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Lessons in Baking 2009

December 2, 2009

Since I’ve cooked and baked much more this year than I ever have in my entire life (I kid you not), I thought it’d be good for me to make a little record of some of the stuff I’ve learnt along the way, so I don’t forget…

I’ll start off with baking.

10 Lessons in Baking

1. Your mood matters. Never bake when you are stressed, upset or in a major hurry. Or your baking will taste stressed and upset.

2. Good quality chocolate makes all the difference in the world. No matter how lousy the recipe is, Valrhona makes everything taste better. And no matter how good the recipe is, it will never taste as good if you use anything of a lower grade than Valrhona.

3. Measuring spoons were made for a reason. When a recipe asks for 1 tablespoon of something or other, say sugar, do not grab a dinner tablespoon, throw a heap of sugar on it and call it 1 tablespoon. Use a proper measuring spoon and level it off.

*Tip: The Cuisipro ones are great, but expensive. If you want to get those, best to get them from the local distributor who will be able to give you 20-30% off the list price.

4. Dough must be cold. When working with dough, always make sure the dough is chilled. If you have a large amount of dough, keep whatever portion you’re not using in the refrigerator until you need it. Singapore humidity and dough does not a pretty cookie make.

5. So must whipping cream. When you are whipping cream, best to use a cold bowl because the cream whips easier that way. (I think I got this tip from my friend Epicurative.)

6. Some equipment is essential. You absolutely must have (1) a wire whisk, (2) a good sturdy mixing bowl, (3) an electric mixer, (4) a good scraper, (5) high-temperature-resistant oven mitts, (6) two complete sets of measuring spoons – one for small quantities (up to 1 tbsp) and one for larger quantities (up to 1 cup), and (7) a good weighing scale, preferably digital.

7. Some ingredients are essential. To save yourself much pain, keep on hand a ready stock of (1) granulated sugar, caster sugar and icing sugar, (2) baking soda, (3) baking powder, (4) all-purpose flour, (5) unsalted butter, (6) vanilla essence, and (7) good quality cocoa powder and good quality chocolate (if you like baking with chocolate).

I find it is also good (though not completely necessary) to keep some Digestives around the house. They make a great base for pies and cheesecake, and if you don’t end up baking with them, you can just eat them.

8. Practice makes perfect. Very clichéd, but it couldn’t be truer in the case of baking. Even if your first few batches of cookies are rock hard, or your pudding collapses, or your cake looks like the aftermath of a volcanic eruption, just keep baking. Bake all the time, whenever you have an excuse to do so, and I promise you it will get better. My husband can vouch for this. I have come a long long way in one year…

9. When your bananas have turned black, don’t discard them – make banana bread.

10. And when life hands you a lemon, make delicious lemon cake or lemon pudding.

3 Comments leave one →
  1. Chocolate girl permalink
    December 3, 2009 1:08 am

    I will leave this lesson i learned personally for all of u to laught at or learn from. I try to be efficient when i bake/cook (ie minimize the number of items i use so i can minimize the mess and clean up).

    Do not try to mix any mixutre (or brownies in my case) in the same tin you intend to bake it in.
    (see I thought if i mixed it in the baking tin I could save using/washing one bowl.)

    after all, the brownie had oil abd butter in the ingredients. SURELY it would somehow provide the same greasing nonstick function as greasing the tin right?

    I shall save you the anxiety of finding out what happens if you do that.

    My brownie came out of the oven with a jello texture. and it was sitting on about an inch of oil/butteroil. I was taking it to a friend’s place (it was SUPPOSE to be my “gift” -hahaha).

    I decided it would provide some good entertainment for the evening. We had fun laughing at the story and the funniest part is when you move the tin, the jello-looking-and-tasting brownie would move up and down the tin. LOL Yes, we had to taste and poke at it. We couldn’t resist. =)

  2. mrsmultitasker permalink*
    December 3, 2009 1:15 am

    I am lying in bed reading your comment on my phone and I just LAUGHED OUT LOUD. Haha. You crack me up chica:-)

    I must confess though, that I might have done this exact same thing once before, quite some years ago. Horrors…

  3. Chocolate girl permalink
    December 3, 2009 10:15 pm

    Heheh I’m glad it cracked u up. I thought u might really enjoy that story.

    My other “lesson” which i can’t really call a lesson because i still do it, is do not take a nap while _______ (fill in dish name) cooks. I have done that many times and i have many burned pots. It happens mostly with red bean soup for me.

    Who knew if you threw beans into a pot filled with water it would eventually dry up and create a black sticky mess when you wake up from a 3 hour nap….

    Barley surprisingly didn’t turn into a black mess but a gooey starchy liquid that i definitely did not want to drink. (i suppose i shouldn’t be surprised since it’s a grain and carb).

    Oh one more disastrous attempt. really silly since it’s like the easiest thing after sliced bread. making chocolate for Valentines Day. and i don’t mean from scratch.

    i’m just melting chocolate and casting it into a mold – how difficult is that?!?! I figured i’d add a little hot water to melt the chocolate baking chips and set it into my lovely heart mold.

    See, It helps if you read the receipe rather than assume it’s something so basic you could do it yourself (yes that would be me. ).

    Warning: Do NOT mix the baking chocolate with water if you intend for your chocolate to set and harden in the mold.

    I had 4 trays of liquid chocolate that would not set even after leaving it in the freezer overnight. no one any VDay chocolate treats safe to say.

    When I looked back at the recipe, it said, leave the chocolate on top of a hot water bowl vs mix the chocolate with water.

    Then there was the time last year when i made fruit tarts. I had no whisk, no mixer. but i desperately was craving this fruit tart. so i whisked away by hand using forks. i have done this before and can vouch that it works. I don’t recommend it though. I had a preexisting shoulder problem and i ended up with a stiff shoulder and in physical therapy for 2 weeks. never again (i think, at least….)

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