Clever and useful tips for your kitchen.
When using eggs always break each one into a separate small bowl or ramekin before adding to a mixture so if there is a problem with a single egg, the whole mixture won't be ruined. It's also easier to remove any broken egg shell this way.read less
When making pastry, such as a shortcrust, by hand make sure you only use your fingertips to rub the butter into the flour.read more
When making pastry, such as a shortcrust, by hand make sure you only use your fingertips to rub the butter into the flour. Avoid using the whole of your hands as the palm is the warmest part and can melt the butter which, in turn, may cause your finished pastry to be heavy and tough. Rub the butter chunks briefly between your fingertips, breaking it into smaller pieces while coating with the flour rather than rubbing them together. Also, keep the palms of your hands facing upwards, as this will help with the action of breaking up the butter chunks, and lift the mixture high out of the bowl as this will aerate the mixture and help give it a light texture when baked. This is a great technique to keep in mind when making scones and pastry.
When using frozen berries in your baking add them to the mixture straight from the freezer. Frozen berries won't 'bleed' their colour (like thawed berries do, streaking your cakes and muffin mixtures) and will stay as nice whole berries once baked.read less
Using your food processor when making shortcrust pastry is dead easy and super quick. Follow these three simple steps:
- Put the flour, salt, chilled butter and sugar (if the pastry is sweet) in the bowl of your food processor. Use the pulse button to process until the mixture resembles coarse breadcrumbs.
- Sprinkle over the water/whisked egg yolk (you’ll generally find that you need a little less than if making the pastry by hand) and then use the pulse button to process briefly until the mixture just starts to cling together. Don’t let it get to the stage that it forms a ball as you may overwork the pastry and make it ‘tough’ when baked.
- Turn the pastry out onto a lightly floured, cool bench top and bring it together with your hands. Lightly knead the pastry with your fingertips for about 10 seconds or until comes together but isn’t completely smooth. Shape the pastry into a disc, wrap well in plastic wrap and place in the fridge to rest for 30 minutes or as directed in the recipe.
When sifting wholemeal flour don’t throw away the husks caught in the sieve. The sifting is to remove any lumps not this valuable bran fibre so make sure you return it to the flour before continuing with your recipe.read less
Use the Tare Setting on your Electronic Scales.
To save you time when baking, make good use of your electronic scale’s ability to 'zero' the reading.read more
To save you time when baking, make good use of your electronic scale’s ability to 'zero' the reading. By pressing the 'tare' button after each ingredient you can measure as many as you need, one after another, into the same bowl. Brilliant for one-bowl mixes, not to mention the washing up it will save you!read less
Most stand mixers are now sold with a range of attachments made for specific mixing jobs, including a 'paddle' one. This is what you need to use to get the best results if a recipe asks you to beat, mix, cream or combine your ingredients 'using an electric mixer'. It's not meant for 'whisking' (when you are making meringue for example) or for 'kneading' bread doughs - use the whisk or dough hook attachments for these jobs.read less
Ever wondered what would happen to the appearance of a cake if you reduce (or forget to add) the sugar? The white chocolate and almond cupcakes on the right have no added sugar (by mistake!) while those on the left have the normal amount of sugar.
Sugar is often only associated with sweetness (and calories) but it is also responsible for affecting many other characteristics of a cake, including how it looks. There are three ways in which a reduced amount of sugar can affect the appearance (all of which you can clearly see in this pic):
- Sugar promotes both the Maillard reaction (the reaction between proteins and sugar) and caramelisation which are both responsible for browning. This is why the cupcakes with more sugar have a darker, thicker crust.
- When sugar is heated during baking it dissolves and adds extra liquid to a mixture. This makes the batter thinner and more prone to spreading, which in turn, helps them to rise with a smoother surface. You’ll notice the cupcakes with less sugar haven’t spread as much and have retained a more definite shape.
- Sugar helps cake rise to their full potential by raising the coagulation temperature of the eggs, giving the mixture more time to rise and expand before the cake structure sets. This explains why the cupcakes with more sugar have filled the paper cases and those with less haven’t.
- The first and most common reason (and what happened to the meringues in the front of this pic) is that the oven temperature is too high. The intense heat will cause the air bubbles in the mixture to expand efficiently, causing it to rise, spread and crack. The meringues behind them were from a second batch that were baked in an oven preheated to 10°C lower (yep, sometimes that’s all it takes!) and resulted in perfect, smooth-crusted meringues without cracks.
- The second reason is that the mixture has been whisked on high speed with an electric mixer. The furious and quick incorporation of air into the egg whites will form an airy foam with lots of large air bubbles. When baked these large masses of air have a greater ability to expand than smaller air bubbles, causing the mixture to rise, spread and crack unevenly. If this is the case, the best solution is to whisk the egg whites and sugar mixture on medium or medium-high speed which will form a denser foam made up of lots of tiny, even bubbles that, when heated, will only expand slightly, if at all, minimizing any rising, spreading and cracking.
Some like ‘em crisp, some like ‘em chewy. If you fall into the chewy camp with your meringues it is easy to make sure they have this hard-to-resist texture by taking them from the oven as soon as they have finished baking and cooling them at room temperature. For crisp meringues, turn off the oven, leave the door slightly ajar and leave them in the oven to cool.read less
When making a pie or tart there is no need to grease the tin before you line it with pastry – the high butter content in the pastry will naturally stop it from sticking to the tin. If you grease your tin, the pastry is more likely to slip down the sides/shrink during baking leaving you with a tart case that with very short sides and not much room for your filling.read less
As soon as your cake mixture is ready, bake it straight away. If a finished cake mixture sits for too long before going into the oven you won’t get the best results –especially cakes with egg whites (they will lose volume and won’t rise as much) and those with bicarbonate of soda and/or an acidic ingredient, such as lemon juice or buttermilk (they will end up with a ‘holey’ texture).read less
I don’t know about you but I always seem to get my wings around the wrong way when making butterfly cakes! Here’s a simple method to make sure they are flying in the right direction…
- Cut a shallow cone-shaped piece out of the top of a cupcake, leaving about a 1cm border.
- Cut the piece of cake in half.
- Spoon a little whipped or thick cream or mascarpone and then some jam into the hole to fill.
- Arrange the two pieces of cake into the jam to from wings, top side up and round edges facing outwards.
- Dust with icing sure if you wish.