Another mum at school said to me yesterday "I know you're a super-baker" (in the context of the conversation, she was snappy, but we both misinterpreted each other, so I ignored that bit). As I listened to her recount her story about why she's a terrible baker (she isn't, it's just the story she tells herself), I realised that there's lots of things you can do when you're baking that can impact the final result. So I thought I might share some tips for getting it right each time.
1 - follow the recipe. Whether it's a box or a piece of paper, that recipe is there for a reason. Follow it. The art of baking is actually science, chemistry to be exact. You need chemical reactions to make your products rise properly, so don't mess around with them.
2 - use baking paper in cake tins, not spray oil. Spray oil creates a crust on the cake as it's cooking, and isn't always easy to release from the middle of a tin. Save the spray for muffins, and smaller surface areas.
3 - whisk your dry ingredients together before using them. I only learnt this one recently, but it has really changed the texture of the finished goods. If any recipe calls for adding wet ingredients to dry (for example, muffins or a slice) give the ingredients a quick whisk first. A spoon will work, but not as well. The whisk breaks up ingredients and adds air to the mixture.
4 - use the best quality ingredients you can afford. I use homebrand products. I bake almost every day, so my budget doesn't stretch to the best of everything. But there are some products I don't compromise on, like white chocolate, and cocoa powder.
5 - know what you can substitute. I know point 1 says follow the recipe, but it is possible to substitute some things. If you don't have buttermilk, regular milk and vinegar or lemon juice will work. Don't have baking powder? Bicarb soda and cream of tartar will work together. Don't have self-raising flour? Add baking powder to plain flour. Need to use gluten free flour? Be careful, straight swaps don't always work, so do your research.
6 - play with flavours. If apple and cinnamon work well in the recipe, why not try pear and cardamom? You're not changing the base of the recipe (the flour, eggs, milk, etc), just the flavours that you're using. Honey and maple syrup can be interchanged; maple syrup is a slightly richer flavour, while honey is mild, and both react in a recipe the same way. Why not throw some chocolate chips into your next loaf of banana bread?
7 - know your oven. My oven doesn't work very well with two trays in it, so baking takes me longer (and roast potatoes are just a pipe dream!) one tray at a time. And it runs a little cooler than the knob says, so I have it slightly higher than recommended. Gas heats differently to fan-forced, and electric is different again. Get baking, and figure out where your oven works best.
8 - store it properly. There's nothing worse than reaching for a muffin to be met with a soggy top. Make sure your baking has cooled properly, so it doesn't sweat in the tin. Then store in an airtight container, in the cupboard.
If you follow these tips, you'll be a baking pro in no time!
What's your number one baking tip?
linking with Essentially Jess for IBOT