Baking – Interesting Facts

Baking is a cooking method whereby food is both cooked and browned by hot air in the oven. Usually the baked item begins as a dough or a batter, and then transforms into a delicious cake, bread, soufflé, pizza or a selection of biscuits. Sometimes meat, fish or vegetables are also baked in a pastry crust, which provides a healthy alternative to deep frying. A special advantage to baking is that you can produce a wide variety of baked goods and pastries depending on your taste and preference. In addition to this, baking is one of those activities that is so simple that everyone can teach themselves how to do it.

The act of baking is steeped in tradition – as early as Ancient Egypt, people were experts in bread-baking. Apart from an oven and a few basic ingredients, you need very little equipment in order to achieve perfect results: a bowl, a whisk or a mixer, oven gloves and scales. In addition to this you may need a cake tin or a baking sheet for cookies or biscuits.

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Baking recipes usually include a recommended oven temperature and cooking time – these, however, should be taken as rough guidelines. Each oven differs greatly, so make sure to check on your baked items occasionally and see for yourself if the dough or batter is ready. Avoid opening the oven door when cooking a soufflé, as you then run the risk of it collapsing on itself.

Baking – Ingredients and Dough

Most doughs are made from flour, sugar, butter, baking powder and eggs. Often a pinch of salt, some yeast, a few nuts or a drop of milk can be added to this, or for a flavour that is not just limited to Christmas time, perhaps add some spices or aromas like cinnamon or vanilla. In savoury doughs, herbs such as rosemary or sun-dried tomatoes work well. In recent times, it is becoming more and more common to make vegan versions of classic baking recipes – for example, eggs can be replaced by chia seeds, or milk can be replaced by soy milk.

The most popular types of dough made from the basic ingredients include shortcrust pastry, yeast dough, cake batter, or biscuit dough. Shortcrust pastry is often used for biscuits and cookies and is easier to roll out after it has been refrigerated for an hour or so. Yeast doughs like warm environments and need some time to rise. When it comes to cake batter, the dry ingredients and the wet ingredients must be first mixed separately, and then combined together. For a biscuit dough, carefully whisk or beat the egg whites until they are light and fluffy.

Baking – Technique and Tricks

In principle, baking is a very simple cooking method. Once the oven has reached the desired temperature, place the dough or batter inside. After the recommended cooking time, remove your baked item, take it off the tray and let it cool on a wire rack. However, the baking times vary greatly and can often be hard to get right. To be sure, simply test the cakes consistency:

Once the cake looks done, stick a toothpick, a skewer or a butter knife in to check. If the cake is done, there should be no batter sticking to the skewer when it is pulled back out, and you can then take the cake out of the oven. Bear in mind that biscuits always go harder and turn a darker colour after they have been removed from the oven. Once the cooking time is complete, if they first appear quite light in colour and soft, take them out anyway because they can burn very quickly. 

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