The Art of Baking: Baking Hints and Tips
Baking is an art — but one which everyone can master with patience, a pride in working precisely and a certain amount of basic knowledge. Within this baking section, by following the hints and tips, you will be able to acquire at least the beginning of this art.
• Before you begin baking always remember to get out all the necessary equipment. Do not forget the small things such as spoons, knives, pastry brush, wooden spoon, pastry scraper, grater and absorbent paper, so that they are all easily available when you need them.
• Baking is an exact art! Therefore weigh or measure all necessary ingredients exactly.
• Most recipes call for flours to be sifted. If you sift your flour you can be sure that no lumps will spoil the baking results.
• If the recipe indicates that the dough should be kneaded on a floured board, or rolled or worked in some other way, sprinkle the board with only a very little flour; dough absorbs flour readily and too much would alter the recipe proportions.
• Lemons or oranges whose rind is to be grated must be washed thoroughly beforehand.
• If the tin or baking tray is to be greased, sprinkled with breadcrumbs or flour, or lined with greaseproof paper, do this first. Then when the mixture is ready there will be no delay before baking. This is especially important with cake mixtures.
• Remember to always preheat the oven sufficient time in advance; an electric oven must be preheated 20 minutes in advance, aoven about 15 minutes. Place the oven shelves in the correct position before switching the oven on. As a general rule, yeast mixtures and pastry dishes should be cooked towards the top of the oven, cakes and biscuits should always be placed in the centre of the oven, while meringues should be cooked as low down in the oven as possible to prevent browning during the slow cooking time. This does not apply in fan-assisted ovens where there is constant all-round heat.
• Always place cake tins directly on to the oven shelf, never on to a baking tray, unless stipulated in the recipe.
• If the cakes are browning too quickly during baking, cover the tops with greaseproof paper or foil.
• Never open the oven door during the early cooking stage. You can look at small biscuits or cookies after 5 minutes, but generally the door should not be opened during the first 15-20 minutes.
• Test cakes with a skewer at the end of the given baking time, to see if cooked throughout. Insert a warmed metal skewer into
the centre: if it comes out with no uncooked mixture clinging to it the cake is ready.
• Apples, pears and bananas quickly turn brown when peeled and cut. Always use a stainless steel knife to cut and immediately sprinkle with lemon juice or lemon juice and water.
• If pastry dough is difficult to roll place between two floured sheets of greaseproof paper, or wrap in cling film and leave to chill in the refrigerator for 30 minutes before rolling.
• If you have made up pastry that you do not wish to bake immediately, wrap it firmly in foil or cling film and place in the refrigerator. It can remain there for up to a week and then be rolled, shaped and baked.
• Fruit cake with a high dried fruit content will stay fresh and moist after cutting if you keep it well wrapped in an airtight container.
• Ground spices will not keep their flavour for much longer than a year and then only if stored in airtight and light-proof containers. It is best to buy spices unground and to mark the purchase date on the container.
• Non-stick baking parchment saves time and effort. For all kinds of biscuits line the baking tray with this paper, then the baking tray need not be greased and will remain clean. When cool it is easy to remove the biscuits from the paper with a palette knife and they will be less likely to break. The paper can be used again several times.
• It is easier to turn a cake out of the tin on to a wire cooling rack if you place the rack on the tin, hold the tin and rack with a cloth and turn both together.
• Cheesecakes and cream cheese cakes should be left to cool in the oven after baking. Turn off the oven and leave the door open until the temperature inside the oven is the same as that outside. This will prevent the cheesecake from sinking.
• You can collect egg whites for meringues. When you need an egg yolk alone for a cake or glaze, lightly whisk the white and place it in a small-topped jar or freezing container and then freeze it. When thawed it can be used like fresh egg white.
• When cutting out shortcrust pastry or biscuit dough with small cutters, dip the cutter into flour to make it easier.
• When baking biscuits it is a good idea to bake one or two trial biscuits to see how much they spread during baking. You can then optimise the use of the space on the baking tray.
• If you notice too late that you have no icing sugar to sift over a cake, grind granulated sugar in a coffee grinder or blender and use this instead.