Different Types of Flour and When to Use Them.
Types of flour, Flour 101: a simple guide to the different types of flour available, the fundamental differences between them and what they are used for. Okay,
Types of flour, Flour 101: a simple guide to the different types of flour available, the fundamental differences between them and what they are used for. Okay,
20 Best baking hacks to make you a star baker in no time. Over the years I have found myself in some baking messes. Burnt cookies, stuck cakes or an empty store cupboard, I’ve been through it all. In fact over the years I’ve found that my best baking strength is fixing problems. Actually I think my best life skill is fixing problems. You see I’m incredibly clumsy, I forget to take the butter out of the fridge to warm up, I forget to put my hearing aids in and don’t hear the oven timer and I regularly forget to buy ingredients leaving me lacking when I go to bake something. This is where my 20 best baking hacks comes in.
Subsequently over the years I have developed a whole host of tips and tricks to get me through any baking issue that can arise. These are my 20 best baking hacks. Of course these tips and tricks wont fix an absolute disaster, sometimes you need to know when you should throw in the towel and start again. However, these 20 best baking hacks will help remedy those little oops moments and help you to get the best out of your bakes.
First up on my 20 best baking hacks is bananas. If you find yourself wanting to make banana bread or a banana cream pie but don’t have any over-ripe bananas to use, you can speed up the ripening process easily and quickly. Just pop your bananas in the oven at 150C for 40 minutes until the skins are black and use as normal. I usually pop any over ripe bananas in a zip lock bag and into the freezer for use later but if you’re ever in a pinch just pop your bananas into the oven.
Most recipes call for room temperature ingredients and if you’re like me and forget to take your ingredients out of the fridge. I have an easy fix to bring you’re eggs up to room temperature. Simply place some warm water into a heat proof jug and pop your eggs in for 10 minutes until they feel warm to the touch. Use them as normal and you have the perfect room temperature eggs.
Speaking of forgetting to take ingredients out of the fridge, butter is my personal adversary. I don’t know why I don’t just keep it in the cupboard because I never remember to take it out of the fridge. There are two ways to warm up cold butter. Pop it in the microwave for 15 seconds then transfer it to a zip lock bag and hit it with a rolling pin. Then simply scoop out the butter. Alternatively you can grab a pyrex glass, I usually use a large measuring cup. You need something that can hold boiling water. Fill the glass with boiling water and leave for a few minutes then empty the lass and put it over the butter upside down. The heat from the glass should only take 5-10 minutes to soften the butter.
When making a recipe that calls for cubed butter to be rubbed into flour, grating the butter instead of cubing it makes the process a great deal quicker. Simply grab your box grater and go for it, straight into the flour. It then takes next to no time to rub the butter in. This method works wonders for shortcrust pastry or crumbles.
Speaking of graters they come in handy for all sorts of problems. If you have burnt the bottom of your cookies or even a cake simply whip your grater out, a microplane is best but the smallest side of a box grater works too. Rub the grater on the burnt cookie until all traces of burn has disappeared! Almost like magic!
Ran out of icing sugar? Can’t get to the shop? Just make your own. Icing sugar or powdered sugar is simply granulated sugar that has been ground finely so why not do it at home. Just throw a cup of icing sugar into your blender along with a tablespoon of cornflour and pulse until you have a fine powder. I find myself using this one all the time, I always forget to buy powdered sugar. For some reason I always just assume I have it in the cupboard. I find it best to use a blender rather than a food processor but both work.
If you find yourself measuring honey or molasses and dread trying to get all of the sticky substance out of the measuring cup after fear not I have the answer. I find that non stick cooking spray is the most useful thing in the kitchen cupboards. Simply give your measuring spoons or cups a light coat before you measure your sticky ingredient and it will slide out no problem. If you don’t have non stick cooking spray just give your measuring spoons a quick coating with oil works like a charm.
If your wanting to make the fluffiest whipped cream that has impressively stiff peaks you simply need to keep everything cool. Make sure your cream has been thoroughly cooled in the fridge before you whip it. But if you take things a step further you will be achieving the perfect whipped cream in no time. Pop your bowl and mixer attachments in the fridge for 30 min before you whip the cream to keep everything as cold as possible and you’ll have the fluffiest whipped cream with the stiffest peaks.
If you struggle to get your cupcakes and cookies measured evenly I have the perfect hack. An ice cream scoop! Simply spray an ice cream scoop with non stick cookie spray and use it to scoop out your batter. You’ll have perfectly even sized cookies and cupcakes every time. Don’t forget the non stick spray, you’ll want all of the batter out of the scoop every time to keep things even. You can buy ice cream scoops in various different sizes online so that you have a size for every cookie. You can have a look at them here.
Half way though my 20 best baking hacks. Have you ever made the most glorious cake, cheesecake or tray of brownies only to ruin it when it comes to slicing it. The trick to getting a prefect slice is to use a hot knife. Grab a heat proof jug and fill with boiling water simply place your knife in the water for a few seconds to heat up and you knife will slide through your cake like butter. If you making a lot of slices just keep popping you knife back into the water to heat it up.
If you’re out of buttermilk you can easily make your own. Up until recently I could never find buttermilk in the supermarket here in the UK so I’ve been using this hack for years. To make a buttermilk substitute just measure out the same amount of milk and add a tablespoon of lemon juice. Leave the mixture to one side for 5-10 minutes to let the magic happen and after 10 minutes you will have a thick, sightly acidic buttermilk substitute. You’ll never have to run out to the shop again.
This is another one I always seem to be out of. Especially if I haven’t made it to Hobbycraft in a while to grab my favourite piping bags. If you regularly buy piping bags from the supermarket in those packs of 20 you’ll know that your ALWAYS running out. They tend to break easily so I’m always running out. In a pinch you can use a zip lock bag in place of a piping bag. Just snip off one of the bottom corners pop in a nozzle, fill with icing and seal up. It’s not ideal but in a pinch its your best option.
Speaking of piping bags. Do you ever find it difficult to fill them? The easiest way to fill a piping bag is to pop the bag into a tall glass and fold the top over the glass, the bag will stay in place whilst you fill it. You can then take the sides of the piping bag from off the glass and lift the piping bag out with no mess.
If your recipe calls for the juice of a lemon or any citrus fruit really to get the most out of it simply pop it in the microwave. To get the most juice out, place your fruit on your work surface and roll it firmly with your palm this bursts some of the juice out of the fruit. To take things further simply give the lemon, lime or orange a 10-15 second blast in the microwave. You can then slice the fruit in half and squeeze out all of the juice. The heat will make this easier to do.
If you’ve ever left your brown sugar in the cupboard to long I feel your pain. If your soft brown sugar is now anything but I have a simple remedy to soften it in no time. Simply pop it into a microwave safe bowl and thoroughly wet a paper towel. Place the wet paper towel over the sugar and microwave it for 20 seconds. Take it out of the microwave, remove the paper towel and give the sugar a stir. It should be as soft as the day you bought it.
Now that you’ve got your brown sugar soft you need to keep it like that. The easiest way to keep brown sugar soft is to store it with a slice of bread. The sugar will absorb the moisture from the bread and stay soft. Change the bread regularly so it doesn’t go mouldy if you plan to store it for a long time.
Slices of bread are very useful when storing food. If you want to keep a cake moist simply store it with a slice of bread. A cake you have already iced and sliced can be kept moist by using a cocktail stick to secure a slice of bread to the sliced end of the cake. If you are pre making cake to ice the next day, simply place a slice of bread on top of the cake and cling wrap the whole thing. The cake should have absorbed the moisture from the bread when you come to ice it.
To easily remove bubbles from your cake batter or baked cheesecakes simply bang your cake pans! Fill your cake pans with your batter and give it a few really hard bangs on the counter top. This should dislodge any trapped air bubbles, the force of the bag shoots them up to the top where they pop. This gives you a wonderfully even bake. This technique is especially good with baked cheesecake where you don’t want any large air bubbles to spoil your silky texture.
You know the deal, you’ve baked a beautiful cake but the inside isn’t quite baked. You can see that the edges are starting to burn and you’re powerless to do anything about it. Next time your baking a particularly deep cake keep the heat off the sides of the cake and therefore stop the sides burning before the cake has cooked through. Keep the heat off the sides by thoroughly soaking a tea towel, folding it length-ways to the width of the cake pan and wrap it round the whole pan. Simply bake as normal. This keeps the majority of the heat away from the sides and prevents burning.
When using a stand alone mixer, they often come with a splatter guard but what do you do when you need to use a hand whisk? This is where a pack of paper plates comes in handy. Heep a pack of cheap plain paper plates in your cupboard for times just like this. Simply poke your whisks through the paper plate before you insert them into the hand mixer. Then the plate catches the splatters and saves your counter tops and walls from cake batter splashes.
We’ve come to the end of my 20 best baking hacks. If you think I’ve missed any hacks let me know in the comments. I want to hear your baking hacks!
And there you have it, my 20 best baking hacks. If you have any you think I’ve missed let me know in the comments! Don’t forget to show me your bakes by tagging @whatseatingmanchester in your social media post.
For more baking inspiration check out my baking 101 posts.
Knowing how to make the perfect ganache is something every aspiring home baker should know. Ganache is a staple that can be utilised in many ways. Knowing how to make the perfect ganache will allow you to ice cakes with ease and whip up the perfect chocolate truffles in no time at all.
How to temper chocolate? Have you ever wanted to create spectacular chocolate decorations for your cakes or coat a truffle in chocolate and not have it melt in your fingers. The secret my friends is tempered chocolate.
Rich chocolate mud cake, a rich and decadent cake that is almost to delicious to believe. A chocolate mud cake can be used for many things so its useful for a home baker to have a good recipe under their belt. I find that when making an occasion cake chocolate mud cake with chocolate ganache is a firm winner for the best combination for fondant. Rich chocolate mud cake is a very dense firm cake so it can really withstand stacking or lots of fondant.
A good basic madeira cake has many uses, it forms the backbone of many recipes. Because they are so versatile it is a recipe that every aspiring home baker should master. When it comes to making cakes for an occasion, something you are going to cover in fondant, I personally think you only have three options, madeira, chocolate mud cake or fruit cake. You need a cake that is dense enough to be able to hold the weight of all of that fondant and buttercream. Madeira cake is perfect for this because you can take the basic recipe and add flavour and colour to it and make it your own whilst still having a cake that is dense enough to withstand stacking and heavy fondant.
Home baking tips, I have to admit I love looking at other peoples home baking tips. Its so much fun reading other peoples tips and tricks in the kitchen. I vividly remember receiving my very first home baking tips from my Grandma, when I was little. Before the mixing bowls came out she would always shout at me to “tie your bloody hair back” I couldn’t do anything in the kitchen before tying my hair up. This advice always stuck with me and after 9 years in the hospitality industry I still keep a bag of hair ties in the kitchen drawer and the first thing I do when I start cooking is tie my hair back. It’s sound advice really but how often do you think to tie your hair back when you start a bake?
So today we are going back to basics, back to always tying your hair back. You may know some of them or even all of them, but give them a quick look over to remind yourselves any way. These tips will take you from novice to baking pro in no time!
How to make French meringue. Have you ever wanted to whip up your own meringue kisses or had a craving for pavlova and wanted to make it from scratch. French meringue is reletivley simple to make once you understand the basics
French meringue starts out life as egg whites at room temperature, whisked until small bubble start to form, these bubbles are very important as they build the eggs stability. Caster sugar is then added whilst continuing to whisk until the sugar has been completly dissolved and the mixture has formed stiff peaks. The meringue is then baked on a low temperature and left to cool with the oven turned off to cool completly and dry out.
When making meringue I always use a 2:1 ratio of sugar to egg whites. I find it useful to weigh out the egg whites first then weigh out double the amount of sugar. I always heat my sugar when making meringue, this helps creates a stable glossy meringue.
This recipe works the same for pavlova, just increase the cooking time as the meringue gets large.
And there you have it it, my ultimate guide on how to make French meringue. Don’t forget to show me your bakes by tagging @whatseatingmanchester in your social media post.
Puff pastry is one of the harder pastries to get right, it takes a lot of love and attention to get it right, but when you do its oh so satisfying to watch your creation rise and puff up on the oven knowing that its all yours. Puff pastry consists of paper thin sheets of pastry made by folding butter into the dough up to 6 times and chilling between each fold. It is this time and effot that creates those illusive layers and makes puff pastry so, well, puffy.
Have you ever made your own choux pastry? If not, your in the right place. I don’t see a lot of people venturing into the world of choux pastry, possibly because it seems much harder than it really is. Don’t be fooled by those perfectly puffed choux buns, they are achieveable. With the help of my ultimate guide on how to make choux pastry we will have you producing perfectly puffed choux in no time.
Pate au choux, or choux pastry is a classic French pastry, odds are you have tried it in the form of a classic eclair or a profiterole. In fact when writing this I discovered that profiteroles are actualy filled with ice cream and coated with chocolate. Cream puffs are traditionally filled with cream and dusted with icing sugar. So what we Brits know as profiteroles are actually a hybrid of the two, who would have thought.
When well bakes, choux pastry should be light and airy. It should be well puffed with a crisp outside and the inside should be more or less hollow with a soft almost webbing on the outside wall. To get that perfect puff we first need to make the dough.
Choux pastry starts life as a little water, milk and butter, brought to the boil on the stove, when boiled we remove from the heat and add flour. The flour is beated into the mixture well and left to cool. The cooling is the important part, I had never thought about it before after making choux pastry for years I just cooled the dough automatically, recently I forgot to cool the dough before adding the eggs and I discovered the hard way why we cool the dough first. If you add the eggs to hot dough you end up with part dough, part scrambled egg. The eggs are beaten into cool dough, I find that an electric mixer works best for this.
The choux is then transfered to a piping bag fitted with a plain round nozzel and baked. The baking times and temperatures and very important with choux. They need a blast of hot air to make them raise quickly, then the oven temperature needs to come down so that the top doesn’t burn and so the inside can have time to set to stop the choux from collapsing. The inside of the choux is filled with hot steam, which needs to be released, so when the choux comes out of the oven it needs to be pricked or slices on the underside and placed back in the oven. If you are in a rush, I usually pop it back in the oven for 5 minutes, oven turned on. But if you want gloriously crips choux pop it back in the oven for at lease 30 minutes, oven turned off with the door not closed all the way. This will dry out the choux and give you that beautiful crisp shell.
In choux dough I have always just used water. But recently I saw a recipe for eclairs that called for milk only. This called for an investigation. I tried making cream puffs with no water at all and although they tasted great and were a fantastic colour, they were soft. So the answer to the problem is combine the two, use milk for flavour and colour and water for texture, but in what ratio? After messing around with some combinations I have found that for me the optimum combination of milk and water is about 3/4 water to 1/4 milk. This keeps the choux crist put that touch of milk helps improve the flavour and colour.
And there you have it, it ultimate guide on how to made choux pastry. Don’t forget to show me your bakes by tagging @whatseatngmanchester in your social media post.