We know that baking can be the most daunting task, and that is why we asked our food ed to share her top baking hacks with you! Take the stress out of baking and add these baking hacks to your arsenal of kitchen tips and tricks – not only will baking be a breeze, but it will make you look (and feel) like a pro, every single time!
10 Baking hacks that will make you look like a professional baker every time
How to stop cakes from sinking in the middle
Baking a cake is not as tricky as it might seem, yet it can be very disappointing when the final product has sunk in the middle. When baking, make sure you follow the recipe properly. Do not open the over for the first 20 – 30 minutes of baking, or the cake will deflate in the centre.
How to make perfect meringues
Meringues are not as scary to make as they appear! Make sure you do not have any residue of egg yolks in the separated egg whites Use a clean bowl to whip them until stiff peak stage. The baking temperature should be low – about 90*C – to make sure the meringues dry properly and hold their shape.
More meringue-making tips: never use a plastic bowl, as they retain fats and oils. Use a metal or glass bowl large enough to accommodate the beaten egg whites. Add the sugar gradually, a tablespoon at a time, and beat the eggs until glossy and stiff peaks form. Let the meringues cook through and dry out without opening the oven.
How to make Italian meringues
Heat 250ml (1 cup) water and 200g (1 cup) sugar in a pan over medium heat, stirring until the sugar has dissolved or the syrup has thickened, 15 – 20 minutes. Using an electric mixer, beat two egg whites with a pinch of cream of tartar until soft peaks form. While the motor is running, pour in the hot syrup. When the syrup is complete incorporated, lower the speed to medium. Continue to beat the meringue until it has cooled to room temperature, about 15 – 20 minutes. The meringue should be thick and glossy. Dollop rounds onto a lined baking tray and bake at 160*C for 30 – 35 minutes for gooey meringues and 45 minutes – 1 hour for hard, leaving the hard ones in the oven to cool completely. Make 6 medium meringues.
READ MORE: 3 Types of meringue recipes
How to temper chocolate
Tempering chocolate does not have to be intimidating. Using a double boiler, heat 2/3 of the chocolate to 40*C – 45*C. Pour on a cool marble surface, spread it with a palette knife and then use a scraper to draw to draw the chocolate back and forth until it starts to thicken (temperature should now be 35*C). Add the thickened chocolate to the remaining chocolate and stir until you have an even texture. It is now ready to use.
How to put pastry in a round pie dish
When preparing the pastry base for a round pie dish, cut out some triangles around the edge. This will help to avoid the pesky folds you would otherwise get when pressing the pastry into the sides of the dish.
How to make sugar cups?
Fancy making sugar cups? Boil 80ml water and 225g sugar without stirring or until the sugar reaches caramel stage, about 160ºC, 20 minutes. Remove from the stove and allow to cool, 5 minutes. In the meantime, wrap a short glass with baking paper and secure with string (see photograph). Spray with cooking spray. Using a fork, ‘spin’ the cooled sugar around the prepared glass, vertically and horizontally, to form thin strings of caramel. Set aside to cool, about 10 minutes. Carefully remove the cup when dry and use as an edible bowl in which to serve dessert or fruit salad. Makes 2 sugar cups.
How to blind bake
No one likes soggy shortcrust pastry. To blind bake to perfection, roll out the dough to line a tart tin. Pierce the bottom of the dough with a fork, place baking paper on top and fill it with dry beans or rice. Blind bake until the pastry is a light golden brown, 10 minutes if in individual cases, 15 minutes for a large case.
How to make your own piping bag
Need to make your own piping bag? Cut a 34,5cm x 30cm piece of baking paper. Take one of the longer sides and fold it in half to form a triangular shape. You will get an extra-length edge of about 5cm (image 1) at the bottom. Fold this edge back (image 2). Holding down the centre of the folded edge, roll one corner inwards to form a cone shape up to the centre point (image 3). Repeat with the second corner to form a piping bag and tuck the ends in to secure the bag (image 4). Cut a small hole at the tip to make a nozzle.
How to measure honey or treacle
Rub a few drops of oil on the inside of a spoon before measuring honey or treacle. This makes it easier to pour of the spoon, preventing the need to scrape away any remaining honey or treacle.
How to make home-made buttermilk
Forgot to buy buttermilk for a recipe? Make your own by mixing 250ml (1 cup) milk with 15ml (1 tbsp) white wine vinegar. Leave it to sit for 5 – 10 minutes. Sorted!