Baking is a stress buster and many a time, therapeutic. All it needs is one learning the science behind it. We do hear that some people are afraid of baking. But the trick lies in the correct measurements, correct temperature and correct ingredients. Baking is not only a healthy option but also a time-saver. It is considered as one of the oldest methods of cooking. It all started with the baking of everybody’s staple: the bread. Be it roti, lavash or tortilla, cooking in hot dry heat (the modern time oven way) was the method used.
A few things are absolute essentials for baking at home. First-timers need to read and re-read recipes. They definitely need to follow it to the T. Climate and the temperature of the surroundings also play a significant role. Thumb rule of baking is all the ingredients have to be at room temperature and all the tools handy. Preheating the oven is another essential step of baking. One should always preheat the oven at the given temperature for 10 mins at least before baking. It is always a good practice to keep a close eye on the product being baked rather than relying on the timer.
Apart from one’s tried and tested recipes and an oven, baking requires a few essentials.
Generally, all-purpose flour is used for baking as it has less gluten in it. A flour with less gluten yields a softer and spongier cake. But if you are baking a pizza base or bagels then a more glutinous whole wheat flour is recommended. Sifting of flours helps in incorporating air. This also helps in making a lighter cake or pastries. The less-protein organic maida is a perfect kind of flour for baking.
Leavening Agents (like baking powder and baking soda)
Baking powder is made by combining baking soda, an acidic substance and two other things. When it comes in contact with any moisture, it reacts and air bubbles are formed. This makes the cake batter rise and gives it a fluffy texture.
Baking soda on the other hand is sodium bicarbonate. This, like baking powder, also reacts when some liquid is added to it.
One can use any leavening agent as per the recipe. The trick for an airy and soft cake is to sift the leavening agent with the flour, at least a couple of times. Weikfield baking powder activates while sifting and ensures to work till the end of baking. Similarly, Royal cooking soda already contains antacid so no sour agent is required to activate it.
Butter or any kind of fat is another essential needed for baking. One can use oil, but butter is versatile and it can be used in any form; i.e. cold, room temperature or melted. Amul butter is ideal for baking pies, cakes, cookies or even bread. The 80% milkfat in Amul butter helps in keeping the baked product well moisturised. You can enjoy flaky pie crusts with chilled Amul butter or melt-in-the-mouth cookies with soft butter.
Eggs are needed to give a structure and shape to the baking item. The egg white, when whisked well, takes in a lot of air-forming air pockets. This results in fluffier cakes. The yolk, on the other hand, adds richness and taste to the product. On the whole, Fresho Farm Eggs holds the structure of cakes, cookies, pies or any baked dish. These eggs are antibiotic residue-free. They are sourced and packaged with the utmost care, thus, helping in baking with excellent quality products.
Baking can be sweet or savoury. But all of them require some flavouring agent to enhance the sweetness or savouriness of the product. Adding a good Milky mist mozzarella pizza cheese will ensure long stretchy and stringy cheese strands while pulling out a slice. Similarly, for sweet goodies, a Voila vanilla essence or a mixed fruit essence would fill up the house with a tempting aroma. The Ask food chocolate chips are an excellent option for gooey and chewy brownies.
Measuring cups and spoons
Measurement of ingredients is of utmost importance in baking. With incorrect measurements, one can end with a stone-hard bread or too crumbly a cake or even a flat muffin. Even in a savoury dish, without proper measurements, one can end up with a raw or burnt product. The texture and taste differ if the ingredients are not measured accurately. Correct measurement is required for both dry and wet ingredients. Various sized spoons are used for smaller quantities. For larger quantities, one can use the Pyrex measuring cup. This glass cup is well marked and can be used to measure precisely.
Baking Tray (a baking dish and muffin tray)
A baking dish is a necessity for baking a cake or any dish. Pyrex glassware helps you to clearly keep an eye on what is in the oven. If somebody plans a muffin or cupcake trip then the aluminium 6 tray is perfect for them. It fits in well into any home oven.
A pie mould or a shallow ribbed cake tin always comes handy while baking a pie crust or a pie. The DP silicon mould is heat resistant making it ideal for home ovens. One can bake flaky pie crusts in this and fill it up with delicious fruit-based or chocolate fillings. This mould can also be used for egg custard pies. They neither alter the taste nor the texture of the pies.
Baking involves a lot of aeration. When the recipe says to cream the butter and sugar well, it means emulsifying butter with sugar with the addition of air. The air in the mixture turns the butter into a soft and fluffy mass. This helps in a spongier outcome. Beating the egg whites to a stiff peak requires a lot of whisking. Though this is a perfect workout for the biceps, the time constraints are a huge hurdle. A hand beater/mixer is always a boon for a perfect blend. The power-free Anjali hand blender offers an absolute solution. This blender is compact and does not need electricity. So stiff peaks are possible in a jiffy.
There is a plethora of tools and equipment that are available in the market. The choice of the tools depends on the type of baking that one needs to do. For a beginner, a good oven, a tried and tested recipe, these basic essentials and a happy mood to kick start is all that one would need.
A very informative article.