All chefs and good home cooks, or for that matter anyone, who’s ever read a recipe, has no doubt been guilty of a little artistic license.
Without this, recipes would remain the same, stagnant and eventually boring. So many chefs tweak and adapt their dishes to follow current trends and changing foodie fashions (although I’ve never been convinced the Hawaiian pizza will ever be truly embraced on the streets of Milan!). However, some recipes have become far more simplified - a simple tomato sauce can now only consist of fresh tomatoes, oil, garlic and a splash of wine (plus seasoning of course). I remember my mother’s tomato soups having about 25 different ingredients in them, most of which took away from the simple taste of tomato!
Another great example of this was watching Gordon Ramsay challenge a chef to make broccoli soup; Gordon blew him away with the simplest of touches - broccoli, water, salt. That's it.
Some recipes are subject to a little adaptation and we can always add a little more seasoning, a larger amount of chilies (or even dare to leave the seeds in!), slightly undercook some meats and overcook others... it really doesn’t matter.
But when it comes to baking, please ignore these slightly haphazard rules because baking is a science, not an art like cooking!
Stick to the basics with baking
- Never eyeball the amounts – sometimes your eyes are bigger than your stomach, and they most definitely are not as accurate as a scale or a measuring cup!
- Guestimating is your guarantee to a flop – there are far too many people who say they can't bake and I'm guessing that this is a key contributing factor! Remember people, there's a recipe for a reason!
So never think you can simply add a dollop of this along with a handful of that because you’ll fail. Nobody likes a floury muffin, a wet scone, or a sunken sponge cake!
I can safely say that the top tip for baking would simply be to buy a decent digital scale and get rid of those measuring cups (you know the ones that are full of dust and old flour!).
The fact is that how you fill your dry measuring cup with sugar or flour will affect how much of that ingredient you are adding into your mixing bowl, and therefore how your cake or scone turns out. Ideally, you spoon flour and starch ingredients into the measuring cup before leveling it off. On the other hand, with brown sugar, you should pack it into the cup measurer like you are getting ready to build a sand castle. Some people might not know to pack the brown sugar into the measuring cup. Or maybe I prefer to simply scoop and level flour, while you fluff up the flour before scooping and leveling.... These small changes can lead to the same recipe, cooked by two different people, to be worlds apart.
The only way to avoid discrepancies is to weigh your ingredients. It may seem like an extra step or a pain at first, but soon you will come to realise that you end up making a lot less mess, and have fewer things to wash up!
So before you get baking, go shopping!
P.S. Oscar & Jemima’s will soon be opening our online store, so if you're in the market for some new kitchen gadgets and appliances, keep your eyes peeled to our social media pages :)