Before You Bake Anything, Read These Tips from Local Bakers
We asked your favourite local bakeries (and one chocolatier) what tips they have for at-home or wannabe bakers. Once your pantry is fully stocked with all the baking goods you need, you can set up, refer to this article and start baking. Long gone are the days where you blankly stare at your failed attempts at baked goods asking the gods why this happened to you. Or is that just me? Without further ado, here are some helpful baking tips.
SCHOON pulling through with all the tips! They take their bread-making very seriously. Fritz Schoon adamantly says to stay away from recipes that refer to “knocking back” dough. That’s “old school” and not in a cool way. You want to fold your dough gently. Look for recipes that refer to folding dough as well as long, cool fermentation.
Secondly, use a cast iron pot. Don’t mess around. A preheated cast iron pot mimics a wood-fired oven almost perfectly. High, direct heat gives you oven spring and a perfectly caramelised crust. The cool ones that you see on Instagram.
Water. Use a lot of it! Don’t be scared. Aim to get to 90% in relation to your flour quantity. But only if you are baking in a pot though. Water creates the freedom for big pockets to develop and gives you a moist and chewy crumb.
When it comes to making sourdough – leavening your dough with “natural”- or wild yeasts is the ultimate goal for the homebaker. One should strife to bake sourdough breads BUT if you are starting off for the first time then it is not a bad idea to use fresh yeast to leaven your bread. Fresh yeast is more predictable and consistent and still produces delicious bread.
Schoon goes on to say, all flour is not equal. Get stoneground flour. They use Gideon Milling because they have 100% traceability on every bag and their farmers are legit. They mill slowly and at cooler temperatures and this, for you, means FLAVOUR. And all the healthy stuff too.
Don’t forget about the other critical ingredient; water. Always use filtered water. “Hard water” is best – river or mountain water or something. Basically, mineral rich water. Proper ingredients fermenting together and then being baked off, how bad can the result be?
Lastly, Schoon advises that you should make contact with your local baker. It’s great to have a personal soundboard. Just remember they also have a day job so arrive with your sample for advice and not with a hundred questions about baking from scratch without trying yet. He then adds that it might be worth getting a good book. He recommends BREAD by Jeffrey Hamelman or Markus Farbinger’s (Ile de Pain) DVDs. An early 20s version of him makes a short appearance.
You can download their app for daily deliveries during lockdown or order on UberEats or Mr Delivery. I would just like to note that his email signoff was ‘EAT MORE BREAD’ If that doesn’t tell you that they mean business, I don’t know what else will.
Paul Hartmann, Owner & Baker at Woodstock Bakery, advises that you must use the best ingredients you can afford. I’m guessing he’s saying if you can afford to spend a little more on ingredients then you should. Can’t argue with that logic, if it’s going to make your baked goods that much better then why not go wild and splurge a little.
Hartmann goes on to say the most important thing is to be patient as you cannot hurry good bread making. Guys, I can attest to this. It took me eight hours, EIGHT HOURS to make the most delicious rye sourdough. Was it super time consuming? Yes. Was it worth it? Also yes.
Lastly, he says temperature is super duper important, for both the dough & the oven; 24-26 degrees for the dough & 250-300 degrees for the oven.
You can find Woodstock Bakery bread and baked goods (including sourdough, ciabatta, bagels, croissants and baguettes) at a range of local delis and shops in Cape Town. You can also visit their stall at the OZC Farm Market every Saturday. For deliveries and collection contact the bakery directly on 074 797 7324.
This has to be one of my favourite spots in town. Their sweet potato dark chocolate brownie is out of this world. Pair it with a cup of coffee and you’re in business. Thank goodness that Anthony Gird, the owner of Honest Chocolate, agreed to share some of his tips with us.
Gird says, never melt chocolate directly in a pan on the stove. Always use a “double boiler” system – a bowl on top of a pot of hot water. And don’t let the pot of hot water boil, chocolate is a sensitive creature!
He then goes on to say that when mixing chocolate with cream or butter for a ganache, it’s best to have the ingredients at approximately the same temperature, it avoids the mixture from splitting. Guess who’s making a ganache this weekend? This girl.
Lastly, he says if you’re making a water ganache and it splits, add a little bit more water to get it back. Sounds weird but it works! If you, like me, was wondering what the hell a water ganache is, I got you covered. It’s just making ganache with water instead of cream, the method is basically the same.
You can check them out on their online store, they are doing nation-wide delivery.
Nikki Albertyn, the owner and creative director of this great pâtisserie studio also offered up some tips for us pâtisserie newbies. She advises that we should be making our own self-raising flour instead of store-bought. Albertyn says you simply have to mix 1 cup of cake flour with 7.5 ml baking powder and 1.25 ml salt. Sounds simple enough!
She then goes on to say it’s important to ‘temper’ your Swiss meringue buttercream to get it nice and smooth. Once you’ve whipped up your buttercream, take out a scoop or two, microwave until it’s runny, pour back into your bulk frosting and mix through. Your buttercream should be nice and smooth and shiny! This is for all the meringue lovers out there.
LionHeart is offering pretty much everything on their website except for floral decorated cakes and are only allowing for deliveries, no collections. You can check out their COVID-19 health and sanitation protocols they are taking during this time on their website.
Now for another bread expert, Karl from Karl’s Bakehouse tells us some of his fool-proof baking tips. When it comes to sourdough starters he says the thing to remember is that it’s just like having a dog. You feed it twice a day and if you are good to it, it will be good to you.
You need to keep the sourdough starter strong and predictable. It must be strong and hungry so that it will give your bread good oven spring and flavour. It must be predictable in its rise and fall cycle (which is determined by you feeding it at the same time every day) so that you can use it when it is at the peak of its rise when it is strongest. Good starter routine is the key to sourdough success.
Tessendorf then goes on to say that when it comes to flour you should be using the best stoneground flour from Eureka or Gideon Mills. But if you can’t find it during lockdown don’t panic, just get your hands on any bread flour you can and still make good bread – especially if you are at the start of your sourdough journey. Just bake as often as you can to refine your technique and learn to read the dough.
One last thing to keep in mind when making sourdough, he says, is that it’s not always as easy as just following a recipe like you would for a cake. Sourdough uses wild yeasts and bacterias and every element like your water temperature, your flour temperature, the weather outside, how much water you use and the type of flour you use have an effect on the result. Try to keep things as consistent as possible. Learn to read and feel what the dough is doing and listen to your gut. If the recipe says 3 hours for bulk fermentation but you think the dough needs another hour then do it.
Karl is starting a sourdough subscription service. This will be launching soon in the West Coast area servicing Tableview, Milnerton, Blouberg and Melkbos. If you’re interested in fresh sourdough (and who wouldn’t be) send an enquiry via email for more information.
Once lockdown is over Karl will be running sourdough classes which you will be able to book for. In the meantime, you can check out his bread-making skills on Instagram.
That’s right, it’s us. We got some baking tips that should help you with your next baking endeavour. This may seem like an obvious one but people forget to do this all the time. Prep your pan before you prep your dough or batter. Avoid a disaster and just prep everything beforehand. Once your ingredients are mixed together, you need to pop your baked good in the oven immediately.
I didn’t know this next tip until recently but it really does work! Let your cookie dough chill in the fridge for at least 24 hours before baking. This improves the dough’s texture and the shortening melts more slowly so the biscuits hold their shape when they bake. Who knew that cookies could be even better?
If a recipe calls for sifting, do it. Trust me, it makes a world of difference. It’ll minimise lumps and ensure dry ingredients get incorporated well. It seems like such a small insignificant part but as we know, baking is aaaaaaall about precision.
Fluffy whipped cream is just the best. To ensure the fluffiest whipped cream, refrigerate your mixing bowl beforehand. Let it sit in the fridge for about thirty minutes before the whole process of beating the cream. For some reason, it makes the cream that much fluffier and more stable. Who knew!
The very last baking tip we have for you is a simple one. Set your timer to three to five minutes before baking is supposed to be done. This is for all the OCD people out there. In my opinion, it’s always better to be safe than sorry. Not all ovens are created equal, and you can never really trust the time and temperature a recipe calls for because your oven might be different. Best to avoid overcooking or drying out your baked goods by simply checking it before the timer is up. If it needs a bit more time leave it in but if it looks ready, take it out, it’s not worth risking it.
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