Jane Asher: my baking hints and tips
Actress Jane Asher runs a successful baking website which includes beautiful cakes, great equipment and baking classes. Jane is getting involved in this year’s Blooming Great Tea Party and has already contributed a lovely saffron cupcake recipe to our tea party celebrity recipe page. Here she offers some top tips for baking beginners. If Jane has inspired you to get baking, why not sign up to host your own tea party?
If you haven’t baked before, it’s a good idea to begin with an all-in-one recipe – this means that the cake will be fool-proof and easy to make. All-in-one recipes have some extra baking powder in the ingredients, this means that instead of the lightness of the cake depending on the beating air into the creaming of the fat and sugar at the beginning, everything is just put into the mixing bowl at once and beaten together either in a mixer or by hand.
The cake is guaranteed to rise and will taste and look fine – particularly if it’s flavoured, like a chocolate or lemon cake for example. I find I can sometimes taste the extra raising ingredient in a plain sponge cake so I tend to use the traditional method most of the time.
Baking: a science
Baking is a very scientific business. Success depends – at least when you start – on following a recipe closely in terms of quantities, size of tin and oven temperature. It’s not like other cooking when you can throw in whatever happens to be in the fridge or some interesting new ingredient you’ve seen in the shops and assume all will be well.
When you first begin to bake you might be disappointed by the taste and texture if you get too experimental. Size of tin to quantity of mix can make all the difference between a light, fluffy cake and a thin, tough one. And do check that your oven temperature is reasonably accurate if you get consistently disappointing results.
Using the right ingredients
The new ‘Supreme’ or ‘Premium’ self-raising flours are really good – and absolutely do not need sifting. I also now always use spreadable butter in the initial creaming with the sugar. This butter is lighter and easier to work with than full butter and you don’t have to remember to get it out of the fridge!
When using chocolate it’s important to use a really good quality one and in a form that’s easy to melt. Belgian chocolate chips come in various strengths and in milk, white and plain (you can buy them from my online shop if you can’t find them locally). They’re the ones I use for all my baking.
Enjoyment is the key
Most of all, enjoy it and don’t get too tense, which I know can be easier said than done. And certainly, if you’re going to be doing baking reasonably regularly, a good electric mixer is a very worthwhile investment – I wouldn’t be without mine. Finally, cheat wherever necessary and don’t feel guilty: there are such wonderful cake mixes and ready-made decorations around nowadays that anyone can produce something at home to be proud of.
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