Baking uses the transfer of heat gradually from the surface to the centre of the food product being cooked. As heat moves from the outer area to the inner, as in batter and dough, it leaves a dry, firm outer crust and a soft centre.
To understand how to get the best results from our baking, we have to understand the process. It’s a method of cooking food that uses convection heat that produces prolonged heat, as compared to thermal heat. Any source of heat that can sustain heat for long periods, like hot stones or hot ashes are also used as mediums for baking.
History of baking
In many societies from ancient times baking was commonly used as a method to make bread. It’s now also used for cooking many products like biscuits, cakes, cookies, pies and puddings. Baking can also be used in combination with other methods to produce barbecued and grilled foods.
In times gone by, baking was seen as a domestic chore mainly done by women in society for their families. Men traditionally took up the job in restaurants and bakeries for local market consumption in commercial application.
The Industrial Age saw baking evolve to become automated by machinery in large production factories, making the art of baking a professional skill and occupation that led to using the term ‘Baker’.
The art of baking still retains most of its basic and fundamental requisites as a commonly used method for providing nutrition through the basic baked foods like bread. Cookies and pastries are other common food items that cross economic and cultural ways of life.
Foods that constitute baked items
Along with making bread, cakes, cookies, crackers, pastries, pies, pretzels, puddings, quiches, scones, tarts just a few items that are baked. Collectively referred to as ‘baked goods’, they’re found at most bakeries that use traditional and modern baking techniques.
But these aren’t the only categories of food that embrace baking. Meat and meat products can also be baked but generally cooked in an oven where the meats are used as stuffing covered with a crust of bread or dough.
Some dairy products like cheeses and eggs can also be baked or used as cooking mediums for baking other food items. Apples, beans and potatoes can also be baked; ingredients such as these are found in pies, casseroles, lasagna and pastas.
Methods and techniques for baking
There are various methods of baking which largely depend on the kind of food being cooked. All kinds of foods can be cooked using the baking method but some require a slight change from basic baking techniques to protect the food and allow the food to retain its natural flavors, which otherwise may get burnt or overcooked.
Ordinary baking on a heat source like hot bricks or hot coal or in modern times, the oven, is used for breads, cakes, pastries, pies, tarts etc.
About baking post first published February 8, 2015 by Cobaki and updated by Lynne May 2023
Braising is a form of baking used when food being baked is surrounded by liquid such as broth or water and placed in a closed pan.
Braising is the perfect method to coax flavor from tougher cuts of meat and improve eating texture. It enhances the flavor and texture of food being cooked.
How to braise meat
The protein, eg meat or chicken, is generally seared at a high temperature. A little butter or oil should be used to cover the bottom of the pan and the surface of the meat browned.
Remove meat. Add your preferred flavoring vegetables. For example onions, garlic, shallots, leeks, carrots, turnips, mushrooms and choice of aromatics like herbs or spices to flavor. Fry gently in the flavored oils at the bottom of the pan until onion is transparent. This infuses flavor and adds to the delicious complexity of the completed meal.
Remove from pan.
Slowly add in liquid. Options include stock, wine, broth, tomato juice or water which deglaze the bottom of the pan.
The rule for calculating how much liquid to add:
It should be a small quantity of liquid. It should not cover or rise above the meat that is being cooked.
Then meat and other ingredients are placed in the centre of a closed pan like a dutch oven, add further seasoning if required. Bring back to boil and reduce heat to simmer.
Liquid may be to which by the steam rising from the liquid.
How to make a sauce from the liquid
Remove meat and simmer liquid on the stovetop to evaporate liquid and concentrate flavor. If you want to thicken the liquid, this can be done using a little cornstarch, flour or arrowroot. Blend 1 to 2 tablespoons of the flour (for example) with a little cold water to make paste. (Beurre Manié) Stir in more water until a creamy consistency and gradually add to the braising liquid while stirring. Gently boil for 3 minutes to thicken.
Roasting is used when large meat cuts need to be cooked, without a coating of dough or any stuffing, using a shorter cooking time and higher temperature. Roasting is more suitable for finer cuts of meat so other methods like ‘en croute’ have come about.
The popular French ‘en croute’ method, means “in a crust’. Pronunciation is ‘on kroot’. The meat is sealed within pastry or dough and cooked slowly so that the flavors and natural juices of the food remain intact. Pastry is cooked (baked) in the oven until golden brown. Depending on what you are cooking, some meats need to be seared first, others like salmon and cheese cook quickly, so can be placed uncooked into the pastry for baking.
This method is also used for fish, (salmon is delicious cooked in pastry), vegetables, or for occasions recipes like Beef Wellington (boeuf en croute). It can also be used to prepare appetizer or dessert. EG Brie en croute. Top brie with
Pastry is usually shortcrust (used for pies) or puff pastry, depending what you are cooking. Puffy pastry, as the name suggests, puffs up when cooked and the many layers become flaky.
Meat is seared prior to wrapping in the pastry
Wild meats like venison are cooked in a variation of the ‘en croute’ method by burying large pieces of meat coated with protective moist crust into a pit of hot coals or fire. The burnt crust is discarded before consuming the meat.
The French term ‘en papillote’ means ‘enveloped in paper’. The principal is that the parcel holds moisture so the food within the pocket is steamed.
Typically parchment paper or aluminium foil is used to create a pocket for the food to sit within which is then folded to create a seal.
‘Al cartoccio’ is the Italian equivalent term for this style of cooking. Variations of En Papillote is used by cultures that use large banana leaves or corn husks, for example, to wrap food before steaming or grilling.
This style of cooking is ideal for fish, poultry, shellfish or tender cuts to which vegetables and aromatics have been added.
Herbs like dill, chives and tarragon and spices like ginger work well. Example so f vegetables you could consider adding to the pouch include shallots, celery, peppers, carrots, mushrooms, zucchini tomatoes, or lemon sliced
Preparation of vegetables is important. As the seafood or poultry does not take long to cook, any vegetable you choose to add needs to be thinly sliced or finely julienne carrots for example so the cooking time is similar. A little wine, or citrus juice can be added to the pouch.
Keep in mind, fish is a more delicate flavor which absorbs the flavor easily in the moist-heat method of cooking.
Don’t be tempted to over-indulge when adding aromatic herbs and strong flavors like slices of lemon. A light sprinkling of herbs works well or thinly sliced lemon provides a delicious restrained flavor. Too much will spoil the result. En Papillote is generally served with a Béarnaise sauce or hollandaise sauce so delicate aromatics can be echoed in the sauce creating a delicious combination.
Pre-heat oven to moderately hot 230°C (450°F)
Prepare fish, poultry or seafood.
Prepare vegetables by slicing thinly, dice or juilenne.
Lay out paper or foil you are using and grease with butter.
Layer vegetables and place fish on top. Season, sprinkle with herbs and top with thinly sliced lemon.
Seal the pouch by folding edges
Place in oven for 10 to 15 minutes.
A béarnaise or hollandaise sauce is an ideal accompanyment.
The other method of protecting food from high heat and temperatures is the ‘en papillote’ which means ‘in parchment’. Here the food is wrapped in aluminum foil or baking paper before being put it in the over or fire. This way, the food retains its flavors and seasonings till it is ready to be served. In most restaurants, ‘en papillote’ food items are brought to the table with the foil cover intact so that the diner gets the element of surprise and the fabulous smell of the cooked dish.
Baking is also used for desserts such as custards, crème caramels, chocolates, puddings and soufflés. Here the process has to be carefully controlled and monitored so that the items are not exposed to direct heat. The ‘Bain-Marie’ method is used for such cooking where the container is submerged in water and put into another larger one so that the heat is distributed evenly in the steam that rises.
An air filled dessert has its own theatrical effect and soufflés and puddings generally need a great deal of expertise to achieve culinary excellence.
No wonder, it’s said that ‘the proof of the pudding lies in the eating!’
Benefits of Braising technique
- Save on buying expensive cuts of meat. Cheaper cuts will taste amazing. Braising improves texture of the food and draws out flavor to get that melt in the mouth deliciousness.
- Save time: Braising slowly in the oven or on the cooktop produces a good results and most of the cooking time is hands-off.
- Taste: Flavors slowly fuse together. Meat is broken down to become tender with the favor adding to the gelatinous liquid resulting in exceptional taste.
- Texture: Tender meats and vegetables
- Nutrition: Protein and all the vegetables for a balanced meal can be cooked in one pot if desired to produce a nutritious, flavorful meal.
An economical main meal. This recipe is an easy to prepare meal for cheaper cuts of meat. You don’t even have to thicken the sauce when cooked with beurre manié making it a perfect mid-week meal for a busy household.
- 2lb round steak
- 1/4 cup butter (50 g/2 oz)
- 4 tablespons flour
- 1 teasoons salt
- ground black pepper
- bay leaf
- 1 onion, sliced thinly
- 2 carrots, peeled and sliced
- 1 green pepper, pith removed, seeded and diced
- 14 oz can of tomatoes (396g)
Mix flour, salt and pepper in a bowl and coat steak with the mix.
Heat butter in a heavy frying pan over moderate heat. When foam has subsided, add meat and brown (each side) for 5 minutes. Add remaining ingredients to pan and stir well. Cover and simmer gently for 2 to 2 1⁄2 hours or until meat is tender.
Serve with seasonal vegetables you have on hand. EG potatoes, carrots, broccoli. Alternatively serve with buttered noodles, sautéed zucchini (courgettes) or peas.
Ticks all the boxes: Cheap, easy to prepare, no fuss, nutritious and delicious!
A roux has its roots in French Cuisine and is a classic thickening agent.
What is Maillard Reaction?
Browning meat uses the ‘Maillard reaction’ which was named after the French chemist, Louis Camille Maillar who first described the process in 1912.
What this means is the organic chemical reaction when reducing sugars in the food (caramelizing) react with amino acids. This reaction is responsible for the richer, deeper and distinctive flavor and aroma of food being browned.
This complex chemical reaction happens whenever sugars are released from a food, whether if be by bbq, grill, frying pan, toaster. Examples of other foods that undergo this process during cooking are when caramelizing onions, frying potatoes, searing steaks, toasting marshmallows, baking cookies and breads.
Typically foods a little charred are popular, but too charred, and foods become burnt. They undergo ‘pyrolyis’ and with that comes a bitter taste.
It may appear the same as slightly burning food, or a little charring which typically is popular with some foods.
But in fact burning produces ‘pyrolysis’. This is a different set of reactions which causes thermal decomposition of materials at elevated temperature, above 355°F/180°C.
Rich Butter Sauces
Béarnaise, Hollandaise and Paloise sauce are known as emulsified sauces which means they are thickened with an emulsion of egg yolks and butter. They also have an acid added, like vinegar, white wine vinegar, vermouth or lemon juice to help stabilize the sauce.
What’s the difference between Béarnaise sauce and Hollandaise sauce?
Taste and strength of flavor. Lemon juice is the acidic component in Hollandaise and it’s seasoned with a little salt and white or cayenne pepper. In Béarnise sauce the lemon juice is replaced by a reduction of wine vinegar or dry vermouth. Flavor is built with the addition of eschalots (shallot or spring onion) pepper and tarragon.
Tarragon is a key flavor in Béarnaise sauce.
These sauces are not difficult to make and virtually fail proof, if you stick to these guidelines.
- Use a double boiler. And don’t let water in the bottom pan to boil.
- Butter should be added a little at a time. Thoroughly incorporate each portion of butter before added more.
- Continually stir
- Troubleshooting: If sauce curdles, in a clean saucepan, off the heat, place an egg yolk. Add curdled mixture gradually while whisking.
A classic French sauce, Béarnaise sauce is the perfect accompaniment for steak, roast fillet, fish and shellfish.
- A little white wine vinegar or dry vermouth
- 1 finely chopped eschalots (shallots)
- 4 crushed peppercorns
- 1 tarragon spring (finely chopped)
- 1 thyme sprig (finely chopped)
- 1 bay leaf (crushed)
- 2 egg yolks
- 4 oz butter (125 g)
- 1 teaspoon chopped tarragon or parsley extra (optional)
- pepper (freshly ground) to season
Place white wine vinegar or vermouth in a small pan and simmer over medium/low heat with eschalot, peppercorns, tarragon, bay leaf and thyme and reduce to 1 tablespoon.
Add reduced mixture to egg yolks and place in the top of a double boiler. Whisk until egg yolks have slightly thickened.
Add butter in small pieces. Gradually add, whisking the sauce in between additions until thoroughly combined and a consistency similar to whipped cream. Stir in tarragon or parley (optional) and season to taste.
How to make Béarnaise sauce using a stick blender
This is a really fast way to make the sauce.
Use clarified butter.
Add butter to a heatproof jug and microwave until just melted.
Separate solids – leave melted butter to sit for 30 seconds and you’ll notice solids separate. The sediment settles at the bottom of the jug (about 10% of the solution) and the clear clarified butter rises to the top. Measure out 3/4 cup of clarified butter to use and discard remaining solids.
Separate egg yolks and leave to de-chill for around 10 – 15 minutes.
Blitz yolks, infused white wine vinegar or vermouth.
Drizzle in clarified butter, very slowly so it properly emulsifies (meaning binds and thickens) rather than splitting.
Blitz until smooth. If consistency is too thick, it can be adjusted by adding 1 tablespoon of water, a little at a time until you achieve the texture desired.
Add herbs and seasoning as needed.
A variation of Béarnise sauce that works really well with grilled lamb and poultry.
The secret is to swap out the herbs tarragon, thyme and parsley for chopped mint leaves. We all know how well mint sauce works with lamb. Well the creamy texture of Paloise sauce adds a luscious, entertainers touch to classic grilled lamb.
A rich, delightfully delicate sauce to complement salmon, fish, egg dishes and an exquisite accompaniment to vegetables like asparagus. Hollandaise is French for ‘Dutch sauce’. It has interesting roots, seeped in history, and whether the foundations are from France or Netherlands, it’s had a huge impact on the food we enjoy throughout the world.
19th-century French chef Augustine Escoffier made a list that he called the 5 French mother sauces of French haute cuisine (rich, elegant cuisine using the highest quality ingredients). The 5 mother sacues are béchamel, hollandaise, velouté, espanole and tomato. But can the French claim Hollandaise as their own?
1 theory has it’s origins in France’s Normandy region, a town known for producing high-quality butter “Isigny-Sur-Mer’. As history has recorded, during World War 1 France could not produce butter, which meant butter had to be imported from Holland, leading to the name Hollandaise for the sauce.
But we know that the origins of Hollandaise sauce actually reach much further back in history. Possibly at least to the 16th century and the French Huguenots who introduced Hollandaise sauce to French cuisine fon their return from exile to the Netherlands.
The Huguenots were a religious group of French Protestants who were persecuted for their faith and exiled to Holland. They believed in the reformed Calvinist movement of the protestant church and at time in history when opposition to catholicism meant exile; or to stay in France a worse fate.
So whether from the Netherlands or France, Hollandaise sauce is a gift to the world that we all appreciate.
- 1 tablespoon of water
- 2 egg yolks
- 4oz (125g) unsalted butter
- pinch of salt
- a few drops of lemon juice
In the top of a double boiler, place water and egg yolks. Don’t allow the water in the bottom pan to boil.
Whisk over hot water until light and fluffy.
Add butter in small increments to the egg yolks, whisking well until butter is melted and sauce begins to thicken. Keep adding butter, stirring constantly until all butter has been added.
Add small pinch of salt and a little lemon juice to taste..
Caution: Too much lemon juice will overpower the sauce and ruin it
Blender Hollandaise Sauce
Use sauce to accompany pan fried fish, ham steaks, grilled or barbecued lamb chops or steak, Hot vegetables like brocdoli, asparagus, new pototoes.
- 3 egg yolks
- 1 tablespoon lemon juice
- 1 tablespoon water
- 125 g butter
- cayenne pepper or white pepper and salt to season
These quantities make 3/4 to 1 cup.
Place eggs yolks, lemon juice and water in blender and blend on a high speed for a few seconds.
Melt butter in a saucepan until hot and foaming. Don’t let it brown.
Gradually add melted butter to blender, blending at top speed after each addition. Season to taste with salt and freshly ground pepper.
Serve warm or cold depending on desired consistency and dish that Hollandaise sauce is accompanying.
Troubleshooting: If blender Hollandaise sauce refuses to thicken, pour out of the blender and return, drop by drop, as you blend continually.
As butter cools it starts to cream and form a thick sauce.
Herbs of choice can be added to the basic receipe.
Eggs Florentine swaps ham or bacon for spinach
Add mustard and herbs to top asparagus with Hollandaise
Brie en croûte
This is an elegant appetizer or serve as dessert. Brie encased in flaky pastry.
- Frozen puff pastry ( 1 sheet)
- Apricot jam (or jelly of your choice depending what you intend to serve with the brie) This is optional to spread on pastry.
- toasted chopped nuts (optional)
- 1 egg, slightly beaten for wash
- 1 tbls water
- cinnamon and brown sugar mixed together
- Sliced apple or pear to serve.
Preheat oven to 400°F (200°C)
Safe time and effort by using packaged frozen puff pasty. Dust work surface with flour and lay out 1 sheet of pastry.
If you’ve make your own pasty, roll out dough to 16 x 10″ rectangle. Use an 8″ round cake pan to use as a guide for shape and cut 2 circles.
Make egg wash and set aside.
Take fruit spread and spread thinly on pastry if desired. Place brie on the pastry. Sprinkle top with a little brown sugar and cinnamon. Brush pastry edges with egg wash and carefully bring pastry up around and over the cheese. Pleat edges to cover and seal brie. Trim excess pastry so there is not too much where it joins together on top. Place on a baking sheet. Brush with remaining egg wash. Pierce pastry to make small vents to allow steam to escape as its cooking. Decorate with left over pastry if desired. Bake in a Moderate oven (200°C) for 20 to 25 minutes or until golden brown.
Set aside for before serving for 10 to 15 minutes. Sliced apple (drizzled with a lemon juice, sliced pear, brazil nuts, walnuts, dried apricots, dried apples or celery sticks can accompany this brie dish.
This is a family favorite and a perfect showcase for Hollandaise Sauce.
These are the ingredients
- Poached Eggs
- A classic Hollandaise sauce
- Smoked salmon, ham or bacon
- English muffin or brioche bun
Heat oven on a slow temperature (150°C or 300°F)
This is to warm muffins or brioche buns and warm ham or to keep cooked bacon warm.
Cook bacon. Place in a dish. Cover with foil and place in the oven.
Toast muffins and place in the oven.
Make hollandaise sauce
Assemble on plate. Top muffin with ham, smoked salmon or bacon, place poached egg on top and drizzle hollandaise sauce over the top.
Sprinkle with chives and parsley. I also make a side of spinach (and I add a pinch of nutmeg), which makes a nice contrast. And you’re getting those extra greens into the diet of the family.
To poach eggs
Place water in a shallow pan and bring to the boil.
Crack eggs into individual ramekins or cups in preparation. Make sure there is no shell in the egg.
Water temperature is important. The water should be just boiling with tiny bubbles rising from the base of the pan. Not rapidly boiling water. If water is rapidly boiling, lower the temperature to bring water to just slow boil before adding eggs.
Water that isn’t hot enough means the eggs won’t set and egg white dissolves into the water. Water that is boiling too rapidly causes eggs to move about too much and they become messy and chaotic.
Roll eggs out of the cup or small bowl into the water separately. Submerge bowl as you roll out so eggs hold their shape well. Poach for 3 to 4 minutes, or to your taste, turning once to form a nice shape and then remove gently using a slotted spoon to remove excess water.
Use fresh eggs. The fresher the better as the whites will be firmer and less fluid.
Adding 1 tablespoon of white vinegar to the water will help hold the egg white together.
Use a pan with at least 4 inches of water to produce a more classic rounded shape. Using a more shallow pan with less water produces a flatter egg.
And my top tip
Swirl the water. If you have the luxury of cooking 1 egg at a time, gently swirl the water. Add the egg, carefully, into the centre of the whirpool and you should achieve a nice firm shape for your egg. The swirl makes the egg hold together nicely.