Baking Tips That Will Make You a Better Baker

I think baking is one of many people’s favourite things to do in the kitchen. I know a lot of my girl friends love to bake, whether it is homemade breads, 3-layer cakes or the simple breakfast muffins. I certainly started my cooking journey in the early days with baking. It was one of the first things they taught us in our home economics class – to bake.

Baking requires precision and for you to follow the recipes exactly. It is an art of science. Aside from being precise, here are a few tips that I’ve learned throughout the years that made me a better baker.

  1. Make sure your diary ingredients are at room temperature (unless the recipes stated otherwise). When your dairies and eggs are at room temperature, they will blend easier and also cook more evenly. If you did not plan ahead by taking the ingredients out of the fridge, you may try the follow tricks.

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  • Cold Butter: Put the measured amount in a ziplock bag and beat it with a rolling pin. This will help soften the butter and make it easier to blend.
  • Cold Eggs: Place the eggs in a bowl and cover them with warm water for 10 minutes to bring them up to room temperature.
  • Cold Cream Cheese: Leave the cream cheese in its foil packet and put it in a bowl and cover it with warm water for 10 minutes to bring it up to room temperature.
  1. Measure your ingredeints precisely. As mentioned above, being precise is very important in baking. So make sure you invest in proper measuring equipment, using liquid measuring cups to measure your liquids and dry measuring cups or electric scales for your dried ingredients. Sometimes the slightest difference in measurement can cause you a cake.

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  1. Mixing well. You should always mix your dry ingredients and wet ingredients separately first before combining them together. It is also easier to blend everything well together by stirring in your wet ingredients into your dry ingredients. And remember, do not over mix! It will make your baked goods very tough. Just stir until all the ingredients are well incorporated and then stop.
  2. Make sure your raising agents are active. By raising agents, I mean the most commonly used baking soda and baking powder. If you are not a regular baker, it is very easy to leave your baking soda and baking powder in your cupboards for too long and way pass their expiry dates. I know I am guilty of this. Once they are opened, their life span might be shorter than the date stated on the box. To check whether these 2 ingredients are still active and will make your cake and muffin rise, you can mix spoonful of baking soda with vinegar and a spoonful of baking powder with hot water. If both of these mixtures fizzes (i.e. you hear a fizz sound and see bubbles), then they are active. It is worth checking if these raising agents are still working, if not, your bake goods will not rise at all.

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These are simple tips that should help you to become a better baker. I hope this was helpful!

If you want to see more baking videos, leave me a comment down below.

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Summer is here!

I love all the colourful fruits and vegs available in the summer for me to mix and match them in my recipes. It makes grocery shopping so much happier and more enjoyable. Picnics and barbecues always come to mind. And although fried chicken, grilled meats, potato salads are usually the stars of these gatherings, I love to make a few refreshing sides to go alongside these heavier and indulgent dishes.

So …. making good use of a summer fruit, here is the recipe for my refreshing

Watermelon Salad with Fresh Mint and Olives

Watermelon Lime Salad

Ingredients:

  • 1/2 red onion, finely sliced
  • juice and zest of 2 limes
  • 1/2 small baby seedless watermelon (or you can use a few slices from a big watermelon)
  • 1 small bunch fresh mint
  • 1 small bunch fresh basil
  • 10 – 12 pitted black olives
  • 30g feta cheese
  • Extra virgin olive oil
  • Salt and black pepper to taste

 

Directions:

  1. Dice up the watermelon into cubes and take out the seeds if any. Place them in a big bowl.
  2. Finely slice the red onion and cut the pitted black olives in half. Place them in the same bowl as watermelon. Toss to mix together.
  3. Pick out the leaves of the mint and basils and add them to the watermelon.
  4. Add in lime zest and juice. Season with salt and black pepper. Taste and see if you need to add more seasoning.
  5. Spoon into serving platter or bowls, and top with crumbled feta cheese. Drizzle with Extra Virgin Olive Oil on top and serve.

Enjoy!

 

The Naked Finn Hong Kong Pop Up Tasting – What An Experience!

It’s been awhile since I have been to a tasting dinner for a potential new restaurant. I remember back in the days when I was working in the restaurant industry, tasting was part of my job and it was just wonderful. You get to experience what is going on in a chef’s mind. All their creativity, cooking and artistic talents are presented to you on plates and plates of mouth-watering food. There is always something new to learn in every tasting.

I was lucky enough to have had the chance to attend The Naked Finn’s Hong Kong pop-up tasting dinner in the beginning of May. There is cooking and there is passionate cooking. And the team behind The Naked Finn is definitely the passionate type. It was one of the most amazing dinners that I have had in a long while.

Menu of the night

A 16-course seafood tasting dinner

The Naked Finn started out 5 years ago in Singapore focusing solely on seafood. By seafood, I don’t just mean the regular kinds you see in the wet market. Chef Ken Loon and his team pour their hearts and souls into researching and finding the best species of each type of crustaceans for each specific dish. They understand where these creatures come from, how deep from the ocean, which part and what they eat can affect their texture and taste. Every part of the crustaceans are put into some sort of use and nothing goes to waste. With such fresh and amazingly tasting shellfish, less is always more. Minimal seasoning is used, sticking with just sea salt olive oil and occasionally, unsalted butter.

First dish

A quick grilling of Indian Squid on a cast iron grill with no seasoning. Simply Divine!

 

Second dish - One of my favourite dishes

One of the favourite dishes of the night. It was a very simple cold vermicelli dish made with 7 ingredients. The dried Sakura Shrimps on top gave this dish the saltiness and freshness of seafood.

 

Hae Mee Tng (prawn noodle soup)

Hae Mee Tng with Gamero Rosso – This is one of The Naked Finn’s most popular dishes on their menu. The prawn broth is made with both the shells/heads AND prawn meats all blended together.

 

Each dish was crafted with care with no extra embellishment. You can truly taste the freshness and sweetness that the seafood brought to each dish. The seasoning WAS the seafood itself. It was truly amazing! There were finesse and elegance yet everything was extremely approachable and non-pretentious.

Naked “Orh Jien_ on Warmed Oyster

Naked “Orh Jien’ on Warmed Oyster
Made with 2 ingredients, the oysters and seasoning was from squid’s innards, including the ink.

 

Ezo bafun uni with squid ink and liver risotto

Ezo Bafun Uni with Squid Ink & Liver “Risotto” – An extremely fresh dish with amazing knife skills. The squid was cut up into fine and small cubes to resemble the look and feel of risotto rice. A bit of Spanish Bomba rice was blended in for more texture.

Chef Loon and his team believe in sourcing and supporting small fisheries that focus on non-mainstream species and truly sustainable practices. Therefore, you won’t see any tunas on his menu, as this is one of the fish that has been very much overfished.

queen crab been hoon consomme

Queen Crab Bee Hoon Consommé – The broth was packed full of flavour and filled your mouth with ‘umami’.

 

Dessert

Naked Chendol – This is The Naked Finn’s interpretation of the classic Chendol (珍多冰)


This pop-up tasting dinner ran for a week and I believe it was a great success. They got many feedbacks from various top chefs in Hong Kong and also food critics and connoisseurs who know what works in the Hong Kong’s restaurant scene. I really do hope that I’ll be seeing The Naked Finn opening up their first restaurant in Hong Kong in the near future.

For more information on The Naked Finn, visit: www.nakedfinn.com

Address: Block 39, Malan Road, Gillman Barracks, Singapore 109442

 

 

My Top 5 Must-Have Kitchen Utensils for Home Cooks

A well-equipped kitchen is very important for any home cook. There are so many gadgets and cooking tools out there to choose from, it is tempting to get a lot of them. However, some of these items are very specific and can only do one job. With limited space in the kitchen (especially in Hong Kong!!), we need to shop smart and only get the most useful and practical tools. Here is a list of my top five utensils every kitchen should have.

 

  1. Good quality Chef’s Knife

Every chef will tell you that the most important piece of equipment you can own if you want to be a good cook is a good quality chef’s knife. This is the one tool that is worth your investment. A knife is the most used utensil in the kitchen because almost every dish you make involves some cutting, chopping and slicing. A good chef’s knife should feel good in your hand, as some chefs would say, the knife should be an extension of your hand. Choose a chef’s knife that does not feel too heavy and is well-balanced in your hand. The grip should be comfortable and you should be able to rock the knife back and forth with ease. Make sure you always keep your knife sharp as cutting with a sharp knife is much safer than cutting with a dull, cheap knife because it is less likely to slip and cut you. If you are on a budget, there is no need to buy a whole set of knives. Get one good chef’s knife and you will be able to cut, dice, slice and filet with it.

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  1. Wooden Spoons and Heat Proof Spatulas

I like using wooden spoons and heat proof spatulas (usually made from silicone) when I cook as these are gentle enough tools that won’t scratch the surface of your pots and pans. They are also great for mixing batters when you want to bake cakes and cookies. And spatulas are great for lifting and flipping foods such as fish. Get a spatula with a thin front edge rather than a thicker one so that it can easily slide under the food.

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  1. Sieve

A good durable sieve is a very important tool in the kitchen. It helps you strain your cooked pasta and boiled vegetables, allows you to make smooth sauces and soups and also sifts your flour to get rid of the lumps. Sieves are made of a fine wire mesh with a long handle. I prefer the ones that are made entirely of metal, even the handle. A good sieve should have a hook on the side so that it can rest on the rim of a pot or bowl.

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  1. Good quality frying pans

For beginner cooks, nonstick skillets and frying pans are great tools to get you started cooking in the kitchen. But make sure to never use metal utensils on nonstick pans as this will scratch the nonstick surface. Stainless-steel frying pans and skillets are wonderful to have because aside from being able to cook on the stove tops, you can put these pans in the oven. Make sure the pan handle is also stainless-steel and not coated with plastic if you want to put your pans in the oven. A good size frying pan is a 30cm wide pan (12 inches). It is wide enough for a one-pan supper dish but also good for pan searing steaks or making frittata for brunch. Make sure you invest in some good quality frying pans and ones that feel good in your hands (nothing too heavy and with a good grip handle) as they can last you a very long time.

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  1. Electric Scale / Measuring Cups and Spoons

Cookbooks and online recipes are created (hopefully) so that you can cook the dishes as close to what the authors intend their dishes to taste and look like. This is where correct measurements of ingredients come in. Proper and precise measurements are extremely important if you love to bake. Therefore, it is worthwhile to keep one set of measuring cups, measuring spoons and a liquid measuring cup in your kitchen as all recipes will give you some sort of measurements and you will have to know how to get them right. Do consider investing in an electric scale as well since a lot of the cookbooks out there these days give measurements in weight (usually grams). If you are like me, who likes to create your own recipes, having the correct measurements for your recipes is extremely crucial!

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If you want to know more cooking tips and kitchen’s know-hows, don’t forget to like and follow me on my Facebook page: www.facebook.com/Charmainecooks.

Also check out my other blog posts (translated to Chinese) on the DayDayCook’s website!