Ready steady bake! 10 tips for showstopping bakes
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Ready steady bake! 10 tips for showstopping bakes

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So, you’re a budding baker and a fan of the Great British Bake Off, and you fancy your chances at the Gingham Altar when faced with the likes of judges Prue Leith and Paul Hollywood?

Well before you get too carried away with your own flour powers, it might be a good idea to check out these few basic baking tips to make sure your next bake is a showstopper!

1. Start with the correct ingredients

Rule one is to make sure you have all the right ingredients before you begin baking. The right kinds and ratios of fat and flour to give you the desired style of pastry. Know the difference between puff pastry and short crust pastry for instance, and what they can be used for. Puff can generally be described as flaky, light and buttery, good for pies and pastries, while shortcrust pastry has a crumblier, biscuit-like texture which is good for tart or quiche cases.

2. Bring ingredients to room temperature

For recipes such as chocolate cake, it’s a good idea to make sure any refrigerated items you intend to use – such as butter, eggs and cream – are up to room temperature when you start. It’s simply a matter of taking these ingredients out of the fridge at least a couple of hours before you plan to bake. Why? To help your ingredients mix evenly, creating a uniform texture and ‘even bake’ throughout your baked goods.

3. Measure accurately 

When aiming to be a Star Baker, there’s nothing more important than getting your measurements right. One trick is to use a fork and fluff up your flour & powdered sugar before spooning them into a dry measuring cup so there are no clumps or air pockets. Another is to compress packet brown sugar into the measuring cup with your fingers (or spoon) several times while filling the cup. (Brown sugar should hold its shape when removed from the cup.)

4. Weigh your ingredients

Not knowing the kitchen scale trick, you can easily become slightly unbalanced with your weights and measures in the case of such ingredients as crushed nuts or chocolate chips. This is where a small kitchen scale makes sense and will give you the perfect measurement every time.

5. Combine ingredients before mixing

TV star bakers have to be good mixers, so this tip is don’t mix everything all at once. Mixing the dry ingredients together first, and then doing the same with the wet ingredients, means that once you combine the two, you will have to do very little mixing. The less you mix the flour the less gluten has a chance to develop, meaning you end up with a fluffier and light end product.

6. Let your dough rest 

Want to bake great bread? Prove it! Proofing (aka final fermentation, final rise, second rise, or blooming) is the dough’s final rise that happens after shaping and just before baking. The entire dough fermentation process is referred to as the proofing process. To let your dough rest, cover it in plastic wrap and allow it to cool for 24 hours in the fridge. Then bake it straight from the refrigerator or after it’s brought up to room temperature.

7. Double check the temperature

No prizes for getting the temperature wrong, and you may well end up with lumpy crème pats! So, if yours is a well-used oven, over time the temperature control will become inaccurate. It could be a good idea to get yourself an oven thermometer. It’ll ensure that your baked goods come out just right, and you’re not treated to a Paul Hollywood icy stare.

8. Is it done yet? 

Nobody likes a soggy bottom, which is what you get when your bake hasn’t cooked for long enough, leaving a raw centre and soggy base. The solution is, before you take your treats out of the oven, check that they’re all the way baked. The easiest way is to insert a wooden skewer or toothpick into the centre of your baked item. When the item is cooked it should come out clean. If any of the batter clings to the tester, put the item back in the oven and test again after five minutes or so.

9. Let your treats cool

You’re finished baking, but are your treats? If you’re a little slow getting them onto a wire rack to cool, the heat from the pan could cause them to become overdone. If there’s more work to do on them, like icing, then wait until your cakes, biscuits or pies have completely cooled before doing that; even a little heat could turn your icing into puddles.  

10. Use quality ingredients – like Cottage Delight

When creating our tempting treats, we carefully curate recipes that are guaranteed to put a big smile on the face of our foodie fans. From juicy jams, chunky chutneys, sensational sauces, delicious dressings, marvellous marmalades, dreamy curds, punchy pickles, to fabulous fudge, our dedication to traditional methods and quality ingredients have won an amazing 222 Great Taste Awards since the awards began.

So, there you have it. For better baking, getting the simple basics right can mean the difference between a recipe for disaster and a Hollywood Handshake. Need inspiration for your next showstopper? Check out our recipes and find a range of delicious bakes for any occasion.

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