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Baking tips, helpful hints, how to guides, decorating, tools & their uses...

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Icing sugar or confectioners sugar as it’s also known in the US can have multiple uses. Firstly it can be used for lightly dusting your work surface, this allows you to roll out your icing, fondant or sugarpaste ensuring that it doesn’t stick to it. It is also used in the ingredients to make a batch of buttercream. Icing sugar is also one of the main ingredients in Royal Icing and it is also used as a light dusting to decorate cakes.
 
If your buttercream is too dry or stiff, add a teaspoon(s) of milk/boiled water to the mix and whisk in. Do this until you reach the required consistency.
 
If you want to try and avoid fruit sinkage whilst baking, then try one of the following tips. Firstly toss small dried fruits such as raisins, sultanas, cranberries etc. in flour prior to baking then add them to your batter as normal, the flour should bind the fruit to your batter and hold it in place whilst baking. For wet/ fresh fruits such as apples or peaches, etc. try cutting them into very thin slices or try dicing them. For glace cherries don’t bother dusting them unless you are...
 
When dying your icing fondant, apply small amounts of the dye using a cocktail stick or plastic pick, then knead into the icing on a lightly dusted icing sugar surface. Continue adding the dye (and kneading) in stages until you build up to your required colour. Once your desired colour is reached try and leave it to rest for at least 24hrs or as many hours as you can so that it has settled down and is easy to work with, freshly dyed icing is very soft and difficult to work with hence the...
 
Concentrated food dye is the best dye to use on buttercream, fondant, icing etc as it provides the best results.
 
When making a Banana loaf use ripe or brown-skinned bananas for that extra flavour. Also, see How to ripen your bananas in the oven tutorial.
 
Circle cutters have multiple uses and can be used for cutting pastry, cake icing or scone shapes. These are a must-have in any baking kitchen.
 
Before you start to bake get all the ingredients out that you require and then place the items on your worktop counter in the order that you are going to use them. Not only does this make it easier when you are mixing your batter but it also ensures that you add all the required ingredients to your baking and nothing gets missed out.
 
If you do not have any measuring spoons but you have children then try this neat measuring tip. You will see from the picture that a child’s medicine spoon is 5ml at the large end and 2.5ml at the small end. Therefore for a rough conversion use the following:- 1 Teaspoon = 5ml = 1 large medicine spoonful. 1 Tablespoon = 15ml = 3 large + 1 level medicine spoonfuls. These medicine spoons fit great into baking powder and bicarbonate pots too.
 
A pizza cutter can be used to quickly remove excess icing fondant from the base of your cake once you have covered it.
 
For great baking results and a lighter fluffier bake then always use eggs at room temperature. If you beat the egg slightly before adding to your mixture it will distribute evenly throughout the batter and trap air whilst baking giving you lovely light airy cakes and cupcakes.
 
To prolong the life of your tin and prevent rusting do the following:- Once you have washed and rinsed your tin and lightly dried it with a piece of kitchen towel place your tin in the oven with the door closed. The remaining heat from your oven after baking will dry out your tins fully and prevent them from rusting. Allow the tins to cool fully before removing from the oven and being placed away.
 
There are two ways you can cut your excess icing fondant easily. The first is by using a clean sharp knife when cutting through the icing or fondant continually wipe the knife with a wet paper towel to ensure the knife is clean and you get the best cut/edge possible. The next is by using a pizza cutter, simply roll the pizza cutter around the base of your cake and remove the excess icing in one go.
 
Always wipe your cake board over with either hot water or neat alcohol before placing a cake or icing onto them. This is required to remove any bacteria that may be present on the board. Do this even if the cake board has been in a cellophane wrapper, the reason being is that at some point the board will have been sat in a warehouse and may contain dirt or dust particles.
 
If you want to stick ribbon to your icing/fondant at the base of your cake then slightly dampen the entire ribbon with warm water before placing the ribbon around the base of your cake. Run your finger over the damp ribbon in a smoothing motion to ensure it’s stuck to the fondant/icing and then overlap the ends. You shouldn’t need any additional tape or royal icing to hold the ends in place, but you can add them if required.
 
To prevent your cupcake from moving whilst piping, then place the cupcake in a slim glass which will hold it still. This frees up both your hands allowing you to concentrate on holding the piping bag correctly and perfecting your swirl. Also, see the piping video on the tutorial for How to make Ice cream cupcake cones.
 
It is important that you always pre heat the oven and ensure it is at the correct cooking temperature before you begin baking as food bakes unevenly in a cold oven and may ruin your final results.
 
If you are baking a cake for a long time such as fruit cake and wish to add extra moisture then simply add a tray of water to the bottom of your oven and your cake will absorb extra steam whilst baking.
 
If you have cracked your egg and tiny pieces of shell have landed in the bowl, you can use the following tips to get it out! 1. Use the large piece of the shell to extract the smaller pieces from the bowl. It attracts back to the larger piece like a magnet and is easily removed. (You'll spend ages with a spoon!) 2. An alternative is to wet your finger with water and then press it onto the eggshell, it will stick to your finger and will remove easily! :D
 
Crack your eggs into a small separate bowl rather than directly into your mixture as this prevents any tiny shell pieces being deposited straight into your mix.
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