Home Blog
11
Apr
28

Posted by ngminghuatjb / Blog / 0Comments

Every year, new glorious food blogs are born. Every year, countless unfortunate ones come into being too. Food blogging has become so common that if you aren’t a food blogger yourself, chances are you know someone who blogs about food.

Some people subscribe to the theory that you’re either a cook or a baker. But I know plenty of natural cooks who have learned to bake and plenty of natural bakers who have learned to free-style their savoury cooking like the best of them.

So don’t be afraid!

Here’s a list of the of the main making techniques discussed below

  • oven preheating
  • preparing your pan / tin
  • measuring ingredients
  • creaming butter and sugar
  • whisking egg whites
  • melting chocolate
  • preparing nut meal
  • rubbing butter into flour
  • mixing
  • piping
  • baking
  • how to know when something is done
  • cooling
  • storing

oven preheating

why
Because ovens need to be hot to bake!

how
Turn oven on to the stated temperature in the recipe. Unless the recipe recipe states otherwise, use the fan-forced (or fan assist) setting and place one shelf in the middle of the oven.

If your oven doesn’t have a fan assisted setting, the rule of thumb is to increase the temperature from the recipe by 20C (or 50F).

what to watch out for
Gas ovens tend to be less efficient than electric. So if you’re cooking with gas, be prepared for everything to take a little longer.

All ovens are different, so be patient and learn to know whether your oven tends to cook fast or slow and be prepared to adjust the cooking time accordingly.

The back of most ovens tends to be hotter than the front and top hotter than bottom, even in fan assisted ovens. So be prepared to rotate things to get even baking.

Lots of books tell you to invest in an oven thermometer to check your temperature, but I’ve found they’re difficult to get to work properly because you have to open the oven to look at them and it can be difficult to find a good place to put them. If they work for you, great, but if you haven’t tried, I wouldn’t bother.

preparing your pan / tin

why
To avoid your precious treat from sticking to the tray / pan. There’s nothing worse than a cake falling apart as you try to get it out of the tin!

how
For flat trays just spread with a layer of baking paper (parchment paper). Or invest in a silicon mat (also called silpat).

For cakes and loaves, trace the shape of your pan onto a layer of baking (parchment) paper. Then rub the base and sides of your pan with butter, line with the paper and rub the paper with butter as well. For a video demonstration see the chocolate brownie recipe.

For spring form pans, lining isn’t critical because you know you’re going to be able to remove the sides. But it can make your cake look more rustic, I just place a layer over the base of the pan then place the sides on top and lock them into shape.

For tart tins with a removable base, there generally isn’t a need to line.

For muffins and cup cakes, use prepurchased papers OR cut squares of baking paper and use these to line your. For a video demonstration see the raspberry muffins recipe.

what to watch out for
I’ve found that cheap parchment / baking / greaseproof paper is fine most of the time. Especially when you are greasing it with butter.

Sometimes the sides will stick. Just carefully separate with a small knife, being careful not to cut into the cake more than necessary.

If you run out of paper, al foil makes a good stand in, although it generally doesn’t look as good in photographs!

measuring ingredients

why
Baking tends to be a little more scientific than general cooking and it’s important to keep the ratios of ingredients about the same as the recipe intended to get the desired results.

That being said, some things are more flexible than others so don’t feel you need to be weighing to the EXACT figure every time.

how
By far the quickest and most accurate method is to invest in a set of digital scales. That way you just pop your bowl or saucepan on, zero the scale, weigh out the ingredient and then you’re good to go. So much easier than fiddling around with cups and spoons.

For liquid ingredients, I give measurements by weight (g or oz) because metric cups are different to US cups and it gets too confusing. And when I worked in the food industry, we just weighed everything. So much easier.

what to watch out for
I’ve given measurements in both metric and US. Choose one set and stick to it – there can be slight differences and if you measure the flour in grams and the liquid ingredients in oz. you may run into troubles.

So if you like to bake, even only once a month, buy yourself a digital set of scales, They’re not expensive these days and soo worth it.

But if you’d prefer to stick to cups and spoons – this website is good for conversions or just google it.

Apparently Australian tablespoons are meant to be different from the rest of the world (20mL instead of 15mL) but every set of measuring spoons I’ve ever owned has had normal 15mL tablespoons so take that as the standard.

And as I mentioned metric cups are different slightly to US imperial cups.

creaming butter and sugar

why
Like whisking egg whites, this is a way to get air incorporated into your baked goods, making them lighter and fluffier.

how
You can use a food processor, but a stand mixer with beaters tends to do a better job of incorporating air into the butter & sugar mixture.

what to watch out for
Don’t use butter straight from the fridge as it will be too hard – allow it to soften a little and come up to room temperature.

If you’ve forgotten to get your butter out, like I often do, chop it into small pieces so it warms more quickly than a whole lump.

You can over-mix your butter and sugar. When it is pale cream in colour and looks fluffy is a good time to stop.

whisking egg whites

why
It’s all about getting air into your creation to make it light and fluffy.

For things like meringues, pavlova and macaroons it’s also about dissolving sugar into the egg white to give you sweet flavour and crisp texture when baked.

how
The old fashioned way is to beat egg whites in a clean dry bowl until you have a white foam. It doesn’t take as long as you think and can be quite theraputic.

The modern way, with a stand mixer fitter with a wire whisk. Just pop the egg white in the bowl and turn on to the highest setting. Scrape the sides down every now and then to get even mixing. Much quicker and less labour intensive.

what to watch out for
Cleanliness! Oil from a dirty bowl or whisk or from a little droplet of egg yolk can prevent the white from foaming. If this happens just throw everything out. Clean thoroughly and start again. You could use the egg white for scrambled eggs if you prefer not to waste good food.

Soft peaks. This is when you have a nice foamy white mixture with no runny egg white in the bottom of the bowl. Will almost hold it’s shape if you scoop up some mixture with a spoon and try and drop it. The mixture looks glossy.

Firm peaks. When the mixture is slightly more solid than soft peaks. Easily holds it shape if you scoop up some mixture with a spoon and try and drop it. The mixture is less glossy and a little more matt.

A pinch of salt. Can help the protein in the whites foam.

Cream of tartar. A pinch can help stabilise your egg white foam. I tend not to bother though. Using a copper bowl can also stabilise but if you’re using your egg whites straight away there’s no need to go that cheffy.

Overmixing. I’ve read and heard from pastry chefs that it is possible to overmix egg whites, I think they start to separate out again. But to be honest this hasn’t ever happened to me.

melting chocolate

why
Because melted chocolate is divine!

how
Bash your chocolate into small chunks, ideally no more than 1cm (1/2in) squares.

Microwave – place in a microwave proof bowl and zap on a medium heat stirring ever 30 seconds or so until chocolate is glossy and smooth.

Stove top. The easiest method is to heat your butter or cream (if the recipe needs it) then pour these over your broken chocolate. Stand for a few minutes then gently stir.

Stove top – just chocolate. If you need to just melt some chocolate on its own. Place in a saucepan then carefully put over a low heat for about 30 seconds. Remove from the heat and stand for a few minutes. Stir, If it isn’t melting keep putting back over a low heat for 15 seconds at a time. And repeating the standing and stirring. High temperatures will cause your chocolate to split so you need to be super careful.

Stove top – double boiler. The alternative stove top method means more washing up but is less risky. Place a about 1cm (1/2in) water in the base of a medium saucepan. Bring to the boil. Remove from the heat. Place chopped chocolate in a heat proof bowl and place the bowl on top of the saucepan. Stand for a few minutes then stir. If the chocolate hasn’t melted, leave it a little longer or add more heat. It’s important the base of the bowl doesn’t actually touch the hot water. You just want the gentle heat of the steam to caress the bottom of the bowl.

what to watch out for
Heat. Excess heat is the number 1 reason chocolate splits. And it takes less than you think. So be careful.

Splitting. If your chocolate starts to split it will look like it’s curdling and you can see oil (cocoa butter) separating out. If this happens cool the mixture down asap by transferring to a clean cold bowl. And quickly stirring in some (a few tablespoons) cold milk or cream. If you’re going to be adding eggs, don’t worry the eggs will re-emulsify the chocolate and all will be good. If you’re not adding eggs and the milk hasn’t helped, try adding an egg yolk anyway.

Moisture. For some crazy reason, small amounts of water or steam can cause chocolate to split. But large amounts like in the cream seem to be fine. Who knew?

preparing nut meal

why
Sometime it’s hard to find ground almond or other nut meal. And sometimes it’s cheaper to grind your own.

how
Pop the nuts in your food processor and whizz until you’re happy they’re fine enough. Something like coarse sand is about as good as you’ll get.

what to watch out for
Over grinding – if you whizz too long the heat from the food processor will draw out the oil from the nuts and you’ll end up with nut butter. May not be a bad thing 😉

Under grinding – If you’re maxing something like macaroons, you want fine particles otherwise your finished dish will have a gritty texture. For things like the pear cake or brownies, however this isn’t usually a problem.

rubbing butter into flour

why
Part of the secret to getting light crisp pastry, is to get your butter to coat as many flour particles as possible.

how
Either pulse in the food processor or use the tips of your fingers to literally pick up little pinches of butter and flour and rub them together. You can stop when the mixture looks like coarse bread crumbs.

what to watch out for
You don’t want the butter to be melted into the pastry. So start with cold butter and keep everything as cool as possible. So no overmixing and not hot hands!

mixing

why
If you’re going to get cake mixture to lick at the end. You need to mix things!

how
Mostly a spoon in a bowl is fine.

If the recipe calls for ‘folding’ then that means super gentle mixing. Watch the almond macaroon video for an example of folding.

what to watch out for
Overmixing. If the recipe has flour, the more you mix, the more you’ll develop the protein (gluten) which means the tougher your texture will be. This isn’t a problem for flourless recipes.

Lumps. Mostly you don’t want lumps because they’ll stay in the finsihed product and you don’t want to chew through flour or sugar lumps. Some things don’t matter in the lump department and seem to work themselves out. The muffin recipes and the banana bread are two that come to mind where lumpy mixture doesn’t equal lumpy baked goods.

piping

why
It’s all about getting pretty shapes, or more even shapes.

how
Get a ziplock bag. Spoon the mixture inside. Press the mixture down to one corner. Twist the top so the mixture wont escape that way. Then cut off the corner with scissors and get to work.

It can take a bit of practice. Watch the macaroon video or the custard tartlet video for examples.

what to watch out for
The size of the corner snip makes a difference! Too small and your mixture will take forever to flow out. Too large and it will rush. Find the right balance. You can always transfer to a fresh bag and start again.

Try to use your whole hands to gently squeeze the bag for more even flow rather than pinching from the front. It’s a little like chopsticks, the further back from the tip you hold, the better.

baking

why
Well this is a baking class…

how
Pop in the oven.

what to watch out for
See preheating your oven above.

Unless the recipes says otherwise – choose the middle shelf.

If something is starting to brown too quickly or look burnt but the middle isn’t cooked, cover it with foil to retard the browning.

For delicate things like a sponge cake, opening the oven door before the protein has set will cause the cake to sink in the middle. Most things aren’t so pretentious but remember every time you open the oven door, you’re losing heat so it’s going to take longer for your things to bake.

how to know when something is done

why
So you know when it’s time to eat!

how
First look at the colour. If it isn’t dark enough keep cooking.

Second, have a feel – be careful it’s hot! For cakes and things you want it to feel spongey and slightly firm. If it sinks easily in the middle or feels gooey it’s not ready. For brownies as long as the top middle seems to have a crust, I’d say it is done. You want your brownies to be a little under baked to give that wonderful squidgy texture.

Third if you’re still not sure, stab it with a skewer, or a small knife in the middle (because this is the last place to cook – the edges can be fine but the middle may not be!). Pull out the instrument and have a look. If there is lots of gooey cake batter on the instrument, it’s probably not cooked. If it looks relatively clean, then you’re good to go.

what to watch out for
see details above.

cooling

why
Even after you take things out of the oven, they’re still cooking while they’re hot.

how
Either cool in the pan on a cake rack.

Or remove from the tin and cool on a cake rack.

what to watch out for
If you don’t have a cake rack, try to use something that will allow the air to circulate underneath the tin/cake. This stops it sweating and cools faster.

If you think something is over baked, you want to remove if from the tin so it cools more quickly.

But generally, gentle cooling in the tin works best.

storing

why
Because sometimes it’s not a good idea to eat everything in one sitting. Trust me.

how
Generally, covered in the fridge is best. Especially for anything involving cream or butter.

BUT chocolate goes dull in the fridge so only refrigerate if you have to or if it’s too warm outside.

Dry things like meringue or macaroons without filling will last longer the dryer they are. So popping in an airtight container or sealing in a ziplock bag can be best.

Freezing is usually OK, expept for cream or custard. Just defrost at room temperature or in the fridge.

what to watch out for
Mostire transfer. The first thing that happens as cakes and bakery treats age is that mosture transfers from where there is lots of it (like in a custard filling) to where there is little of it (like a pastry shell) so mostly keeping things unfilled until the last minute is best.

By:ngminghuatjb

Leave a reply:

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

*

*

Top