Some of you may wonder; why in hell am I writing an article about baking. Well, my fellow students, firstly because I like eating, and I love cookies, cake, or anything sweet or savoury. So, with that in my mind, why not bake something myself? I made cookies topped with raspberry jam, the outcome was a white wall dyed in purple due to the mixer not being closed correctly. Luckily for us, I have a girlfriend who is a baking expert. Spacecake or lava cake it doesn’t matter, she is the van Gogh of baking, and every taste lets you experience a starry night.
Your start is the key
Baking is one of the most delicate culinary arts. It requires precise and careful measurements, technique and cooking temperatures. I am not that precise, I am more of a ‘trust his gut’ kind of guy. Baking, however, requires careful planning, following and understanding your recipe. So read that recipe from top to bottom, stick to the quantities and methods religiously, because only praying to the baking god and hope it works won’t help, trust me I have been there. Layout all the ingredients before you even think of starting, make sure you have all the supplies. Look further than only the ingredients, do you have a precise measuring scale, baking sheets, a sieve?
Study the recipe
Believe it or not, reading a recipe from beginning to end is a big deal. First, start by reviewing the ingredients list and read through the instructions. There may be some hidden ingredients in the text. Understand what the baking equivalents mean, for instance, 4 tablespoons is the same as a quatre of a cup. Definitions are also important if you don’t know them, look them up! Scald for instance means that you heat a liquid just below boiling temperature. Does it say soft or stiff peaks? You want to know the lay of the land. Read the recipe, it doesn’t save lives but it sure as hell saves your cake.
Secondly, respect the comma, the comma is everything when it comes to baking measurements. Every dice, cut or chop after a comma in an ingredient list is to be done after the ingredient is measured. An example is 200 grams of pure dark chocolate, coarsely chopped. This means go to the Jumbo and buy one of those 200-gram bars of chocolate. Put it on the counter, chop it and place it in the bowl with the butter. You probably think like something like: aren’t grams the same before and after? So, this is where it gets tricky: 1 cup sifted flour vs 1 cup flour, sifted. One cup of chopped peanuts is very different than one cup of peanuts, chopped. Do you hear the difference?
Tips from the baking expert
If you don’t want to spend more time cleaning your kitchen than actually baking your treats, try to work in steps. After you finish a step clean up a little before you move on to the next one, throw away your cracked eggshells instead of leaving them on the countertop. These simple things make sure that your workplace is clean and organized.
The second tip is that if you need to mix a lot of flour, don’t throw everything in a bowl at once. Mix it bit by bit, so that the powder won’t fly through the whole kitchen when you put it in the mixer. For those that are really stubborn and still want to put everything in at once. Grab a cardboard box, poke 2 holes in it, so that your whiskers can go through. The plate will make sure the flour stays in the bowl when you mix it.
The third tip is; try to measure your ingredients as precise as possible. You wouldn’t believe how much can go wrong, just because the ingredients have been weighted incorrectly. If you are just a little bit out, it can have catastrophic effects on the flavour and consistency. Yet it is one of the easiest things to get right. Concentrate at the start, because any errors will only be amplified going forward.
Baking is a fun and nice hobby to do, anyone can do it, and that says a lot. Follow the recipe, adore it, pray to it, make a toast to it, I don’t care. Just follow the dang thing as it’s the bible and your creation will at least turn out somewhat good, when you are high and eating your self-baked space cake, no-one will say; “Guy, I think you should have added just a little bit more salt”. Don’t worry, enjoy, and maybe pray to the baking gods, you never know.