Baking is a science, but once you get the hang of it, it’s more like an art form. If you are feeling like you never get the recipe right, these 9 fixes might just help get your baking back on track.
1. Not following directions
Because baking is edible chemistry, it’s important to get the ingredient ratios right. Cake and cookies both require eggs, flour, sugar and butter, but completely different amounts. Allowing bread to rest for 1 hour instead of 1 day will mean it doesn’t have time to rise, possibly resulting in something delicious as well, but unlikely what you intended to make. Stick with what the masters know, follow exactly what they recommend and expand from there.
2. Using the wrong tools
For sauces, rice and grains, you can use a mug, but for baking use measuring cups. Affordable staples for baking include measuring cups, a good quality hand mixer if one of the larger stand alone mixers are not in your price range, 2 spatulas, 3 mixing bowls of different sizes and a balloon whisk ( usually your standard egg beater). If you want to take it up a notch buy a scale that measures in grams.
3. Aggressive mixing
For delicate recipes, how each ingredient is added makes a difference. Folding is a gentle flip of the wrist and takes a little longer than a general mix. Creaming together butter and sugar might call for some arm strength to get it to a white creamy colour. Scones, however might be better mixed by a woman with cooler, more gentle hands.
4. Using bad resources
Give yourself the best opportunity to be successful with tried and tested recipes. Find your favourite foodie websites like Food24 and bloggers who you trust to guide you. We love Drizzle and Dip, The Kate Tin and Mzanzi Style Cuisine. Here’s a list of some of the best bloggers in South Africa to help inspire.
5. Saying ‘I’m not a baker’
We have so many people telling us they just don’t have the skills to bake. It’s just not true. First and foremost having the confidence and starting with easy recipes is essential. Pastry chefs and bakers don’t jump into complicated souffles when they begin their training. Everyone starts somewhere, so try to master the baking basics with these 7 classic recipes before expanding.
6. Using cheap chocolate
We’re not saying you have to use ten R40 bars of Lindt for every chocolate cake you make. Unless it’s baking chocolate or a high percentage dark you should be able to enjoy the chocolate on its own if you plan to bake with it. The cheapest option in this case is usually noticeable. If you are crazy for chocolate and are feeling self-assured, we’ve got 10 delicious chocolate dessert recipes for you here.
7. Opening the oven
If you have a set time to turn, flip or check on your goodies, wait for it. According to experts at the Rachael Ray Show, you can lose up to 50% of your oven heat just by taking a sneak peek. If you don’t have an oven light, keep the checking to a minimum. Usually cakes and similar treats will smell delicious as an indication of doneness.
8. Overfilling a baking tray
Batter often rises and in some recipes, a runny liquid batter can even quadruple in size. Most recipes will call for a specific sized pan or tin, so if you aren’t an expert, try your very best to follow the advice of someone who knows. Cleaning up burnt muffin crust off of the bottom of your oven is not only annoying, it will also make what’s already baking smell burnt.
9. Icing your cake before it cools
Be patient. Recipes that call for icing or additional drizzles of deliciousness usually require some time for cooling. If you aren’t sure if it’s too hot to add something that will melt on top, use a teaspoon of your icing mixture and if it soaks right in, it’s still too hot. Cool on racks if possible. If you are desperate for a taste, take a tiny piece from the underside of the cake.
When you start to feel braver try our guide to smart baking substitutes.