SO YOU THINK YOU CAN’T BAKE
I’m about to make a controversial statement, so steady yourselves. Baking is easier than cooking. There, I said it. My dad once said to me that cooking is an art and baking is a science, and while I would argue that each require a little of both, he’s definitely not wrong.
Baking requires you to follow a recipe, exactly, and if you do (and it’s a good recipe) you will get a guaranteed result. There are sometimes some confusing terms (for example, whip, cream, beat and fold are all just different stirring techniques… not whatever you might be thinking. Get your mind out of the gutter.) In baking there’s a lot less chucking random ingredients together and seeing what happens (I mean, you CAN do that… but the results will be far from predictable). Exact oven temperatures, measurements and timings are all very important. Important… but not difficult! I am not a precise person, nor a meticulous one, so if I can manage it, you sure can.
Here are some common arguments I hear against baking, and my VERY PERSUASIVE COUNTERARGUMENTS:
“But I don’t have any of the ingredients.”
Are you a human being who needs sustenance? Do you, on occasion, go to the supermarket? Yes? Next time you’re there, buy the following four items: Self-raising flour, caster sugar, eggs, butter. Congratulations. You can now make a whole variety of cakes and biscuits! Of course, if you want to go a bit crazy with vanilla extract and chocolate chips and sugar roses while you’re there, I ain’t gonna stop ya. More is more!
“I don’t know how to do it without a packet mix.”
Please don’t use a packet mix. A packet mix is literally someone mixing together the dry ingredients for you, adding some questionable preservativey chemicals, then jacking up the price. Don’t do it!! Stick to super easy recipes (I’m about to share one of my faves with you) and you’ll be more than ok.
“I don’t have the time.”
If you have the time to go to the shops to buy some brownies, you have time to make brownies. It can literally be done in 20 mins start to finish. Also, this is kind of fair, time is precious – but don’t see baking as a chore! Once you wrap your head around it, baking is a really lovely and relaxing pastime that has the added bonus of delicious freshly baked goods when you’re done.
“I can’t be bothered with the washing up.”
Yeah look, I feel you. Washing up is the bane of my existence. But if you run a sink of hot soapy water before you start, and chuck things in there as you’ve finished using them, the whole thing is pretty achievable. Also, always use baking paper! Makes life much easier.
“I’m scared I’ll burn it/undercook it/generally balls it up.”
LIFE IS SCARY. You gotta break eggs to make cake. Learning is doing. Mistakes shapeth the baker. Etc, etc, now stop being silly.
Here are a few more of my top hints:
- I have never, ever gone wrong with one of Nigella’s recipes. They’re beautifully written and work every time. Buy her books, but also there’s heaps on her website nigella.com. I’m not paid to say this, I just idolise the demerara sugar out of that woman.
- Get to know your oven. Some run hot, some run cold, some burn from the bottom, some are just utter bastards. There’s definitely a dirty joke to be made here, I just can’t quite put my finger on it.
- You will need the following equipment: mixing bowl, wooden spoon, measuring cups, measuring spoons, oven tray. Anything else is just a FRIVOLOUS LUXURY THAT YOU CAN DO WITHOUT (except a cake tin if you want to make a cake. You definitely need one of those).
- Never ice a warm cake. The icing melts and it quickly becomes, quite literally, a hot mess.
- If something is burning on the top but not cooking on the inside, cover it with foil and turn the oven down a bit. Don’t cry. You’re stronger than that. Everything will be fine!
OK! To demonstrate all of my above (brilliant) points, we are going to make the world’s easiest and most delicious cookies. You can make them ANY FLAVOUR YOU LIKE – my fave combos are cranberry/white chocolate and hazelnut/dark chocolate.
EASY, PERFECT, CHEWY-IN-THE-MIDDLE COOKIES
200g unsalted butter (softened but NOT melted)
1 x cup brown sugar
2 x eggs
2 x tsp vanilla extract (or essence if you’re being cheap. No judgement.)
2 1/2 x cups plain flour
1 x tsp bicarb soda
3 x cups of your fave cookie bits (suggestions: milk chocolate chips, dark chocolate chips, white chocolate chips, caramel chips, chopped dried apricots, dried cranberries, walnuts, pecans, hazelnuts, pistachios, macadamias, smarties. Any combination of the above is good. I don’t use sultanas because they disappoint people, and I don’t use peanuts because one of my best friends is deathly allergic and I’m a little bit scared of accidentally murdering him).
- Preheat the oven to 180ºc. If, like me, you forget to do this, everything will take MUCH longer and you will eat half the cookie dough while you’re waiting for it to heat up. Be better than me. Don’t do this.
- Cream the butter and sugar – this means mixing until light and fluffy. Electric beaters make this much easier but it can be achieved with a wooden spoon and a strong will.
- Mix the eggs and vanilla in, then the flour and bicarb. You ought to sift this but I probs won’t judge you if you don’t.
- Have you got a nice mixture/soft dough now? STOP EATING IT. STOP IT. I SEE YOU.
- Mix in your bits! Nice and thoroughly. PLEASE stop eating the mixture, there won’t be enough for the cookies!!
- Roll into balls and pop on a baking tray. How many cookies you end up with will depend on the size you roll them – if you do them tablespoon-sized you should get about 40, IF you haven’t EATEN all the MIXTURE you greedy little goblin.
- Bake for about 10 mins, til they’re golden on top.
- Enjoy!! Use them to win friends and influence people! YAASSSS QUEENS! (I am watching the new season of Queer Eye while I write this and I AM VERY EXCITED ABOUT LIFE.)