Baking Tips

  1. Short crust pastry:
    When making short crust pastry, replace water with egg as the water evaporates in the oven, causing the pastry to shrink. Shrinkage will still occur, but far less.
  2. Baking a slice with parchment paper:
    When baking a slice and using baking paper (parchment), cut the paper bigger than base, run it up the sides of the tin and fold it over the edges holding it in place with metal bulldog clips.
  3. Neat slices?
    To neatly cut a cheesecake, fridge tart or slice without disturbing the texture or base, wet the blade of the knife before cutting and wipe off any residue before cutting the next slice.
  4. Chiffon Cake:
    When making chiffon cake, never grease the tin. Use a special chiffon tin and cool it upside down in the tin. Use a spatula to loosen the edges and tap it out gently. Don’t use butter, it is better with vegetable oil.
  5. Muffin cases:
    When making muffins, it’s better to use special muffin cases or just grease the tins and add the mixture. Cupcake cases don’t work well as the mixture tends to stick into the grooves.
  6. Doily Templates:
    Want to decorate a plain cake with a dusting of icing sugar in a pattern but don’t have any templates? Use a paper doily instead.
  7. To whisk egg whites perfectly:
    Use a glass or metal bowl and make sure it is perfectly dry.
  8. Combining warm/hot and cool/cold ingredients together:
    When combining a warm mixture with cooler ingredients, add a little of the warm to the cold and fold/beat slowly. Continue adding the warm to the cold slowly and combining gently until you’re about halfway through. This will have brought the two temperatures closer together. You can then add the rest of the warm to the cold and it shouldn’t curdle.  Never just dump it altogether in one go, it will be a disaster you can’t undo!
  9. Freezing egg yolks:

    Often recipes call for egg whites and you end up throwing the yolks away…well don’t! Due to the yolk properties, add a sprinkling of sugar or salt to the egg yolks before popping them into the freezer or they become almost too gelatinous to use in recipes. Label the container carefully with how many egg yolks are inside as well as whether you added sugar or salt, to help you decide on a sweet or savoury dish in the future.

  10. Using frozen pastry:

    Thaw the pastry just before you need to use it; if defrosted for too long, it can become soft and difficult to handle.

  11. Filling a piping bag:
    This can often be a messy experience so a good idea is to place the tip in the bag as normal, then place the bag inside a tall glass or jug. Fold the edge of the bag over the top of the glass. It stands independently and you have two free hands to make sure all icing goes inside the bag and not everywhere else.
  12. Chocolate as an ingredient:
    Choosing a more expensive “pure” chocolate with a higher cocoa solid content instead of a cheaper baking compound pays dividends by producing a more decadent and delicious end product.
  13. Using baking trays for biscuits/cookies:
    Baking trays should be cold when unbaked mixture is placed onto them. If they are too warm, the butter in the mixture begins to melt which affects the consistency of the biscuit during the cooking process and can lead to a flat, soft end result.
  14. Melting Chocolate on the stove:
    Never allow any water to come in contact with the melting chocolate. Just a drop or two of water can make the chocolate seize up, or become hard and lumpy. Even the steam from the bottom of a double boiler can cause this problem. Make sure to keep the chocolate dry as it melts. Water in a double boiler should barely be simmering and not in direct contact with the bowl holding the chocolate.
  15. Tips for making the perfect Scone:
    See my Date Scone post and read the 6 very helpful tips listed there.
  16. Cake too dark:
    Oven temperature is too high or the cake tin is on too high a shelf in the oven.
  17. Air as a raising agent:
    Air is the key to successful baking. To get lots into your mixture, cream butter and sugar thoroughly and sift flour.
  18. To freeze egg whites:
    Add 2 or 3 to a mini freezer bag, label the quantity on the outside and store in the freezer. Defrost at room temperature.
  19. When icing a cake:
    – allow the cake to cool completely before adding the icing. Unless of course you want the icing to be runny and ooze over the edges.
    – brush all loose crumbs off the cake so they don’t get stuck in your icing and form a crumbly texture.
    – the icing surface should be flat. Turn the cake over and use the base, or, alternatively, trim the top of the cake to level it.
    – delicate cakes should be iced with soft icing to prevent the cake from crumbling.
  20. Cookies and baking trays:
    When making cookies, alternate baking trays. If you place fresh uncooked dough onto an already hot/warm tray, the butter in the cookie begins to melt and changes the shape and texture of the cookie. By placing the dough on a cool tray and directly into the oven, the sudden blast of heat helps to hold the cookie’s shape and texture.
  21. Bain-marie:
    A bain-marie is another term for a hot water bath and is used to cook delicate foods like terrines and custards in the oven to ensure even and gentle cooking. When making a bain marie, it’s easier and safer to place the dish (or dishes) into a high sided baking tray and then place the tray onto the oven shelf before pouring in the boiled hot water. Then gently slide the tray into the oven.
  22. Preparing Dough:
    When working with dough, take care you don’t overwork it. It needs to be kneaded to get the gluten and yeast to do what they do best, but overworking results in a tough, heavy end product when you really want it to be light and fluffy.
  23. Want clean, even edges on a pie crust? When baking blind and you remove the crust/shell from the oven to discard the baking beads, beans or rice – now is the time to carefully slice the browned or uneven tips off the pie edge before returning it to the oven.
  24. When making ganache, always chop the chocolate finely so it melts quickly and prevents the ganache from seizing or splitting.
  25. When making a traditional egg custard, the milk should be warmed to just under boiling point. The egg yolks are heated gently in a separate saucepan over a low heat, along with the sugar. The warmed milk is added slowly. Continue to whisk the egg yolks and take care to not let the mixture boil or get too hot as the egg will curdle and become scrambled. The mixture will thicken and is ready when it smoothly coats the back of a spoon.
  26. To make chocolate shavings: use a vegetable peeler to scrape thin shavings from the side of a block of chocolate.
  27. Creaming butter and sugar:
    For best results when creaming butter and sugar, make sure butter is soft (room temperature) and cream on it’s own until lighter in colour and has a fluffy texture. Then add the sugar and continue to beat until sugar crystals break down and the mixture is very pale in colour and has an even fluffier texture.

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