London may get its reputation as the fine dining capital of Britain, but further south in sunny Brighton lies a fine dining restaurant that's been making waves in the culinary world. Furna is helmed by Yorkshire-born Chef David Mothersill who brings childhood recipes and traditions to the table.
As Chef Mothersill's first solo venture, Furna is the crystallisation of his over two decades of hard work, and its reputation upholds its beloved, well-respected creator. The name Furna honours the restaurant's former owner, the Furner family, with the etymology of 'one who sets bread in the oven'. For its current owner, bread and baking takes up an extensive part of his cuisine. With seasonal fresh ingredients and menus, Furna offers a homely gourmet dining experience to Brighton. Its multi-course tasting menus marry modern and classic techniques to present the best of its land.
Here, Chef Dave Mothersill shares with us his top five tips for baking at home.
Always, always, always measure the ingredients to be exact as possible. Whether you are baking choux’s, cakes, biscuits or breads. Measuring in baking is so important! Baking is an absolute science... it’s a fine chemistry.
There are hundreds of variations of recipes for literally every different product you want to make. But each recipe is written specifically the way it has through being tried and tested. And it works. The textures, the flavours, the baking will all alter drastically if you do not weigh correctly. I have four different carrot cake recipes, of all different weights and ingredients, but all are just as good quality as the other if all weighed properly.
Unless you know what you’re doing, don’t go in thinking ‘ahh I don’t have enough flour, it’ll be fine’, for example. If it’s not the same quantity, the end product will be completely different from what you’re expecting. The only persistently annoying thing is you never find out any of the problems until the baking process is finished.
Treat the preheating stage of anything baking-wise you do as your absolute BFF! It sounds silly, but without it, you don’t achieve that crusty bread. Your cakes come out with a cracked top. The effects of raising agents like baking powder or bicarbonate of soda do not have that immediate reaction to give their signature rise, soft texture and airy texture etc. Do not be reluctant, put that oven on for a good 15-20 minutes at least before you start measuring and making. It is so fundamentally important to get the oven to the correct temperature for everything to go smoothly for you. No sneaky ‘I turned it on as it goes in and hope for the best’ situation – the outsides cook quicker than the centre. The texture changes. It just doesn’t turn out well. Remember again baking is a science... a chemistry... you’ll thank me later.
3) Quality Bakeware
It sounds very cliché because everyone says it, but the better quality you invest in the a) longer it lasts; b) produces you better baking results, and c) a more evenly cooked product from the heat conduction you achieve.
Personally, at home, I have the Le Creuset ceramic bakeware for my bread products. The thick ceramic edges for me give off a ‘cast iron’ vibe without the price tag and I actually achieve some really nice crusts with them. I find with cast iron, the thick ceramic edges hold the heat a lot more efficiently than a traditional metal oven tray, which in turn gives you better crust throughout the cooking process.
When it comes to cake baking tins, I love a good quality piece from Mary Berry’s range. The loaf/cake tins are thick, sturdy stainless steel. Again, for me, similar characteristics to ceramic. The bake is better. You achieve a more even caramelised casing to your bake with a soft, fluffy evenly cooked middle.
I also have similar opinions about mixers. If you can’t afford the brands like kitchen aid or, my favourite, Kenwood, just don’t at all go for a cheaper home store version! They aren’t built for baking. They don’t mix very well – they can’t take the single quantity of the recipe you’re doing, and you are forever scraping the bottom of the bowl because it just doesn’t reach! (sadly, I have done that in the past and will never be doing that to my baking ever again).
However, I will suggest that if you can’t afford those, go for a good solid double-piece hand mixer. Yes, you have to hold it, but it gives you just as good a quality outcome as a stand mixer. That big purchase can wait!
4) Room Temperature
It sounds a bit silly, but everyone forgets this one – even I do and I bake every day for a living! I do have some little tricks to let you into as I go.
When baking, you want all the ingredients to relatively be the same temperature. So the flour, the eggs, butter and sugar, (milk you can get away with but you can gently warm through on the stove and set aside to sort that out), yeast and over raising agents included.
Tell me I’m wrong, but baking cakes with cold eggs and butter straight from the fridge just isn’t okay! The butter doesn’t mix properly and you always find a random bit of egg white that doesn’t want to mix in. Try baking another cake where every ingredient has sat out the fridge on the side since yesterday. It just mixes perfectly every time. Just two very different bakes with the same recipe.
Not allowing ingredients to room temperature properly affects the mixing, cooking process, texture, bake time and temperature. So please take note and bring everything out the night before! Here’s a tip for you – if you forgot about your eggs, pop them whole into some warmed, but not hot water for 10 minutes. And put the butter in the microwave for 20-30 seconds at the most.
This isn’t for every bake though. Products like pastries need to have cold butter to achieve their crispy light texture.
5) Dry Ingredient Storing
A fair bit of trial and error went into this one throughout the years as I started to notice ingredients not working properly, or when forgotten little clumps form in flours etc. Store flours, grains, nuts and sugars in Kilner jars, preferably. They are airtight from little bugs and keep the moisture out. If you don’t have those, any container with a clip-locking mechanism is just as good!
Any dry goods want to be stored in a cool, dry, moisture-free space, so are perfect in a cupboard furthest away from the cooker and kettle. Baking powders and bicarbs are fine in their little pots – but please only buy little ones. I always replace mine after six months of purchase even if I’ve not used it all. Temperature and moisture over time change their characteristics resulting in a not as good in quality bake.
Keep nuts in separate containers. They all individually have different natural smells and flavours. When stored together, from the heat of the cupboard, they take on their surroundings and absorb the flavours and smells from each other.
Dried yeast is an important one! This, without fail, I keep in the freezer. A lot of people keep these in the cupboard, but you have to remember, although it's dried, if stored in a warm cupboard environment, they may have new characteristics from the warmth and moisture. If in a place too warm, like a cupboard not to far from the cooker, you will actually heat the dried granules too much and they’ll die. If somewhere where moisture collects, the yeast will start to intake that, rehydrate and eventually die. So, if you store it in the freezer, you are stalling the yeast growth because of the cold temperatures. It doesn’t gain moisture or heat, it doesn’t grow and, most importantly, it doesn’t die in there. As and when you want to use it, bring a sachet out a couple of hours before to defrost it and use it as you normally would do.
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