Baking Essentials

Image credit: Close-up of pastry weights, ceramic beans, in an unbaked pie case lined with baking parchment
Baking can be a tricky thing to master, especially if there are just a few small things that don't seem to go right! Here are some of our tips and ideas to help you get your baking just right every time!     
  • Create a cupcake with a hidden filling...
Make sure your cupcakes are completely cool, then scoop out the centre of the baked sponge carefully using a spoon, apple corer or specialist cupcake corer. Fill with a little buttercream or a conserve or spread of your choice, then replace the sponge and press down lightly or decorate with buttercream icing instead.  
  • Time saving tip
Making a coffee cake? Don’t worry if you run out of coffee essence; mix hot water with instant coffee granules instead!  
  • Tahini
You may have seen it popping up in baking recipes recently, but this trendy ingredient is actually a key ingredient in Middle-Eastern savoury dishes like houmous! Made from ground sesame seeds, tahini has a slightly nutty flavour and a smooth, thick texture, making it perfect for sweet recipes too.  
  • Baking blind 
Baking blind is the process of baking a pastry case in the oven without the filling to ensure it is cooked properly and achieve a crisp finish. To do this, line your tart tin with pastry and prick it with a fork. Scrunch up a piece of baking parchment or greaseproof paper to help it reach the edges of the tin, then flatten it out and use it to line the pastry. Fill it with ceramic baking beans or dried pulses to weigh it down, then bake in the oven for 15-20 minutes until the sides are set. Once set, remove the beans and paper and return it to the oven for another 5 minutes, or until the base of the pastry looks dry. Remove from the oven and allow to cool slightly before filling.  
  • Vanilla sugar
Add two or three vanilla pods to a jar of caster sugar and after a couple of weeks you’ll have vanilla sugar. Easy!  
  • Make your own Sugar syrup
Gently dissolve 50g (1¾oz) caster sugar in 5 tbsp water in a pan, then bring to a boil, stirring for 1 minute, then leave to cool. Brush on top of cooled cakes to keep them fresh and moist (it’s particularly useful for layered cakes), or if you’ve overbaked your cupcakes and they’re a little dry, drizzle them with a few drops of sugar syrup before decorating.  
  • Choosing a cake tin
When choosing a cake tin it’s best to pick one with a thinner base as thick bases can stop your cake cooking evenly.  
  • Top of your cake cracked?
Try turning down the oven temperature a little next time or place the tin slightly lower in the oven.  
  • Get egg-cellent results
If you’ve stored eggs in the fridge but you’re following a recipe that requires them to be room temperature, pop them in a bowl of warm water for 10-15 minutes.

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