Baking hacks that have changed my life
Baking is, by far, my favourite activity in, and around, the kitchen. I could bake a cake long before I could make dal or put together a simple salad. Having baked my first cake at age 9, my skill, technique, style and preferences have evolved over the years. The one thing that hasn’t changed though, is that I still like shortcuts and quick fixes that can cut down work time or help me bake a better cake.
Here are some easy and useful baking hacks found in that have changed my life. And, if you haven’t tried them yet, they are sure to change yours too.
1. Bring eggs to room temperature, quickly
Most recipes that call for eggs require them to be at room temperature. But who can ever remember to remove them from the fridge and set them out on the counter to warm up? That too, 45-60 minutes before you start on the batter? I, for one, always remember at the very last minute. Despite that, I can’t afford to ruin my cake or, worse still, delay the baking plan by an hour! So what to do? Simple. Just immerse the eggs in a bowl of warm (not tepid and not hot, just warm) water for 5-10 minutes. Voila!
2. Softened butter, at room temperature, in a jiffy
The very same goes for butter. Most recipes call for softened butter, at room temperature, to enable proper emulsification. There’s definitely a quick and easy solution and, needless to say, it doesn’t involve placing the butter in a bowl of warm water! In warmer weather, cut the butter block (or stick) into small cubes of about 1 cm each and spread them out on a plate – the increased surface area will warm it up in a jiffy (in approximately 5 minutes). In cooler weather, grate the butter block (or stick) using your box grater and spread it out on a plate and you will be rewarded with softened butter in less than 5 minutes. There’s another popular method doing the rounds on the internet – placing the block/ stick of butter in a plastic Ziploc bag and bashing it with a rolling pin or the back of a saucepan. But bashing anything inside a plastic bag makes me nervous. I’m not even sure if it’s possible but I keep thinking that tiny particles of the plastic will embed themselves in the butter – and I definitely don’t feel like trying it. Same with cookies and ice – I can never bring myself to bash them inside a plastic bag.
3. Instant buttermilk at home
This trick from PW was a real life-saver. A recipe calls for buttermilk but you have none at home? No big deal and definitely no need to run to the store. For each cup of buttermilk, add 1 tbsp of lemon juice or plain white vinegar to 1 cup of whole milk. Let it stand for 5 minutes and then strain it. Done and done. Another variation that I have used a few times, and it works equally well, is to use beaten (and slightly diluted) curd/yoghurt. This is handy if you are out of milk and/or lemon juice at home.
4. Prevent nuts and chocolate chips from sinking to the bottom
When recipes call for nuts, seeds, chocolate chips or other similar additives, these often sink to the bottom of the cake pan during baking and burn away. One trick that has always helped me is to toss the nuts/chips in a tablespoon of flour before adding them to the batter. The excess flour left after tossing and coating the nuts/chips can be discarded and these must be added to the batter at the very end. Just before spooning it into the baking pan.
5. Cut cookie/shortbread/scone dough into perfect squares or triangles
Have you ever tried cutting scones into squares or triangles and cringed at the untidy corners because the dough drags and moves along with the knife? Dredge your knife blade in flour before dragging it through sticky dough like cookie/ shortbread/ scone and the dough won’t stick+drag with the knife, giving you perfectly straight edges and tidy corners. Flour the knife between every single cutting motion and pull it through the dough in smooth, quick and sure strokes. Even if you use the cookie-cutter method, you will get pieces with neat edges if you dip the cutter in flour before each cut.
6. Prevent honey from sticking to your measuring cup
Have you made muffin batter and been stuck with honey or maple syrup clinging to your measuring cup? This not only makes for an inaccurate measure, but is also a painfully sticky mess to clean up. The trick that I use is to measure out the oil just before I measure the honey/maple syrup in the same liquid measure cup. If your recipe doesn’t call for oil or you need to use different measuring cups then simply grease the honey cup quickly using your fingers and a few drops of oil and never be stuck with messy, sticky measuring cups again!
Tell me what you think of these. Did you find them helpful? And do share your own baking hacks with me by leaving me a comment below.