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Baking Blind is the term used when it is necessary to partly bake a pastry case before adding a filling for some flan and quiche recipes. It is just a way of setting and sealing the pastry so that any filling doesn't leak out or make the pastry soggy before your quiche or custard has had time to cook through properly.
When you are making the pastry, Keep the dough and your hands as cool as you can.
After you have made your dough, It is essential that you allow the pastry to rest for half an hour or so, before rolling it out and lining your tin. just pop the ball of dough into a clean plastic bag to prevent it from drying out, then put it in the fridge to keep it cold.
(Please see my sections on making and rolling out pastry for more detailed information).
When the half hour is up, take the dough from the fridge, and try not to overwork or stretch the pastry when you are rolling it out.
Always use the correct size tin, as stated in your recipe.
When you line the tin, Push the pastry right down into the base and firmly up against the sides and right into any fluted edges.
Let the pastry rest and get cold again after you have rolled it out and lined the flan tin. Just put your lined tin into a plastic bag, then put it back in the fridge for a further half hour.
Don't forget to pre-heat your oven to the correct temperature, as given in your recipe.
When you are ready to continue with your baking, take the tin of pastry from the fridge, and unwrap it.
Now, Prick the base of the pastry case all over with a fork, so that any air can escape from underneath as it cooks, this will help to prevent the pastry from trying to rise up in the tin.
Now Line the pastry case with either kitchen foil or greaseproof or silicone parchment paper.
Then add either a good layer of ceramic baking beans (available from good cookshops), or if you don't have these, dried peas or beans, or even dried pasta will be fine. They will weigh the pastry down in the tin to prevent any rising up and shrinkage.
Now, follow the baking instructions in your recipe for the first stage where it tells you to "bake blind", for the appropriate length of time at the correct oven temperature.
After "baking Blind", Remove the pastry from the oven, let the tin cool slightly, then tip out the baking beans and peel off the paper or foil, before adding the filling and continuing with the recipe.
A good crisp end result is achieved when you bake blind for things like egg custard and quiche Lorraine
There are two things that seem to fill the prospective cook with dread, one is making bread, the other cakes. The first thing to remember, which should make us feel better, is that, years ago our grandmas used to make them with ease, never weighing anything out, baking with less sophisticated equipment and cooking facilities than we have today, with excellent results. Therefore, logic tells us that it can't really be all that difficult, can it! It doesn't help when tradition has dictated that the housewife ought to be able to make a cake for her family and friends at the drop of a hat, the finished result being the focal point of the family tea table, by which she would be judged on her culinary ability. Because of this fact, today, it might well seem easier and less hassle, to simply pick up a ready made shop bought cake from the supermarket shelf, but have you ever asked yourself why that really is? Apart from the fact that you can simply open the box and eat it straight away, could it be that your worried about spending time preparing and baking, only to end up with something that's completely inedible? I won't let you make the excuse that it costs more to buy all the raw ingredients, just look at the size of the tiny shop boxed cake and imagine that next to the large, tasty home made cake that you, I promise, are more than capable of making. You do not have to be a culinary genius to bake. Your family and friends will know that you care about them, they'll be full of admiration when they come round for tea and realise that you have made time to bake a cake especially for them.
The information I give here is practical, and general, some is specifically for blind and visually-impaired cooks. It would be imposssible to deal with specific problems that people might have, but, if general guidelines are followed there will be less chance of encountering difficulties when cake making.
Oven temperatures and cooking times may vary and should be used for general guidance only.
Probably the two most important things to bear in mind before you start baking, are, Firstly, that you must buy the correct size tin mentioned in your recipe, using one that is either too small, too large, too shallow or too deep, is the main cause of problems when baking your cake.
Follow your recipe correctly. Each specific recipe has been developed with care and precision to ensure a good result, please follow it without deviation.
Always remember, oven temperatures given are for guidance only, your own oven's temperature may vary slightly.
If you are going to be baking regularly, invest in a good quality hand mixer or food processor as it will cut down on time and save on your aching wrists!
Please don't substitute one ingredient for another, i.e. self-raising flour for plain, dark brown sugar for caster sugar, it is possible to adapt recipes very slightly but not to that extent.
Always give yourself plenty of time to bake, don't plan to try making your first cake a couple of hours before your afternoon guests arrive. I want you to relax and enjoy baking, it really is very easy.
You can't expect your cake to be a success if you don't have the right tools for the job. You will need a few basic necessities to start with. a large, sturdy, deep mixing bowl, plus several smaller bowls to hold separate ingredients. A small jug, Weighing scales, (the solid balance style with a large pan and weights in either or both metric and imperial are particularly suitable), measuring cups and spoons, A hand mixer or food processor, a wooden spoon, tablespoon, teaspoon, fork, plastic or rubber spatula, round bladed knife, small sharp knife, scissors, sieve, Greaseproof, parchment or silicone (bakewell) paper, good quality oven gloves, wire cooling racks, sturdy baking tins and trays of the type and size recommended in your recipes, a large airtight tin or container to store your cake to keep it fresh
Shop for all the ingredients you will need well in advance, there is nothing more frustrating than opening the cupboard to find that you have run out of something vital.
About an hour before you are ready to start making your cake, take your butter or margarine and eggs out of the fridge and allow them to come up to kitchen temperature.
When the hour is almost up, Set your oven to the required temperature mentioned in the recipe.
Adjust your oven shelves to ensure that there will be enough space between them to slide your cake in to the correct position easily. Its much safer to try this with an empty tin and cool oven now, rather than when you're wearing oven gloves, so you can't feel the shelf grooves. Getting tangled up with the other shelves while you readjust them when the oven is hot could cause a nasty burn or accident. Remember that, once the temperature has been reached, a fan assisted oven, has an even temperature throughout the oven cavity, therefore, it is less important to position the tin in a specific place,
Prepare your cake tin now, please use the tin or tins as specified in your recipe and not those that you think might just do! Grease the tin, line it and grease your paper again. If you are making little cakes in cake cases, don't forget to grease the insides of the patty tins too before putting the paper cases in, this will make them stay in position and it'll be a great help when it comes to adding your cake mixture to them.
Lining your tins will keep your cake moist, prevent the outside from going too brown while its cooking, and help the cake turn out of the tin, on to a wire cooling rack more easily. When it comes to peeling away the paper, there will be less chance of dislodging any delicate sponge.
(Please see my cooking and preparation techniques, For more information on lining cake tins along with the section called "is my cake cooked").
The first stage in making Many, but not all cakes is by using the "creaming Method", Where fat and sugar are beaten together. Butter and margarine are most commonly used, although some recipes call for oil, lard or other vegetable fats. Most light plain sponges, those with added fillings and flavourings, and fruit cakes are prepared using the creaming method, Consult your recipe as fatless, or whisked sponges, some gateaux's, etc, are made differently. Cakes prepared by the "rubbing in method" when the fat is taken straight from the fridge, are mixed in a similar way to pastry, (please see my section on Making Pastry for more details).
All in one sponge cakes (where all the ingredients, plus a little extra raising agent are put straight into a bowl, then whisked together are quick and easy. Please see the recipes page on this website for more information.
With your fat at room temperature, weigh out or measure your softened butter or margarine and sugar, transferring them into a large, sturdy, deep sided mixing bowl.
Now, if you need a little exercise, smile! take your wooden spoon and start to mix. "cream" the butter and sugar together, by stirring them quite vigorously, being sure to incorporate it all in from the edges as you work. Turning the bowl round gradually as you cream might help with this, if you have little or no sight.
At first the butter and sugar will stick together in a lump, but gradually it will separate out getting a little thinner and lighter in weight under your spoon. The "creaming" should take about ten minutes with a wooden spoon and 2 or 3 minutes with your hand mixer or food processor. It will be necessary to use a plastic spatula to scrape the mixture down from the sides of the bowl every now and then, to make sure that all of it is properly creamed together. If you have sight, you will see the mixture becoming paler in colour. If you don't have sight, you will still hear and feel the graininess of the sugar as you stir. This will not disappear, but the mixture will feel lighter in weight.
Make sure that your eggs are at room temperature. Break each egg into a small bowl separately, to make sure that its fresh, by holding it in one hand and giving it a sharp tap on its under side, half way along, either on the side of the bowl, or with the edge of a round bladed knife. You'll feel the shell crack and give. now, while holding the egg over the bowl, put your thumbs underneath on the weakened section of shell, with your fingers on top as a support, gently pull the two halves apart, letting the egg trickle out, tilting the shell so that all the egg falls into the bowl. Tip that egg into another clean small bowl. Repeat the process, adding each egg to the bowl with the first one. Discard the shells, rinse your hands immediately and don't be tempted to lick your fingers. (Fatless and whisked sponges require eggs to be separated, the whites and yolks added to the cake separately, so please see your recipe for details, (consult my section on separating eggs for more help.
Now that the eggs are all together in one bowl, whisk them well with a fork, keeping the prongs angled down with the back of the fork flat against the bottom of the bowl, turn the bowl round as you whisk, with short, swift movements, till the egg is smooth. This will take about a minute.
Begin to beat air into the mix by very gradually adding the egg a little at a time. Add two teaspoons of the beaten egg to the creamed butter and sugar. Now beat well with either your wooden spoon or mixer- processor, for About one minute with your spoon and 30 seconds with your mixer. Continue adding the egg 2 teaspoons at a time, beating well between additions until all the egg has been added. As you work, you'll notice that the mixture will become thicker, creamier, and it will spread upward and outward in your bowl or processor. The egg needs to be incorporated gradually to prevent the mixture from curdling. If it does curdle, please don't panic, just carry on with the next stage of your cake, as it will be of no detriment to the flavour or the end result. All it means is that the egg has been added to the fat too quickly, giving it a slight rippled, bubbly texture that doesn't look particularly nice.
Now, get rid of your processor or mixer and pick up your metal tablespoon for the next stage. This is the time to put in fruit, nuts, choc chips or other flavourings, but its important to add them as gently and carefully as possible. If you use anything electrical to mix them in too quickly or vigorously, they will be chopped up far too finely to taste, plus you will beat out all the air that you have so lovingly and carefully added. The air will insure a good, risen, even result to your finished cake, so you don't want to destroy all that good work now!
Gently, sprinkle your chosen flavouring over the top of the mixture, then starting from the edge of the bowl nearest to you, turn the spoon so that the back of it is facing away from you then slide it, side edge down into the bowl. push it away from you, still with its edge facing downwards, into the centre of the mix, lift your spoon and bring it back towards you so that you don't drag it back through the mixture, turn your bowl round a little bit and repeat the process to incorporate everything.
To stir in the flavourings, will only take about a minute.
Weigh out or measure your flour and sieve or sift it into a clean bowl. Add the flour to your mixture in two halves, still using the tablespoon with the back of it away from you and the edge of the spoon facing down, stir it in gently, turning the bowl round a little to incorporate it in from the edges. Remember to push the spoon through the mixture until its about half way across the bowl, lift the spoon, bring it back to the outside again, give your bowl a quarter turn, push it through to the centre of the mixture again, lift it up slightly so that its not being dragged back through the mix, give the bowl another quarter turn and repeat this process twice more. ~This will have mixed the flour in sufficiently, without knocking out any of the air.
Now that you have all the ingredients added, you need to know that the cake is of the correct "dropping consistency", it sounds very grand, but all it means is that you need to check that it is the right consistency before it goes into the oven.
Getting this right will insure that your finished cake has a good texture, even risen result, and you'll be able to make a more accurate calculation of the cooking time. There will also be less chance of the cake sinking in the centre, or doming up in the middle.
All that you need to do to get this right is, simply lift up a spoonful of mixture, so that its just below the top edge of the bowl, then shake it gently so that it drops back in. Depending on your recipe, you are either looking for a soft drop (for light sponges) or a little firmer (for fruit cakes), and it all relates to how easily the mixture falls from the spoon, back into the bowl. If the mix doesn't fall fairly easily, now is the time to add a little more wet ingredient, usually 1 to 2 tablespoons of cold milk, after which you need to test the "dropping consistency" again.
Put your prepared, lined and greased cake tin, along side your bowl of cake mix. Use a clean, metal spoon to add the mixture to the tin, dropping it in to the base, as evenly as you can. Your free hand is useful as it can locate the edge of the tin first, guiding the full spoon to the right place. This is where your spatula might come in useful to scrape any remaining mixture from the bowl so nothing is wasted. Remember not to over fill little paper cake cases, one heaped teaspoon should be enough for each one.
It is very important that you spend a little time making sure that the mixture is sitting evenly in the tin. Do this by using a large, flat bladed palette knife. Keeping the blade flat, start from the far edge of the tin, hold the tin with your free hand, now gently rest the blade flat on top of the cake mix and, without using too much pressure, draw the knife toward you so that it skims the top surface, gently drawing the mix out to the nearest edge of the tin. Do this again, then give the tin a quarter turn before levelling the top again as before. If you do this three or four times, you will be sure that the top surface is nice and level. This will help your cake to rise evenly.
Put on your oven gloves.
Keep your tin level while you transfer it to the pre-heated oven.
Remember to set your kitchen timer as stated in your recipe.
If you are using a fan assisted oven you may be able to lessen the cooking time by as much as a third according to the density of the cake and temperature of the oven. A light sponge may be cooked ten minutes or so earlier, a light fruit cake that usually takes just over an hour, fifteen minutes. A rich Christmas type cake which cooks for longer and much more slowly should be monitored closely and the time altered accordingly. but don't be tempted to open the oven door until the cake is at least three quarters of the way through its cooking time, after all that effort it would be very upsetting to end up with a cake that sinks in the centre because you have opened the door too soon and let in the cold air.
Finally, Please relax, smile and enjoy baking, it really is a very rewarding thing to do. When you take that lovely, well risen cake from the oven and enjoy the wonderful aroma, the taste will confirm that home made, really is the best!
Double cream or whipping cream is often used to top sponge puddings, fruit flans, trifles and desserts etc. Its flavour blends well with many others and the taste complements that of the traditional trifle, those fruit and jelly teatime treats, not forgetting the luxurious filling for those fabulous jam and cream scones.
In order to thicken it and bring it up to a more manageable consistency you will need to beat in air to expand the cream, thus enabling it to double in volume and hold its shape.
If you have only partial or no sight like myself, just a little extra care needs to be taken to ensure that you achieve a perfect result.
Take your carton of cream straight from the fridge and pour it into a fairly large bowl, remembering to allow plenty of room for the cream to expand in volume as you beat it. Now, Using a hand whisk or electric mixer on a medium setting so that the cream doesn't splash too much, whip it until it forms soft peaks. Check it every 20 seconds or so. With the beaters or whisk switched off, move them around gently in the cream, and, as it begins to thicken you should feel a gradual increase in resistance. The whisks will make less of a liquid, watery sound too, the more you beat, and the thicker the cream becomes.
When the cream is thick enough, The bowl will sound hollow and deeper in pitch if you gently lift it and tap the outside of the base or sides, this change in sound is due to the air trapped in the cream, helping it to hold its volume and shape. When you start to beat you might think that the cream isn't going to thicken, but it will after a couple of minutes and its then that you must check it regularly, as once it starts it will reach its correct consistency quite quickly.
To test for the correct consistency, (to form soft peaks), scoop up a teaspoon of cream and gently shake it over a clean saucer or tea plate, it should drop easily onto the plate, holding its shape gently but it will not feel as firm to the touch as something like a set jelly or custard.
Be very careful not to over beat the cream though, because if you get it too thick it will separate out into liquid beneath and solid fat on top.
Now, you can either Spoon the whipped cream on to your prepared pudding or dessert if its ready to go straight to the table, or, chill it in the fridge where it will set a little more, then use it to top and decorate your pudding when you are ready.
Try and keep the whipped cream chilled, as cool as possible, to help it hold its volume and shape, which will make it easier to spoon out and serve.
Separating eggs can be a tricky operation at the best of times even if you can see, but don't be put off from having a go. It is possible to do it successfully, , even if you, like myself, don't have any useful vision at all.
There are several ways of going about this, some people use the method whereby you make a small hole in one end of the shell, letting the egg white trickle out slowly into a bowl,, leaving the yolk, intact still inside the shell, but the yolk can be easily pierced and not all of the white can be extracted. I have tried to give you the most reliable way of separating them here.
First of all, search the shops and hardware stores for a large, solid plastic or metal egg separator that has a flat base or bottom with a deep central well, a handle on one end and a lip on the other.
Make sure that your eggs are as fresh as possible. From my own experience, it doesn't matter at all whether they are barn, farmed or free range, its the temperature and consistency of the egg that determines how easy it is going to be to separate it successfully.
Take your eggs out of the fridge an hour or so before you need to separate them and let them come up to room temperature.
You are going to need to use1 teacup standing on a large plate, , a blunt edged flat bladed kitchen knife and two sturdy glass or ceramic bowls which are better than plastic as there is less chance of them tipping over. One to hold the yolks and the other for the egg whites.
Firstly, make sure that your egg separator will sit firmly and safely over the top of the teacup, so that the handle and lip rest on the rim of the cup, to support it. Stand them on a large plate, to catch any spillage.
Take an egg in one hand and the flat-bladed knife in the other. Find the centre of the depth of the egg and gently tap all the way round its diameter with the edge of the knife so that you can just feel that the shell is slightly cracked and crinkly. The idea is that you begin to weaken the shell, all the way round. Don't use too much pressure as you tap, and try to turn the egg gently, this way, there will be less chance of you breaking the yolk before the egg is separated.
Next, hold the egg in both hands, so that your thumbs support it underneath and your fingers are resting lightly on top.
Press up with your thumbs and down with your fingers around the part of the shell you have just weakened by tapping it with the knife. The idea is that you should now be able to pull the two halves of the shell apart without putting too much pressure on the egg. Using the sides of your little fingers to keep your hands in close contact with the egg separator, move your hands apart as the shell opens. Let the contents inside, fall centrally in to the well of the separator. I no this is easier said than done, but, if you are careful and do this gently, without breaking the solid yolk, the egg white should, automatically find its way down through the slots in the separator, into the cup below.
Leave it there for a minute or so to let the egg white the more liquid part of the egg, run through, then gently and carefully, transfer the yolk the firmer part of the egg, which should now be left sitting nicely in the centre of the separator, into a bowl.
I must point out that the yolk is not completely set and can, if not handled carefully, break easily. Pour the white from the cup into the other bowl.
Repeat this process with your other eggs.
Wash your hands thoroughly before continuing with your recipe, do not be tempted to lick your fingers or put your hands to your face, as some eggs contain the salmonella bacteria and could cause you to have an upset tummy.
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