Essential Baking Tips & Tricks For Beginners You Should Know
To many people, baking might be scary, exhilarating, and full of surprises. So it’s best to always stay on top of your game and be prepared by knowing the basic life hacks for baking.
There are all sorts of articles and YouTube guides on how to bake it all. However, never a condensed list that has all the essential baking tips and tricks for beginners that you should know. So, here are my top 5 must-know tips and tricks when you are going to be baking up a storm and spreading love like confetti.
1. Metrics vs Imperial
There are uncountable recipes out there in the world, some may be in the form of torn-up recipes from your grandmother or from that new 5-minute Tasty video you found on YouTube, or even those viral TikTok recipes! The thing is, you will definitely come across those recipes using grams, ounces, or even measuring cups and spoons.
You can’t escape them, so join them! First things first, yes the metric system is the most consistent and will never let you down when it comes to baking down to the tee. However, sometimes you just have to get that 1 tablespoon of vanilla extract or that 2 teaspoons of baking powder.
So invest in getting an accurate weighing scale, set of good and reliable cups and spoons. Honestly, go ahead get them from Daiso or even Mr. DIY, they’re generally as accurate as it gets. You really don’t need an expensive break-the-bank kind of equipment before you can start baking.
So when a recipe calls for 2 cups of flour or 1 cup of chopped chocolates, whip out Siri (or ask Uncle Google). The chances are there are the metric measurements available online right there at your fingertips! Time to go crazy and whip up that crazy banoffee pie or the basic chocolate chip cookie!
2. Room temperature please
I cannot stress more on the importance of having all your ingredients at room temperature before baking them. The general rule of thumb is that you take your sour cream, French yoghurt, eggs, milk and butter out of the fridge at least 2 hours before you start assembling that delicious cake you’ve been craving for all week.
However, that is usually the tip from western cold country bakers. Given the hot and humid climate in Malaysia, around 30 minutes on the kitchen counter should be enough to get your cold dairy products to room temperature.
Although, when living in an Asian household, you might want to remind your family you “intentionally” left those ingredients out. Otherwise by the time you get back to the kitchen your things might be back in the fridge cause mum thought that dad left it out on the table again, duhh.
Also, please only leave the exact amount of ingredients you need for the recipe out to cool at room temperature. You don’t want to spoil an entire 1kg tub of yoghurt when you only need to use 1 cup of yoghurt, so keep that in mind. However, always follow your recipe, if it calls for a cold frozen butter, then follow it!
Or you could leave your butter out all night but it will never be melted the same as when you double boil or microwave it for that decadent thick chocolate ganache. So, melt where necessary alright, you got this! I personally like to use my spatula to whip up my yoghurts and creams to spread them out before I start letting them cool down to room temperature, also it makes the consistency smoother, but everyone has their sweet spot, so find yours and knock ‘em dead.
3. Eggs, yes EGGS
Ahhh eggs, the binder of them all.
Okay well, maybe not all recipes call for eggs but hot damn do most recipes use them. So here are some things I’ve learnt about eggs:
- Get them out of the fridge!
*I whisked in a cold egg into a warm to slightly room temperature muffin batter once and it made my muffins so lumpy, it was a chore to eat them honestly.
- The fresher the egg, the better.
- Size matters;
- Grade ‘A’ vs ‘C’ can change your cookie! Get the large eggs, trust me.
- Crack your eggs into a bowl separately;
- This helps avoid bad eggs ruining your whole batter, or when that egg shell drops in, get it out of there before someone finds it in your egg tart.
- Whip them in one by one;
- So using each cracked egg in the separate bowl. Then, drop it in your mixing bowl, mix until homogenous before carrying on.
- Unless the recipe says whip 3 eggs all together and add in slowly, that works too.
4. Respect the Recipe
As a novice home-baker, if it is your first time baking something new, try your level best to follow the recipe to the tee as a sort of respect for the baker who shared it. The baker made the recipe in such a way for a reason, follow it as best you can. And judge the result before you decide to mix and match methods or ingredients.
If you only have all purpose flour and the recipe calls for a cake flour, find out how you can modify your flour. Maybe you could do it by removing 2 teaspoons of that flour and adding 2 tablespoons of cornstarch to the mixture.
The protein levels in flour can make a huge difference in your bakes, so always look up the recipe. This will help you see what you have in your kitchen before you decide to start melting the butter and whipping the eggs. Then, realising you actually do not have enough flour or you are missing a vital ingredient. Maybe you thought you had cream cheese for a cheese cake. However, it magically disappeared from your fridge. Probably became breakfast for your hipster sister’s Instagram on that slice of sourdough bread, teehee #sorrynotsorry.
Once I made a ‘Roti Boy’ coffee bun using cake flour because that was all I had in my pantry. Believe me the dough would not rise! I kept kneading until my hands were limp, but without enough protein in the flour, that bread will not actually become bread. Oh! The frustration. Please make a check-list before you start baking, now is the time to start being a ‘Monica’ from Friends. This is one of the most essential baking tips and tricks for beginners that you should know as you do not want to end up disappointed when you’re craving for that chocolate cake!
5. Preheat your Oven
Once you are about to start mixing your ingredients, remember those room temperature sour creams, milk and eggs? Yeah those, you’re about to start weighing your dry ingredients.
Here comes the cake flour, the baking powder, the baking soda but oh, what was that? Did you preheat your oven already? Go, go and start it up now. By the time you’ve whipped everything up, you don’t want to wait another 15 minutes just for your oven to warm up.
The batter might go flat and a lot can happen in that span of time. The other most important thing is to know your oven. It’s almost like a get-to-know-me quiz kind of get to know. Every oven is unique, so it is important that you find out if your oven is usually accurately hot?
When you set it to 180° Celsius, is it actually that specific temperature? Sometimes the oven can be colder than you wanted it to be, or hotter. To make your life a little easier, get an oven thermometer, baking supply shops usually have them at about RM15, or get it on Shopee, so #StaySafe#StayHome.
These thermometers will sit in your oven and let you know if it is hot enough or not. Here’s a little tip, if you can, use the middle rack in your oven. This is because it’s usually the most even heat distribution there. Preheating the oven is the easiest yet helpful essential baking tips and tricks for beginners that you should know.
Now go ahead and start baking up a storm, show ‘em what you got and have fun!
Since you’ve nailed down the baking part, check out this article that shows you how to make quick and easy breakfast ideas when you’re in a rush.