Baking Aid: Top 10 Hazardous Bakes

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As somebody who is obsessed with baking, I have spent countless hours in the kitchen, so when it comes to kitchen safety I admit I’ve learnt the hard way. Practicing new techniques, recipes and equipment while exciting, has come at a price and I can prove that with the scars on my knuckles and arms. I like to think of them as my war wounds that could tell a thousand stories.

However, on a serious note with 26% of us feeling inspired to get baking since the latest series of GBBO it’s becoming more important to raise awareness of what potential hazards could be faced, especially when I read that almost 65% of Brit Bakers have injured themselves whilst baking. So when I was asked by National Accident Helpline to partner with them on a post to raise awareness of Accident Awareness Week I jumped at the opportunity.

The most common baking blunders are known as scalds, burns and cuts but it’s not always obvious what type of bake can cause these injuries, so I’ve put together a list of my Top 10 Hazardous Bakes and provided advice on how to avoid injury to yourself and those around you.

For more information about Accident Awareness Week (31st October – 6th November) visit: https://www.national-accident-helpline.co.uk/accident-claims/accident-awareness-week

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Caramel/Toffee

It’s so easy to burn yourself when baking caramel or toffee, but you can take steps to look out for yourself. The heated sugar is prone to splatter, make sure you wear long sleeves, an apron and an oven glove when handling the pan. You could keep a bowl of cold water nearby to plunge your hand into should the sugar splatter you at all.


Honeycomb

Honeycomb starts life as a form of caramel so you should be extra cautious when stirring the pot. However, once the bicarbonate of soda is added, the caramel expands to almost double the size. To avoid a molten honeycomb overflow it is vital to ensure the pot you are using is big enough.


Donuts

Baking donuts requires plunging your risen balls of dough into cooking oil at temperatures of up to 191oC. Temperatures this high can easily start fires or cause serious third degree burns. To cook them carefully you should always add the oil to a cold, clean and dry fryer. Avoid letting water come into contact with the bubbling oil at all costs as this will make the oil splatter, which can burn the skin.


Chopping nuts

It goes without saying that nuts and knifes aren’t the best combination. But you can prevent nasty accidents by using other methods. You could pour them into a zip lock bag and crush them with a rolling pin, or blitz them in a food processor. Should you only have a knife to hand, keep your fingers away from the blade by placing the palm of your hand at the top of the knife to keep the nut you are chopping stable.


Citrus Curd

I wish the tiny scars on my knuckles and finger tips told much more exciting tales but truth be told, the majority of them are down to a cheese grater. I love making lemon curd and enjoy zesting citrus, but I’m yet to go through the process without scraping my fingers. The best way to avoid such incidence would be to wear silicone gloves and hold the citrus fruit with your knuckles facing away from the grater blades.


Crème Brûlée

There’s a good reason we use one when melting sugar toppings for Crème Brûlée and browning meringue pies, and that’s because they blast out intense heat to do the job in seconds. This kind of intense heat is not something you want in contact with skin or any loose clothing. It is key you ensure the safety lock is on when not in use and that any sleeves are rolled up, tea towels are removed from your working area and aprons are tied tightly.


Dumplings

When making dumplings steam may try to escape by spitting out. Check on them at the wrong moment and this hot steam could spit out onto your face or neck. Burns caused by steam can be really serious, as steam can actually penetrate the skin, leaving lifelong scars. To prevent this from happening always open the lid of the steamer away from you and use oven gloves and tongs to move the dumplings around.


Marshmallow

Making marshmallow much like other sugar syrup recipes is an easy process, but you need to take care to prevent injury. Under no circumstance should the sugar be touched directly. Instead use a sugar thermometer and always use heat-safe utensils like wooden spoons to prevent burning your hands on metal handles. When you transfer the syrup into your electric mixer bowl pour slowly, to avoid hot splatters and raise the speed slowly until it’s well combined.


Using Freestanding Mixers

They’re beautiful kitchen top accessories and the perfect kitchen assistant, but in series 3 of Great British Bake Off Bake Off Winner John Whaite showed how hazardous electric mixers can be when he sliced is finger open mid-way through his Strudel Show Stopper. Quite often recipes will call for you to add ingredients while the mixer is still going, so it is vital that you act cautiously and keep your fingers as far away from the blade as possible. You can also use a spoon or a long cocktail stick (for colour or flavor pastes) where possible to add ingredients.


Crepe Suzette

Adding a little alcohol to a dish is a great way to boost flavour and if you’re feeling flashy doing this via flambé can also provide a great source of dinner party entertainment. But you should never add the alcohol directly from the bottle, as flames could enter the bottle causing it to explode. Instead add the alcohol to the pan off the heat. TV Chefs demonstrate flambé by tilting the pan over a gas flame to ignite the alcohol, but they’re professionals so this method is to be avoided at all costs. When returning the pan to the flame, make sure you stand back as the flame will be higher than you think. Turning off your extractor fan is also advised as this can draw flames up. After 30 seconds the flame should have died out naturally leaving you free to get in closer and serve.


Baking Aid: 8 Tips and Tricks for Baking Beginners

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Oh Mary Berry, she makes it look so easy. However as every baker starting out knows, it’s not always as simple as it seems. The science behind it is crucial and improvising is NOT an option.

I’ve spent the better half of my baking life searching for tips and advice on the internet and fellow bloggers sites, and I’m forever grateful for what I learnt from them. So if you’re new to baking or have had issues in the past and you’re not sure why, here are my 8 Tips and Tricks every baker should learn before cracking those eggs.

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Read the recipe in full

Beginner or expert, rushing through any recipe is strongly ill-advised. I’ve touched on this previous in my 5 Baking Mistake to Avoid post, but mistakes are often made most when you’re starting out so it’s a point just as appropriate for this one.

Understanding the recipe and the steps you need to take in advance means you’re better prepared in the long run and can plan your day accordingly. There are many bakes out there that will ask you to chill a mixture or dough in the fridge overnight and believe me finding this out on the day a bake is due is infuriating.


Don’t cut corners

There is a valid reason why cooking is an ‘Art’ and baking is a ‘science’. With art you can improvise and experiment with varying results, however science is strict and instructions must be followed if you want to avoid catastrophe. It therefore goes without saying that in baking you cannot cut corners. Don’t try to rush through the recipe, give yourself enough time and more to complete it. I allow an extra hour to ensure I can get the best out of my bakes and I always need it.

The same applies to ingredients. It’s always recommended that you use the best quality, even if its flour.  Don’t scrimp and save with the cheapest kind, after all the quality of your ingredients affect the overall quality of your final bake.


Test your ingredients

When you’re new to baking, I really recommend trying out new types of ingredients such as sugars and flour so you can get to know which types and brands you work best with. Yes believe me, different brands can create completely different textures and it’s up to you to decide which is your favourite. Once you have an ingredient you trust, stick to it. You’re investing a lot of your time and money into the bake so there’s no need to test anymore when you have a winner.


Measure and prepare all ingredients and tools in advance

“The more prepared I am, the less I fear”

As imaginative child, who loved watching cooks on TV, baking became an immediate opportunity to host my very own cookery programme. Authenticity was key so I would weigh out each ingredient and prepare them into little bowls, before talking my imaginary audience through the steps. I always wonder whether it was this that ignited my love of organisation as to this day I still prepare myself for a bake this way.

This way of working, especially for somebody starting out, is a tip I cannot advise stronger. For obvious reasons, having everything laid out in front of you reduces risk of omitting it all together, or realising mid way through a bake that you’ve ran out of eggs. Secondly, it speeds up the process having everything ready in advance. And finally, yet perhaps most importantly, when you’re new to baking, being prepared suddenly makes the whole process less daunting


Use room temperature ingredients such as butter and eggs

Such a simple tip, yet to this day I still occasionally forget to get my butter out of the fridge to soften prior to baking. It’s not something to be taken lightly though as using room temperature ingredients when a recipe calls for them is an absolute must. We don’t tell you just to make life more annoying, there is actually a science behind it, and that science is the difference between a perfect or average bake.

The Sciencey bit

It was James Morton in his book “How Baking Works”, who taught me the proper science behind baking, and I will forever be grateful as knowing the science of baking is what makes you a baker.

Beyond flavour fat has several roles in baking and the first is in the ‘creaming’ method AKA mixing fat with sugar. Thanks to their sharp edges, sugar acts like tiny little knifes that slice through the butter to create little air pockets. When heated these air pockets expand and voila, your bake rises. If butter is cold during this process, the sugar cannot cut through it effectively to make those perfectly aerated pockets we love so much. No air pockets = no fluffy baked goods.

But how do I know what room temperature butter looks like?

Room temperature butter should be soft to touch but not melted or overly greasy. If you can crush it between your fingers with ease, it’s perfect.

Eggs are another ingredients that is imperative to use at room temperature. We love eggs in the same way we love sugar because their high protein content give us air when beaten or whisked. I won’t go deep into the science but basically, these proteins are naturally tight, but when beaten loosen up and form air bubbles. It’s these air bubbles that expand during baking to give cakes and meringues there lightness, but when the egg is cold the proteins will coil together tighter making it harder to create any air. Warmer eggs are much more generous in their air giving and it’s vital we keep it that way. Contrary to popular belief keeping them in the fridge doesn’t necessarily keep them fresher for longer either.


Prepare your tins

It’s clear being prepared is rather key to baking success, but being organised and in control isn’t the only reason. When it comes to your baking tins, preparing them in advance is important as any mixture containing Baking Powder or Bicarb of Soda must get into the oven as soon as it’s combined.

The raising agent in the mixture begins working from the moment it comes into contact with any of the wet ingredient. Leaving it on the side much longer than is necessary will affect how much rise you get you out of it, so to ensure it can reach its full potential it should go into the oven once it’s ready.

Lining tip: Use baking parchment as it’s non stick so will easily peel from your bake once cooled. Additionally if you’re baking a large cake for a long time, it’s advised to wrap some parchment around the edge of the tin and tie it in place with some string to ensure the edges don’t burn while the middle is still cooking.


Preheat your oven

I cannot stress the importance of this tip enough as placing a bake into a cold oven will affect how it cooks overall. If the recipe suggests preheating the oven, be confident there is a reason for that and don’t ignore it.


Don’t forget to time

I’ve mentioned this before, and as a victim of one of two burn outs you’ll understand why I will continue to do so till my dying breathe. There is nothing worse than spending hours preparing a bake only to ruin it at the end because you forgot to set your timer, so for the love of god SET THE TIMER.


 

Top 5 baking mistakes to avoid

TOP 5 BAKING MISTAKES

In my opinion, one of the most misunderstood hobbies is baking. Unlike cooking, where chefs can experiment with relatively dier consequences, in baking if you try to diverge away from the recipe and simply “make it up as you go along” the results will rarely be successful.

As more bakers rise into stardom, more of us are inspired daily to get into our kitchens and create. Whether baking beginners or daily indulgers we’re all busy making something, and Instagram and Bloglovin are with us all the way to prove it.

However, social media show us the successful bakes. Very rarely do we ever see the failures, which is fine, I understand, but it’s important we’re all accepting that these failures happen, and perhaps even more importantly, show that we’re not ashamed of them.

If you encounter a disaster in the kitchen, don’t be hard on yourself.  Baking is a science, it’s not easy and mistakes are sometimes inevitable. I am by no means an expert, in fact I’d still class myself a beginner as there are so many bakes I’m yet to make. However when I do bake what I’m confident with, believe me mistakes still happen. Sometimes it’s my fault, and I’ll put my hands up and admit that, other times, it’s an environmental factor like the weather outside, or because I’m using a new oven. These things are sadly out of my control.

“The moment you take the time to understand just why sugar and butter are so important is the moment you become a baker”

I guess what I’m trying to say is that being a beginner or expert doesn’t even come into it as some of the best bakers in the world have been known to have a bad day in the kitchen. What is important though is understanding what the mistakes are, as by being aware of them means you’re more inclined to avoid them.

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Below you will read my Top 5 Mistakes to Avoid When Baking and these apply to almost every bake I know. I hope you find these useful so please do let me know what you think in the comments below.

Happy Baking.


Rushing through the recipe 

A mistake I made most often when starting out was rushing through the recipe and not actually taking the time to read the steps. I was so focused on the end result that I forgot to understand and learn the process. It’s the latter stage that I truly believe take you from one level to the next. The moment you take the time to understand just why sugar and butter are so important is the moment you become a baker.

Not all recipes are laid out in chronological order so reading it through prior to getting started may highlight something vital. There have been times where I got all prepared for a bake, only to read  half way down that I needed to chill the mixture in the fridge for 24 hours and let me tell you that sucked!!


Measuring Incorrectly

Ahh the lazy baker. Don’t be ashamed we’ve all been there. That little voice tells us that we know what we’re doing, because we’ve made this 20 times already. “I know what 200g of sugar looks like”, “What does a little extra flour matter anyway?”, “That 20g over on the butter isn’t that big a deal right?” WRONG. Nobody knows what 200g of sugar looks like, add a little extra flour to a brownie and you have a cake, and add too much butter to a cake and you have a sinking, shrinking grease muffin. Don’t say I didn’t warn you.

If you struggle with scales or heaven forbid you find yours broken, check out this article on GoodtoKnow.co.uk  which converts all grams to cups.  Oh and also make sure you have your own set of Measuring Cups for this moment.

Not preheating the oven


Forgetting to preheat the oven isn’t the biggest mistake you could make, but forgetting to do so is not an efficient use of your time, especially if you’re being timed. The time it takes for your oven to preheat will obviously depend on whether you’re using a fan or gas oven as well as the heat you’re preheating it to, but on average it takes a fan oven 10 minutes to reach 170 degrees C.

Sometimes a recipe will ask you to preheat the oven mid-way through a bake, and this will be because your creation may need to rest prior to going in the oven. Others however ask you to do so straight away so it has reached the desired temperature at the exact time it needs to be baked. Take cake for example, there’s a good reason preheating the oven comes first as raising agents get to work straight away. Therefore to ensure a good rise, your cake mixture should go into the oven the moment it’s ready.

BONUS TIP FOR CAKES:

Never open your oven mid bake. Letting a sudden rush of cold air into the oven will cause it to deflate and sink. I always wait till 5 minutes before my timer to check.


Not timing your bake

Ovens do vary so it’s important to get to know the oven you’re working with, or at the very least ensure you’re watching your bake more consciously as it cooks. Regardless of all this, timing your bake accurately is a huge must in my opinion and I speak from experience. On quite a few occasions I’ve forgotten to set the timer on a bake only to realise half way through and guess what time I had left. On these occasions, when removed from the oven, although my cake tester came out deceivingly clean, my cakes sunk.

Some bakes require more attentive timing than others, such as macarons, however timing everything with equal attention is always recommended. If you tend to walk away from the kitchen during baking, use the timer on your phone so you always have your eye on the time.


Impatience – Not letting it cool down or rest

Perhaps my biggest vice and one that catches me out more than too often is impatience. Letting your cakes cool before icing or storing, and leaving your macarons to rest and form feet before going into the oven are two huge examples, but there are many more. Not many people realise the importance of being patient as surely “Once it’s baked nothing can go wrong?” Think again. Take cupcakes for instance, not letting them cool fully before storing will cause the heat inside them to condensate and peel away from the cases. It’s at this point that they also form a sticky top and potentially shrink. So many disasters from a single mistake.

It can take up to 4 hours or longer for bakes to fully cool so if you can’t control yourself, leave the house or start a Game of Thrones marathon to keep yourself occupied.


I hope you’ve found these useful. If you have any more examples of mistakes you know to avoid please share in the comments below.