With over 25 years of baking experience from around the globe, Shangri-La Group Area Chief Baker Nikolai Murzello knows a thing or two about mastering mouth-watering breads, cakes and pastries. That’s why when it came to brushing up on our own at-home baking skills, we headed straight to Nikolai in search of beginner hacks that are as simple as they are handy.
Mental note-taking at the ready…
1. Read the Recipe Before Starting
“I feel silly saying this, but I can’t tell you how many times I’ve had a complete recipe disaster because I didn’t realise a certain step was coming up. Reading ahead will help you know the how, why, where, and when of what you are about to do. It will take you less than five minutes and could save you from wasting your ingredients (and money!) on a failed recipe,” says Chef Nikolai.
2. Room Temperature is Key
“If a recipe calls for room temperature eggs or any dairy ingredients such as milk, yoghurt, or butter, make sure you follow suit. Recipes don’t just do that for fun – room temperature ingredients emulsify much easier into batter, which creates a uniform texture throughout your baked goods. Think of cold, hard butter. It’s impossible to cream cold butter into a soft consistency necessary for some recipes. The same goes for eggs – they add much more volume to the batter when they’re at room temperature.”
3. Learn How to Measure Precisely
“This one is really important. Baking is a science, and excellent baking requires precise ratios, proven techniques, and well-tested recipes. So unlike cooking, you can’t just bake something by throwing some ingredients together. (Well, most of the time you can’t!) Problems are common if measurements are incorrect. For this reason, a small kitchen scale is priceless. It is, by far, the most used tool in my kitchen. A gram or ounce is always a gram or an ounce, but a cup isn’t always a cup. This is why I offer gram measurements with my recipes. Again, precision is everything.”
4. Invest in an Oven Thermometer
“While inexpensive, an oven thermometer is irreplaceable in a baker’s kitchen. Place it in your oven so you always know the actual temperature. Unless you have a brand new, or regularly calibrated oven, your oven’s temperature is likely inaccurate. When you set your oven to 350°F, it might not really be 350°F inside. It could only be off by a little – 10 degrees – or more – 100 degrees! An inaccurate oven can ruin your baked goods, the hours spent on the recipe, the money spent on ingredients, and leave you hungry for dessert!”
For those who prefer the eating of scrumptious baked goods over the making of them, you’re in luck too – Chef Nikolai has rolled up his sleeves and shown us his serious skills through a special BAKED BY SHANGRI-LA Pop-Up.
Stop by Kowloon Shangri-La anytime until 30 April 2021, and tuck into heavenly – and very Instagrammable – pastries freshly prepared by Chef Nikolai and his team. Some of our “must-try’s”? The Crème Brûlée Berliner – a fluffy, custard-filled spin on the German doughnut, and the Limoncello Gugelhupf – a buttery cake hailing from Austria, infused with Italian lemon liqueur. For those after a savoury delight, bite into a warm and salty deep-fried Japanese Curry Beef Bun, made with Chef Nikolai’s secret recipe.
Anyone else salivating?