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Friday, 3 January 2014

working to scale : traybake recipe

I don't have photos of the recipe itself (coconut and banana traybake), partly because it was an experimental recipe that Petal and I made earlier this week, and partly because as we were experimenting with the equipment as much as the food I knew I wouldn't be able to keep track of everything!

But I have, however, got something else loosely connected that I'd like to share - we call it working to scale, and it provides a formula for a basic traybake which you can then adapt to your hearts content.  {I have another for cupcakes - watch this space!}

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So, first up, you need to weigh your eggs.  I used four eggs, which weighed 256g.  I tend to round down a little if the number is ungainly, since the weight includes the egg shells, which won't (intentionally) be making their way into the mixture!

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So, using an egg weight of 250g, you now need to measure out the rest of your ingredients.
Egg weight = 250g
Therefore marg = 250g
sugar = 250g
plain flour = 250g
baking powder - this is the slightly trickier one.  The guide I use is add half a teaspoon for every 50g of egg, so for these weights it's two and a half teaspoons.  When your egg weight is not on a round 50g, round down.  This means if your egg weight was 283g, you would still use two and a half teaspoons of baking powder.

Easy, right?  The method is straightforward, but if you'd like to see the full step by step, full of photos version, check out the blackberry and almond slice recipe - if the brief reminder one will do, keep reading!

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The short version :

Preheat the oven to 180°c, cream the sugar and marg together til pale, then add an egg followed by a tablespoon of flour, continue mixing, and repeat with the rest of the eggs.  Add the baking powder to the remaining flour, stir briefly to mix, then fold the rest of the flour in by hand using a metal spoon.  Into a tin, then into the oven - check after 20mins, and if it springs back when you poke it gently, it's done; if not, put it back in the oven for a few minutes.

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So ... how many eggs should you use?

• This depends on how big your tins are; how many people are going to be eating it; and how greedy hungry those people are!  The best way to find out how much mix it gives you is to (sorry guys!) give it a go and see.  I'd suggest using two or three eggs for the first time so you can see how that goes, and how it fits in your tins.

• I usually make a four egg mix, which is about right for my two loose based tins - one is 25cm square, the other 30cm.  Although all the mixture would physically fit (just) in the bigger of the two (deep) tins, it would probably overflow as it rose during cooking, and probably still not be cooked properly through the middle!

• Traybakes are traditionally baked in bigger, fairly shallow tins, but you certainly don't need to have a designated tin - just go with what works.  I still make them pretty shallow in my cake tins as then the kids feel like they're getting a big piece.  I don't often ice them but if you did want to then it's easier (and slightly less messy) to eat if the cake bit isn't too tall, since that plus the icing could be tricky to fit into your mouth... 

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Creating your own recipes from this base :

If you bake this, from the plain recipe, without adding anything more to the mixture, your cake will be very plain.  The idea is to take this base and use it as a stepping stone to the cake that you want to make - it's like a background, and it's up to you what happens next.  

It doesn't have to be complicated - just add the juice and zest of a lemon then top with glace icing made with lemon juice to end up with a soft moist lemon traybake for example.

Add things you like to have in cake - jam, custard, sultanas - as long as it is not too wet or too dry, it should be fine.  Think about how you mix them in - custard (for example ... I love custard) is best in a layer, not mixed through, as you will lose the squidgy texture of the custard-y bits and instead have kinda soggy cake.  A layer of apple or pineapple could be put in the base so the cake cooks on top, then turn it out once cool so the fruit is on top, a la pineapple upside down cake.

With some ingredients you might need to do a bit of switching and swapping - for example, adding a very dry ingredient, such as cocoa powder or ground almonds - because of their texture you can't just add them I n on top of the basic recipe.  I weigh out the flour, then take a tablespoonful of flour out for each 100g, and replace with a tablespoonful of cocoa powder or ground almonds.

The need for balance should be kept in mind if you plan to add something very wet, such as yoghurt, fruit juice, or frozen fruit (as this has added water).  If you only want to add a tablespoon or two this is fine, but with bigger quantities you should either reduce the liquid in the mixture (by using three whole eggs and one yolk instead of four whole eggs, or reducing the marg by 25g-ish), or add an extra dry ingredient to balance it out, but keep in mind how many flavours you're mixing, and if they taste good together - a couple of handfuls of frozen cherry's could be balanced with a couple of tablespoons of cocoa powder for example - black forest gateaux!

Some specific ingredients trigger the addition of others, but this is less predictable - more trial and error.  If I'm adding coconut I always add a bit of milk for example, as the coconut soaks up moisture during cooking and unless you put in some extra liquid it makes the texture of the cake a bit dry.  As far as how much to add of anything, start off by trusting your instincts.  I used four eggs, which gave me a working weight of 250g, and added 200g of coconut (which I only know because that was the size of the packet), four bananas, and milk - maybe 150ml ish.  Logically the mashed bananas should have been wet enough to balance the coconut (and may have been, if I'd only added 80g ish of coconut), but with experience you get to know the consistency you need the mixture to be.



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I know this was a long post - hopefully some of you made it through to the end - I'd love it if you could leave a comment to let me know!

I'm @abstractLucas on twitter, and if you do bake something working to scale it would be great if you could tweet me a photo, or if you publish a blog post using this idea let me know so I can retweet your link.

Have fun!

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