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A collection of helpful tips to help with your baking and cooking.

Baking Hints and Tips

Light margarine for frosting/icing

Do not substitute 'light' margarine or butter or margarine in your  baking recipes. It is made of up to 50% water plus emulsifiers and thickeners and will lead to disastrous results. Its only use should be in frosting/icing recipes to make a lower calorie cake icing.

Making your own self raising flour

As called for in most British recipes, add 11/2 teaspoon  baking powder and 1/2 tsp salt to each cup of cake and pastry flour. Sift together and then mix using a wire whisk.

Measuring Flour

When measuring out flour in a measuring cup, always scoop the flour straight from the bag or jar using the cup and use a flat knife to skim the surface level. If you pour the flour into the cup you will get far less flour than required.

How to make your own cake/pastry flour

Sift together 3/4 cup (84 grams) sifted bleached all-purpose flour plus 2 tablespoons (15 grams) cornstarch for every cup of flour that you require.

Chocolate cake

To grease and flour a baking pan  use cocoa powder or a 50-50 blend of cocoa and flour to dust the pan. This will prevent the finished cake from having a white dusty look.

Making a fruit cake

When making the cake with dried raisins or sultanas, dust the dried fruit with a little flour before adding to the cake batter to prevent them from sinking to the bottom of the cake during baking. The same can also be done with nuts however you should also heat them for about 12 minutes in a moderate oven before flouring so that the released natural oils make the flour adhere to the nuts.

Using baking/parchment paper

Use this paper or silicon baking mats (Sil-Pats)  when baking bread rolls, cookies, and so on. They are much better than greasing the baking tray, and the added thickness of a silicon mat helps prevent cookies from being overcooked on the bottom.

Baking cakes with eggs

You will get far better results if the eggs and butter are at room temperature.

Making Pastry

You will get far better results if the butter or margarine and the water are cold. Avoid over-kneading. Refrigerate and cover for about 30 minutes before using.

Cooking Hints

Using aluminum foil

When using  foil for covering food during cooking, such baking potatoes in foil use a layer of parchment/baking paper between the food and the foil. This prevents any undesirable chemical reaction between the foil and the food.

Thawing meat

Don't use a microwave. Instead place the meat, sealed in plastic, in the sink with enough cold water to cover. Change the water after half an hour if necessary. Most meats will thaw within an hour.

Boiling eggs

To prevent hard water from leaving a scale on your saucepan when boiling eggs, add a teaspoon of white vinegar to the water. To prevent the eggs from cracking, always start cooking in enough cold water to cover the eggs and bring them gently to a boil.

Peeling Apples

After peeling and cutting up the apples, cover them with a mixture of 1/4 cup cold water and a teaspoon of lemon juice - this will prevent them from going brown. The same method can be used for  peeled potatoes if you are not going to cook them right away.

Using onions

If you only need 1/2 of an onion, use the top half. Store the bottom half in a plastic bag in the fridge - it will keep better because of the root structure.

Always, always rest  meat before serving!

Roasted meat must be allowed to rest for at least 15 - 20 minutes before cutting up and serving. This allows the meat to relax and absorb liquid into any muscle cells, making the meat more tender. The additional time allows the temperature of the meat to even out throughout the roast - the temperature at the centre will actually rise by as much as ten degrees while resting so take this into consideration when considering what your final result should be.