Five tips to help you be a better baker

Love whipping up a cake, but not always so pleased with the results? Here are five expert tips to help you be a better baker.

Whether you’re a seasoned pro or not, baking can provide countless benefits to for both you and whoever you choose to share your tasty reward with at the end of your efforts. It stimulates the senses, makes you feel good, makes others happy, can be very meditative and is great for getting creative.

You can bake alone or with someone else and it brings people of any age together. As the nights draw in, baking can be very comforting, filling your home with gorgeous smells as well as delicious treats to share and enjoy. 

Scott Latham, Head Chef at Audley Nightingale Place, shares his best tips to help you become a better baker.

1) Follow the recipe

To prevent your cakes and bakes from falling flat, stick to the measurements, temperatures, techniques and timings in the recipe you’re using. It can be so tempting to switch things around but, unless you’re an experienced baker, that can mean what comes out of the oven isn’t quite what you expected.

2) Use an alternative to baking beads if you’re blind baking

Not all pastry needs to be blind baked, but if your recipe calls for it, you’ll need to weigh down your pastry base when you pre-bake it.

While baking beads are fantastic, there are some staples in the pantry that will more than suffice and don’t require a trip to the shop. Once you’ve lined your pastry base, why not try dried beans or rice as an alternative.

3) Get a crispy pastry base

Pastry can be a tricky, whether it’s puff, shortcrust or filo. Try not to let your pastry dough get too warm, keep handling to a minimum and make sure your oven is preheated to the right temperature. These are the most common causes of soggy bottoms which no one wants.

4) Kneading for a nice rise

Kneading bread by hand is great exercise and can be great for mindfulness, though there’s nothing wrong with a stand mixer if hand kneading isn’t for you.

To get a great rise, make sure you’ve kneaded your bread for long enough. One easy way to check if your bread is ready to be left to rise is to give it a gentle little prod. If it doesn’t bounce back, knead it for a little longer until it does. 

5) Test your cake with a skewer

It can be tricky to tell when your cake is ready, especially when it’s not a traditional vanilla sponge. In fact, so many cake recipes have a range of times and while your cake might look done, it may need some more time in the oven.

To make sure your cake has baked to perfection, test the inside by using a skewer. If it doesn’t come out clean, pop your cake back in for a few more minutes, test and repeat until it’s done.

Photo by Caitlyn de Wild