8 Essential Temperatures for Baking Like a Professional
It’s that time of the year when a chilly breeze and The Great British Bake Off arriving on TV coaxes us in from the BBQ and into our baking mitts. Week on week we watch, mouths watering, as contestants battle against one another in pursuit of the perfect bake and an iconic handshake — and we dare to dream of the fame and glory of our own Victoria sponges achieving such acclaim.
Being a great baker is about maths, science and precision. It’s about measuring, calculating and ensuring every element has been caught at the fleeting moment that it is neither under or over done. Here are some of the key temperatures that you should know for the perfect bakes, plus some recipes for you to try out.
1st temperature: 55-58°C for dark/ 45-50°C for milk or white
2nd temperature: 28-29°C for dark/ 27-28°C for milk/ 26-27°C for white
3rd temperature: 31-32°C for dark/ 29-30°C for milk/ 28-29°C for white
A good quality thermometer is absolutely essential in order to temper chocolate. The chocolate has to be very slowly heated and cooled and several temperatures met throughout the process in order for it to work, otherwise the chocolate will not have the perfect shine and snap.
Making caramel sauce at home can be intimidating, but it’s easy to get the perfect pourable consistency as long as you heat it slowly and keep checking the temperature until it reaches 118-120˚C.
Rich dough: 77°C
Lean dough: 88-93°C
There’s a few temperatures that you need to know when baking bread, particularly sourdough. The time that bread takes to prove depends on the temperature of the ingredients and the surroundings, so measuring these elements before kneading will ensure you bake it at the correct time. Cooked rich dough and lean dough breads also have optimum temperatures, so you can be sure your loaf isn’t under or over baked.
Taking jam to its setting point of 105°C will ensure it’s the perfect jammy consistency — not too runny and not too sticky. If you have lumps of fruit in your jam, it’s also great to allow it to cool slightly before potting (without going below 87°C) in order to prevent all of the fruit from floating to the top of the jar.
Like jam, fudge needs to be heated to a certain temperature in order to make it the right texture once it sets. Many recipes will recommend dropping some of the mixture into cold water in order to find out if it’s done, but this is tricky and imprecise, particularly as it can go from under to overdone very quickly.
There’s nothing worse than a dry sponge. The prettiest cake can be rendered a disaster if it’s overbaked, and different ovens vary so much that you cannot rely on recipe timings to ensure yours is baked to perfection. Simply check that the temperature is between 95°C and 98°C for a delightfully moist sponge.
Italian meringue is made by whisking egg whites into stiff peaks and combining with a heated sugar solution. It’s essential to heat the sugar solution to 116°C before adding the egg whites in order to achieve the meringue’s signature soft and glossy finish.
Similarly to Italian meringue, Italian buttercream is made by adding a hot sugar solution to whisked egg whites, but with the addition of butter. Taking the sugar solution to 115-118°C will produce beautifully light and creamy frosting for your cake.
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