Baking is such a joyful experience, from the satisfaction of creating a dish to sharing your creation – comfort!
Here are some of my favourite tips for successful baking, including my secrets for perfect biscuits learnt over many years of trial and error!
“Baking is such a joyful experience.”
Avoid curdling batter – bring milk, buttermilk or sour cream to room temperature before adding to your mixture.
To melt chocolate, stir it in a heatproof bowl over simmering water, making sure the bowl doesn’t touch the water and steam doesn’t escape. Always use a dry metal spoon to stir – moisture in wooden spoons can make the chocolate seize (harden).
To cut moist cakes, tarts or cheesecakes easily, dip a sharp knife into a jug of boiling water, then dry quickly with a tea towel. Dip and dry it between slices.
Turn plain flour into self-raising flour by adding 2 tsps. of baking powder to one cup of plain flour.
Making the dough: Measure accurately, a tiny bit too much flour and the biscuit will be dry; too little the biscuit will bake flat. The most common way of measuring dry ingredients is spooning them into the measuring cup, which is the least accurate way to do this. For the greatest accuracy, weigh the sugar and flour, the next best way is to dip the measuring spoon into the flour or sugar and scoop away the excess with a straight edge.
Use Butter at Optimal Temperature: Whether softened or melted, proper butter temperature is as critical in a simple biscuit as it is in the fanciest cake.
Properly softened butter (roughly room temperature) allows air to be pumped into the butter for tender texture in the final biscuit. Two good cues: the butter should give slightly when pressed, but still hold its shape and it should bend without cracking or breaking.
When a recipe calls for melted butter, make sure it’s lukewarm before adding it to the dough. Butter that’s too warm can cook the dough (or the eggs in it) and cause clumps.
A speedy way to soften butter: Avoid microwaving to soften cold butter – it’s too easy to soften it too much or even melt it. Instead, cut the butter into small pieces. By the time you’ve preheated the oven and measured the ingredients, the pieces should be near room temperature.
Portioning the dough: Drop and roll: with drop biscuits, it’s good to go beyond merely depositing spoonful’s of dough on the baking tray, instead roll the dough between your hands to create uniformly shaped balls that bake evenly.
A better way to roll: With roll and cut biscuits, there is always a danger of working too much flour into the dough during the rolling and producing dry biscuits. Roll out the dough between two large sheets of baking paper instead of on the floured bench. Chill the rolled out dough in the fridge for 10 minutes to make cutting easier.
Preparing the baking tray: Use baking paper: Don’t grease your trays as the extra fat can cause biscuits to bake unevenly.
Make a sling: With their gooey centre's, it’s nearly impossible to remove some slices from the pan without tearing or crumbling. Place two sheets of foil or baking paper perpendicular to each other in the baking pan, pushing into the corners and up the sides. Spray with non-stick cooking spray. After the slice has baked and cooled, use the overhang to lift the whole thing out.
Baking: Don’t forget to preheat to keep biscuits from spreading too much. It is important to expose them to an immediate blast of heat. It takes at least 15 minutes for a standard oven to reach the desired temperature.
Freeze and Bake Biscuits: Almost all biscuit dough can be successfully frozen. But instead of freezing it in a solid block, try portioning the dough first. This allows you to bake as many biscuits as you like, even just three or four, when the craving strikes. Simply portion the dough on baking paper and freeze until hard. Transfer the unbaked biscuits to a zipper-lock bag and return them to the freezer. There’s no need to thaw the dough before baking, just increase the baking time by 1 or 2 minutes.