French-born baker Laurent Boillon, famous for his sourdough loaves and rolls, believes that anyone can make cakes, flans and bread at home – provided they follow a few basic rules.
Q: How did you get into baking?
“In Europe you cannot escape the smell of freshly baked bread. I always liked that smell. I began making cakes at home at around nine years old. I originally wanted to become a baker, but in those days bakers started work at 10pm and finished at 6 in the morning, so my parents persuaded me to become a pastry chef instead; pastry chefs started work at 4am.”
Q: What do you love about it?
“Baking is a lifelong challenge. I’m still experimenting and trying new things every day. I am always looking at ways of improving the quality of my products in the supermarket. There are always new concepts and recipes to explore.”
Q: Can anyone be a competent baker?
“I think anyone can bake provided they love what they are doing. It’s not about becoming a superstar. But to work as a professional pastry chef is very, very demanding, so you have to be really dedicated to your calling.”
Q: Why do you think baking has become so popular?
"I think it has a lot to do with the rise of competitive cooking shows on television, plus the impact of the pandemic. Over the past few months people have been taking up hobbies at home and baking is one of them. Baking was once something that was learned from your parents or grandparents, but now television and the internet are showing people how to bake and providing them with ideas.”
Be precise baking doesn’t allow you to improvise, so weigh everything carefully.
Read the recipe before you start so you have a clear idea of what’s required and the exact timings.
Ideally use a free-standing Mixmaster with either a glass or a metal mixing bowl.
Prep the pan with butter or oil spray before you make the batter so you can pop it in the oven straight away.
Sifting is recommended for making cake batter but is not needed when you are making bread.
If you need to cream butter and sugar try to use caster sugar and you won’t have granules in the final bake. To check when the creaming process is ready, rub the mixture between your thumb and forefinger to check it is smooth.
All ovens are different so check your cake 5-10 mins before the recipe says it is ready to avoid an overcooked and dry cake.
Trim your tart pastry around the top of the tin before it goes into the oven, allowing for shrinkage when it is baking in the oven. To achieve a professional look, trim the pastry only once it is nearly cooked. Use a sharp knife to trim around the edge of the pastry tin.
Line your pans as well as greasing to ensure non-stick, but never grease Teflon baking pans.
To make doubly sure a tart or cake won’t stick, grease the pan then dust with flour. Tip off the excess.
Coles Finest by Laurent is available at Coles stores nationwide.