Are you a baking goddess or a patisserie prince? Some of the most prized skills in any kitchen are those learnt in the pastry section. Baking takes patience and precision. If you can master these two elements the rest really is a piece of cake. Being able to bake is one of those wonderful family inheritances so often handed down from granny. My Glasgow granny was a master of cakes, pies and biscuits and I have sweet memories of her creations. Here are a few basics that will help you beat your baking fears and rise to the challenge in the kitchen.
Without question you need great ingredients. There are a few famous TV cooks that are good at promoting the virtues of margarine for baking. In the Seventies my mother made her shortbread with half butter and half margarine. It was very good, but I’m an all butter baker. Hardcore grannies often do everything by hand – even the creaming of the butter. However, if you can, invest in a really good tabletop mixer. The larger motor speed can add more air to the mixture, which makes your baking lighter. Hand held mixers are good but sometimes can’t handle larger batches. Get intimate with your cooker. Every oven is different and if the temperature isn’t consistent you’re fighting a losing battle. The more practice you have the better you’ll get as you can gauge how your oven performs for different styles of baking. Mine is extremely hot, so if it’s a tea bread or dense fruity cake that needs slow cooking I’ll cover the cake with a sheet of greaseproof paper three-quarters of the way through baking so the top of the cake doesn’t burn and the centre gets a chance to cook all the way through.
My final tip is to get organised, have all your ingredients weighed out before you start with your tins beautifully lined and your oven hot and ready to go. Your baking will turn out perfect and perfect baking makes happy eaters.