Since the start of the pandemic there has been a significant – almost atmospheric – rise in the number of people baking in lockdown.
From the young to the old, millions of people are trying their hands at baking cakes, buns and biscuits. In our house we are fervent, long-standing bakers – but even we have been doing a lot more home-baking over the last few months. As I write, our family (with kids aged 14 and 12) have been in lockdown for nearly 3 months. In that time we’ve baked cheese scones, bloomer loaves, meringues, biscuits, chocolate fudge cakes and much more.
Baking is not as simple as it might first appear, whilst you need to be creative for aspects like cake decorating, the actual ‘bake’ is a science. Instructions must be followed precisely. My husband is a terrible baker, because he is far too relaxed about precision when it comes to ingredients or length of cooking time (He thinks he knows it all. He doesn’t).
It takes time and patience. As someone who has been baking regularly for over 25 years, I thought I’d share some tips for baking beginners.
Tips for Baking in Lockdown
- Instead of foil or greaseproof paper to line baking trays, invest in some silicone baking mats. They have a non-stick surface and are reusable – good for the environment.
- Don’t skimp on the equipment. Invest in a decent set of digital weighing scales which can do metric and imperial measurements.
- Don’t be tempted to overmix or overstir the ingredients. This runs the risk of doing two things. Firstly, it might create too much gluten in the mix, which could give you a chewy end product. Also, if it is a recipe where you’re aiming for a light and fluffy end product, if you stir too much you’ll knock the air out of the mix.
- Your ingredients should be at room temperature before using. This is particularly important for ingredients like butter or other dairy. It is very difficult to beat butter and sugar together if the butter is stone cold.
- Accurate measurement is one of the critical elements for successful bakes. Measure out ingredients in the required quantities and proportions before you begin baking.
As they say… Fail to prepare, prepare to fail…
- On the subject of butter (a key ingredient for most recipes), if the recipe asks for softened butter, then leave it out at room temperature should suffice. Don’t be tempted to pop it in the microwave for 30 seconds. Melted butter won’t help you achieve the right results.
- If you’re baking biscuits or cookies (as my kids have done several times during lockdown), allow the mix to chill in the refrigerator before baking. This should prevent the mixture from spreading too much on the baking tray (with your silicone mat!) and have the biscuits bump into each other.
- Remember, this is a science. Make sure you use an established recipe with good reviews online, read it well before you start (like a science exam paper!) and make sure you follow every step precisely. Don’t take any shortcuts. Some recipes can be very unforgiving!