Cooking off the cuff is often the best way to discover new flavours and recipes. As long as you’ve got the basics down, you can get away with experimenting and throwing a few things in here and there to see what happens. Most of the time, the food still comes out edible and it’s rare that you get a complete disaster, but when it comes to baking, it’s a different story. Baking is one of the hardest forms of cooking because it’s all about precision; even the smallest mistake can result in something that doesn’t resemble food whatsoever. It’s always a sad moment when you open the oven expecting a moist, beautifully risen cake and instead you find a flat, rubbery thing that looks closer to a pancake, and crumbles into pieces as you prise it away from the cake tin.
To help you avoid those baking woes, here’s a list of baking basics you need to know:
Always use a recipe
I don’t often use a recipe when I cook if it’s something I’ve done before. I know the flavours and the base ingredients so I’m fine. I tried to do the same with a cake recently; I used the same logic and thought that if I just put some flour in a bowl and added the other ingredients until it looked like the right consistency, it would turn out fine. Needless to say, it didn’t rise and I ended up with a soggy, hard mound that was impossible to eat.
Even the smallest mistakes in the quantities will ruin it, so always stick to a recipe. Sunny GBBO Recipes has loads of great ones, ranging from the cheap and easy, right up to some difficult challenges that you can use to test yourself when your skills have improved. Even if you think you know a recipe off by heart, it’s best to double check so you don’t leave out any key ingredients and you get the quantities correct.
Temperature of butter
When the recipe says you need soft butter, it means exactly that. I always used to think that if the butter was straight out of the fridge it made no difference and it just meant it would take a bit longer to work into the flour. In reality, it has a huge effect on the texture of the finished product if it isn’t at the right temperature to start with.
Another big mistake that so many people make is trying to soften it up in the microwave. It’ll split the butter slightly and when you use it, your cake will end up being greasy. If the recipe calls for soft butter, get it out and leave it on the side for an hour. In fact, if the recipe asks for anything to be room temperature, there’s a reason for it so don’t skip that instruction.
Getting the right temperature is also key when you’re baking because if it’s too high, the outside will burn before the middle is cooked and if it’s too cold, you’ll be waiting forever before you can dig into that cake. You might think getting the right temperature is easy; you just turn the dial on the oven to desired temperature. That’s fine if you’ve got a brand new oven, but the thermometer on most ovens is pretty unreliable. They soon start to falter, and they aren’t that accurate. This isn’t a big issue for everyday cooking but when it comes to baking, you need to get the temperature spot on.
Invest in an oven thermometer to make sure your using the right temperature for all your baking projects.
If you follow these basic baking tips, you can’t go far wrong, although the best way to learn is to keep trying out different baking recipes yourself at home. Who knows, after you’ve mastered a few, you may even end putting your own twist on things and developing your own recipes!
What’s your best baking tip for beginners? Leave a message in the comment box below 🙂