Baking 101 (Part 4)

We’ve reached the final part of baking month and the final instalment of the baking talk with Nodee di. This time we talk primarily about recipes and inspiration, just what the beginner baker needs to get going. We hoped you enjoyed this collab as much as we did making it.

Utsav:  How strictly do you stick to a recipe while baking? How important is precision?

Nodee:  I think it depends on how often you’ve made similar desserts. If I’m new to it, i try to stick to the recipe. Precision is key when it’s a dessert so try to not change the ratio of ingredients. However it’s fun to be adventurous once you are conversant in a particular dessert, now i mostly give myself creative license (while preparing for failures of course!)

Strawberry cakes forever

U:  Yes I agree. It has something to do with getting a hang of what the consistency should be like. Cake batter too thick? Add a splash of milk.

N:  Absolutely. And like any hobby, practice makes perfect.

U:  Exactly. But that kind of judgement comes with experience. A novice will still have to stick to a recipe. Which brings me to the cups versus grams conundrum. While the latter is definitely more precise, it is a tad cumbersome. Is it worth it to invest in a scale for accurate measurements?

N:  If you are a serious baker, yes. But honestly, you don’t need it for cakes or brownies. If you are attempting choux pastry however, it’s really necessary to get the perfect consistency every time.

U:  How often do you try your hand at these finicky, advanced stuff like choux pastry or homemade puff pastry?

Choux pastry or cream puffs (more on these some other time)

N:  Choux is actually not all it’s made out to be. If you get your proportions correct, it is simple enough. Homemade puff pastry is a bit more finicky and time consuming. This is my simplified recipe!

https://dreamsofcocoa.wordpress.com/2018/11/18/good-morning-to-choux/

U:  Excellent. Your recipes are always brilliant and the puns in the titles are equally good. What are some of your go-to sources, your favourite chefs and home bakers when it comes to new recipes?

N:  So for the basic baking i like:

Joy of baking

Sally’s baking addiction

Recipe tin eats

And one of my favourite blogs for healthier eating:

Chocolate covered Katie

Joy of Baking

U:  Healthy baking is something you have a real interest in, and it shows in some of your recipes. I’ve talked about some of it in one of my earlier blog posts but do tell me more about it. How do you go about transforming a decadent treat into something that’s lighter on the calories as well as the conscience?

N:  If you make and eat as much sweet stuff as i do, some of it better be healthy! And i follow some wonderful chefs with a passion to make things healthier. It is easy to substitute some ingredients like butter for oil or mashed banana, use powdered jaggery or sugar substitutes in place of sugar, and oat or whole wheat in place of all purpose flour.

U:  Jaggery as a substitute for sugar sounds wonderful, since jaggery has its own set of complex flavours and a gorgeous colour. Would it be a good idea to use it in any dish that calls for brown sugar, or do you separately stock brown sugar for the purpose of baking?

N:  I do actually keep brown sugar for some brownies and cookies, since you get good quality stuff now online!

Chocolate cookies

U:  As for the flours, is it really necessary to have bread flour or cake flour for specialist applications, or does plain old all purpose flour do the trick?

N:  I don’t have any of that, as you can pretty much substitute away. For cake flour, use 2tbsp corn flour added to a well sieved cup of ap flour for the correct consistency.

U:  Just to clarify, what kind of recipes would actually call for cake flour instead of all purpose, and what kind of difference does it make to the final product?

N:  Cake flour is good for recipes that need a delicate soft crumb. Like a genoise or Angel food cake.

U:  Is there any hack up your sleeve to get around the unavailability of bread flour during breadmaking? Or does all purpose flour work fine?

N:  It works absolutely fine. Just be sure to sieve it well.

Banana Nut Muffins

U:  You’ve baked a lot over the years. What are some of your most favourite recipes?

N:  That’s like asking me to choose my favourite kid! I really don’t think i could pick. But I’m proud of some recipes that are totally my invention.

U:  And what would some of those be?

N:  Probably my Orange almond cake. And my hazelnut chocolate tart, the healthy cheesecake… Etc.

https://dreamsofcocoa.wordpress.com/2019/03/05/orange-you-glad-for-this-cake/

U:  Your blog really is a treasure trove of amazing recipes, a real inspiration for people who really want to try out home baking but are a bit confused about where to begin. How about you pick out some of your simplest recipes to help ease their way into the magnificent world of baking?

Cakestravaganza

N:  Sure. This is a simple chocolate cake recipe, adapted from Hershey’s

https://dreamsofcocoa.wordpress.com/2019/02/13/cakestravaganza/

Simple chocolate cookies with a healthy twist

https://dreamsofcocoa.wordpress.com/2018/08/17/cookie-monster/

Hacked lemon pie which barely needs any cooking

https://dreamsofcocoa.wordpress.com/2018/10/30/shamelessly-mainstream-lemon-meringue-pie/

U:  I love how you picked out a cake, a cookie and a pie. I’m sure this simple trio of recipes along with your amazing tips and tricks would be invaluable to for the aspiring baker. Any closing advice for all the starry-eyed baking enthusiasts out there?

N:  The most important thing to remember is to feel the love of the journey, and not worry about the destination, when you’re baking. I’ve stayed afloat many times for the love of the process, and I’ve seen many young enthusiasts who feel the same. There’s joy in sharing a warm piece of cake with people you care about, and isn’t the human connection ever so important in today’s day? Spread the love and the Nutella folks. Happy baking!

Pavlova

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