Baking tips, tricks and cheats

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What To Do
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It’s worth checking what you have in that can be adapted before buying in new stock, for example granulated sugar can often work as well as castor. It might well be a year since you made Halloween goodies – but what’s the betting that some lurid food colouring is still in the cupboard that can be put to good use? If you are short on time, buy a plain cake or biscuits and then use up your ingredients – including small amounts to decorate or add more interesting fillings, flavours and colours.

There is nothing fake or flaky about readymade pastry, so if there is room in your freezer for a pack of shortcrust, puff or filo, it can play a really useful role in providing speedy sweet or savoury baked treats. Handy readymade pastry cases and sponge flan bases also have a long shelf life and are useful to keep on standby in the cupboard. Pastries can top, wrap or provide a base for transformed leftovers for example:

• Filo pastry – use it to wrap leftover cooked veg and/or meat that has been flavoured with curry paste to make homemade samosas, or layer it with dried fruit, nuts and honey to make baklava.
• Any kind of pasty – makes a nice topping for leftover veg covered in cheese sauce, or a meat casserole.
• A sheet of puff pastry can be spread with pesto or tomato concentrate and topped with peppers, courgettes and cheese, or for a sweet treat add a layer of sugar and ground almonds and top with tinned or fresh fruit such as pears.

Packet mixes are a good standby – but you can also make your own basics and then add you own special flavours. After whizzing the fat and flour into breadcrumbs, add in any other dry ingredients for scones, pastry or crumble topping and freeze until you need them.

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