If you’re baking for the first time, don’t worry. We’ve all been there. You’ll probably make one or two mistakes somewhere along the way when baking your first cake, muffin, cookies or whatever baking product you have in mind but that’s perfectly fine. As the saying goes, “It’s not the destination, it’s the journey.” With that being said, there’s no harm in being prepared when baking so let’s jump into a few things that everyone should know when venturing on their first baking expedition.
1. Don’t substitute baking ingredients if you can avoid it!
When baking for the first time, it’s easy to fall into the trap of trying to save cost and buying cheaper ingredients or using existing ingredients in your household. After all, you’re only testing your hand in baking so would substituting a few ingredients really make that big of an impact on your final baking product? The answer is a resounding yes. There are many examples in baking where substituting a baking ingredient can greatly affect the taste or texture of your cake, cookies, pastries or whatever you’re baking.
For example, one of the most common misconceptions is that you can substitute baking powder for baking soda and likewise. While it is possible to do this, it is definitely not recommended if you can avoid it. What most beginners might not know is that baking powder only contains ⅓ of baking soda. The rest of the ingredients contain corn flour and an acid like cream of tartar. While you could use 3 times the amount of baking powder to act as a substitute for baking soda, it would affect the acidic elements in your baking product and cause a bitter and acidic aftertaste.
Baking powder only contains ⅓ of baking soda
Speaking of baking powder and baking soda, Essential Ingredients Malaysia is actually a great platform to purchase baking supplies online if you’re looking for a website that offers high-quality baking ingredients and baking equipment at a reasonable price. Whether you’re a home baker or a professional pastry chef, you should definitely check out Essential Ingredients!
2. The quality of your baking ingredients matters but don’t overthink it
If you’re baking for fun and testing the waters, don’t worry too much about the quality. Do note that this is different from substituting an ingredient as that that could greatly impact your baking product. At this point in your baking journey, you’re not looking to bake the best cake or cookies in the world. You’re trying to see if you like baking and if you could potentially do it as a hobby or even as a career. Worrying too much about minor details like the quality of your baking supplies may suck the fun out of baking.
Plus, as a beginner in baking, making mistakes is not uncommon so practising with more standard quality ingredients will save you a ton of money. For example, using Planta Margarine versus using an international premium margarine brand may slightly affect the taste of your final baking product but you can always switch over to a more premium brand once you’re honed your baking skills. However, if you’re a professional pastry chef, the quality of the baking ingredients will definitely be important as you need all the edge you can get in an industry as competitive as baking.
3. Get a kitchen scale if you’re planning to bake more than once
This point cannot be stressed enough. If you look for kitchen scales online in Malaysia, the minimum price usually starts from RM 20++. Invest in this wonderful little invention to save yourself A LOT of time and effort. A kitchen scale makes the entire process of baking faster and more efficient as you can easily measure the exact amount of ingredients that are needed as easy as 123. You won’t need to strain your brain trying to figure out how much 100g of chocolate looks like or how many berries are in half a cup of berries because you can easily measure the exact amount on your kitchen scale.
4. Temperature is key
If a recipe mentions the optimum baking temperature and time, follow it to a tee. This is because using too high or too low a temperature can affect the texture and final look of your baking product. For example, using a temperature below the recommended number could make a cake sunken, damp and pale while using an overly high temperature could cause the cake to have a cracked and burnt surface.
However, most ovens are different from each other so if you can’t avoid it, you will need to adjust the temperature and time when baking according to your oven. If you’re unsure about whether your product is properly baked, a good tip is to use the “toothpick test.” Basically, you use a toothpick, cake tester or skewer into the middle of your baking product and if it comes out clean, the baking product is done.