Paul Hollywood, Sandi Toksvig, Noel Fielding, Prue Leith © Love Productions / Channel 4 / Mark Bourdillon

Nine baking science tips to avoid soggy bottoms (and other baking disasters)

Hooray, Bake Off is back on telly, so we asked our team of specialists to put a pinny on and bake up some answers to the most delicious questions about cake.

1

Stop whipping cream when it forms stiff peaks

If you carry on, fat molecules inside the cream break up and the air bubbles making the cream all fluffy collapse, then you’re on the way to making butter.

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2

Stop an apple turning brown by placing it under water

You need to inhibit the browning enzyme converting natural chemicals called polyphenols into melanin. Starve it of oxygen by placing apple slices under water, or damage the enzyme by cooking or adding lemon juice (an acid) to the surface of the apple.

3

Don’t put bread in the fridge if you want to keep it fresh

When mixed with water and flour, the crystalline formation of starch breaks down making bread delicious and fluffy. But once fresh bread starts to cool, recrystallisation makes the bread go hard and this happens more quickly at cooler temperatures (unless it’s below freezing). Bread will go stale much faster when refrigerated – don’t do it.

4

Biscuit tins were invented for a reason

Keep biscuits in a dry environment to reduce the amount of water the sugar in them absorbs, keeping them biscuity for longer.

5

Warm custard and sauces on a low heat to avoid lumps

Unless you’re making cheese, tofu or lemon curd, in which case protein denaturation is essential!

6

Don’t cook meringue too fast or at a very high heat

If the sugar in the meringue cooks before the water has had time to evaporate, you’ll end up with a browned meringue with a soggy middle.

7

Bake when you’ve got the blues

Great British Bake Off winner John Waite published a cookbook explaining how baking helped him cope with depression. Creativity, goal-oriented behaviour and focused attention are all central to baking, and are associated with positivity and a sense of accomplishment.

8

Avoid the dreaded soggy bottom and use a sturdy, good-quality tin

They heat faster than flimsy ones and retain higher temperatures, which keeps pastry crisp.

9

Eat more chocolate

Need you ask why? Well apart from lowering blood pressure, preventing liver damage, boosting your brain power and even steadying your heartbeat (don’t believe us? You really should…) the experience of eating chocolate and satisfying a food craving releases endorphins and ‘happy feelings’ in the brain.

Bonus tip

Watching this clip of 2014 winner Nancy Birtwhistle gives hope to all of us…

What makes custard curdle? © iStock

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