Kitchen Tips

7 common baking dilemmas answered

Ever wondered why your scones turned out hard and flat? Or if it's possible to make a recipe gluten free? Our baking expert Sophie Gray has all the answers

Why are my scones hard and flat?

You’re probably over-working the dough. Don’t knead, just squeeze together, and don’t roll too thin. Get them into the oven quickly so they rise in the oven not on the tray beforehand.

Why is there is no baking powder in this sponge recipe? Will it work?

Air-raised sponges must be beaten (at the creaming stage) until very pale and light, almost white – an electric mixer makes this easy. Then you will have a light sponge that doesn’t need a raising agent.

Can I make this gluten-free?

Gluten-free flour blends have come a long way but they won’t work in every recipe because even with the addition of xanthan or guar gum, some require the scaffolding gluten provides. To avoid disappointment test and experiment before making something for a special event.

Can I freeze baking?

Most baking freezes well; muffins, baked and unbaked cookie dough, bread and cakes can all be frozen for 3-4 months. Some will benefit from a gentle warm-through in the oven to refresh them before serving.

What about silicone baking pans?

It’s a matter of personal choice – if you have ’em, try ’em. I personally like the battered old cake pans and loaf tins I inherited from my mother or picked up in op-shops. Metal is a good conductor of heat and non-stick cooking spray and baking paper ensure nothing ever sticks.

Should I buy a cake mixer?

They are so expensive! Many baking recipes require using more than one bowl at a time, so I prefer using a hand-held mixer, which works in any size of bowl, and can be stuffed in a drawer when not in use. On the other hand, a fancy mixer enables you to do something else while it’s mixing, and it looks nice on the bench (if you have the space). Unless you make large quantities of the same recipe repeatedly, a mixer is of little advantage.

I love to bake but it’s so fattening. How can I reduce the calories?

In many basic cake and muffin recipes you can replace half the fat and half the sugar with the same amount of fruit purée such as apple purée. It won’t be the same and won’t keep as long but it will be moist and satisfying. I do this all the time with muffins for lunch boxes and family baking.

Batter matters

Batter is a liquid mixture usually consisting of flour mixed with liquid and dry ingredients such as eggs, water, milk, beer, salt, baking powder or baking soda, and sugar. It is usually liquid enough to be poured.
  • A jug can be useful for pouring batter into small cases or baking cups.
  • For round pancakes or pikelets pour batter off the tip of a spoon.
  • A pourable batter for crêpes, waffles or Yorkshire puds might be
    1 part flour:
    1 part liquid.
  • A dropping batter for pikelets, muffins or pancakes might have
    2 parts flour:
    1 part liquid.
  • At 3 parts flour: 1 part liquid, you have a soft dough for cookies and biscuits.
  • At 4 parts flour: 1 part liquid you have a dough for pastry or bread.
Text by: Sophie Gray, Destitute Gourmet. Photography by Alamy.