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Basically it’s baking!

Basically it’s baking!
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Baking can be intimidating to a cook. In most Indian homes, baking was always outsourced to the convenient neighbourhood bakery; it is something all...

Baking can be intimidating to a cook. In most Indian homes, baking was always outsourced to the convenient neighbourhood bakery; it is something all of us view with a little trepidation. Each family has to have one expert baker who is an authority on all things baked, from a buttery pound cake to a rich fruit plum cake for Christmas, to sometimes, even an exotic home baked pizza

Today, baking has literally exploded in everyone’s kitchen. Exposure to international TV shows that show amateur cooks whipping up baked delights, the internet with its myriad collection of personal websites dedicated to cooking and baking and a renewed interest in home cooking has resulted in a lot of people exploring cooking and baking.

The upside is that baking material and equipment, which was earlier difficult to find, is now stocked at most supermarkets. The downside is that a lot of myths about baking are being reinforced.

Here are some easy to follow guidelines about baking in general.

Measurements

Baking is all about chemistry. The proportion of dry ingredients are mixed with a proportion of wet ingredients and when rising agents such as baking powder and soda are added, when exposed to a constant temperature, they create a fluffy well baked product. So the proportion of dry to wet ingredients is very important.

Measuring the ingredients is vital. The issue between baking and cooking is that cooking is instinctive, not the case with baking which asks for a certain measure of precision. So eyeballing quantities really doesn’t work with baking.

Having a kitchen weighing scale is recommended. However, since most recipes are adjusted to cups and spoons, one needs atleast one set of standard cup and spoon measures.

While measuring flour, spoon the flour into cup and do not dip the cup into the flour container, to avoid adding too much.

Ingredients

Always read the recipe and prepare to bake when you have time on hand. Baking demands a little bit of time and leisure to ensure all steps are followed properly.

Always have all the ingredients at room temperature unless mentioned. This is essential to get everything to mix well together. Most recipes call for the creaming of butter and sugar. This is to make the butter airy by incorporating air into it. This won’t be possible if the butter is stone cold.

Each ingredient plays a specific role in the recipe. Before trying to substitute ingredients in a recipe, it is important to know what role they play and make all the correct substitutions. Also substituting more than two ingredients per recipe is not recommended. Either find a recipe that uses the ingredients you have on hand, or source the material that the recipe calls for.

Always sift the dry ingredients together to make sure they are mixed evenly and get rid of any impurities.

Once the wet ingredients such as eggs, butter etc are mixed, use a wooden spoon or a spatula to fold in the dry ingredients very gently. Do not overmix after the flour has been added. Over-mixing leads to the gluten being released and will make the cake very leathery.

Regular white sugar can be used in place of brown sugar in recipes, the colour of the end product will be lighter. Grind the sugar in a blender to powder it if the granules are very big to ensure ease of mixing.

Check the potency of baking powder and soda by adding to a glass of water. If it doesnt fizz up, discard and get a new stock of it. Always line and grease baking pans. If you do not have baking paper, use aluminum foil and apply butter or oil as needed to ensure the cake does not stick to the pan after baking and comes out easily.

To substitute eggs in a recipe, choose a recipe with just 1-2 eggs. Anything more than that is difficult to substitute.

Standard egg substitutes are as follows:

1 egg = 1.5 tablespoons of flax seed powder, mixed with 2-3 tablespoons of warm water.

1 egg = ¼ cup of milk with a few drops of vinegar / lemon juice, let it stand for 5 minutes and use as needed.

1 egg = ¼ cup of natural yogurt

Ovens

There are three main kinds of ovens. OTG which uses a coil on top and bottom. Convection ovens which have a coil and a fan and gas ovens which are similar to OTG’s. All three are suitable for baking cakes and cookies.

Read the instruction manual thoroughly to understand the functions of your oven.

Always preheat the oven to the required temperature. If the oven does not have a preheating function, heat it for 1 min per 10 degrees. For example if you need to heat it to 180C, turn the thermostat to 180 degrees and keep it on for 18 minutes.

Each oven behaves differently, if you find that the oven is over heating or underheating after a couple of uses, call the technician to check it with an oven thermometer for calibration. While baking, until atleast 75% of the baking time is over, do not open the oven door to check. This causes the cake to sink in the middle.

Always cool the cake completely before removing from the pan. Trying to remove a hot or warm cake will break it.

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