Some people think they just can’t bake, as time after time some kind of disaster is taken out of the oven – maybe it’s sinking and that’s how you feel too!
Of course there is a technique to perfect baking, but giving yourself a good start by using the right equipment for the right piece of baking you are doing, is the best you can do to begin with. Without the tools of the trade, you will be heading for disaster most of the time. A good working oven is obviously important as well, with the emphasis on working and particularly ‘clean’. If your oven is bunged up, you will bungle your baking!
Let’s talk tins!
In order for your cakes and bakes to be delicious and looking good, preparation and making sure your tins are the right size for the purpose, is key. With a wealth of tins to choose from (both size, shape and what they are made from), picking the perfect tin is crucial. Second on the list – never fill your cake mix up to the top of the tin or cake cases, only fill them two-thirds full to prevent overspill and allow the cakes to rise evenly.
Have plenty of baking paper on hand, and some scissors. Be prepared to cut the paper to fit the tin. A pencil nearby to draw round your tin (depending what you are baking) is also valuable to get the right size piece of baking paper. Another tip is always lightly greasing the bottom of a tin before you put the paper in. You can use the other method to get your paper to the correct size, whereby you fold it into a triangle, line up the point with the centre of the tin, and trim off the edge nearest the outside edge of your tin. Once unfolded, it should fit your tin perfectly. This method obviously works best with a circular tin.
For a rectangular tin, or loaf tin, cut or tear your paper to a length that will easily line the tin. Lightly grease the tin and press the paper in, making sure you get it all the way into the corners. Cut the paper down from the corner into the corner of the tin, then overlap it neatly so no tin is exposed. Trim off excess – scorching paper whilst baking is not desired – it smells horrible and nothing like a cake should smell!
Are you a lazy baker?
If cutting up paper is not your thing, you can be lazy and buy ready made tin liners.
There are other ways to prepare tins, but in this modern day a lot of people opt for ‘non-stick’ – these are so simple as you just spray them with a little cooking spray, or use some small butter knobs to grease, and then stick a ready made liner in. This way however, is a lot more expensive than cutting up baking paper.
The principle of using baking paper applies to all types of tins, whether muffin, cupcake or something adventurous like a bundt cake. Always carefully line the tins with baking paper, smoothing it out and making it stay firm and flat against the tin.
Keep some non-stick cooking sprays in your cupboard – they are quick to use, only put out a ‘mist’ of oil and are really convenient. If you are using butter, use it sparingly.
Tip 3 is a good one – make your own snack bars or slices for lunch boxes. Not only can you make them healthy by using your own choice of ingredients, but better still, buy some disposable foil tins that you just throw away when you have used them. Now who’s talking lazy – me! However, the prospect of a sink full of bits of a mixer, baking trays et al, leads me to putting my hand in my pocket and my ‘tins in the bin’.
If you want to get serious about baking, and not just once a year (!), invest in good quality tins, and they can almost last you a lifetime. Always have at least one loose-bottomed one to make bakes more easily removable. Buying a specific recipe book for baking, or a magazine dedicated to baking if you are just starting, is very useful, as it will tell you what size and type tin to use. After a few attempts, you will know straight away and can develop your own cakes using the correct tins.
Finally, a few more words of encouragement and to remember every time you bake.
- Never, never bake if you are short of time, and also check you have all the right ingredients before starting. Baking and rushing are not good bedmates and errors can occur (like missing something out and ending up with a pancake and not a sponge!)
- Put your ‘mis en place’ (put in place), ingredients and equipment, I actually put them in order of use on the counter top.
- If you are new to baking, follow a recipe to the letter of the law. Don’t mess with it until your confidence matches your enthusiasm! The order of ingredients is important too.
- If you don’t already know the ins and outs of your oven, familiarize yourself with it. All ovens are different!
- Make sure your ingredients are at the correct temperature. If it says ‘room temperature’ then take it out of the fridge in plenty of time.
- Keep all your ingredients dry and in cupboards (meaning goods like flour, baking powder etc). If exposed to the air, they soak up moisture which will affect the baking of your cakes.
- For beginners – avoid using ceramic or glass baking receptacles. They are a world of difference and harder to work with than steel or tin.
- Above all, be diligent and follow recipe instructions carefully. Measurements are important when things need to rise.
I hope this has been helpful to both those of you who already bake, but particularly those who have lived in mortal fear of baking so they avoid it! Good luck, there’s nothing quite like the perfect bake you have made yourself.