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A useful guide for beginner bakers

Mon, 2015-12-28

 The thing I love most about baking is the fact that something so simple, that we do out of our own little kitchens, can bring people from all walks of life together. It could be a small gesture of love or gratitude, a self-made treat for one or a just hobby to pass time, it sure is capable of making someone's day. In the recent year, I've noticed that more and more people are getting hooked on baking and I'm happy to be sharing with you my top 10 useful tips for first-time bakers. 

One thing I always tell my students before every start of the class - Weigh, weigh, weigh! Most recipes that I've come across are measured by cups. So I highly suggest that you convert them beforehand. Trust me, it is worth it. There're metric, US, Australian, UK cups and they all differ slightly. With the weighing scale, you can be sure that every ingredient has been measured accurately which in turn increases the overall success rate of your bakes. You don't want to spend all that time baking and then wonder what exactly went wrong. Also, use a digital weighing scale! 

Read the recipe in its entirety before embarking on it. This is extremely important so you familiarize yourself with the steps and processes. Baking is usually irreversible... just a heads up.

I'm sure you'd know how important it is to use room temperature butter when a recipe calls for it. Sometimes, it isn't stated to use room temperature eggs but I highly recommend you to use it anyway. Room temperature eggs can never go wrong. Cold ingredients, in fact, can emulsify the fats in batter which makes it more difficult to incorporate evenly. 

If you're one that gets distracted easily, take extreme note of this! This has unfortunately caused me to fail many times in my baking journey. Whether is it whipped cream or cake batter or melting chocolate, even when it is going to take 5 to 10 minutes for an ingredient to be "ready", DON'T walk away. Like I said, baking is irreversible and the mess that this makes will give you a literal headache.

Especially it's temperature. Well, I would suggest everyone to get an oven thermometer because sometimes what's indicated on the temperature settings isn't exactly accurate. Temperature is extremely crucial while baking and it definitely will affect the texture, duration and overall taste. However, it isn't a must. What I've noticed so far is that smaller ovens and ovens placed above or under the stoves are usually hotter. If your oven is hotter, lower down your oven temperature by 10 degree celcius and always check before 'the done time'.

This has really helped me keep my table more organised and less messy than it could've been. It's normal for flour to get all over your floor or table top. By measuring your ingredients before beginning, it helps minimise the chaos (trust me, it will happen). Also, it reduces the possibility of you forgetting to add in certain ingredients. The worst feeling is when you've perfected everything from head to toe and later to find out you've forgotten to add in sugar.................

There's no need to rush through baking. I've found that everytime I rush through doing things, the more mistakes I make. Afterall, baking is for leisure. In the comfort of your own home, no one is rushing you for food so take your time. With that said, leave some room for errors just in case!

Do not rush through also means do not get too impatient when you have finally succeeded. There was once I was so excited to taste a cake and went ahead to unmould it while it was still warm. No surprise, the cake broke into two. I'm sure you wouldn't want that to happen right? Give it an hour and you'll reap what you sow, it is going to be worth it.

Especially if it's your first time with the recipe, always follow it to the nitty-gritty. Even the littlest counts. Baking involves alot of food science and it is very unfortunate that I never liked science. Studying about food science is the closest I'll get. The reason why it is so important to "not get yolks in your whites" or any of the sort is so it saves you time, saves you money, saves you the trouble of having to start all over. There's a reason why bakers share recipes with specific instructions! 

I'd always take notes of what I've observed as I work on recipes and it has helped me alot. Somehow, in the weird world of science, everyone's experience with recipes is different (depending on the equipments/ humidity of the air etc) so it is always good to keep your own tips and tricks! Moreover, it allows you to repeat your success the second time and get better at it by tweaking here and there to create your own. This also means, read read read! Google up about why certain things happen, there are tons of bakers out there who have answers for you! That's the only way you'll improve.

 These are my ten most useful tips in helping you achieve a successful bake, in my little 2 years of experience.

I hope it'll help you in one way or another. One more advice, it pays off to be a perfectionist (I swear by it)! Keep in mind that it is perfectly normal to make mistakes, like any other thing you do in life. Just keep going and you'll get better. I always believed that baking is a talent that can be developed. Anyone in the world can bake... as long as you have an oven and a whole lot of patience. Go forth and bake on! 

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