advance of doing any successful baking.
2. Acquire the Basics
While it is not necessary for you to go out and buy a vat of specialist equipment, it is a good idea to get yourself a few, basic trays, tins and other accoutrements. A decent mixing bowl, some scales and a couple of different pans should be enough to be getting on with at the beginning. You’ll want to get an electric whisk as well – unless you’re keen to incorporate baking into your bicep workout routine.
3. Learn a Couple of Techniques
Before you go ahead and start on that chocolate mousse, for example, you’ll want to have organised in your head the difference between folding and stirring. Don’t be afraid to do a little reading on the subject; it’ll help you to achieve the dish you’re after in the long run.
4. Be Meticulous
As we’ve established, baking is a science and science is nothing if not particular. Don’t be tempted to substitute ingredients or alter quantities. Follow the recipe as closely as you can and be as accurate as possible when it comes to what’s going into your dish.
Don’t fling yourself into your baking immediately. Take a moment before you get going to check that you have every thing that you need, to preheat the oven and to lay out all of the equipment so that it’s easily accessible and can be used without hesitation.
Sometimes baking can become a little stressful but try no to let the pressure destroy all order in the kitchen. A chaotic food preparation area is difficult to navigate and will simply make the baking you are doing harder than it needs to be. Try to maintain some structure to the process, and don’t allow equipment to become strewn over ever available surface.
7. Use Reputable Recipes
At least when you are starting out, it’s a good idea to stick to classic food writers for your recipes. This will ensure that you get a good grounding in the basic skills without needing to modify ingredients and so on. Once you are a little more confident, browse the web for inspiration and start creating your own dishes.
8. Don’t Panic
Working yourself into a state over a dish won’t help anything. Trust your recipe and do as it says. As long as you’re using one that’s well worked out, your delicious home-bakes should turn out fine – and if they don’t, take it as a learning curve. Consider what went wrong, decide how to fix it and try again later.
Starting out in the kitchen can be more than a little nerve wracking, but as long as you stick to a few simple guidelines, you should learn quickly and improve fast. Hopefully my list of 8 pointers for basic baking will help get to grips with the business of making tasty snacks; do you have suggestions to add to it?
Top Photo Credit: bloggyboulga