Best ever baking tips to get a perfect bake
If cooking is art, then baking is science. There are so many different chemical reactions taking place when you bake so it’s easy to go wrong when you are not equipped with enough knowledge. Never fear, with the help of these handy tips you can create delicious cakes, cookies, breads and pastries while getting a perfect bake – every time.
1. Be prepared.
Read the recipe
Step one, read your recipe through from beginning to end before you do anything close to baking. Make sure you have understood all the steps and that you haven’t overlooked ingredients or tools before you get going.
Have all your ingredients ready
I always make sure all my ingredients are out, correctly measured, and ready before I begin baking. Any pastry chef will tell you that mise en place (French for “putting in place” or “everything in place”) is an essential step that can’t be missed. It’s too easy to skip over something once you get going, so double check that you have everything you need before you start.
Be precise with your measurements
Exact measurement are critical when baking, every ingredient in a recipe has an important role and how much you use of each will affect the outcome of taste and texture. Use a scale for best results when measuring dry ingredients. Ensure that you are at eye level with the marker line when measuring out liquids. Use the proper measuring cups, glass is better for liquids and metal or plastic are better for dry ingredients.
Get your oven up to temperature
Oven temperature matters – so make sure to preheat your oven. You will need to have the oven ready at the temperature you want to bake at so your delicious baked goodies will be evenly cooked. Once again it boils down to science, the chemical reactions from the ingredients need to be activated at certain temperatures so preheating up to temperature is an absolute must.
2. Have the right equipment.
The right tool for the task
Your baking is only as good as the equipment you use, so choose wisely. Each piece of your baking equipment serves a specific purpose. Rubber spatulas are used for folding in ingredients and scraping the contents of bowls. Whisks are for incorporating air into ingredients such as eggs and whipping cream whereas wooden spoons are best for stirring. If you want to get the best results when baking, use the correct tool for the task at hand.
Baking pans and trays
Recipes are carefully calculated which means changing the pan size will also change the baking temperature and time. Shallower pans need decreased heat, deeper pans need increased heat. If you look in the oven and see cake batter overflowing the sides of the pan, it’s most likely because the pan was too small for the recipe. What your pan is made out of makes a difference too. A pan made of metal will conduct heat efficiently and bake batter more quickly, whereas ceramics and glass take longer to come up to temperature but will hold heat longer than metal pans. Every detail will affect the outcome of your baking so always follow the recipe closely.
3. Time to bake!
Prepare your pans
Always grease and lightly dust your pans with flour. If you like you can also use baking paper, simply place the paper in the pan and grease the parchment, sprinkle a dash of flour onto the pan and tap until the bottom and sides are lightly dusted. Shake out any excess as too much flour will make the edges of your cake crispy.
Ovens are temperamental beasts, so make sure you are familiar with any quirks or hot spots your oven may have. Ensure your oven racks are in the center of the oven and if you are baking more than one sheet of cookies in the oven at once be sure to rotate positions halfway through baking. Always check for doneness before the indicated cooking time. (Oh and in case you were wondering, doneness is a real word!)
Once your delicious treats are done baking you will need to cool them on a rack. Some baked goods will fall in the pan if they continue to heat from the reserved heat left in the pan, whereas allowing a cake to remain in its tin after cooking for too long will cause condensation on the edges and attract moisture, creating soggy edges.
4. Working with batter.
Get up to room temperature
When it comes to batters, room temperature ingredients mix more easily than cold ingredients. Try to get your cold ingredients as close to room temperature as you can before mixing your cake batter. This includes eggs. Rather keep eggs out of the fridge for baking, this way they will be able to incorporate more air and you will end up with a smoother consistency in your batters.
Cream butter and sugar thoroughly
When creaming butter and sugar don’t be shy. Creaming butter incorporates air into it and when you add sugar, the granules help to carve out even smaller air pockets in the butter. This results in fluffier cakes, so keep mixing until your sugar-butter mix is light in colour and creamy in texture.
Dry cakes are caused by too much flour or baking powder or not enough amounts of shortening. Follow your recipe to the tee and measure your ingredients correctly. Dryness can also be caused by the oven temperature being too high or from being left too long in the oven, so as always with baking – be precise.
Cake batter needs air in it to rise, so it’s important to beat the batter long enough to incorporate the right amount of air bubbles otherwise your cake could come out thick and stodgy. Don’t add in eggs too quickly and make sure you have enough raising agent otherwise you’ll be sure to end up with a flat dense cake.
This is a handy tip that most bakers don’t know. Avoid using metal skewers to check your cakes for doneness. A metal stick will slide in and out of the cake without crumbs sticking to it readily. This can trick you into overcooking your cake. Use a wooden skewer or toothpick rather, and when the cake is ready there should be a few moist crumbs attached, but no batter.
5. Working with dough.
Keep it cool
Keep cookie dough cool. When working with dough try not to use your hands too much, instead use your fingertips, which emit less heat. Working with chilled cookie dough is easier and yields better results. If you are in a hurry, you can freeze your dough for a shorter period before baking. Chilling in the freezer for 20 minutes is equal to one hour in the fridge.
Don’t overwork it
Overworked bread dough becomes tough and chewy so when you are kneading only knead it until you reach an even consistency. Too much kneading will cause the grease to surface.To check if your dough is kneaded enough, pull out a piece of dough between your hands. It should be able to stretch to +/- 20cm without breaking.
Work in the butter
Butter is best when it comes to biscuits, but whatever shortening you choose to use the key to good biscuits is to work the shortening into the dry ingredients. Coat the shortening in the flour mixture, and rub it between your fingertips until roughly half the shortening is coarsely blended in.
I hope these tips have inspired you to get baking and create some magical and mouth watering baked goodies. What’s your best ever baking tips? Share the knowledge and tell us all in the comments.