Tips That Will Make You A Better Baker
Being a good baker is partly about having a great recipe, being precise but most of all, it’s about practice! Here are a few baking tips and conversions that will make you a better baker:
- Use a scale. Go ahead and throw away your measuring cups because they’re probably what’s making your baking inconsistent. Don’t believe me? Measure out a cup of flour and weigh it. Now do this 3 times and see what a difference it makes. Not to mention that some cups are 240ml (like in Australia) and some are 250ml. Also, measuring cups just mean more washing up – with a scale, you can simply weigh everything into one bowl. Here’s a list of my favourite tools.
- Use room temperature ingredients (unless otherwise stated). Butter/margarine, eggs and milk form a better emulsion that traps the air and expands in the heat of the oven, giving a better rise.
- Read the recipe properly before you begin! There’s nothing worse than finding out mid-recipe that you don’t have an ingredient or that the mixture needs to rest overnight.
- Collect all the ingredients beforehand and lay them out, so that you know what you’re working with. This also makes the process of mixing, creaming etc much more enjoyable!
- Preheat the oven and if possible, use an oven thermometer to ensure your oven is at the correct temperature before you start baking.
- Do you have a conventional or fan-forced oven? What difference does it make you ask? Well, a good 20 degrees Celcius difference, that’s what! Usually, a recipe will give the conventional temperature i.e. 180 C. If you have a fan-forced oven, you’re going to need to drop that down to 160 C.
- Know your ovens hotspots. Even brand new, expensive ovens have them! How do I know where my hotspots are? By baking a cookie tray scattered with an even layer of flour for 5 minutes at 180C until it starts going golden! The spots that brown first are the hottest parts of your oven – avoid those by turning your cake or cookies halfway through baking.
- Line baking tins properly with baking paper on the bottom or grease and flour them before you begin.
- Use the correct size baking tin. I know, reading numbers at the beginning of a recipe makes me want to fall asleep too, but they’re quite important. If you use a cake tin that’s too small, it will not only take forever to cook – but it will also dome up and crack in the middle. Too large and your cake will be flat and dry. Once you become more experienced, you can start substituting the baking tin sizes, but for now, invest in 2 x 22cm round cake tins and those should be used for just about every cake recipe.
- Bake items on the middle shelf of your oven, unless the recipe states otherwise.
- Baking times should be treated as a guideline as every oven is different. Rather go on the look and feel the recipe provides you – eg. bake until golden brown and a skewer inserted comes out clean. I always set my timer for 10 minutes less than the baking time provided to be safe.
- Baking at altitude. We live in a country where our two main cities have very different altitudes. While Cape Town and Durban are at sea level, Joburg is a whopping 1700m above sea level. Altitude has a huge impact on baking – particularly in ingredients like baking powder, bicarbonate of soda, sugar, eggs, liquid and of course baking time. All the recipes on The Kate Tin are tested at sea level so if you’re based in Joburg, you need to make the following adjustments to my recipes:
- decrease baking powder by 2ml for every 5ml (20%)
- increase flour by 4g for every 100g (4%)
- instead of large eggs, bake with extra large eggs (9%)
- decrease the sugar by 6g for every 100g (6%)
- increase liquid by 15ml for every 100ml (15%)
- increase oven temperature by 14 degrees Celsius
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