Saturday, 21 March 2020

Is Baking a skill or Science?

I asked the question 'Is Baking a skill or Science' at the ‘Science on Your Doorstep’ event at Cusworth Hall Doncaster recently. We chatted about the usual ingredients for a cake and how each one has a key chemical role to play.
What do the ingredients do?
Butter or oil (diary free) makes a cake tender
Sugar binds a cake and adds sweetness
Eggs act like glue, prevent crumbling and give a tinge of colour (or diary free alternative such as oat milk, vinegar or cornflour)
Flour gives structure
(but don’t over mix otherwise it’s too heavy and dense)
Baking powder adds air bubbles
Milk or water add moisture
Mix, melt or rub in
Creaming’ incorporates air to make it light and fluffy
‘Melting’ butter releases water content to mix with flour and form gluten so biscuits are chewy
‘Rubbing in’ is good for pastry or scones
Add the heat
When the ‘leavening agent’, usually baking powder (self raising flour has it already), is heated, it releases carbon dioxide into the mixture. As the temperature rises, a vapour forms from the water in the butter and eggs. Gluten forms with the flour and holds everything together so the mixture can set and achieve a permanent shape and colour.

What can go wrong in baking cakes? S

Sunk in
the middle

– Mixture is too soft.
–  Oven temperature is too cool so mixture does not rise evenly.
– Oven temperature is too hot so mixture does not cook evenly.
– Oven temperature is too hot.
– Cake is placed too near hottest part of oven.
– Mixture is too stiff.
too close

– Too much liquid is added.
– Mixture curdles when eggs added (NB add 1 tablespoon of flour to each addition of egg to reduce the risk of curdling).
Fruit (dried) sunk to the bottom
– Dried fruit is too damp.
– GlacĂ© cherries are sticky (NB always wash and dry glacĂ© cherries before use).

It’s good to follow a recipe but traditional cooks would often tweak their recipes to get the best results. Time to get testing!

In the end, we all agreed that Baking was a bit of both. 
Happy baking!

Monday, 24 February 2020

Coconut Macaroons are the tops

Every time I make Coconut Macaroons for an event or a talk, they are often the first to be snaffled up. I never realised there were so many coconut lovers out there. This traditional recipe comes from Grandma’s youngest sister, Ivy who continued the family tradition in home baking. If you love coconut, they are a delight. They should be crisp and golden on the outside and soft and chewy on the inside.
 What you need ....
Whites of 2 eggs
4oz/110g coconut
2oz/50g sugar
1oz/25g ground almonds or
1 tbsp self raising flour

 How to bake ...
Preheat the oven to 350F, Mark 4, 180 C. Whisk the egg whites until stiff. Mix the other ingredients together. Fold in the dry ingredients into the egg whites. Place teaspoonfuls of the mixture on rice or greaseproof paper. Bake on a tray for 20 minutes. 

Coconut Macaroons ready for the oven
Meryl says : Make sure the egg whites are really stiff to ensure a sticky texture once cooked. Topped with a cherry or almond, they are perfect for those coconut aficionados. 

Why not try some of these other Coconut delights?

Tuesday, 14 January 2020

Lemon Pound Cake for the 2020s

Dating back to the 1700s, a pound cake is named because it contained a pound each of butter, sugar, flour and eggs. It therefore has a denser texture and a more buttery taste than the lighter Victoria Sandwich cake created a century later. Since then smaller versions of the cake have evolved but the ratio of the main ingredients has tended to remain the same. Other variations include the addition of baking powder to lighten the density and different flavours such as Lemon and Orange.  I've made half the quantities of an original pound cake and it makes a good size cake 

What you need
2250g/8oz butter
225g/8oz sugar
4 eggs
225g/8oz self-raising flour
1 tsp baking powder
Zest & juice of 2 lemons
For the glaze
Icing sugar
Lemon juice to mix
How to bake …
Preheat the oven to 180C, 350F, Mark 4. Cream the butter, sugar and lemon zest. Gradually beat in the eggs. Mix in the flour and lemon juice to soften the mixture so it drops off the spoon. Grease a 1kg/2lb loaf tin or 8"/20cms shaped cake tin. Bake for 45 minutes until firm on top. Prepare the glaze by mixing icing sugar and lemon juice. Once the cake is out of the oven and cool, make a glaze by mixing icing sugar with lemon juice until runny. Then drizzle the glaze over the top of the cake.
Meryl says : I love this version of Lemon Pound Cake from a 1920s recipe when it was popular in all the best hotels and serve with fruit and cream. Feedback so far is looking good so I’m sure I’ll be making this cake in 2020 to celebrate its 100 years' anniversary!