This collection of simple baking recipes is in response to a request from many of my readers who look at baking as a complicated process, which is inevitably doomed to failure, unless one is armed with the most sophisticated equipment and years of experience. Let me assure you that while baking, unlike cooking, does demand precision in weights and measures, and the following of steps in a prescribed process, the end result is satisfaction guaranteed. I have written the recipes in a simple easy-to-follow manner so that a novice will achieve the same result as a professional chef. All you need is your enthusiasm, an oven and this book close at hand, and you will be able to whip up culinary masterpieces in your own kitchen, which will soon be perfumed with the heavenly aroma of freshly baked cakes, cookies and pies.
Here are a few tips that will ensure you achieve baking perfection:
1. To grease baking tins, rub the base and sides with a piece of paper towel or napkin smeared with a small quantity of fat. Use the baking tin size specified in the recipe.
2. Fill cake tins no more than half full to allow for rising during baking.
3. Use standard measuring spoons and measuring cups. Do not use regular spoons and tea or coffee cups or mugs to measure ingredients for baking recipes as it is important to be exact.
4. Always stir flour to “loosen” before measuring.
5. To measure dry ingredients including flours, corn flour, cocoa, granulated and powdered sugars, spoon dry ingredients into the correct-size cups until they are overflowing.
6. Level the surface with the straight edge of a spatula or knife.\
7. Use a glass or plastic transparent measuring jug with a spout to measure all liquid amounts greater than 1 cup.
8. Make sure all ingredients are at room temperature (unless otherwise specified) for best results.
9. Always sift flour, soda bicarbonate, baking powder, salt and spices to avoid lumps.
10. Do not over beat the ingredients. Scrape the sides and bottom of bowl frequently with a rubber spatula during mixing.
11. Make sure the oven preheats for at least 20 minutes before using.
12. Avoid opening the oven door during baking.
13. When a cake is done, it will give out a strong buttery aroma, It should be golden brown in colour and will shrink slightly from the sides of the tin. The top of the cake will spring back when pressed lightly.
14. To test for doneness, insert a long thin skewer into the centre of the cake - if it comes out clean, without any batter clinging to it, it is done.
15. Biscuits and cookies should be pale gold on top and golden brown on the bottom.
16. Ice cakes or biscuits when they are completely cooled, or the icing will melt or slide off the cake.
Some Baking Terms
Bake blind: To bake an unfilled pastry case. Prick the pastry case with a fork to prevent puffing. Cover with aluminum foil or greaseproof paper and fill with rice or beans. Bake for about 10 to 15 minutes.
Double-boiler: The ingredients are put into a pan or a heatproof bowl placed over a pan of gently simmering water and cooked, stirring continuously, till the desired consistency is reached.