7 Baking Tips from the Pros

Blossom Lady
Jun 17, 2022 08:11 AM
7 Baking Tips from the Pros

Let's say you were (lucky enough) to be in a room with the nation's top pastry chefs. What would you ask them? If they would follow you home and bake you a cake? Absolutely. But you'd probably also want to find out a secret or two. Like maybe their top baking tip? Well, we've asked them for you. Read on to learn the simple secrets of the pros.

1. Creating a smooth top layer for frosting

When making a layered sponge cake, instead of creating two layers out of one thick sponge, which can be quite tricky, bake two separate sponges. The domed surface of a well-risen cake can be hard to decorate. However, some simple trimming and careful selection can banish any unevenness in minutes, giving your cake the best surface for frosting.

Let the sponges rest for at least 5 minutes in their pans; this allows them to set up and makes them easier to remove.

When the sponges are cool, carefully trim off any uneven surfaces using a large serrated knife and a sawing motion.

Apply the filling to the base layer before placing the second sponge in position, choosing the best, flattest side to be the top.

A perfectly flat surface will make frosting the cake a simple task and give it a truly professional finish.

2. Finishing frosting smoothly

The perfect finish to a cake is frosting that has a smooth, even surface. Using a ganache works well here, since this is poured over the cake, and its semiliquid nature makes it

Easy to achieve a perfectly smooth finish before it hardens. However, a buttercream frosting can be harder to coax into a smooth finish. A few simple tricks can speed the process along.

Dip a large, flexible metal palette knife in hot water. The heat will melt the frosting slightly, smoothing its surface as you work.

Wipe the knife quickly to remove any excess water that might spoil the frosting while retaining the heat in the blade.

Work around the sides of the cake, rotating it as you go. Use the full extent of the blade to sweep the frosting on the top into a perfectly smooth finish.

3. Placing decorations in frosting

Decorating a just-frosted cake can be even harder than frosting one smoothly. A soft ganache may mean the decorations sink in before it hardens; but spend too long frosting, and a simple icing-sugar-and-water frosting can harden before all the decorations are stuck down.

To establish how best to arrange the decorations, work it out on the dry, frosted cake first before sticking them down.

When you are happy with the overall look, use a small piping bag and a little simple frosting to stick the decorations to the cake.

4. Crystallizing edible flower petals for decorating

To add a truly professional flourish to a special-occasion cake, try crystalizing real flowers as decorations. For the best results, find a selection of brightly colored edible flowers. Make sure they have fairly sturdy petals and that they are not likely to wilt too quickly. Beat together 1 egg white with 1⁄2 tsp water, and use this mixture to gently brush the petals all over. Toss some very fine sugar over the petals, and leave the flowers to dry, separated in a cool dark place until set.

5. Cheat’s crème anglaise for serving

A classic crème anglaise is a simple, stylish sauce that may be served with a rich cake or torte, rather like a thin homemade custard. However, when time is short, try this simple fuss-free alternative, which can be conjured up from just a few basic ingredients. Quick crème anglaise whisk as much cream as you’ll need with 1 tbsp confectioner’s sugar and 1⁄2 tsp vanilla extract to a thick pouring consistency. Serve in a pitcher.

6. How to stabilize egg whites

The more stable the egg-white mixture, the more likely

It is to hold its shape and cook into a perfectly crisp, peaked meringue. Although good whisking should achieve this, sometimes a little extra help is needed. Try adding some cream of tartar, white vinegar, or a few drops of lemon juice to the mix after the sugar is incorporated.

Folding in the stabilizer

Be gentle when adding the stabilizing agent into the mix, so as to lose as little volume as possible before baking.

7. How to use frozen egg whites

If you bake on a regular basis, you will often need the odd egg yolk to bind together a rich pastry. When this is the case, do not throw away the leftover egg white, but freeze it in an

Airtight container until you have enough to make meringues. There is no need to try to remember how many you have —just defrost them, weigh them, and use double the weight of sugar to egg whites for perfect meringues.

Egg-to-sugar ratio

Weighing egg whites is a simple trick for calculating the amount of sugar needed for meringues. Use digital scales for maximum accuracy.

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