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I always wanted to bake a cake, make fresh bread at home and do some gorgeous cookies in my oven. Unfortunately, there was no one who could teach me the proper way. I somehow managed to bake some muffins and cakes occasionally but it wasn’t always perfect. In other words, there was no guarantee that what went into that oven came out edible. It could be burnt, undercooked or a combination of both which is burnt from bottom and undercooked on top and most of the times stuck in the cast or baking sheet. After zillions of hit and trials, I can confidently say I can bake. But that journey wasn’t easy. I learnt from my mistakes and ensured I never repeat them again.
If you are new to baking and have mustered the courage to bake. Here are a few pointers for you:
Measuring the ingredients:
In baking one has to understand the value of precision. If a recipe calls for half teaspoon of baking soda, it cannot be more or less. Eyeballing ingredients can result in a disaster. Use proper measuring Spoons and Cups available for baking. They will give you an exact measure and lessen the chance of any error.
Follow the Recipe:
If you are a newbie then you must ensure that you follow the recipe in its true spirit without using mind of your own. I often tell my students at my baking workshop that in baking act like a retard and follow the instructions. If the directions say that you must sieve the flour before putting in the batter, you must do it otherwise your cake can result into a dense loaf. Sieving the flour incorporates air into the batter which makes it fluffy, lighter and less dense. Similarly if the recipe says use eggs and butter at room temperature, it must be followed.
Use of Right Ingredients:
Most of us are in a habit of substituting one ingredient with another but in baking this substitution has to be done carefully. For example baking soda cannot be substituted with baking powder. They both have different roles to play. Yes, yogurt can be substituted for eggs but the quantity will vary and that has to be determined. Therefore, be aware what substitution works where, Also use of good quality products make a big difference in taste and texture of the final product.
Lining your Moulds and Baking Sheet:
They say baking can be therapeutic . Yes it indeed is but that therapy often ends up into a nightmare when your cake gets stuck to the bottom of the pan or your cookie refuses to leave the baking sheet. It not only makes a mess but also makes the cleaning process difficult. The solution is to use good quality Parchment Paper which does not require greasing. It makes baking a breeze.
Understand your Oven:
You can use an electric Oven, Gas Oven or Microwave on Convection mode for baking cakes, cookies and breads. It will take a little while to understand the functions of your oven and how your oven reacts. So do not panic if your cake becomes more brown than it should on the given temperature. Next time keep the temperature 5 degrees less and see if it works for you.
Bring it to Room temperature:
When your cake is ready, bring it to room temperature before slicing it or digging into it. Place it on a wire rack for it to cool down. If you try to cut it while still hot, the cake will crumble, The same is for breads and cookies. The cookies will crisp up on coming to room temperature.
This list may not be conclusive but it is enough to get you started. You may not succeed in baking in the very first go but that shouldn’t let your morale down. Patience is the key. Keep trying and be persistent. It took me years to be able to bake that perfect cake or loaf of bread. Remember City of Rome was not built in a day. Happy Baking!