02 Apr Do’s And Don’ts Of Baking At Home
Baking at home is not an easy task at hand, ask anyone who has worked with it and they will tell you the monumental effort it entails. Not only are you at the mercy of home tools and the unpredictability of a kitchen that is clearly meant for other types of cooking, the lack of space that professional baking requires will make it difficult for you to give your creations the edge that professional products deliver. The scenario at home – especially in Indian context is one of chaos and disharmony because dozens of tools are needed for baking which makes it difficult to juggle with the billion other needs a regular Indian kitchen demands. Despite the hurdles and the ordeal,
many dessert industries source their baking treasures whether recipes, hacks or tips from real homes and women who have learnt to balance the chaos at home and come up with delicacies that hotels, patisseries and other confectionery giants create.
We all know that home is where the real magic happens and to understand and learn baking as a skill and art; a home environment is an ideal place for it, all you need is the spirit and the basics of do’s and don’ts figured out. We know how herculean it can be to dig through the vast sea of the internet and come up with a list of what you must and mustn’t do in your baking adventures at home so they remain delightful and hassle-free instead of becoming scenes from the aftermath of a fight sequence in an action movie. We at Alchemy started off with baking simple fares like brownies and sponge cake in our domestic kitchen and we know all the perils involved! Hence we have compiled a master list of Do’s And Don’ts for experiments with your oven! Happy Baking 🙂
THE DO’S :
USE A DIGITAL/MECHANICAL WEIGHING SCALE:
It’s not a cutting edge equipment to invest in but rather a basic necessity that all kitchens must have! It is sure to save you a lot of time and worry about the measurement of ingredients for recipes that involve a lot of elements as in the case of multiple layers of cake or baking macaroons that are endeavours that demand precision. It always makes more sense to go by the gram rather than volume, so we suggest you lean on weighing scales instead of measuring cups for all your baking.
USE A SET OF PROPER MEASURING CUPS:
In case you do not use a weighing scale there is no bigger faux than deciding to not use good quality measuring cups and spoons. The recipe is the king and using intuition and experience in the science of baking is a sure shot way to bake a disaster!
Use Liquid measuring cups for liquids and dry measuring cups for your solid ingredients always .make sure you Spoon the flour in measuring cups and pack the brown sugar into cups and spoons as well and oh make sure you read from the side of the measuring cup to see where the meniscus of the liquid you’re measuring hits the markers!
USE FRESH PRODUCTS AND LOCALLY GROWN INGREDIENTS:
At Alchemy we firmly believe it is less about the fancy ingredients and more about what you can do with whatever is available at hand! It helps when you use the finest locally grown ingredients for the fruits and the eggs and milk and other essentials that go into your desserts as well as savory baked items. Using fresh eggs is also a crucial tip as eggs tend to break down with age which means when they’re whipped they wont hold as much air as a fresher egg will. Make sure the eggs are at room temperature as this will help in aeration too.
USE NON-STICK SPRAY OR PARCHMENT PAPER:
Most professionals use these two methods to get that perfectly finished product that is oh-so-easy to extract from the tins its been baked in. In a domestic set up, you can always use the handy hack of using a wrapper, yes you read that right, the wrapper that your store-bought butter is wrapped in and glide it generously over the surface of your tins followed by sprinkling flour on top so that the cake you bake will easily leave the edges when its show time!
ALWAYS SIFT FLOUR:
This is the ultimate holy grail of baking tips, the flour needs to be sifted or sieved – always! The reasons for sifting flour are: it breaks down any lumps, removes impurities and aerates the dry ingredients. If you’re sifting flour you can easily sift in any other ingredients like cocoa powder, baking powder, baking soda as well as salts or spices that need to go into the dry mix.This ensures perfect mixing of all dry ingredients.
USE BUTTER AT ROOM TEMPERATURE:
Let butter sit out until it reaches room temperature, this helps in making a rich soft and smooth batter. Also, it makes creaming of butter and sugar much easier. This applies unless otherwise specified for tarts or pies.
UNDERSTAND YOUR OVEN:
All ovens are different and require patience and practice to understand and perfect its usage. Sure you may have mastered the recipe but it really boils down to how well in touch you are with your oven.
-Tin Positioning: In an OTG or top heating type of oven place the tin right in the middle of the rack that should also be placed in the centre so it is equidistant from the top and bottom heating rod. If there are two tins place them side by side and ensure that they don’t touch as that will create a cold pocket and the cakes will end up undercooked. Don’t ever place the tins on racks one above the other as that will prevent the lower tin from getting any heat. In case of a convection fan oven, it has an internal fan that spreads the heat and heating is far more even. When you place multiple tins in such an oven, stagger the positioning of the tins and make sure they are never directly above or below each other.
-Preheating point: if you use multiple ovens you’ll learn how they differ from one another when it comes to their heating. Some ovens have a 180` that is much higher than the standard and hence the cakes baked in it turn browner and others have a lower 180` than is standard causing cakes to be undercooked and requiring a longer time in the oven.
-Oven Hotspots: every oven whether confection or not, has a spot or area where maximum heating happens. It’s usually at the back or the corners of the oven and not in the centre; you can tell where the hotspot of your oven is located by observing what area of your cake gets that intense brown colour and to avoid brown patches and uneven baking you can rotate the pan or baking tin so the coloration is even.-Preheating point: if you use multiple ovens you’ll learn how they differ from one another when it comes to their heating. Some ovens have a 180` that is much higher than the standard and hence the cakes baked in it turn browner and others have a lower 180` than is standard causing cakes to be undercooked and requiring a longer time in the oven.
-Oven Hotspots: every oven whether confection or not, has a spot or area where maximum heating happens. It’s usually at the back or the corners of the oven and not in the centre; you can tell where the hotspot of your oven is located by observing what area of your cake gets that intense brown colour and to avoid brown patches and uneven baking you can rotate the pan or baking tin so the coloration is even.
DON’T SKIP PREHEATING: Preheat your oven at least 10-15 minutes before baking. Time and temperature will affect the flavor and texture of your baking and a cold oven at the start may cause unevenness in your final product
DON’T IGNORE THE RECIPE AND ENSURE AVAILABILITY OF INGREDIENTS:
Like we have said, recipe is king. You may tweak and add to it after you have reached an advanced level and have enough practice in making that one item. But always stay true to the ingredients and the procedure recommended as years of foolproof testing is what creates a reliable recipe and it would be silly of you to not follow that and end up in a fiasco instead! The baking ingredients sometimes contain volatile elements or elements that may have volatile reactions when they interact with other ingredients hence, it is always safer to use the recipe and practice utmost caution! Make sure you have all the ingredients at hand before you start baking and if you have to substitute any ingredient be sure that you understand what structural impact it will have on the outcome i.e. the final product you intend to bake. For example, An egg has binding properties or flour has rising properties, hence if you have to substitute these in your creation, make sure you find the right substitutes or you’ll be cooking up a disaster.
DON’T OVER-MIX THE BATTER:
The purpose of aeration is lost if you over-mix or over-whip the batter! The cake loses its sponginess and the best way to avoid this is to use a spatula to gently fold in the dry ingredients (that have already been sifted together) and the wet ingredients that have also been whisked the right amount
DON’T WALK AWAY FROM CERTAIN ITEMS:
things like caramel need attention to the T as they can burn in a matter of seconds. Some batters and breads too require preparation that needs utmost alertness and this is required for almost all of baking-An open and alert mind.
DO NOT OPEN THE OVEN DOOR:
Don’t open the oven door unless half the time has passed. If you open the door, you break the seal of heat building inside and your cake may fall flat and stay uncooked on the inside. Ensure at least half the time needed for baking has lapsed if you cannot avoid opening the door.
DON’T FORGET TO TEST YOUR CAKES WITH TOOTHPICKS:
The sure shot way to knowing if your cake is baked effectively is by inserting a toothpick in its centre and if it comes out clean it would mean the cake is done. If it comes out wet it means you must pop it back in for another five minutes. Another way to know if it’s done is by gently pressing the cakes centre and if it springs back up it means it’s well done. However, make sure you give 10-15 minutes to the cake to cool down after it’s done, before you proceed to frost or decorate it or else it may crumble!
DON’T FORGET TO HAVE FUN
Perhaps this is the most vital advice we can give you! Baking may be a science partly but it is also therapy. Make sure you have oodles of fun and enjoy yourself while you bake up a storm and we can promise that the fun and love you give to it will translate itself in your creations like it does in ours 😉