What you need to know before you start baking

If you're wary of attempting your grandma's favourite recipes because of fear of failure, just follow these tried-and-true tips.

What you need to know before you start baking

With a little effort, you can turn out delicious baked goods every time. Once you master the art of making dough, there is no limit to what you can prepare in the kitchen. Here is what you need to get started.

  • Partially replace butter with oil or add 15 millilitres (one tablespoon) of vinegar to cake batter to make cake turn out especially light. To get the same result, substitute mineral water for half of the milk.
  • Baking pans slightly warmed in the oven are easier to grease.
  • Before baking, poke yeast, shortening, and puff pastry doughs several times with a fork to keep them from forming bubbles.
  • After rising, yeast dough should no longer stick to your fingers when you knead it. Shortcake dough should be smooth after kneading; if it crumbles, it is too dry.
  • Don't open the oven in the first 20 minutes, or your cake may fall. A cake rises beautifully when you place a heat-resistant container of water into the oven with it.
  • To test whether your cake is done, pierce the dough with a toothpick. If no dough clings to it when you pull it out, the cake is ready to come out of the oven.
  • Cakes should never be cooled too quickly or they may collapse. Leave them in the oven with the door open until they cool.

Classic baking powder biscuits

These simple biscuits take just minutes to make and don't require extra time for leavening. Eat them warm from the oven with butter and jam.

  1. Sift 500 millilitres (two cups) sifted flour. Add 10 millilitres (two teaspoons) baking powder and two millilitres (1/2 teaspoon) salt and sift again.
  2. Cut in 60 millilitres (four tablespoons) butter or shortening with a pastry cutter (or two knives) until you have pea-sized crumbs.
  3. Gradually add 175 millilitres (3/4 cup) milk, stirring until a loose dough forms.
  4. Turn out onto a lightly floured board and knead lightly for about 30 seconds.
  5. Roll out your dough to about 2.5 centimetres (one inch) thick and cut out shapes with a five centimetre (two inch) cookie cutter.
  6. Bake on an ungreased baking sheet in a preheated 200°C (400°F) oven for 12 to 15 minutes.

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