I’m not really one for New Year’s resolutions but I do love tips and kitchen cheats. Anything to make life easier, tidier or quicker in the kitchen. Reminding myself of some of the following will mean I start the year as I mean to go on – with more planning and less waste, both in terms of ingredients and time (which as a busy working mum of two is often sadly lacking!)
- Keep the wrappers from your butter (fold them back up and tuck them somewhere in the fridge) to grease baking tins, etc.
- Use room temperature ingredients for baking, unless you need to handle the mix (eg pastry).
- If you are using butter in your pastry, try grating from frozen or hard cold – it keeps it cold and easier to handle.
- Taste as you go (note to self: that doesn’t mean eat all the cake mix before it makes it into the tins!)
- If you aren’t sure whether your eggs are fresh, put them in water – fresh ones sink and bad/old ones will float because of the air pocket they’ve gained.
- Do measure ingredients when baking – sweet dishes tend to be more scientific than savoury ones.
- Adding too much baking powder will mean your cakes will rise quickly and then sink.
- Do crack eggs into a separate bowl before adding to your mix – the risk of having to start again because of a dodgy egg is just not worth it.
- Don’t beat the air out of the mix you’ve just put in – just fold the flour/dry ingredients in – I’ve heard 10 folds should be sufficient for most things.
- To stop fruit, etc, from sinking try covering in flour before adding to your mix.
- If you don’t have yogurt for a recipe, squeeze a half a lemon into the same amount of milk.
- If you have over melted chocolate required for a recipe, bin it – you won’t get the right results.
- Don’t prove your bread in metal bowls – it can hinder the effectiveness of the yeast. Equally, remember that some plastic bowls are porous and can absorb liquid from some ingredients (especially oily ones – think how they sometimes look coming out of the dishwasher).
- Double up on cookie dough – use half and keep half covered tightly in the fridge, it will sit well for at least a week. You can even freeze flat in biscuit shape balls, then keep in a freezer bag and defrost as you need them.
- Keep a marker pen in your drawer for dating lids/packets when you open them – avoids throwing things away when you can’t remember how old they are (a personal bugbear of mine).
- Don’t open or slam the oven door while cooking cakes, it will make them sad (that one definitely comes from my mum!)
The list is far from exhaustive, some things you do without thinking. Many of these tips have been passed on from my mum and her mum, and some are ones I’ve picked up along the way from my magazines (usually Olive) and my many well-thumbed recipe books (I do like Rachel Allen for sweet things but you can’t beat Nigella and Delia).
Do share your favourite kitchen hacks in the comments – I’ll make sure I tell you if I adopt any new ones, and next time I’ll let you in on some of my favourite savoury ones.
Happy New Year everyone – may it be a special one.
Love and cake,
Kate Berry runs a bakery from her home, The Thatched Kitchen, in Doddiscombsleigh. She is Diary of a Devon Mum’s guest foodie.