1. I NEED SOFTENED BUTTER NOW!
It takes a very organised person to remember to get the butter out of the fridge hours before they need to bake, and although this isn’t a reliable statistic I bet 9/10 of us are NOT one of them.
I usually bake after work, or first thing in the morning at the weekend. This therefore requires me remembering to remove the butter before I rush out at 6:30am, OR right before going to bed when I’m deliriously tired. Ten points therefore for the person who reckons I manage to succeed in said butter removal on a regular basis.
Some may say “It doesn’t matter if the butter isn’t softened before, just beat it longer until it’s soft”. Well, this might be correct, but if they knew the scientific reason why butter needs to be room temperature other than “it just makes creaming the sugar easier” then they wouldn’t be saying that.
Here comes the science lesson…
When you cream softened butter and sugar, the grains of sugar are forced through the fat, leaving millions of microscopic air bubbles which give the butter a light and fluffy appearance. When baking in the oven these bubbles expand, giving you a light and airy final bake. If the butter is too firm and cold, the fat won’t hold air and the bubbles won’t expand as well, giving you a denser finished product.
So now you know why the butter needs to be room temperature, here’s the hack to getting soft butter quickly when, like me, you’ve forgotten to get it out the fridge.
- Fill mug or heatproof glass with boiling water.
- Cut the hard butter into cubes and pile it up together.
- Empty the filled mug or glass and put it upside down over the butter.
- Let the warmth do it’s thing for a minute or two
- Check after 45 seconds intervals and remove cubes that have reached the correct temperature.
- Enjoy your soften butter.
It’s really as simple as that!
2. DIY ICING SUGAR
Have you ever been food shopping for all your baking ingredients, worked out the quantities required but get everything home to realise you’re short? Arghh this is a scenario I am all too familiar with, and it’s always with icing sugar.
The worst thing about it is that the shortage is literally only by a couple of 100g, so getting back in my car to drive the 10 minutes to my nearest super store, trek to the baking aisle for icing sugar, queue forever for one item and then sit in traffic on the return home, is all the more infuriating.
Hearing about this hack was jaw dropping for me and I literally haven’t been able to turn back since. I don’t make all my icing sugar this way as let’s be honest it’s just easier to buy icing sugar, but if I’m ever a little short this is where I now turn.
You will need:
- Granulated sugar
- Blender or food processor
- Measure out your sugar, using half the quantity of granulated sugar as you will need for icing sugar.
- Pour into a blender or food processor then set it to pulse
- Pulse the sugar until it begins to powder and hooray to homemade icing sugar.
3. NO MESS PIPING BAG
This one may seem pretty obvious, but believe me I still see people filling up piping bags with one hand and it rarely ever goes smoothly.
To fill up a piping bag quickly and mess-free, take your piping bag with a nozzle already fitted, then take a large pint glass (or in my case a cocktail shaker) and place the bag inside. Open the bag until you cover the sides of the glass and you will have the perfect cavity to fill your bag with icing.
Un-peel the bag away from the glass, twist the end and voila.
4. STICKY MEASURE
A recipe calls for honey, golden syrup or treacle, but when you measure out a tablespoon you can never be sure if you’ve added the whole quantity to the mixture, as half the stuff is still clinging onto the spoon.
The secret to making it super easy? Cooking spray or oil.
Just give your spoon a quick spritz before measuring out your ingredients, and they’ll slide right off.
5. SCOOP BATTER BETTER
Another AMAZING hack I learnt a few years ago was using an ice-cream scoop for cupcake batter. There are two very simple reasons why it’s one of the best hacks ever!
- It scoops out the batter easily with little mess
- It gives you the same measure for each cupcake so all cupcakes come out the same size when baked
6. FAREWELL EGGSHELL
I’ve been cracking egg shells into mixtures since I began baking at the age of 8, and although I’ve come a long way since the days of getting half the egg shell into the mixture, some still manages to sneak in from time to time.
The best trick if you have unwanted eggshell in the mixing bowl is simple.
Wash your hands, then wet your finger. Stick said clean finger into your bowl and the egg shell almost acts like a magnet to it, making retrieving it super easy.
7. FROST ME FROZEN
If you’re a cake baker and decorator like me, then you’ll know the perils of getting a perfectly clean sharp edge with your buttercream.
Believe me I’m still perfecting my technique, but one tip that has helped with my progress is this;
- Bake your sponge ahead of time (4-5 days before needed), let the sponge cool, wrap it up in cling-film or in a freezer bag and freeze.
Note: Freezing the cake helps settle the crumb and makes cutting the cake into layers much easier.
- Defrost the sponge the day before you need it, then cut the sponge into layers and fill as desired.
- Wrap the layered cake and pop it back into the freezer for a few hours, then take out while it’s nearly-frozen and crumb coat, being sure to create your sharp edges.
- Leave the cake in the refrigerator to defrost then add your second layer of butter cream going over your already sharp edges. You should then have a wonderful clean and professional looking cake.
8. DIY BUTTERMILK
Buttermilk? I mean this is hardly on everyone’s list of weekly essentials is it?
If you’re a spontaneous baker who decides to unleash themselves into the kitchen that morning, then it’s quite likely you will stumble across an ingredient you haven’t got.
If your bake of choice is something like scones or red velvet cake (both excellent choices I might add), then buttermilk is required. No need to panic though as it can be made DIY style within a matter of moments with three ingredients more commonly found in your kitchen.
All you need is;
- 100ml milk
- 1 tbsp lemon juice OR 1 tbsp white wine vinegar.
- Stir the two together and, oh hello buttermilk. It’s as simple as that!
9. BAKING POWDER CHECK
Unlike buttermilk, if there is one baking ingredient we can all rely upon having ready in the cupboard, it’s baking powder.
The issue is that the stuff comes in 150g tubs, and when you only need 1 tsp at a time, if you’re not a regular baker it could take years before you get through it all.
The recommended use by date on baking powder is approx 9-12 months, so if you can’t remember when you bought it, or worse, you’re still using that tub from circa 1995, I think you’ve found the culprit to those sunken sponges.
But never fear, as one simple hack means you can check if it’s still good to go in a matter of seconds.
- Add 1/2 tsp warm water to baking powder.
- If it fizzes it’s good, if not it no longer works
10. RIPEN BANANA MAGIC
As any Banana Bread lover will know, when your baking itch calls for Banana Bread long before your bananas have gone brown, it’s pure devastation.
This is possibly one of my favourite hacks as it means I don’t have to leave my bananas sitting on the counter getting browner and browner (and smellier and smellier). I can just magic them brown in 30 second or 30 minutes.
Pop in the microwave for 30 second bursts until the skin has browned and the inside is ripe enough to mash up.
Pop on a baking tray in the oven for 30 minutes on 150C until the skin in brown/black. Peel it away to reveal ripened banana perfect for mashing.
So there you have it my Top 10 Baking Hacks. Have I changed your life?
I hope you have found these useful and I hope you find the need to use your new found hack for real very soon. Honestly each and everyone has changed my life so I’m pleased to be able to share these with you.
If you do find the need to use one, please let me know as I’d love to hear your story.
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