Tuesday, 15 December 2009

Be prepared.

It's not the destination but the journey that counts, as my yoga teacher is so fond of pointing out. Admittedly it's a rather spurious analogy as far as baking is concerned, as it is undoubtedly the end product that denotes success if you happen to be making a cake rather than performing a Sun Salutation.

But bear with me here.

There is a science to baking, and unlike other cooking where a level of spontaneity and experimentation is positively encouraged, the quantities of flour, ratios of ingredients and size of tin etc, are all of paramount importance if you want a good outcome. I have spent hours on forums discussing the merits of a 2lb loaf tin, and get very frustrated if a new recipe describes the tin in diameter rather than weight. I've had the ruler out more than once.

The other day Dan Lepard, who's How To Bake column in The Guardian really was solely responsible for starting me on this particular journey (it was his recipe for peanut butter cookies), announced on his website that he was going to attempt a live bake-along online. Very regretfully, I couldn't take part though I loved the concept, and eagerly read all the follow-up posts after it had taken place. In one message, somebody mentioned that the section on using greaseproof paper was especially helpful.

The cutting and moulding of baking paper has long been an issue for me; it is my least favourite preparatory activity, and always has me wishing for a kitchen assistant - perhaps a little elf in a Cath Kidtson apron - who would dutifully line my tins for me, grate all the orange and lemon zest, and do the washing up afterwards.

So after being directed to the youtube link, I asked my 14-year-old son Caleb if I could watch the clip on his computer. It was a revelation. Dan was so deft with the scissors it was more like origami, folding the paper 3 times and leaving it as a high column, rather than trimming it down to the height of the tin. And cutting 3 discs to line the bottom, which apparently guarantees much more even baking - especially if it's something like a fruit cake which requires a longer cooking time.

Whilst I was literally squealing with pleasure, and commenting excitedly on the fact that Dan uses the same brand of paper as me, I became aware of the look Caleb was giving me. A kind of withering pity best describes it. It's hard to explain under such circumstances that, contrary to appearances, I was actually quite cool once.

Still, he won't be complaining I'm sure, when he's tucking into a slice of the marmalade Dundee cake that was the subject of the bake-along, and which I shall be making over Christmas.

PS. The picture is an almond and clementine cake with bitter chocolate icing - nothing to do with anything I've written about here, but so pretty I felt impelled to share.


  1. Can I suggest bake-o-glide (http://www.cooksandkitchens.co.uk/bake-o-glide.asp) as an alternative to baking parchment. You can buy it in rolls from most catering suppliers (maybe even Lakelands), cut it to size and once you've used it, you just wash it up, dry it and it's ready to re-use. I love the stuff. Not only is it a pleasingly lazy option, it's also much more environmentally friendly.

  2. Thanks so much for the tip. I'm definitely going to check it out. Anything to make the prep easier and quicker..

    I am planning to add your blog as a favourite, but I haven't got a google account yet, which I think I need to do so. I'll sort it soon.

    Best wishes,

  3. No problem, Julia. I hope you get on with bake-o-glide as well as I do. Thanks for reading my blog too.

    Best wishes,