Clever and useful tips for your kitchen.
Temperature has a big effect on how your cupcakes and cakes will rise during baking. When your oven temperature is too high for the type of batter you are using, your cupcakes or cake will peak/dome and crack during baking. But did you know that foil cupcake cases can have a similar effect?
Foil cases retain more heat than paper ones and this extra heat is then transferred to the batter causing it to peak and crack during baking. You can see here how the cupcake baked in the foil case (left) has risen more dramatically when compared to the cupcake baked in the paper case (right), which has risen evenly and without peaking.
The good news is that foil cases are still fine to use, but if you would prefer a more even, less ‘peaky’ rise, just drop your oven temperature by about 10°C and this will reduced the heat transferred by the foil cases.read less
When rolling biscuit dough into individual portions it is sometimes hard to get them all a similar size, especially if you have to team them up with a ‘partner’ when sandwiching them.
There are two easy ways to do this:
1. Measure the total quantity of dough by weight and divide by the number of biscuits the recipe makes. Then weight each portion before you roll it. It does take a little longer, but your biscuits will be guaranteed to be the same size.
2. Alternatively, use a teaspoon or tablespoon measure or a small ice cream scoop (depending on the size you are making) to scoop the mixture, level the surface with the back of a butter knife and then shape as required.
You will also find the more biscuits you shape, the better you will get at recognising how a particular sized portion feels in the palm of your hands as you roll them. Therefore, once you have made a certain amount you will be able to portion the remaining dough just by feel.read less
Have you ever noticed that a chocolate icing (either glace or buttercream) made with cocoa powder sometimes needs a different amount of liquid to reach the same consistency as last time you made it? It seems strange, but there is a very simple explanation…
Different brands of cocoa powder, and even different batches of the same brand, can have a different thickening ability. So, when making your icing, start with a little less liquid than recommended just in case it doesn’t need as much, but also don’t be surprised if it needs a little extra to reach the right consistency (¼ teaspoon is often enough to do the trick).read less
‘Non-stick baking’ paper is not the same as ‘greaseproof’ paper and it’s good to know the differences so you can choose the best one for the type of baking you are doing.
Non-stick baking paper has a thin silicone coating to prevent your baking sticking to oven trays and cake tins without having to grease with butter or oil. Generally it is heat-resistant up to 220°C (200°C fan-forced). You can still use it at temperatures above this but it will tend to brown around the edges. It is also great to use two sheets either side of your pastry when rolling out – it does away for the need to use flour to stop it from sticking to the bench top or rolling pin. It can also be used to make paper icing bags and for wrapping food to cook ‘en papillote’. Some recipes refer to it as parchment paper.
Greaseproof paper doesn’t have the silicone coating but is, as it’s name suggests, grease-resistant and can also be used to line trays and tins when baking – BUT you will need to grease it on both sides, otherwise it will stick! Also allow your baking to cool before peeling it away to make it easier to remove and less likely to stick. It tends to be thinner and therefore more suitable to use when lining a tart case before adding pastry weights when blind baking as it will ‘mould’ into the pastry case more easily. It is usually heat-resistant up to about 200°C (180°C fan-forced).
And then there is ‘waxed’ paper that can’t be used in your oven and therefore is unsuitable to use when baking. As it’s name suggests it has a thin coating of wax which is good for keeping things like sandwiches fresh and wrapping high-fat or moist foods but it is not good when heated….so don’t even try!read less
When making a multi-layered cake from one quantity of batter its often hard to make sure the layers will be even. To ensure the batter is divided equally between the tins, weigh the tins with the mixture in them and then compare to make sure they are the same weight.read less
One way to separate egg yolks from their whites is to use the halved egg shells. But when your eggs are super fresh (and the yolks are nice and plump) you can separate them by simply breaking the eggs into your hand with your fingers slightly apart. The whites will slip between your fingers into the bowl below while the yolk will stay sitting in your hand. Don’t try this with older eggs as the yolks will be too weak to hold their shape using this method and are more likely to break into the whites.read less
Icing cupcakes while they are still warm will lead to an inevitable #bakefail – think sliding icing! It’s important to make sure you give enough time for them to cool completely before icing, but sometimes you just don’t have the time… if this happens, pop your cupcakes on a wire rack and place it the in the freezer. To make the cooling even faster, you’ll notice that the wire rack becomes icy cold quickly and therefore the base/s will cool down faster as than the top/s. After 5-10 minutes, turn them upside down to cool the tops quickly as well.read less
It’s important to stand a cake or loaf in it’s tin for about 5 minutes after you take it from the oven. The cake will ‘settle’ in this time which will not only make it less likely to stick to the tin but it will also be less fragile and easier to remove without it breaking up.read less
I often get asked about the difference between granulated sugar and caster sugar and which is best used for when baking… So here’s the low-down:
The main difference between granulated (also know as white table sugar) and caster (also know as super-fine in North America) sugar is the size of the grain.
Granulated is larger and more coarse (I once read that granulated is about 0.5mm in diameter while caster is about 0.35mm in diameter, although I’m not really sure who would measure them!). Because of this caster sugar is generally the most versatile and preferred of the two when baking – its small granules mixes more easily and dissolve more readily when combined with other ingredients giving biscuits, cakes, pastries etc. a more even, less coarse texture.
You may have noticed if you have made a cake with granulated sugar that it sometimes can have a ‘speckled’ appearance – this is the undissolved sugar in the batter. Caster sugar is also best to use when making meringues and pavlova because of its ability to dissolve more quickly. Granulated sugar however is great when making toffee (it is less likely to crystalize), in general cooking and in baking when your want a slightly coarser texture (for example, I often make a traditional Scottish shortbread that has a better, more suitable texture when made with granulated sugar). My advise is to use whichever sugar is specified in the recipe and if you don’t have caster sugar in your cupboard you can always make it by processing granulated sugar in a food processor using the pulse button until finely ground.
Your cakes and biscuits will have a slightly finer texture when using caster sugar while if you use white sugar, your cakes will have a slightly coarser texture and your biscuits more crunch. It’s also good to note that icing sugar is just a finer version of caster sugar, with the crystals being ground to a fine powder.read less
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
Sifting flour or other ingredients such as cocoa or cornflour will be so much quicker and easier if you use a balloon whisk to 'stir' it through the sieve.read less
Make sure you always have the right size tin - measure them across the base and through the middle. Then use a permanent marker to note the size on the base so you can see at a glance what size they are every time you go to use them.
If you don't have buttermilk on hand when a recipe asks for it simply make your own version by adding 3 teaspoons fresh lemon juice to a cup of full-cream milk. Perfect to use in scones, banana bread and muffins!
The only thing to be aware of is that this mixture will be thinner in consistency than buttermilk itself so when using a reasonable amount (more than 125ml/½ cup) I use about 1 tablespoon less per 125ml/½ cup so that the consistency of the batter isn't affected.read less