Friday, March 17, 2017

Baking for Dummies - Top 10 Baking Tips

Hey aspiring home bakers, yes you! I mean who doesn't want the magical skill to whip out some aromatic muffins or fluffy cheesecakes out of their very own kitchen for a fraction of the retail price? Be it for self-consumption, sharing the love, or just simply to garner likes on your Instagram (and of course, eat it afterwards), here are some baking tips for you. My friends and some of you have asked me some questions about tips and tricks on baking, and I have compiled them right here - ALL IN THIS POST (so ffs, please stop asking. Just kidding, I love you guys.)

Okay, mai gan jiong (hold your horses), some disclaimers first: I do not claim that I am a professional baker, but just an average dude who spends most of his time in the kitchen other than paktor-ing (dating). I first baked about God knows when, perhaps 10 years ago, and failed terribly in my coconut macaroons. I stopped for quite a while but am back in action since last year. With my experience garnered in this period, I present to you, the first of many (or maybe just one): Baking for dummies.


1. Read through the recipe and prepare the ingredients beforehand. There are usually 101 things in my mind that I want to bake, the problem is, I don't own a supermarket, so my ingredients are really limited. Zero in on a few one that you want to try out, see what you have in your kitchen. Just to make sure that you have everything and you don't panic halfway through baking, prepare everything beforehand.

Recipe: Blueberry Pies

2. Measure your ingredients properly. Know your cups, table and teaspoons. Know the term packed (usually brown sugar), sifted and melted. For maximum accuracy, get a digital weighing scale, it will make your life way easier. Baking is like science, so don't anyhow agar-agar (estimate) if you are baking something for the first time.


3. Baking for uncle and aunties? Minus the sugar. They don't have sweet tooth now that they are in their 50s or 60s, so if you're baking for your beloved parents, reduce the sugar by 10%-50% (recipes from US/UK are so darn sweet). I recommend you to reduce slowly, if a reduction of 10% is still too sweet, move on to 20, then 30 and so on. Some recipes require a certain level of sugar for stability and texture.

4. Parchment paper is your new bae. Parchment paper is seriously one of the most useful baking tools. It doesn't only help in making your batter bake evenly, but provides non-stick alternatives so you can remove your cake from the tin with ease. Other uses include a substitute for muffin cups, using it to contain greasy ingredients so you won't have to tear your hair out when washing your utensils.


5. Temperature matters. Room temperature means room temperature. A block of butter that is out of the fridge doesn't mix as well as one that is already softened, unless the recipe requested specifically for it. Egg whites aerate better in room temperature. Everything boils down to one point - make sure the temperatures of your ingredients are right. 

6. Mix your ingredients appropriately. Do not overmix your batter, that is, if you won't want tough and overly chewy outcomes. When you're incorporating something fragile like meringue, fold in slowly using a spoon. If you're just stirring in the meringue like a crazy bitch, might as well throw in egg whites sua (Here's how to fold in egg whites like a pro).


7. Don't have enough ingredients? Use substitutions. Don't cry if you found out that you're missing some ingredients. To prevent this in the first place, read Tip 1. Well, if you're already at this stage, there's always substitutions for everything (except your partner). This is your chance to showcase your creativity or make something healthier (see this post for healthy subs)!


8. Use the cooking time only as a guide. 50 minutes on the recipe book doesn't mean you MUST die die (absolutely) bake it for 50 minutes. Every single oven is unique, so use other guides (visual - baked till golden brown, toothpick comes out clean, or touch - spring back when lightly touched in the middle, etc.). Invest in an oven thermometer. If you're using a convection oven, reduce temperature by about 4-5C and cooking time (1 min for cookies, about 5-10 mins for cakes).


9. Frosting tips? Wait for whatever-you-are-going-to-frost to come down to a room temperature first before icing it up. Frosting a cake? Use a cake stand and apply a crumb coat first (a thin layer of frosting and refrigerating it for about 30 mins) to lock in the crumbs. Frosting too sweet? Substitute with corn starch.


10. Don't bake when you are in a bad mood. Word. Bad mood makes bad food.


Do you have any other baking tips to share? Pop them in at thomaschan@live.com.sg and I may just create a part two for this!