Baking tips from Jane Hornby

Jane HornbyJane Hornby has been happily writing about food for over 15 years. Several of those years were spent at BBC Good Food Magazine where in addition to editing many books in the Good Food cookbook series, she was involved with food styling, writing, and working with some of the UK's top chefs. In 2009, she branched out on her own, writing several cookbooks and recently creating a new blog. Following the success of two previous cookbooks with a similar theme (What to Cook and How to Cook It and Fresh & Easy), Jane has turned her attention to the baking sphere with her latest cookbook, What to Bake & How to Bake It. (Enter our contest for your chance to win a copy.) She provided the following great baking tips from the cookbook to share with EYB members:


Mastering Pastry, Cookies & Bread


There are three kinds of pastry in this book: basic pie dough or shortcrust, used for pies; choux paste, for profiteroles; and a rich, sweet pastry, which is perfect for delicate tarts and some cookies. You can of course buy ready-made dough and pie shells, but making most pastry is simple and quick, especially if you have a food processor. In general, light, flaky pastry needs cold butter and little handling for the best results. Basic pie dough always starts with cold butter and flour, which are rubbed together until they look like fine breadcrumbs. Very little liquid is then added to bring the dough together. It should feel dry to the touch, but should not crack or crumble. If you do need to add more liquid, add 1 teaspoon at a time and try not to overwork the dough as you add it. All pastry should be kept cool and rested before rolling it out. This helps prevent shrinking later and makes it easier to roll. If the dough starts being tricky to work with, chill it and try again.

Blind baking

This simply means baking the pastry twice before filling it, to avoid any sogginess or shrinkage. For the first bake, the cold pastry is lined with foil and held in place with pie weights. These conduct the heat from the oven to the pastry, and help it to set in position. Without the foil and balls, the pastry would slip down the sides of the pan or bubble. The pastry is then baked again until cooked through. Pastry is dry and feels sandy when it's ready, and doesn't always need to be dark golden before it's done; it depends on the recipe. Basic pie crusts are very fragile when hot, and should be cooled in the pan. If you want to serve a tart or pie warm, just take it to the table in the pan.


When making cookie doughs, try not to overwork the dough once the flour has been added, as this can make them tough. Measure rising agents accurately and leave plenty of room for them to spread on the baking sheets. They can burn easily so keep an eye on the cooking time. Always let them cool on a cooling rack before transferring to an airtight container.

Bread doughs

When strong bread flour and liquid are kneaded together, strands of gluten form, which give the bread its structure. Kneading it well is important to help the gluten develop. Don't be afraid of a wet or sticky dough; it will give you a better loaf. I use instant yeast for no-fuss baking, which can be added straight to the flour. Make sure your yeast is within the use-by date, and the liquid is not too hot. Find a warm, not drafty, place to let your dough rise, and cover it with oiled plastic wrap or a dish towel to prevent a skin forming. If you find it difficult to shape, let it rest for 5 minutes, then continue. The second rise, once the bread has been shaped, is called proofing. To check the proofing, gently press the side of the dough. If it doesn't spring back, it's ready to bake. Once baked, the base will be firm and sound hollow when tapped.

Freezing & storing other baked goods

Pastry, cookies, and bread are also ideal for the freezer and can be stored in the same way as cakes. Raw pastry can be chilled for 1 week or frozen for 1 month (shaped in its pan, if you like). Freeze small items flat on a baking sheet, then pack them into bags or boxes, layers interleaved with parchment paper and all air squeezed out. Refresh cooked bread and choux pastry in a hot oven for a few minutes. Store cooked pastry and cookies in airtight containers.

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