If you’re baking at home and wondering how you can improve your skills, there are a few key qualities that can help you to progress as a baker.
Baking is a juggling act. This means organising everything from your ingredients to forward-thinking your way through the stages of the recipe.
Lots of thinking ahead is required when you’re a baker and you need to be considering what needs to be done in advance so that everything is ready when needed. It also means incorporating steps that aren’t necessarily in the recipe, such as cleaning down your kitchen as you go.
Weigh out your ingredients before you start, check that everything is ready to use (e.g. chopped chocolate, butter and eggs at room temperature) and that you have all the necessary equipment prepared.
It might help to write a quick timeline if your recipe is particularly complicated, just to remind you in short form what needs to be done when.
2) Attention to detail
Accuracy is important when it comes to baking. It is a precise science and the wrong sort of raising agent or incorrect oven temperature can create problems.
Careful attention to detail is necessary when baking, starting with reading the recipe from start to finish before doing anything. If you don’t understand the steps and processes, you might end up misunderstanding what is required.
Read your labels when preparing ingredients and use an oven thermometer to check your oven is baking at the correct temperature. All measuring equipment should be in working order with clear markings.
If hand-eye coordination doesn’t come naturally to you, you can learn with practice.
Skills such as cake decorating, using a palette knife, piping, painting and making intricate sugar fondant decorations all take time and effort. When it comes to proficiency in these skills, it takes years to master.
Books and online tutorials are a great way to get inspiration and practice new decorating techniques. If you really wish to progress with your decoration, there are lots of courses available which can be done as a hobby or for those looking to become a professional baker.
Many of us are guilty of wanting to skip to the next step when undertaking the more tedious elements of a baking recipe. It takes patience to ensure that things are done to a high standard in baking, the most common examples being whisking, creaming and mixing.
Lots of tasks in baking require that time be taken to let important processes occur. Whether that is waiting for yeast to activate so that your bread rises, whisking a custard until lumps are removed, stirring a filling until it is a smooth consistency or creaming butter and sugar for long enough that air can be incorporated into the mixture.
Don’t be tempted to fast-forward these critical stages; they can make all the difference between a sunken cake and perfectly risen sponge.
All dessert recipes that we know and love have been invented by cooks and bakers looking to bring something new to the table. Having a flair for baking means knowing what flavours work well and being able to experiment successfully using your technical know-how.
Creativity in baking can also be expressed through cake decoration, which can involve anything from brainstorming physics-defying cake structures to crafting elaborate sugar fondant flowers. Many cake decorators are also handy with a paintbrush and use edible paints to create wonderful details.