Why is that some people have the baking Midas touch, while others just can’t seem to get that sponge to rise? The good news – don’t take it personally. You can master the art of baking with practice and a few handy tips, like these…
“Be a patient baker.”
Fran Abdallaoui, The Australian Women’s Weekly Food Director
Fran has triple tested thousands of recipes over her career, but her festive season favourite is also a classic. “There’s nothing quite like having a few batches of home-made Christmas biscuits on hand for gifting to teachers, neighbours and friends,” Fran says.
Fran’s top tips for perfect Christmas biscuits? “Have all the ingredients at room temperature before you start. Also, take care not to over beat the butter and sugar mixture, as this will make mixture too soft and cause over-spreading.”
Fran says another handy trick is to get better acquainted with your oven’s temperature and baked goodies placement. “If you bake two or more trays at once, swap the trays around mid-way through baking to help evening browning.”
And for those finishing touches, be patient. “Always cool biscuits completely before decorating or bake them the day ahead.”
“Invest in great tools.”
Diana Chan, Cook and TV personality
Kenwood ambassador and cooing whizz Diana Chan says whipping up a batch of aromatic pumpkin rolls for guests is always a guaranteed crowd pleaser. “Not only do pumpkin rolls smell amazing out of the oven, they are incredibly moreish. They’re soft and fluffy on the inside with a slight sweetness.”
To cook and create with ease, Diana’s tip is to use a great appliance. Her pick? Kenwood’s Cooking Chef XL stand mixer. “This recipe has three main steps – kneading, proving and baking,” explains Diana. “The Cooking Chef XL does it all for you – from mixing to kneading to proving.”
An all-rounder appliance like this really removes all the hard work, so you’re not spending hours in the kitchen before guests arrive, but the results are fantastic.
“Kenwood’s Cooking Chef XL allows you to simple pre-set the ‘dough kneading’ function for 15 minutes, resulting in nice, soft dough ready to prove. Then, again, you can simply pre-set the ‘proving’ function’, set the temperature to 30 degrees, leave it for an hour, come back for great dough ready to for the machine to knead it.”
All you need to do is shape, bake, and serve.
“Refine your recipes over time.”
Sandra Lorenzetto, home cook
Sandra Lorenzetto, 79, has been baking since she was 12 years old. “I love baking – it relaxes me,” says Sandra. “When I’m in my kitchen, I am 100% focused on my cooking.”
Sandra cooks foods from all over the world, but also has a trusty arsenal of classic recipes. “I love trying new recipes from different cultures… Italian tiramisu, French sweets, English puddings and traditional Christmas cakes, German layered cakes. But I have some favourite recipes too – including sausage rolls, lasagne, strawberry shortcake and cakes. I also love decorating wedding and birthday cakes, writing the names, making the fondant icing and creating flowers. I could do it all day.”
So what has Sandra learnt in her 67 years of baking? Well, her number one tip is to pre-prepare. “I used to try to create up to 12 different dishes the night before and day of for family gatherings like Christmas,” says Sandra. “But there are so many things that can pre-prepared and frozen. Cupcakes can be made two weeks ahead of time, defrosted the night before and taste beautiful. Quiche, chicken and leek pie, lasagne, sausage rolls, even salads can be pre-prepared – you just add the dressing or icing or final sauces before serving.”
And to elevate your baking? “Get a few good basic recipes and refine them until they are perfect,” she says. “A good recipe for a plain cake allows you to alter the ingredients for different interpretations. You can play around with – add a bit of this, remove a bit of that, and perfect it for cupcakes, plain cakes, dense cakes, and it never fails.”
Another tip? “Create your own recipe book. Whenever I find or alter a recipe, I write down the ingredients, making note if it is a bit too dry or crumbly, and then adjust the butter or other ingredients the next time until it’s perfect.”