There's no better space to experiment than in baking, but there are some things that just don't get said enough. If truth be told, nice and sugary, food is all about lip-smacking advice before anything else.
I remember when I was twelve, I decided to spin my spatula and whip up my first baking experience. Back in the day, we didn't actually have the ovens we have today. It used to be this round bowl-like oven with a glass lid on top. So I poured all our ingredients for a sponge cake and waited and watched it form. I'm not one to kiss and tell, but I thought it was the spongiest sponge cake there was! Whether my mum thought the same or not, that marked the point where she let me make the kitchen my play-palace and bake away.
I've trotted around the world and its kitchens. The thing I've learned is to always use the local salted butter in your recipes.
Over the years, the things I most remember are interviewing my mum, my aunts and everyone who cooked to help me improvise and strategize my culinary expeditions. Self-discovery is one thing, but when experts give away their little secrets just to help, success feels even sweeter!
The one thing I learned (and for a fact!) is that everyone should know to cook! Especially the thing one loves most -- so if you find yourself fervently scrolling through your Instagram feed, waiting for chocolate-infused, butter-melting-in-your-mouth, crème de la crème delicacies to pop up, you know you must bake.
If you're baking for the first time, or are not too sure of your skills, here are some colourful sprinkles of wisdom that I think might help you create something super-yum, and most certainly dazzle that crowd!
1. Get your philosophy right
Baking is a science, so being precise is important. However, it is most definitely an art as well. Baking is where you can embrace strong, sometimes contrasting ideas, by the end of which, you relish wondrous goodies.
2. Measurements matter
It's always better to lay out your ingredients on the table, calculated as per the recipe. Sometimes, wrong measurements could lead to an accidental miracle, but more often than not, they result in a stodgy mess. Standard rule: Precise measurements = Great bakes!
3. Use salted butter... really!
I've trotted around the world and its kitchens. The thing I've learned is to always use the local salted butter in your recipes. It doesn't matter where the recipe came from, or if it calls for unsalted butter. Now, unsalted butter does have a tad bit of salt in it, which draws out a certain sweetness, which could very well be fine, but save yourself the trouble and go local. It'll taste amazing!
Prepping or pre-heating the oven is THE most important task. If the oven isn't warm enough, your lovely batter will remain sunk like a soaked sponge.
4. Shop smarter
If you're travelling abroad or even domestically, make a hunting trip down the local markets for special ingredients. For instance, vanilla extracts, grinders, pastes, even fancy sprinkles are thrice the rate in fancy supermarkets back home -- which means local markets are the best places for supreme quality and nifty rates. Plus, they don't take up much space in your luggage, so shop away!
5. Swear by silicon
Spare yourself the labour of baking sheets and get silicon mats for your baking endeavours. They are easier to store, use and clean.
6. Turn on the heat
Most people think that making the batter perfectly is most of the battle won. That's not true at all. Prepping or pre-heating the oven is THE most important task. If the oven isn't warm enough, your lovely batter will remain sunk like a soaked sponge. Stodgy mess, remember? For better results, get a convention oven!
7. Get the right kitchen helpers
Lastly, know that nothing cooks up a fine creation better than top-quality ingredients. Keep a recipe book handy, because you'll need the step-by-step dos and don'ts. And don't be disheartened if your first attempt isn't perfection -- the best of us need at least two tries to get it right!
You got the 101's on this, so what are you waiting for? Bake away!