Eight Simple Tips To Help You Become A Star Baker
It was the great Julia Child who once said that "a party without cake is just a meeting". While parties packed with sweaty people might not be on the cards for a good while yet, we wholeheartedly endorse Child’s message here at MOB Kitchen and truly believe that something as simple as a slice of freshly-baked cake is capable of making even the darkest days a little bit brighter.
2020 has been something of a marquee year for baking and, if you haven’t already been bitten by the sourdough bug, you’re at the very least likely to have watched enviously from the sidelines as your Instagram feed was clogged with towering Victoria sponges and decadent Bake Off-inspired showstoppers. Whether you’re already an experienced Boulanger or a total newbie, the fact of the matter is that there’s an endless fount of knowledge to acquire when it comes to baking. So much so that the realm of flour, dough, and caramel drizzles can, at times, seem a little daunting.
That’s why we’ve teamed up with our good friends at Dr. Oetker to show you that baking can be a hassle-free experience and prove that anyone can get involved with the right attitude. These are our eight simple tips that’ll help you become a star baker.
Always Follow The Recipe
This might sound simple – and a tad condescending – but you’d be surprised by how many people simply don’t follow a recipe when baking. Don’t be like that. In order to avoid any potential soggy bottomed disasters, it’s important to stick to all the basic techniques and measurements when it comes to a recipe’s core ingredients. That being said...
But Don’t Be Afraid To Experiment!
Yes, this tip might sound like it completely contradicts our first piece of advice but hear us out, MOB! Following a recipe is, as we’ve established, an excellent way to get to grips with the baking process of a particular confectionery. But part of the joy of baking is in the opportunity for creative experimentation that it offers you. We’re not saying that you should be completely throwing that cookbook out the window after you’ve made a Devil’s food cake once or twice but tinkering with the flavours and different ways of approaching (and decorating) a bake is a great way to create something that’s unique to you. If for example, a recipe calls for liquorice and you happen to hate liquorice: don’t put it in! That’s okay!
Nail Your Mise en Place
Having a tidy workstation and good mise en place goes a long way to guaranteeing you the most stress-free baking experience possible. For those of you that haven’t spent far too many hours of your life watching ‘Masterchef: The Professionals’, mise en place is a French culinary term that means "everything in its place". Basically make sure to weigh out all your ingredients and prepare all the equipment you’re going to be using ahead of time to save faffing about with various drawers and bowls halfway through your bake.
Don’t Open The Oven
Look, we know it’s tempting to have a peek at your sponge and that it can be almost tortuous not knowing how high your bread has risen but a big part of baking is trusting in the process. Opening the oven every five minutes is going to adversely affect the temperature and will subsequently impact the outcome of whatever baked good you’re making. It’s like texting, really. You wouldn’t want someone checking in on you every five minutes with a kissy face at the end of every message would you? Keep that oven door closed until it’s time for it to be opened and leave the emojis outside of the kitchen.
Use The Right Butter
Using the right ingredients is a bit of a no-brainer but one of the things you might not realise is just how much of a difference there is between using salted and unsalted butter in a recipe. Baking is, at its core, a delicious and edible method of alchemy and using the wrong butter can completely throw the chemistry(and flavour) of a bake off. Ensuring that your butter is adequately softened – if the recipe calls for that – is also integral.
Make Do With What You've Got
You don’t need to go out and buy the most expensive kitchen equipment in order to be able to make a large arsenal of baked goods. A few helpful kitchen tools can go a long way but, then again, so can something as simple as a coffee mug and a bit of intuition. Did you, for instance, know that an upturned glass makes for the perfect cookie cutter? Well, you do now. A KitchenAid would never go amiss but our super-simple chocolate caramel mug cake recipe is a testament to the fact you don’t need a lot of gadgets to bake something delicious.
This right here is probably the most important tip of all, MOB. You’re not going to become the next Nadiya Hussein or Liam Charles straight away, so don’t be disheartened if your first few (or first baker’s dozen) bakes don’t work out. Persistence is key to mastering any skill in life and trial and error plays a big part in perfecting the art when it comes to baking. Just keep at it and you’ll find yourself getting better with every failed focaccia. And remember: a slightly sunken cake is better than no cake at all.