Acquiring enough cooking skills for everyday life is a tough challenge, but it still can be done, especially when you learn from the best and listen carefully. However, baking is a totally different story. Being good at baking doesn’t just mean knowing the techniques and ingredients – it’s also about talent and the developed intuition that separates mediocre bakers from great ones. If you want to always be able to whip out a perfect baked treat, check out these tips and find what works for you!
1. Mind the temperatures
Baking is based on accuracy and how well you can follow the recipe, but a lot of amateur bakers think temperature of the ingredients is not as important as the quantity or quality. In fact, wrong temperature of the foods, especially butter, can spoil your whole dish and ruin a great idea. Generally, room-temperature butter is used for cookies and cakes, while cold, firm butter is required for biscuits and pie crusts. Find out which butter temperature your recipe calls for, stick to it, and never be disappointed with your baking again.
2. Learn to work with dough
Dough is the base for the majority of baked goods, but when you start working on your dough, it’s very easy to get carried away and overwork the dough, which leads to results that are far from what you hoped for. The secret here is to handle the dough for as little as possible. Plus, it’s important to watch the temperatures: if your kitchen is too hot while you’re making the dough, it will negatively influence the end result. Try to cool your kitchen down before cooking, and try to touch the dough with your fingertips only – they are normally cooler than your palms.
3. Use little helpers
A great addition to baking is a couple of expensive kitchen devices that can do almost anything for you, but if you don’t feel like spending a couple thousands on a new processor, you can still become a great baker – simply find the little things that can help you. For example, parchment paper is a great way to stop your cookies from sticking to the baking tray and burning. You can also use plastic bags for piping icing on the cakes and cookies, and a spatula for easier icing of your cakes.
4. Measure using weights
A lot of recipes, especially if they come from America, call for ingredients to be measured in cups and spoons instead of weighing the ingredients, but this is where baking goes wrong for a lot of beginners. No matter what some recipe authors tell you, there is no better way to find out how much of a product you’re adding exactly than to use kitchen scales. Only when you’re skilled enough and know everything about your ingredients and how the differ from each other, you can start measuring ingredients with utensils instead of scales.
5. What if you run out of ingredients?
This must be every baker’s worst nightmare: you’re alone in your kitchen, preparing a baked treat for the whole family, and suddenly you realize there is one ingredient you forgot to buy. But don’t worry – most ingredients can be effortlessly replaced if you know what you’re doing. For instance, eggs in baking can be successfully substituted with bananas (1 banana equals 2 eggs in baking). Buttermilk can be done in 5 minutes using regular milk and lemon juice. And by using olive oil instead of butter in certain baking recipes you’ll make the dish healthier and moister, which is always great for baking.
6. Use your freezer
A lot of home bakers don’t bake too often, because they find the whole process of making dough long and hard. However, if you learn the right way you use your freezer, you can have a delicious baked treat ready in less time and with less effort than it takes to bake from scratch. All kinds of dough can be successfully frozen without losing their taste and quality, so next time you’re making your favourite cookies, make twice as much dough and freeze the other half for times when you don’t feel like baking, but still want to enjoy the sweet treat.
7. Respect the timing
Although baking is an art, there are times when it needs to be precise – for example, when it comes to preparing and cooking times. With soft dough it’s important not to mix the eggs for too long – otherwise the cake will rise and fall down while it’s cooking. The same goes for baking time. And try not to mix up the order of adding the ingredients – it often has a crucial effect on the overall quality of your baked dish.