Rule No 1: Read Your Recipe First
The first, and possibly the most important, thing to do before you start to bake is to read through your recipe.
It isn’t hard, it won’t take long, and I promise it will be well worth the time as it can ultimately make the difference between success and failure in the kitchen.
So, take a few minutes and read. And, as you do, take note of the following things:
Check the ingredients and equipment you need
There is nothing more frustrating than getting halfway through making a recipe and realising you don’t have a particular ingredient or not enough of it, especially when it’s eggs or butter, which are essential and for which there is no substitute.
Are there any special diversions?
Is there any extra process or step involved that is going to add to the overall time it will take you to make and bake your recipe? This could include standing or chilling times (such as proving times when making bread or when a biscuit dough needs to be chilled before shaping and baking) and cooling times (such as if melted chocolate needs to be cooled to room temperature before it is mixed with the other ingredients, or if a cake or slice needs to be cooled before icing it).
Do the butter and eggs need to be at room temperature or softened?
If so, take them out of the fridge now so they have a chance to reach the desired temperature or consistency before you need to use them. I often take them out the night before, depending on the weather. Cutting the butter into small cubes will also help soften it more quickly if you didn’t remove it from the fridge early enough.
Check the mixing methods and techniques to be used
Take note of any particular mixing methods or techniques and the equipment you will need. Try not to start a recipe if you don’t have the tools to make it. If your equipment is basic, stick to basic recipes. Also, if you are unsure of any particular words in the recipe, now is the time to refer to a good food or baking glossary to find out exactly what they mean.