Growing up, I remember the wonderfully intoxicating aroma of breads and cakes wafting through our home. And it is this memory that inspired me to learn and master the craft of baking. Most people I come across seem surprisingly daunted by the thought of baking cookies or cakes themselves. However, it is quite easy and great fun to bake the lightest of pastries, or a divinely delicious chocolate cake, all on your own.
Quality of Ingredients
The better the quality and freshness of the ingredients, the better the results. Try to get extra fine caster sugar and unsalted butter for best results. Some stores stock special cake flour, which is specifically for baking cakes. If you cannot get cake flour, you can still aim for the best quality ingredients. Check baking powder and baking soda for their freshness and best before dates.
The key to baking is measuring the ingredients properly and accurately. So, if the recipe says 500 grams butter, it means 500 grams and not 550 grams or 475 grams. In other forms of cooking, it is possible to vary the measurements and not make too much of a difference to the final results. However, in baking, slight variations can make your cake or cookies too dense, too heavy, or too flat.
Methods of Mixing
Mixing the batter for cakes and cookies may require using either a wooden spoon, a metal spoon for lightness, or an electric beater. Again, follow the recipe. New bakers will probably get better results when following the words of a seasoned baker. Once you’ve mastered the basics of baking, it is easy to fiddle around and do some experimenting. Till then, go by the book.
Using the Right Cake Tins
Silicone bakeware sets, flexible bakeware, and baking molds are easily available, and should be a part of your kitchen essentials, to enhance the pleasure of baking. Using Springform tins in the right size will ensure that your cake comes out just right. Your cake batter should fill the tin about ¾ full, leaving enough space for it to rise well.
Ensuring the Right Temperature
Follow instructions for baking the cake or cookies at the right temperature. Therefore, if the recipe says 150 degrees, ensure that the oven is set at 150 degrees. Timing, however, varies from oven to oven, so you need to start checking to see if the cake is done after about 45 minutes or so. Use a thin skewer to pierce the center to see if it comes out clean.
Baking can be a great joy, especially holiday baking, when the whole family can get involved in creating cut-out cookies, plum cakes, and delightful gourmet bakes. For an easy-to-understand description of baking ingredients, do read Baking Basics: An Introduction to Baking Ingredients.
Start simple, and then take on the more complicated cakes and pies. Invest in a few good baking cookbooks, and then embark on a delicious journey of cakes, cookies, tarts, and pies