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New to baking? We have you covered with our baking basics for beginners! Get tips for baking plus a carrot cake recipe!
By Priya Sreeram
“Eat Cake, pray it doesn’t go to your hips and love every minute of it’ – (Source: Internet)
Who doesn’t like biting into a succulent piece of cake? And if it is homemade, the joy of digging into it is priceless. Baking has always been a source of apprehension for me. Although I have been donning the apron and having wholesome hearth adventures for the past 10 years, baking is a recent journey. I am not a pro baker and I’m nowhere near all the droolicious bakes that the net flaunts, but I am slowly overcoming my fears around the Oven, Toaster, Griller (OTG) and guess what? You can too!
I started blogging my foodie endeavours 2 years back and roughly around the same time my love for baking started. Some research later a Bajaj OTG landed in my kitchen. A few days were spent just longingly looking at the gadget, going through the manual and the recipe booklet that accompanied it. Then I started pottering around and picked up my courage to bake – a cake. The good part was that it was cooked inside but the airy, spongy, moist tags which generally get associated with cake were missing. Slowly, I came around baking a decent cake with a whole lot of tips from the internet, reading a lot of blogs and some telly help. Here are quite a few of them that I follow; I am sure that all newbie bakers would find them very useful .
– Use good quality and fresh ingredients for a fine taste.
– Let the ingredients be of room temperature. Eggs/butter/vanilla essence et al need to be out of the fridge a good 60 minutes before you plan to bake.
– Always weigh the ingredients accurately. I personally dote on my digital kitchen scale.
– If measuring the ingredients, use standard measuring cups and spoons. For dry ingredients scoop it up in the measuring spoon/cup and level them with a metal spatula or a knife. For wet ingredients hold the cup to your eye level and pour.
– Loosen the flour by stirring it up a bit before measuring. It incorporates air into the mixture and improves the texture of the bake. Most recipes call for flour to be sifted; this is to remove any lumps and to incorporate it better.
– Read the recipe carefully to find whether you need to measure the flour after sifting or before sifting as they vary in weight.
– Butter usually means unsalted butter, unless otherwise suggested.
– Always mix the dry ingredients well before adding them to wet ingredients. This ensures that the ingredients blend better.
– Do not overwork the batter once the dry ingredients join the wet. A gentle mix (called folding) till they are well incorporated is all that is required.
– If you want your cake to sing, add a pinch of salt to the batter. Much like our Indian sweets, the cake gets a depth in taste.
– Spread the batter evenly with a small knife or spatula. Always fill the mould/tin/pan roughly to about 50-60% of their capacity. Do not fill the batter to the brim; else, the cake will have no space for rising and the quality and shape suffers.
– Preheat the oven before baking and always place the cake in the middle rack and away from the sides of the OTG.
– Most importantly grease your tin/pan well and line it with a parchment paper, so that the cake does not end up sticking to the bottom.
– Trust your eyes, nose and touch. The baked cake draws you with its aroma and the cake starts pulling away from the sides of the pan. Also, when pressed with a finger it springs back to the touch.
– A foolproof way of testing the doneness is the toothpick/skewer test. Inserted into the middle of the cake during its last stages, the toothpick/skewer must come out clean.
– No over baking. Else you may end up with a dry cake and that’s a complete no-no.
– Read the recipe thoroughly and make sure you comprehend all the steps that go into it before starting.
– A mistake which I sometimes end up committing is while trying to halve an existing recipe. I forget to halve a few ingredients and the result is a disastrous cake.
– Always use aluminium moulds and tins for baking. Being a good conductor of heat, it heats the dish quickly and evenly.
– Power cut? Residing in a state perennially short of power, I have gone through many nerve wrecking moments where my bake is left hanging in various levels of doneness. While a few of them were salvaged, a lot of them end up in the dumpster. So what do you do? Assume your cake is in the oven for 10 to 15 minutes and there is a power cut. Wait for 5-10 minutes to see if the power is back. If no, the cake most probably will see the dumpster, as the leavening agents in it will lose their strength and hence there is no point in cooking it after the power is back. The cake will lose its structure and collapse.
However, if the cake batter is just inside the oven for a few minutes and the power goes off, pull it from the OTG and wait for the power to come back. The cake may not be perfectly airy and spongy but will still be palatable.
Armed with these pointers, try making this sumptuous carrot cake. While I have baked it in a bundt pan, you can use a normal cake tin or even turn it in to cupcakes.
All purpose flour (Maida) – 125 grams
Baking powder – ½ tsp
Baking soda – ½ tsp
Salt – ¼ tsp
Cinnamon powder – ½ tsp
Eggs – 2
Sugar – 150 grams (apprx)
Sunflower oil – 125 ml
Vanilla essence – 1 tsp
Raw carrots – 200 grams (finely grated)
Walnut – 50 grams (roughly chopped)
Preheat Oven to 175 C/350 F. Grease the bundt pan and set aside.
In a bowl tip in the first 5 dry ingredients and give it a good stir. Set aside.
In a separate bowl beat the eggs till they turn frothy. I used an electric hand mixer. Next add the sugar slowly and blend in well. Add the oil and the vanilla essence and mix. Now tip in the flour mix and mix till well incorporated.
Finally fold in the grated carrots and the walnuts.
Scrape it into the bundt pan. Bake for 25-30 minutes or till the fork inserted comes clean.
So what are you waiting for? Ditch your baking fears and sizzle your hearth!
*Photo credit: Priya Sreeram.
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