Before You Bake Anything, Read These Tips from Local Bakers

Words: Katrina Rose Wind

We asked your favourite local bakeries (and one chocolatier) what tips they have for at-home or aspiring 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. Without further ado, here are some helpful baking tips.


SCHOON is pulling through with all the tips! They take their bread-making very seriously. Fritz Schoon of SCHOON, adamantly says to stay away from recipes that refer to ‘knocking back’ dough. That’s ‘old school’ and not in a cool way. What you want to do is fold your dough gently and not knock the life out of it. Look for recipes that refer to ‘folding dough’ instead, as well as long, ‘cool fermentation’.

Secondly, use a cast iron pot. But 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, similar to the picturesque 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 home-bakers. One should strive to bake sourdough breads, here’s a big 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. SCHOON uses Gideon Milling because the brand has 100% traceability on every bag and their farmers are legit. They mill slowly and at cooler temperatures and this, for you, means FLAVOUR.Oh and all the healthy stuff too…

Don’t forget about  another 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 or order on UberEats or Mr Delivery. We would just like to note that his email signoff was ‘EAT MORE BREAD’ . If that doesn’t tell you that they mean business, we don’t know what else will.

Woodstock Bakery

Owner & Baker at Woodstock Bakery, Paul Hartmann’s advice to all the home bakers out there is to 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, 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.

Lastly, he says temperature is super duper important, for both the dough & the oven; 24-26 ºC for the dough & 250-300 ºC 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 Oranjezicht City Farm Market every Saturday. For deliveries and collection contact the bakery directly on 074 797 7324.


Honest Chocolate

baking tips

This has to be one of my favourite spots in town. Honest Chocolate’s Double Chocolate Brownies are out of this world! Pair one 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 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. This might sound weird but it works like a charm! If you’re wondering what a water ganache is, I’ve got you covered — it’s basically a ganache with water instead of cream, the method is essentially the same.

Honest Chocolate does nation-wide delivery and you can check their online store out.


baking tips

Nikki Symons, the owner and creative director of this great pâtisserie studio also offered up some tips for us pâtisserie newbies. She advises that in order to guarantee freshness and the best results, you should be making your own self-raising flour instead of buying. Simply mix 1 cup of cake flour with 7.5 ml baking powder and 1.25 ml salt. Sounds simple enough, right?

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 it until it’s runny, then pour back into your bulk frosting and mix through. Your buttercream should be nice and smooth and shiny.

Browse their website for an incredible range of baked goods that can be pre-ordered, or visit  them at Maker’s Landing and pick up a sweet treat in person.


Karl’s Bakehouse

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—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 in order to give  good oven-spring and flavour. Starters should be predictable in their 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’s at the peak of its rise. A good starter routine is vital to sourdough success.

Tessendorf then goes on to say that when it comes to flour you should be using the best stone ground flour from Eureka or Gideon Mills. But, if you can’t find it, any bread flour still makes for a 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 blindly following a recipe, as you would for a cake. Sourdough uses wild yeasts and bacteria and every element from your water/flour and room temperature to the amount of water and the type of flour you use, affect 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.

Check out his bread-making skills on Instagram.


baking tips

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.

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. Yes, it’s true your cookies can be even better.

If a recipe calls for sifting, do it. Trust us, it makes a world of difference. It’ll minimise lumps and ensure dry ingredients get incorporated well. It seems like such a small, insignificant step but as we know, baking is all about precision!

Fluffy whipped cream is just the best. To ensure that you have 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.

The very last baking tip we have for you is a simple one. Set your timer three to five minutes earlier than the recipe calls for. This is for all the nervous bakers out there. In our 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 baking time is up. If it needs a bit more time, leave it in the oven for longer, but if it looks ready, take it out — it’s not worth risking it.

Check out some of our favourite bread, cake and cookie recipes right here.

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