Sometimes it’s good to get back to basics when in the kitchen. We take you through some common baking basics, and some hints on how to nail them.
Beating egg whites – Beating egg whites at high speeds will incorporate lots of air into them, causing them to form what we call ‘stiff peaks’ – where the mixture can almost stand up on its own. It’s best to use an electric mixer for this purpose.
Melting chocolate – The easiest way to melt chocolate is in the microwave, in a microwave safe bowl. Don’t forget to always set your microwave to medium (50%) and melt in blasts of no more than one minute at a time, repeating until chocolate is melted. If you don’t have a microwave, it’s a little more difficult but it can still be done. Simply place the broken chocolate into a bowl. Bring a small quantity of water to boil in a saucepan, remove from the heat and place the bowl containing the chocolate firmly on top, making sure the water is not touching the bowl and that there is no chance of water getting in contact with the chocolate. Stir until melted. Don’t use a wooden spoon, as the chocolate could be contaminated by the flavours that your spoon has absorbed from previous use.
Grinding nuts and spices – Grinding dry ingredients into powder form is easy in a food processor or blender. If you don’t have a high volume, however (for example, just a tablespoon or two of slivered almonds, or a teaspoon of spices), then a mortar and pestle will do the trick.
Icing a cake – We asked Nestlé Head Chef Richard Brogan how to get that perfect icing on a cake. His answer?
“You never do!” he laughs. “If it is too perfect, it actually looks manufactured which is not the aim. You want it to look as though there’s a little bit of love, care and attention that’s gone into it. To have a tiny little flaw tucked away somewhere is what makes the end result unique, a truly one off creation make someone think ‘wow, someone has made this beautiful thing for me and it’s a gift!’”
So, don’t stress if you can’t get the perfect cover on your cake.
Folding ingredients together – Often a recipe calls for you to fold ingredients together, generally this is to ensure that air is not lost from the mix and so great care must be taken when combining ingredients by folding. If you have taken the trouble to whip air into ingredients such as egg whites or cream, the last thing you will want to do is to lose that air when folding in other ingredients. Folding may also be required with certain delicate ingredients such as berries and soft fruits, as these may need special care to ensure that the colour doesn’t leech into the mix and fruits aren’t crushed.
What are your tips for nailing the baking basics?