Baking tips

How to melt chocolate?

Melting chocolate is very easy, but it is also easy to make a mistake.  Remember to use good quality chocolate to get the best results.  Always remember to melt chocolate shortly before you need to use it, as it will be difficult to re-melt it.

Never melt the chocolate directly on the hob as it will burn. 
Break the chocolate to small chunks- it will be easier to melt.
Place a small saucepan with boiling water over a heat, then suspend the bowl over the simmering water.  Make sure you are using a clean and dry dish.  The bowl should not touch the water!
Place the chocolate in a bowl and stir it from time to time. Make sure that no water can get into the bowl. 
When melted, take of the heat immediately. 

You can also melt the chocolate in a microwave. Simply place small chunks of chocolate in a glass bowl and turn the microwave on the low power for about 1 minute (or less if you are melting only a small amount of chocolate).  Stir the chocolate and place back in a microwave for 15 seconds, then stir again.  Repeat until melted completely. 

If your recipe requires you to melt the chocolate with butter (or any other ingredients), place all of the ingredients in a bowl with chocolate on the start.  Do not add it after the chocolate has melted.  

If your chocolate formed lumps, burnt or separated, add a tiny amount of hot, boiled water (1 or 2 teaspoons) and keep mixing until it turns to smooth and shiny consistency.

How to make a perfect loaf?

Making your own bread requires some skill
and a lot a patience!  
It is a time consuming process, but a reward is worth the wait.  

Your bread will only be as good as the flour you are using.  While most white flour is roller-milled so it doesn't matter which one you use, wholewheat flours vary a lot in their quality, so you should only use the best.  

If you are adding grains that need to be soaked, use equal weight quantity of grains and water and leave them aside for about 10 minutes first. 

When adding seeds, toast them first, this will give them more nutty and intense flavour. 

If your wholemeal bread doesn't rise enough, try to add a juice of half an orange to the dough, next time.  

Use oil instead of flour (for your hands and surface) when kneading dough.  Remember- the more wet your dough is, the fluffier and softer the bread.  If you add too much flour, loaf can become hard.

After kneading the dough, leave it to rise, the recipe will give you a rough time, however, the dough should always have risen by a half. And again by a half to two-thirds after shaping. 

Always use double the amount of yeast when using fresh yeast instead of dried.  With fresh yeast you will also need to make a leaven* before adding it to the dough.

If you place a tray of boiling water (or just throw few ice-cubes into the oven), you will create steam, which will allow the dough to rise before the crust sets, and it will help to form a more crunchy, rich coloured crust. 

* Find 'how to make a leaven? ' below.

How to make leaven?

Leaven can be used in bread, buns and yeast-based cakes.  Whenever you are using fresh yeast, you will need to make it before adding to the flour and other ingredients.

To make leaven you will need:
  • yeast (amount that is in your recipe)
  • 1 tablespoon of sugar
  • 1/4 glass of milk (or water if there is not milk in the recipe)
  • 3 tablespoons of flour (the same flour that you are using for your recipe)
Break yeast into pieces and add sugar.  Pour over the warm milk (too hot will kill the yeast).  Mix until the yeast is dissolved.  Add the flour and mix until smooth.  Cover with a cloth of cling-film and leave for 20-25 minutes.  

   Always remember to make it in a large bowl, as the leaven will expand.  

   Ingredients used to make leaven always deduct from the recipe.

Which citrus to use for my bakes?

When using lemon, lime or orange zest to infuse your cakes or biscuits, always remember to prepare it first.  
It is always best to use organic, unwaxed citrus. Remember that your bakes will only be as good as the ingredients you use.
Boil a generous amount of water and pour it over the fruit you will use, then wipe with a clean tea towel, to ensure that no chemicals, that are normally on the fruit, will be added to your cake.

How to make perfect macaroons?

Making perfect macaroons requires some practice, however it is not as difficult as you might think.  There is few basic rules that you need to follow when making macaroons- don't try to cut corners!

Place ground almonds and icing sugar in a food processor for 10-15 seconds, then sieve through a large sieve, to achieve smooth consistency of the batter.

Do not over or under whisk the egg whites, this will make the mixture too firm or too runny- always check the butter.

Add the dry mixture one-third at a time, then gently fold - not mix!

When you pipe the macaroons onto the lined baking sheet, make sure they are well spaced. 

Tap the baking sheet onto the work surface to get rid of air bubbles.

Leave the macaroons at room temperature for about 30 minutes to let them form a thin skin on top- when it is ready you should be able to gently touch the macaroon with a tip of your finger and no mixture should stick to it.

Bake only one tray at a time- check the macaroons after first 5 minutes- if they are getting too brown, reduce the temperature of the oven slightly. 

When checking if your macaroons  are ready look for a crisp crust on top.  Gently try to lift the macaroon- the base of the macaroon should not be wobbly or sticky, if it is return to the oven (leave it slightly open) and wait few minutes.  Then check again.

When baked, leave to cool on the baking sheet for 10-15 minutes, then remove gently and leave to cool completely.

How to make caramel?

There are two types of caramel: dry caramel, which is made by cooking sugar until melted and golden brown colour and wet, where water is cooked with sugar.  

Always remember to use a large pan which will not overflow. It is best to use heavy-duty saucepan, not non-stick one,  as the sugar might crystallise.

Do not stir caramel, you can swirl the pan instead.

You have to be very careful when making caramel- observe when it is the right colour and take off the heat immediately and place the pan in ice and cold water to stop the cooking right away. Take care not to get any water in the pan. 

If you are making sauce- add butter or cream right when the caramel turned desired colour- you do not need to put the saucepan into clod water as butter or cream will stop it from over cooking. 

Caramel should be dark (not too dark!), reddish-brown.  If it is not cooked enough you will not achieve nice, caramel flavour- it will only be very sweet. If it is burnt there is nothing that can save it- so please pay attention!

If you were stirring your caramel and it became lumpy and crystallised, just lower the heat and continue cooking, stir a little to help it dissolve- as little as possible!  It should soon turn smooth again.

How to make a perfect cheesecake?

Baked cheesecake is an ultimate dinner
party dessert- delicious and elegant.  
Making it is so easy- you just need to follow few simple rules!

The first and such an important thing is that most baked cheesecakes taste best when left in the fridge over night- make sure you make it in advance, rather then on the day.  

All ingredients should be in room temperature- take everything out the fridge about 30 minutes before you start.  

Always set your base well, otherwise pieces of it will mix into your cheesecake while baking.

Don't over mix the cheese mixture- it needs to be very smooth and everything should be well combined, but if you over mix it, the cheesecake will rise a lot in the oven and then drop.  

Most cheesecakes should be baked in hot-water bath.  Simple wrap the base and the sides of your cake tin with kitchen foil and place the tin in a large heat-proof dish filled half way with boiling water.    This will prevent your cheesecake from cracking and will ensure even baking.  

Leave the cheesecake in an opened oven and let it cool a little before taking out- it can crack if the temperature drops too quickly.

If your cheesecake is browning too quickly, or you want it to stay the colour it is (for example in New York cheesecake) cover the top of it with foil- make sure the foil doesn't touch the top of the cake.

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