Feb. 20th, 2013 10:48 am
liv: Table laid with teapot, scones and accoutrements (yum)
[personal profile] liv
I've decided that the new skill I most want to build up this year is baking. I can cook savoury things reasonably well, but I really can't bake at all. I've spent a lot of time being too intimidated to start, and this is a bit ridiculous, it surely can't be that hard compared to some of the molecular biology things I do without even thinking about it.

[personal profile] hatam_soferet has been encouraging me, and I think the next step is to make a public commitment that I'm going to make this change in my habits. So, here's the plan: I'm appealing for your favourite easy recipes for things like cookies, brownies, cup-cakes, American muffins, anything you think a beginner could do. If you provide a recipe that I can understand and follow, and if you don't mind PMing me with a postal address, I will send you half a dozen of the first batch. Yes, anywhere in the world; if you live outside Europe maybe suggesting things that you know travel well would be most helpful.

This way you get literal cookies for helping me learn a new skill. And I get an incentive to actually get on with it and learn to bake, as opposed to holding on to this intention for years and never actually doing it. And hey, if you feel like evaluating the results of my baking to see whether they came out like they're supposed to, that's even more useful.

For reference, being European I prefer to measure ingredients by weight rather than volume, but I'm sure the internet will help me convert if your favourite recipe is in cups. My oven is gas; again, I can convert temperatures to Gas Marks, but I am not sure if it will have exactly the same characteristics as an electric oven. Assume I seriously don't know any standard baking techniques; if you use a technical term please point me to a link that explains what's involved?

And yes, it is a month before Passover. This is partly to give me an additional incentive to get on with this plan rather than procrastinating, and partly because it would actually be a good idea to use up my flour etc rather than throw it out. If your recipe requires specialist flours I might wait until after the festival to acquire them, though.

Any takers? Alternatively, if anyone wants to come and visit and show me techniques in person, that would be excellent too, we could have a baking day :-)

(no subject)

Date: 2013-02-20 11:22 am (UTC)
draigwen: (Default)
From: [personal profile] draigwen
I can't help you because I can't cook, but I too want to learn to bake - figure it's an essential parenting skill. So would be happy to recipe swap and compare experiences. Figure I've got a few years to perfect my skills.

(no subject)

Date: 2013-02-20 11:29 am (UTC)
naath: (Default)
From: [personal profile] naath
Ovens can be finicky beasts; my best advice is to look at your baking often and attempt to determine if it is done yet rather than relying on recipe times being accurate (but they are usually a good guide - if it says "2 hours" you needn't check in after 10mins). To check the done-ness of cake stick a skewer in it - if it comes out clean (rather than covered in gooey cake mix) then the cake is done.

Anyway, I love cake! But I have zero handle on whether things are easy or not; so I'm not very helpful on that front. (however if you screw up cake it usually (unless you use salt instead of sugar) comes out mostly edible, just less pretty than you might have hoped - so don't fear the cake-disasters)

(no subject)

Date: 2013-02-20 12:06 pm (UTC)
mirrorshard: (Default)
From: [personal profile] mirrorshard
The best piece of advice I ever got on baking is to ignore the oven's calibration, and get an oven thermometer. It's truly amazing how much some of them can be off by.

The thing I bake most often is bara brith, but my recipes are intuitive rather than quantitative, so sharing them probably wouldn't help (though I'm happy to if you're comfortable working without exact quantities).

If you like recipe books, I recommend Elizabeth David's 'English Bread & Yeast Cookery".

(no subject)

Date: 2013-02-20 12:14 pm (UTC)
vatine: Generated with some CL code and a hand-designed blackletter font (Default)
From: [personal profile] vatine
There's plenty of simple things in the pie/crumble family. Unfortunately, I am better at making them than describing how to do it.

For delicious, non-shippable, items, there's the "Swedish-style cake" family and their miniature siblings. The base of most of those is a decent (baking-powder-raised) sponge cake, baked and cut to measure.

Then there's the odd cross-over between the dessert aesthetics and savoury taste that is "sandwich cake".

Once things are a little less hectic, I'd be up for travelling northwards for a day of instructing, if you want.

(no subject)

Date: 2013-02-20 12:39 pm (UTC)
shreena: (Default)
From: [personal profile] shreena
I second the oven thermometer point. If you're interested in making bread, I recommend soda bread - specifically, Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall's recipe which uses yoghurt rather than buttermilk (which is a pain to find). http://www.guardian.co.uk/lifeandstyle/2012/nov/02/quick-fix-baking-recipes

You can add all kinds of random things to it - like fresh herbs - once you've got the basic recipe down. It is very very forgiving for a bread recipe - I'm fine with it and I am also a bit scared of baking.

(no subject)

Date: 2013-02-20 12:56 pm (UTC)
pretty_panther: (av: captain is tired)
From: [personal profile] pretty_panther

These are really easy I find and really good and really quick. The icing is ...different but the cakes work well without them or you could just use normal icing sugar. Obviously this is a splenda recipe but you can just use white sugar instead :)

I think it would be good for a beginner cause I use it to bake with my little brothers so they can do most of the work :)

(no subject)

Date: 2013-02-20 01:07 pm (UTC)
mathcathy: number ball (Default)
From: [personal profile] mathcathy
mmm ... I have a recipe I'd like to send you but I'm not sure about copyright permissions and this open to the internet post

(no subject)

Date: 2013-02-20 05:19 pm (UTC)
synecdochic: torso of a man wearing jeans, hands bound with belt (Default)
From: [personal profile] synecdochic
Recipes can't be copyrighted (*), so you can just type it out here. Or send it to Liv via email!

(*) I'm simplifying like whoa here, but for the most part this is accurate.

(no subject)

Date: 2013-02-20 05:28 pm (UTC)
mathcathy: number ball (Default)
From: [personal profile] mathcathy
Sure? The copyright rules in the front of the book suggest that even copying it out and emailing it might be breaking copyright...

(no subject)

Date: 2013-02-20 05:38 pm (UTC)
synecdochic: torso of a man wearing jeans, hands bound with belt (Default)
From: [personal profile] synecdochic
Positive. (Link goes to US gov't website, but the statements there are valid for any Berne Convention signatory, which the UK is.) The more "literary expression" you have in the instructions, the more likely it could be copyrightable, and the photographs/illustrations are always copyrightable, but just the "1 cup flour, 3 tablespoons sugar" part of the recipe is uncopyrightable. Many, many people will tell you this is not so, but those people are as wrong as the people who say that someone who creates a knitting pattern has rights over the finished object you make with that pattern. (That is to say, very, very, very wrong.)

If you are at all worried, paraphrase the instructions, but lists of ingredients are not and cannot be copyrighted.

maple and pecan cupcakes

Date: 2013-02-20 05:48 pm (UTC)
mathcathy: number ball (Default)
From: [personal profile] mathcathy
In which case:

115g butter at room temperature
50g soft brown sugar
160ml maple syrup
2 eggs
115g self raising flour
60g pecan nuts
and for decoration
60g caster sugar
12 pecan nut halves
50g butter at room temperature
3 tablespoons maple syrup
145g icing sugar

  • Preheat oven to gas mark 4 and line muffin tin with 12 baking cases
  • Beat butter and sugar together in a bowl until creamy, then beat in the maple syrup
  • Beat in the eggs, one at a time, then fold the flour in too
  • Add the nuts and mix in
  • Spoon into cases and bake for 17 minutes until risen and golden
For icing:
  • Make caramelised pecans by heating caster sugar with 2 tablespoons of water until the sugar is dissolved, then increasing the heat and boiling until you have a golden mixture. Spoon the caramel over each nut individually and leave to cool
  • Make the icing by beating the butter, maple syrup and icing sugar together in a bowl until fluffy
  • Spread this mixture over cooled cakes and top each with a caramelised pecan
Maybe don't try this recipe out first, but it would be a nice one to graduate to. These are scrummy.

Also - if you can, get hold of those silicone cases that we used when we did some baking that time. They're excellent for not sticking to the cupcakes.

(no subject)

Date: 2013-02-20 05:57 pm (UTC)
lethargic_man: (reflect)
From: [personal profile] lethargic_man
Hmmm, seems to me then that the whole recipe book industry is based on people not knowing this. (And not knowing recipes, of course, too. :o))

(no subject)

Date: 2013-02-20 05:59 pm (UTC)
synecdochic: torso of a man wearing jeans, hands bound with belt (Default)
From: [personal profile] synecdochic
Pretty much, yeah. It's also why most cookbooks these days have elaborate photos + extensive commentary on each recipe: that part's copyrightable.

(no subject)

Date: 2013-02-26 02:10 pm (UTC)
jack: (Default)
From: [personal profile] jack
Or people buying books because it's convenient: in a way, you could describe it as the system working, if people pass around individual recipes without fear of copyright (which would be rather ridiculous, if you couldn't even teach someone a recipe you'd originally got from a book), but still buy recipe books when they want them :)

(no subject)

Date: 2013-02-20 01:51 pm (UTC)
ursula: (Default)
From: [personal profile] ursula
Do you own power tools? Any recipe that involves creaming butter is easy if you own an electric mixer and annoying if you don't.

(no subject)

Date: 2013-02-20 07:36 pm (UTC)
azurelunatic: A glittery black pin badge with a blue holographic star in the middle. (Default)
From: [personal profile] azurelunatic
My grandfather decided that the beater from the (former) electric mixer and the power drill needed to be new best friends.

(no subject)

Date: 2013-02-20 03:00 pm (UTC)
forestofglory: E. H. Shepard drawing of Christopher Robin reading a book to Pooh (Default)
From: [personal profile] forestofglory
Butterscotch brownies, from Mark Bitman's How to Cook Everything
I usually make a double recipe in a 9" X 13" pan
8 tablespoons/one stick of butter
1 cup brown sugar (very dark, or add some molasses for a richer flavor)
I egg
1 teaspoon vanilla (does not have to be exact -- I often just add a splash)
I cup flour

Preheat the oven to 350F.
Melt the butter over low heat, then add the brown sugar,
when it is nicely melted and there are no lumps in add the egg and vanilla.
Stir in the flour.
Pour into a greased 8"x8" pan. Bake for 20 to 25 min.
I find these are easiest to cut when warm but not too hot -- wait maybe 20 min then cut. (Or you can wait until cool, but it will be harder.)
Let me know if you have questions.

I don't want want any of these through the mail -- feel free to send my share to Jack, and send me a postcard or something letting me know how it came out.

I wish there wasn't so much geography between us -- I'd love to bake with you.

(no subject)

Date: 2014-05-11 04:13 pm (UTC)
jack: (Default)
From: [personal profile] jack
For my own reference, these measurements agree with the ones we used last weekend. You reminded me that the quantities are very approximate, if it's something similar to that it will probably work equally well. In the units I used, for a double-portion, those are:

250g butter (ie. one "normal size" pack)
16 fl oz (2 cup) of brown sugar (pressed down, not loose)
16 gl oz (2 cup) flour (normal white flour for baking sweet things, no yeast)
"Splash" of vanilla
Oven at 180c

How would you describe when the sugar and butter are well mixed? A sort of rich gloopy brown paste? I think I would recognise that as being the desired state, but I'm not sure I could describe it to someone else.
Edited Date: 2014-05-11 04:15 pm (UTC)

(no subject)

Date: 2014-05-11 04:28 pm (UTC)
forestofglory: E. H. Shepard drawing of Christopher Robin reading a book to Pooh (Default)
From: [personal profile] forestofglory
For future reference it should be noted that this batch came out very thin and very sticky, so I'm not sure these are the best conversions to use. I will try to weigh the ingredients next time I make these.

A sort of rich gloopy brown paste sounds about right. The key thing is that there should be no lumps of brown sugar. (These are unlikely with recently bought sugar.)

(no subject)

Date: 2014-05-11 04:37 pm (UTC)
jack: (Default)
From: [personal profile] jack
*hugs* Thank you!

FWIW, I just measured the baking tins we used (the two identical ones?) and I don't know how you're supposed to measure baking tins, but according to the tape measure they were about 15.5"x11.5", so maybe we just spread the batter too thinly. That should be easy to fix, I can adjust the quantities to be a bit closer to whatever pan I'm going to use.

Do you have an intuitive idea how it should be less sticky? I'm happy to try it with "a bit more butter" or "a bit less butter" and see what happens -- it'll probably be a year before I actually have time for any baking, so I don't want to pressure you to weigh things now :)

(no subject)

Date: 2014-05-18 01:46 am (UTC)
forestofglory: E. H. Shepard drawing of Christopher Robin reading a book to Pooh (Default)
From: [personal profile] forestofglory
I think the too sticky is either because it was spread out too thinly (that can do odd things to texture) or because the ratio of sugar to flour was too high. But I'm not sure.

(no subject)

Date: 2013-02-20 03:38 pm (UTC)
khalinche: (Default)
From: [personal profile] khalinche
Mash three squishy bananas. Fresh ones will do too, but this is a good use for ones which are a bit too brown for you to want to eat. Stir in a mug and half worth of porridge oats. Add a handful of raisins and/or chopped dates, and some nuts if you have any lying around, and about 1 tablespoon of oil. Put some sugar, honey or syrup in if you want, but not too much, like about 2 tablespoons. Put in dollops on a baking tray and then put in an oven that is at about 175 C, for about 20 minutes.

Please don't send me any, though, I make enough of these as it is!

(no subject)

Date: 2013-02-21 08:28 pm (UTC)
ceb: (Default)
From: [personal profile] ceb
Also on the banana front, I'm about to make this, which is fairly straightforward: http://www.bbc.co.uk/food/recipes/bananabread_85720

I make this quite often so no need to send me some!

I have somewhere a lovely recipe for chocolate cherry muffins which I must dig out and make, I'll pass it on if I find it.

If you fancy tresting yourself to a cookbook, I highly recommend Mary Berry's _Fast Cakes_ (ghoti calls this _Cakes for Dur-brains_). Lots of basic recipes which turn out nicely.

I'm happy to teach you things like how to line a cake tin if you have any problems!
Edited Date: 2013-02-21 08:29 pm (UTC)

(no subject)

Date: 2013-05-21 06:12 pm (UTC)
From: (Anonymous)
I wonder if you mean this: http://www.nigella.com/recipes/view/chocolate-cherry-cupcakes-144 I've made these a few times and they are straightforward (especially if you don't bother with the topping) and extremely yummy.

(no subject)

Date: 2013-05-21 06:15 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] woodpijn.livejournal.com
(sorry, that was me - Rachael)

(no subject)

Date: 2013-05-23 09:59 pm (UTC)
ceb: (Default)
From: [personal profile] ceb
Yes; it was you that made them for me the first time I had them :-)

(no subject)

Date: 2013-02-24 09:25 pm (UTC)
rmc28: Rachel smiling against background of trees, with newly-cut short hair (Default)
From: [personal profile] rmc28
I just want to say enormous thanks for this. It's simple enough that I remembered it when we had an excess of bananas this weekend, quick enough for me to put together while keeping an eye on the baby, and incredibly filling and tasty once made.

I will be making lots more of these for a while, I can tell.

(no subject)

Date: 2013-02-25 02:58 am (UTC)
khalinche: (Default)
From: [personal profile] khalinche
You are so welcome! I've been really enjoying your posts on here, and I'm sorry I didn't talk to you more at New Year: I'll add you here or over on lj if that's alright?

(no subject)

Date: 2013-02-25 08:15 am (UTC)
rmc28: Rachel smiling against background of trees, with newly-cut short hair (Default)
From: [personal profile] rmc28
Thank you! Here is better for me as I don't update my LJ account any more, just use it to follow & comment.

(no subject)

Date: 2013-02-25 01:22 pm (UTC)
khalinche: (Default)
From: [personal profile] khalinche
Okay, I'll add you on both, since I do the same in reverse (DW for reading and commenting and keeping a record of books read for PhD, LJ for writing on).

(no subject)

Date: 2013-02-20 04:48 pm (UTC)
tig_b: cartoon from nMC set (Default)
From: [personal profile] tig_b
Yes ovens can be temperamental - and nothing shows that up more than a tray of biscuits or a cake. If you find that your oven browns more on one side, you can, very carefully open the open and turn the cake/biscuits towards the end of the cooking time. But be careful - cakes don't like a gust of cool air when they are still raising.

The basic victoria sponge is fairly easy. (Real Sponge is not!)

you need two 8" round shallow cake tins (not the very deep ones, they're for fruit cakes)

Take fat and eggs out of fridge an hour or so before you start.

Put oven on to warm, gas mark 4

Grease the tins - use a little fat, then shake a light dusting of flour over. Or use the new silicon tins which only need a very little fat to grease.

150 gm sugar (I use a bit less, but try this first)
150gm margarine/butter
3 medium eggs
150 gm self raising flour
(you can add flavouring, but try the basic first)
plus jam and icing sugar to finish

Mix the sugar and fat together, either by hand with a wooden spoon or a spatular, or with a mixer. As you beat it, it will become a lighter colour and get fluffy.

Break the eggs into a bowl, remove any bits of shell, then beat with with a fork.

Add half the egg with a large spoonful of the flour to the sugar/fat mix, stir in, add the rest of the egg with another spoonful of the flour, stir in then beat again.
Add the rest of the flour and stir in gently.
The mixture should be 'dropping' texture, ie if you load a spoonful and tilt it the mix will slowly fall off the spoon in blobs. If it is too thick add water or milk. if it is too runny add a little more flour.

Divide mix between the two pans, smooth the mixture out, put in oven for about 17 to 20 mins.
When cooked the cakes should just be starting to pull away from the tins, and be a light golden brown.
Test by either sticking a cocktail stick or small fork into centre - if mixture sticks, return to oven for 4-5 mins.
Or try the finger test, just press gently in centre, if cooked it will spring back.

Take tins out, leave a few seconds then ease the sides of the cake loose and turn cake out onto cake rack, grill wire or whatever.

leave to cool. (If cake is slightly over done, cover with tea towel while cooling).

Sandwich together with jam, dust icing sugar on top.

If you have any questions, let me know. You don't need to send me any cake, but I can post the variants, eg chocolate, lemon, ... later

(no subject)

Date: 2013-02-20 05:22 pm (UTC)
synecdochic: torso of a man wearing jeans, hands bound with belt (Default)
From: [personal profile] synecdochic
I'm not a big baker (Sarah likes to bake; I find it annoying) but I do have a few recipes in my journal:

Butter Cookies (sooooo bad for you, but soooooo good)
basic yeast bread

Nthing the "ovens are often very miscalibrated", and different parts of the oven can be different temps. If something doesn't come out right the first time, it's quite possibly not you, it's your oven.

(no subject)

Date: 2013-02-20 05:58 pm (UTC)
kaberett: Overlaid Mars & Venus symbols, with Swiss Army knife tools at other positions around the central circle. (Default)
From: [personal profile] kaberett
Banana cake.

This is my standard brownie recipe, and it's great.

For chocolate chip cookies, I like the BBC or the Wise Guys (auf deutsch; in English).

Flapjack involves very few ingredients and is very hard to make inedible (though I had a good go at it the other day ;) - not necessarily in your target demographic though...

Anything on Smitten Kitchen: some recipes more complicated than others, but Deb does a fantastic job of explaining & using photographs & is friendly and approachable and lovely. And the raspberry buttermilk cake is to die for (though I prefer it with blueberries and a little elderflower, when in season ;).

Lemon drizzle cake is amazing and I should dig out a recipe for that too. I love Dundee cake. A lot of my other favourite biscuits are Austrian and I will type up the recipes one of these days maybe?

(no subject)

Date: 2013-02-20 07:42 pm (UTC)
azurelunatic: A glittery black pin badge with a blue holographic star in the middle. (Default)
From: [personal profile] azurelunatic
I recommend for entertaining reading in general and a spirit of exuberant experimentation in baking, [syndicated profile] catescates_feed, which is run by the excellent [personal profile] 17catherines. She measures in mixed mass and volume. (I don't bake much at all -- Toll House chocolate-chip cookies a few times a year -- in my current kitchen, and I still read it for delight-in-words.)

(no subject)

Date: 2013-02-20 09:11 pm (UTC)
monanotlisa: Diana as Diana Prince in glasses and a hat, lifting the rim of the latter rakishly. HOT! (Default)
From: [personal profile] monanotlisa
Baking is magic. :)

(no subject)

Date: 2013-02-21 01:45 pm (UTC)
kerrypolka: Contemporary Lois Lane with cellphone (Default)
From: [personal profile] kerrypolka
I made the final recipe on this article about banana bread to use up some bananas, and it came out GORGEOUS.

(no subject)

Date: 2013-02-22 10:09 pm (UTC)
From: (Anonymous)
Bread is remarkably easy and satisfying to make. Soda bread even easier, but mine has had mixed results.

Here is a cheese straw recipe that went down well at work the other day.

Original: http://www.mumsnet.com/Recipes/i/3214-Nigellas-Cheese-Straws

My version:
50g of flour, but that really doesn't look like much, so double it, hm, maybe a little more.
Right, so I need 40g of parmesan. Start tipping the parmesan in - 40g? Really? I'll have none left. Stop tipping.
Time to grate the cheddar. Grate, grate, grate ... is the weight needle going up at all? Where does it need to get to anyway, I've lost track? Oh, this is ridiculous, it must be enough.
OK, I don't have Cayenne, but I have chilli flakes. *sprinkle*. And a bit of pepper.

Hm, rolling pin, I wonder if we have a rolling pin. Oh, this nice smooth glass will do. That bit went okay.

I would totally, totally recommend, if you are buying baking equipment, the silicone things. They are amazing. Really. So I slice up all this dough stuff and put it on one.

*ten minutes pass*.

Nope. Not looking cooked at all. It took about half an hour in our lazy old aga. They got mixed reactions at work. "Ooh, this is nice ... oh, it does have rather a kick! More of a boot, even". I should have put about half as much chilli in.

This recipe comes out fairly damp when I make it, but goes down well http://www.nigella.com/recipes/view/apple-loaf-cake-3714 I only do it in Autumn though, when the apples are free. I like it with dried apricots in. I like most things with dried apricots in.

And here is my exciting biscuit recipe:


Oh, and this is fun, if only for the sprout man on top. I made it once but I seriously doubt I used walnuts, coconut, or vanilla extract. I definitely made the sprout man though.


The 'frosting' looks hard though, personally I just use regular icing sugar, with squirty lemon juice rather than water, and call it a day.

Oh, and microwave mug cake: a recipe for one. Or maybe two.
four tablespoons of self-raising flour. Six tablespoons of hot-chocolate-powder. Two tablespoons of oil. (I use vegetable oil because it's cheapest at the co-op). Four tablespoons of milk. One egg. All in a small bowl/large mug. chop up some banana and stir it in, or chocolate chips, or something, because otherwise it comes out a bit dry. Doesn't need to be the whole banana. You could chop it all up and freeze the rest for a future mug cake. Microwave for about a minute and a half and eat hot. Actually the mix is delicious raw, but people get funny about raw eggs.

(no subject)

Date: 2013-02-26 05:12 pm (UTC)
From: (Anonymous)
oh, and we have an aga, which is rather the one-size-fits-all of temperatures, so I don't worry too much about the temperature.... our aga is fairly weak and I suspect it never gets above about gas mark 5, maybe less. Everything I've made seems to work okay.

(no subject)

Date: 2013-02-23 03:53 pm (UTC)
From: (Anonymous)
The cheesecake I make is like this (http://www.bbcgoodfood.com/recipes/3842/baked-raspberry-cheesecake) but with the following tweaks:
- you don't have to put raspberries on top. Plain cheesecake is good because you can put whatever you want on top, or just eat it plain.
- I use about twice as many biscuits. 8 digestives aren't very many.
- I don't add vanilla because you can't really taste it
- I use 2 eggs rather than 2 + yolk, because unless you have specific plans for it having half an egg left over is annoying
- I use a hand whisk. It takes a it too long to mix thoroughly with a spoon.
- it takes longer than 40 minutes to cook in my oven
- you can let it cool in the oven to prevent cracking.

Also, dairy-free chocolate cake is really easy to do. 1 quantum sugar, 1.5 quanta self-raising flour, cocoa powder, 0.5 quantum vegetable oil, 1 quantum water. Mix ingredients together, bake in a medium oven (160ish), check it after half an hour.

(no subject)

Date: 2013-02-23 03:54 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] kht.livejournal.com
That was me, having failed to notice that I wasn't logged in!


Miscellaneous. Eclectic. Random. Perhaps markedly literate, or at least suffering from the compulsion to read any text that presents itself, including cereal boxes.

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