Clever and useful tips for your kitchen.
Don't throw really ripe bananas in the bin if you aren't going to use them straight away - throw them in the freezer instead, skin and all, so they are ready to use when you next want to make a banana cake or banana bread. Remove the skin with a knife while still frozen, slice and then mash. If you are a little more organised you can of course mash them and pop into an airtight container before you freeze them.read less
The amount of egg needed for a successful Choux pastry is determined by how much can be absorbed by the flour (which can vary slightly from batch to batch) and the ratio between the water, flour and eggs in a particular recipe, and it is important to get the balance right. If too much egg is added or if it is added too quickly, the Choux's ability to rise when baked will be affected. Similarly, if not enough egg is incorporated, it won’t puff, causing it to be dense inside. But how can you tell if you have added the right amount of egg? The clue is in the consistency of the final Choux pastry.
When adding the egg, incorporate three-quarters of the quantity specified in the recipe first (in a number of batches). Then add the remaining egg just a teaspoonful at a time, beating vigorously after each addition. When enough egg has been added the mixture will be glossy and thin enough that a large spoonful will fall heavily from the spoon in one lump (without shaking or tapping the spoon on the side of the saucepan), but thick enough that it doesn't slide off easily. If you get this consistency right, it will make all the difference to how light, airy and well risen your Choux will be for your éclairs, gougères, profiteroles, Paris-Brest and croquembouche!read less
Don’t fuss when lining the base of a springform tin with baking paper. Grease the tin then tear off a square of non-stick baking paper about 8cm larger than the tin. Release the outside of the tin and turn the base upside-down (this will create a base without a lip, which makes removing the cake or cheesecake from the tin so much easier.) Place the paper over the base of the tin and then clamp the side of the tin around the base, to hold the paper in place. The paper will stick out the sides but this won’t matter and the extra paper hanging out the sides will not only give you something to help lift the cake off the base once it is baked but will also make removing of the paper from the base of the cake so much easier.read less
Bread and butter pudding is such a wonderfully comforting dessert, perfect for cooler weather. When making yours don't forget to let it stand before baking. This will allow the bread to soak up as much of the custard as possible giving your final dessert a luscious texture and ensuring that a separate layer of custard doesn't form below the bread. Depending on the bread you use, this can take from 30 minutes to a couple of hours – the longer the better!read less
It can be tricky to create an even crust made from a biscuit crumb mixture for a cheesecake or slice. An easy way to ensure you get the most even crust is to first sprinkle the crumb mixture as evenly as possible over the entire base of the pan and then use the flat base of a glass to press firmly, and evenly, down to compress it. To finish slide the glass across the base in a circular motion to even the surface.read less
When making a flourless roulade (such as a chocolate one) it is a good idea to cover it with a damp tea towel straight as soon as it comes out of the oven. The tea towel will help stop the cake loosing valuable steam and therefor keeping it nice and moist. The benefit of this is that moist cake is less likely to crack when you roll it.read less
I often get asked how long should you beat butter and sugar when creaming it. There is no actual time that you need to aim for as there are a few variables that can affect how long it will take, including how soft your butter is, the proportion of butter to sugar, and the type of sugar you are using.
The best thing to watch out for is for how the mixture transforms as it is beaten. The more you beat it the paler in colour and lighter in texture it will become, but it will get to a point that it won’t change any more and this is the stage that you will know you have creamed it ‘enough’. If you are unsure of what you are looking for it is a good idea to take a small sample of the mixture at intervals as you beat and it will soon become clear.
This pic shows a butter and sugar mixture at three stages (from left to right): just combined, beaten for a few minutes and once it has been creamed enough. So remember, when creaming, it isn’t a matter of time, just a matter of transformation.read less
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
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. 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.