Sue Batty, the technical chef at Stork, offers her top 10 tips for better baking at home. Follow these golden rules and you'll never have a soggy bottom again! We've also got a tempting apple and pear crumble cake recipe for you to enjoy – perfect for keeping you warm as the winter nights draw in… Sue Batty’s top 10 baking secrets 1 Make sure your oven is the correct temperature by investing in an oven thermometer, which you can hang on the oven shelf. 2 Freeze unfilled cakes by placing a piece of baking parchment between the layers, wrap in foil and use within a month. Defrost for 2-3 hours. 3 Older eggs make the best meringues because they rise better. 4 Cakes and sponges like everything at room temperature, so take your eggs out of the fridge a couple of hours beforehand. 5 Wrap uncooked pastry in clingfilm and freeze for up to three months. Defrost in the fridge overnight. 6 Pastry likes everything cold – equipment, hands and ingredients. 7 As soon as the raising agents such as self raising flour and baking powder go in, work quickly as they start to work as soon as they are in contact with wet ingredients. 8 Keep it simple, sometimes classic recipes are the best – good ingredients are most important. 9 When filling your piping bag, place in a jam jar or measuring jug for easy filling. 10 Test cakes and pastries 5-10 minutes before the end of cooking time just in case, but do not open the oven door until the cake or pastry has completed three-quarters of the cooking time. Apple and Pear Crumble Cake INGREDIENTS 150g (5 oz) Stork block 225g (8 oz) caster sugar zest of 1 lemon 2 medium free-range eggs, beaten 2 tbsp milk 225g (8 oz) self-raising flour 85g (3 oz) sultanas 225g (8 oz) eating apples and/or pears, peeled, cored and sliced FOR THE CRUMBLE 100g (3 ½ oz) plain flour 75g (2 ½ oz) Stork block 75g (2 ½ oz) demerara sugar 1 tsp ground cinnamon 1 Preheat the oven to 180°C/Gas Mark 4. Cream together the Stork, sugar and lemon zest until light and fluffy. 2 Add eggs to creamed mixture one at a time and beat well. Stir in milk and fold in flour and sultanas. 3 Spoon half the mixture into a greased 22cm (9 in) cake tin or spring form tin. Arrange sliced fruit over the mix and top with remaining mix. 4 Make the crumble by rubbing Stork into the flour until it resembles breadcrumbs, then stir in the sugar and cinnamon and sprinkle over the cake mix. 5 Bake in the oven for 50 minutes to 1 hour until golden brown and cooked through. Serve warm with ice cream or creme fraiche.
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