Baking 101: Where to begin on your baking journey
Whether you consider yourself a dab hand at baking with a flair for experimentation, or a newbie who needs to follow a recipe to the letter, perfecting a good bake can take a while to master. A delicate balance of both science and art, you may find the rules a bit baffling at times. And that’s not just the case for home bakers, as even those baking for decades can find themselves turning out an over or under cooked creation. But when you do nail it, the feeling of getting out what you’ve put in can feel spectacular!
If like the 6.9 million fans of the show, you tuned in to The Great British Bake Off last year, you’ll know that even the contestants experience baking fails from time to time (poor Chrystelle turning out an under cooked focaccia in the final). That’s why the experts at Dr. Oetker have pulled together their top tips for baking, including the five simple recipes that every new baker should aim to master, and how to turn out a truly showstopping bake to wow your family and friends.
Read on below to discover more and get your baking up to GBBO standards. After all, who doesn’t dream of a Paul Hollywood handshake.
5 Core Recipes to Learn
In a recent survey, Dr. Oetker quizzed 1,000 avid bakers on their overall knowledge. Only 7% feel confident in their ability to bake a white bread loaf without the use of a recipe, yet a quarter would consider entering The Great British Bake Off to compete as a contestant. With almost two thirds (71%) unconfident in passing a technical challenge in the tent, now is the time to start mastering the basics. Here are five simple recipes that should be in your baking repertoire!
A staple component of many a baking dish, it’s also one of the easier pastry types to learn. Consisting of just five simple ingredients – flour, butter, water, egg yolk and sugar – it only requires minimal kneading time as well. If you are aiming for a lovely, short yet buttery texture, it’s important to handle shortcrust pastry as little as possible. If you do find that it becomes a bit tricky to roll and fold, simply pop it back in the fridge to chill.
Sponge Cake Mix
This British classic may appear simplistic but despite its easy method, there’s nothing basic about a victoria sponge cake. You can bring a some more wow factor to its appearance by experimenting with different flavoured fillings. Consider white chocolate buttercream or cherry filling for an added punch. There’s a simple way to remember how to make this crowd pleaser too – it’s equal parts flour, sugar and butter.
White Bread Loaf
Despite bread having a reputation for being a little daunting to make, it really can be easy to turn out a classic white loaf. Just be mindful that kneading is a key step in any bread bake. If you’d like to check that it’s properly kneaded, you can do the ‘windowpane test’. Simply stretch a piece of your dough and it should be translucent enough that you see light passing through it without it snapping. Proving times are also essential and will differ based upon the temperature in your kitchen. If your kitchen is very cold, you can prove your bread dough in the oven. Pop your bread dough in with a roasting tin filled with boiling water in the base of the oven, the heat and moisture from the water will help the dough rise (make sure the oven is switched off).
Basic Biscuit Dough
Perhaps one of the easiest bakes to make, once you’ve baked a sound biscuit you can really get creative with the decoration. Just remember that chilling your biscuit dough before you bake it can help to prevent them from spreading out as they bake, retaining their shape. Also, don’t roll your biscuits out too thinly as this will make them tricky to decorate. Why not have a go at making these crafty little biscuits for all the family.
Last but not least, there isn’t a season (I don’t think) of GBBO where the contestants haven’t had to whip up meringue at some point. Whether for the main bake itself or for added decoration, meringues are extremely versatile. And this needn’t be a daunting task as if you whip up your egg whites into stiff peaks and ensure that your oven is at the perfect temperature, they should turn out just fine.
Once you’re feeling confident in the essentials, it’s time to step it up a gear and make them into true showstoppers. With just a few fabulous decorating techniques, this is quite easy to do after some practice! Here are some top tips.
Elevate the humble sponge cake by covering it in smooth buttercream. You’ll need a palette knife or cake scraper to help spread this out and to ensure that it evenly covers the top and sides. Opt for a really thin layer to mimic the naked cake trend and bring it bang up to date.
Chocolate is extremely versatile for decorating. Simply take some chunky broken shards of readymade chocolate and have them sticking out of the top of the cake for easy wow-factor. Or melt some down and create a drip effect around the edges of a cake or drizzle it over the tops of biscuits. If you’re feeling up to tackling a chocolate mirror glaze, simply combine melted chocolate with sugar, double cream and gelatine and pour over the whole cake.
Fondant is a brilliant decorating tool when used correctly. You’ll want to make sure you knead it well before you roll it. Use a little cornflour or icing sugar to stop it from sticking to your kitchen surfaces. Use a rolling pin to lift on to the top of a cake. A pizza cutter is really handy at helping to neatly trim the edges around the base.
Once you’ve mastered the above, you’ll be a confident baker in no time. Perhaps you’ll even apply for The Great British Bake Off in years to come! You can find additional tips and expertise, including a five-question baking quiz to test your newfound knowledge (with only a 10% full mark pass rate!) and Dr. Oetker’s most popular Instagram recipes available here - https://www.oetker.co.uk/uk-en/articles/baking-101.
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