Want to learn how to bake? This beginners guide to baking will give you all the tips you need to get started with creating your perfect baked goods. Baking is great for those who love working with and using their hands, especially fun for those who don’t mind getting their hands “dirty”. Feeling each ingredient and knowing what value they add to the dish is an indescribable feeling.
Why Start Baking?
There are many reasons to start baking, firstly it’s a more economical and practical way of saving money, but also allows you to know what goes on in the preparation process of baking your favourite goodies. Baking your own goods not only brings awareness to what you are consuming, but also helps you adjust the ingredients to suit your particular taste and or dietary needs.
For example, brownies are delicious, but if you are prone to over indulge, instead of using butter you could add coconut oil to balance the fat ratio and add healthy fats instead of heavily processed fats. With these simple personal adjustments one can easily avoid a lot of health issues and adjust according to one’s taste and dietary needs. Avocado is a great substitute for butter as well when it comes to cakes with butter icing especially when dealing with vegans or if you are vegan yourself.
Baking As An Experience
Baking is a great way to get in touch with your favourite foods on a deeper personal level as you begin to understand all your ingredients there comes a much more profound respect for the craft and how you prepare your baked goods. Baked goods also make for amazing gifts people seldom turn down freshly homemade goodies.
Trying to apologize to a friend, spouse or parent? You can never go wrong with the effort you’ll put into making them a batch of “I’m so sorry,” chocolate chip mint cookies warm and soft straight from the oven. Most importantly baking is a fun way to explore your creative side, explore your kitchen and even your grocery store, baking brings new opportunities to connect with close friends and family and baking can also help you add extra income. There’s something about a sweet warm chewy or crunchy treat you made that just puts a smile in your heart.
Beginners Guide To Baking
You don’t need to have an array of hi-tech, modern baking equipment, though it can make life easier and owning those feel fancy, to be frank, you don’t need them right away. A hand-mixer, a few bowls, measuring cups and spatulas are enough to start off.
Know your oven. Get an oven thermometer, bake, check, adjust, do whatever it takes but get to know the main player. 90% of the recipes fail because of it.
Recipes are mostly correct with some exceptions, its’ the method that is important in baking, the tips and tricks, the actual hands-on baking. If you get a chance, consider taking a few hands-on classes from experts around you. It will always help.
Practice and bake often, it’s easier than you think. I always find baking easier than traditional cooking.
Learn about ingredients, like which play what role, their quality, temperature and usage method. It cannot be done overnight I know but butter, sugar, eggs, baking powder/soda and cocoa powder are main ingredients to begin with.
Things you need to start baking
If you want to be able to bake your first cake, there are some basic equipment and other ingredients that you will need. Theses are the key things that you need to make a cake.
You’ll need at least two mixing bowls for the cake one for wet and one for dry ingredients. Smaller bowls can hold icing and toppings.
Measuring cups and spoons
When baking it is very important to be precise. Don’t scoop your flour directly from the bag with a measuring cup, the flour will become compact and you will get more than you need for the recipe. Instead, scoop it into the cup, then sweep off the excess with a knife.
When baking having an electric mixer is very handy, making sure to follow the recipe instructions accordingly. Electric mixers help with consistency and making sure you mix everything well. You will probably need your mixer to make icing too.
There is a variety of cake pans one can use according to their baking needs and requirements. Round, square, cartoon character shapes, the list is endless. Make sure to use good quality pans that have no dents and tiny holes. To prevent the cake from sticking to pans make sure to line and prepare them properly.
Lining cake pans with parchment paper is the best and safest route to go to ensure your cake comes out without a hassle. Parchment paper can also be placed under the base of the cake before icing to keep your serving platter clean.
This will come handy for cutting the parchment paper according to the size of the cake pan.
Can be used for many different tasks. Use for dusting off excess flour on pastries, for applying egg wash to scones and pies. Brushing melted butter or oil in cake tins. Sweeping off excess flour or icing on cake stands before decorating. If you’re decorating your cake with fresh fruit, such as sliced strawberries or peaches, use a pastry brush to paint a thin layer of melted preserves over the fruit to prevent it from dying out.
Choose your favorite toppings to dress up the tops or sides of a cake, or to give cupcakes extra flair. Try dried fruit, mini marshmallows, chopped nuts, toasted coconut, crushed cookies or any small lightweight candies.
You’ll need about 3 to 4 cups of icing for a 2 layer 9 inch cake, one 9 by 13 inch sheet cake, or 24 cupcakes.
Adding your favorite filling can add more volume and flavor to your cake and you can try out the many different varieties available to you. Like lemon curd, fruit preserves and pastry cream all work well.
Having a cake stand is a sure way to have your cake looking beautiful and more appealing.
An offset spatula is essential for icing a cake. It spreads the icing easily and can be used to create swirly designs or to smooth out bumps and mistakes.
Fill the bag with cooled melted chocolate, colored icing, or piping gel and fit with a fine tip for piping messages and designs onto cakes. If you don’t have a pastry bag, you can also use a reusable plastic bag, just cut off a tiny corner.
Fill a pastry bag with piping gel to write letters on a cake. You can also use frosting and cooled melted chocolate.
If you’re planning to write on the cake, trace the letters in the icing first with a toothpick to avoid messy piping mistakes. You can also use the toothpick when baking to test if your cakes are ready to come out of the oven.
Have a sharp paring knife on hand to slice edible decoration such as fruit and candy to the desired size.
5 Basic Pastries a baker should know
Most recipes ideally have the name of the pastry recommended for the dish, but it also helps to have a general idea of which pastry goes with what and how to prepare it.
This is probably the most popular pastry due to its versatility being that you can make savory and sweet pastries from this. There are several and unique ways of making shortcrust pastry.
This is one of the ‘flaked pastries’ characterized by fat and air being trapped between the layers of the pastry dough to give a flimsy, light and crisp finish.
Regarded as the ultimate professional pastry, this type is time-consuming but worth making. It is used for savory pie crusts and as wrapping for meat and poultry, as well as vol-au-vents, cream horns and mille feuilles.
Used as a crust for sweet and savory pies, sausage rolls, jam puffs, Eccles cakes. Flaky pastry is best made in cool conditions and must be chilled during and after making, to prevent the fat content from melting out under cooking conditions.
Rough Puff Pastry
This type is a cross between puff and flaky pastry. It is also good for sausage rolls, savory pie crusts and tarts and has the advantage of being easier to make than puff pastry, but is as light as flaky pastry.
All three of these flaked pastries need similar care.
- Handle as little and as lightly as possible
- Fat and dough content should be of the same consistency and temperature
- Roll pastry evenly without stretching it or forcing out air
- Brush with beaten egg glaze before baking
This incredibly light specialty pastry is used in the making of éclairs, profiteroles and cream buns. Air lifts the pastry during cooking to treble in size…all those cream-filled delights.
This type of pastry (along with finely shredded Kaddafi pastry, also from the Mediterranean) is made in very thin sheets and used as a casing for numerous delicate savory and sweet dishes. Filo is not the easiest pastry to make from scratch, because of its high gluten flour content and needs to be handled with care because it’s so thin, fragile and dries out real quick. Some people prefer to buy ready-made filo pastry, but even that is not easy to use. It must be brushed with oil or melted butter/ghee before shaping and cooking. Samosas are wrapped, stuffed with various savory fillings and then deep-fried.
Benefits of baking
Whether you’re following a special eating plan or want to cut down on sugar and processed ingredients there’s countless benefits of knowing exactly what’s going into your food for you and your family. Here’s just a few reasons why I love baking from scratch, and how I make the time to do it.
Baking Is a Sensory Experience
What I love most about baking is that it’s a full sensory experience as I touch, taste and test the food. And let’s face it, there’s nothing quite as delicious as the smell of homemade bread or biscuits baking in the oven!
Baking Is Much More Nutritious
There’s no doubt that store bought baked goods are loaded with unhealthy fats, sugar, colorants, preservatives and sodium to increase their shelf life. Even the so-called “healthier” versions are often packed with ingredients which have a low nutritional value. Baking from home, however, means that you’re in charge of what goes into your food and you can cut out all unnecessary ingredients. Whether you are vegan, gluten or dairy intolerant, or simply cutting out sugar and wheat, there’s a ton of healthy recipes online to choose from.
You Can Custom-make What You Want
Although you generally need to measure correctly with baking, I love that you can add your own healthy ingredients into just about any recipe. For instance;
Add in a little extra nuts or seeds into your bran muffins
Use almond flour instead of wheat-based four for cakes
Substitute honey for sugar or use apple sauce to sweeten your baked goods
Try including more fruit such as cranberries, goji berries, sultanas or dried apricots into your favourite granola bars
Add chocolate protein powder or cacao nibs into your oat cookies
Bulk up traditional scones, muffins or biscuits with ground flaxseed powder.
Baking Is Cost-effective
Baking a batch of muffins from scratch is a lot cheaper than buying them in-store. On average, it costs around $1 to make six home-made muffins versus around $2 for a pack of four store-bought muffins. Although this doesn’t sound like a lot, it all adds up.
Another bonus is that you get to practice portion control when you bake at home, and this will reduce the chances of overeating. If you order a slice of cake or baked treat at a restaurant or coffee shop, chances are it’ll be supersized portion with double the calories. According to a study conducted at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health, when people cook or bake most of their meals at home, they consume fewer carbohydrates, less sugar and less fat than those who cook less or not at all – even if they’re not trying to lose weight.
Whipping up a batch of healthy snacks at home, storing them correctly or freezing in advance will save you plenty of time in the long-run as it’ll minimize your trips to the store. It all comes down to how well you plan, prep and store your baked goods. Kids love to bake, so why not plan a Sunday morning baking session together or take advantage of time in the holidays to bake healthy treats for parties or play dates?
Baking Is Fun
Baking for yourself is a great opportunity to learn more, explore your kitchen, grocery store and even baking stores in and around your area, challenge your creativity and keep your mind active.
Also, a great way to keep up with the latest baking and cooking trends and maybe even give you the confidence to enter bake offs and showcase your new-found natural skills.
There are so many possibilities you can come across when you allow yourself the pleasure and joy of baking.