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Baking Breads or Cakes: Is It Truly Magic?

Updated on June 12, 2010
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TRAVEL MAN decorating a cake
TRAVEL MAN decorating a cake

June 13 (Sunday) CookingTechniques - Baking

Baking will test the flexibility of a good cook. Online cook bloggers will showcase their expertise in this culinary specialty. More and more mothers or even single women open their culinary businesses online. Whether it’s just a hobby or business, as well, it is important to learn the techniques behind the magic of baking.

When we heard the word baking, for many children, it will mean “cakes” and lots of it. Well, the question is: “What magic ingredient makes exquisitely decorated cakes in patisserie shop windows so enchantingly perfect?” “Is it real or just rubberized version?” You’ll be spellbound, I’m sure but the truth is that two human hands could conjure up such trickery or you can call it sorcery.

The Baking Magic

Cake-making is an alchemy of sorts. In France, these sweet specialties used to be called gastel (now gateau), meaning a delicate food that quickly spoils. This is still somewhat true today, although the spoilage often occurs before the cake is even baked.

I’m sure many hubbers, especially mothers, will always remember these pointers to ensure that cake-making at home will be a success.

Care must be taken to ensure that all of the ingredients you intend to use are of the best quality. The flour must be sifted (even it is pre-sifted flour) to eradicate any lumps. Eggs must be removed from the refrigerator one hour before being used. If the recipe calls for separated eggs (the yellow and whites), separate them immediately after taking them from the refrigerator.

Your recipe should be one that’s well-tested and you should follow it accurately - don’t attempt improvisation unless you completely acquainted with cake chemistry. But, most recipes are geared towards the oven that is in a home between sea level and 3,000 feet. If you are at a higher altitude, you’ll have to make a few allowances. Flour is drier and more compact, so you should use slightly less than the recipe calls for. Yeast should be used sparingly because its action is stronger at these heights. Baking should be increased slightly (about 10 degrees F or 2-3 degrees Celsius).

Skill is needed to mix the ingredients to the right degree at the right time, so follow recipe directions closely. Always bake at the recommended temperature in a reliable oven. Times specified in recipes are only approximate because of the variables in the cake ingredients (freshness of leavening, amount of kneading, etc.). Cakes should be tested shortly before the end of the baking time specified. Use a cake tester, a toothpick or a wooden match which should come out clean. Or, press the cake gently with your finger - it should spring back quickly. If your finger leaves an impression on the surface, the cake is not done.

Cool the cake on a rack so that the air may circulate around it. If placed on a solid surface, no air will get to the bottom an it will cool unevenly. Generally, let it cool for about 10 minutes, then loosen the sides gently from the pan with a spatula. Remove the rack from under the pan and place it on the top. Invert quickly and remove the pan. Let it continue cooling.

Cakes should be stored in plastic wrap in the refrigerator after cooling because they’re extremely fragile. When splitting a cake for a filling, make a wide slash at the edge of the cake from top to bottom (used as guide when putting the cake back together) and put it on a flat surface. Using a long, sharp, knife, cut it in half or in thirds horizontally. Carefully lift the cut layers, spread your filling and put them back together, lining up the slash.

Before icing or frosting a cake, brush it free of loose crumbs. Place it on a cake rack covered with heavy waxed paper. Choose a frosting that fulfills your requisites of color, flavor and texture. Don’t forget that its purpose is to give the final ideal flavor and sweet contrast to the cake.

Aspiring cake decorators should keep a few tools handy: a long cake knife for cutting sponge cake, a long pallet knife for spreading icing and filling, and a French knife (like a paring knife) which may be used to cut marzipan or decorations, such as maraschino cherries. Also keep on hand different sizes of piping bags, large for meringue and small ones for trimming cakes. You can make your own bag for writing on cakes from rolled parchment paper. Rolled it into a tight cone and fold the open end down to hold it together. Tear off the bottom so that the hole is just large enough to hold the piping head required. Twist the middle of piping bags and use one hand to control the flow of the icing while the other pushes the icing toward the decorating tip. There are at least 50 different tips or piping heads available for cake decorating. The basic ones include: #2, #7, and # 22.

Use an electric mixer to whip butter cream icing and make it “smooth and light, but not runny.” The icing will be firm and easy to work with. Use a wooden spoon or spatula when spreading icing. For decorating purposes, you can whip the icing on low speed.

When icing a cake, spread your icing in a swirling figure-8 pattern. Crisscross it with the flat tip of your pallet knife to break any air bubbles, then pull a flat implement across the icing to smooth it and make the edges neat. Decorate the sides first, then the top of the cake.

Icing A Cake c/o bakingwithrose

Breadmaking is so different from most forms of cooking. Our nose will be filled with the odor of a loaf of bread that is made at home, and truly appreciate the fruit of our labor of love, that is a homemade bread.

1.Unleavened Bread - This is the initial test in making bread at home in the form of flat bread of tortillas. We will only need an all-purpose flour, butter, water and salt. No need for yeast at leavening agent. We will just knead the ingredients for about a minute and stand it for 15 minutes. Divide the dough into little balls then flatten it with rolling pin. You can bake it or just heat it in a teflon pan. Presto, you have already a set of homemade tortillas!

2. Yeast Dough - It has dramatic effect especially during the rising of dough due to its yeast content. The process involves the activating of yeast ( warm water, lttle sugar and yeast) for 10 minutes; dissolving  other ingredients (milk, butter, sugar, salt, hot water); mixing floour to the mixture; kneading the dough; first rising (about 1-1/2 hours); punching and dividing the dough and second rising (an hour) then baking it. Again, this will have a very good bread homemade by you. This is a white bread recipe; the procedure vary a little bread with other kinds of bread.

If there's a very effecient recipe of breadmaking in your hands, it will never be wasted. So start, baking your own bread now.

The Best of Cookbooks

1. Mary Ellen's BEST OF HELPFUL KITCHEN HINTS features more than 1,000 hints from solving the toughest cooking, cleaning, entertaining and storage problems. The author will show you how to save time, money, and trouble in managing your kitchen.

2. James Beard's FISH COOKERY have all the valuable information about how to choose and cook fish plus hundreds of delicious recipes that make this "a must for any good cook's collection."

With best reviews and accolades received by these cookbooks, you'll learn a lot of new ideas and sample exciting recipes from them.


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    • travel_man1971 profile imageAUTHOR

      Ireno Alcala 

      8 years ago from Bicol, Philippines

      Baking, for me,is both an enjoyment and fulfillment of being a cook. There are endless possibilities when youu bake breads, cakes, biscuits, etc.

    • thesailor profile image


      8 years ago from Seven Seas

      I like tortillas. Though it's unleavened, the taste of basic bread is there. Some people have allergies on leavened bread, especially yeast allergy.


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