What are the easiest metric-measured baking recipes for a beginner?
September 1, 2011 9:45 AM   Subscribe

What are the easiest metric-measured baking recipes for a beginner?

We have a simple little gas oven, barely big enough to stick your head in, and the temperature scale is 1 through 8. However, I have finally picked up a separate thermometer I can put in the oven and peek at through the glass door. Assuming it works, I am ready to bake things at known temperatures. As it is getting colder in the northern hemisphere, I'm thinking I might like an excuse to warm up the kitchen.

I would like to bake a few different things eventually, but I want to do them in order, starting with things that are super simple, pretty much guaranteed not to exude noxious substances or explode, and sure to please my sweet-toothed concubine.

I probably can't buy the brands you buy, so I probably can't use any brand-specific ingredients like Stay Puft or whatever. And please don't tell me about pints and ounces. I am from the future, when we have all converted to the metric system. (And gas.) Even our thermometer is Celsius, though this is the birthplace of Daniel Fahrenheit. We have cups and teaspoons but I don't know if they are of regulation size. They are just teacups. And spoons.
posted by pracowity to Food & Drink (15 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
Rose Levy Beranbaum. They're not all complicated and her techniques really work.

You need either a scale or actual measuring utensils to make anything. Baking is a science, not an art.
posted by Ideefixe at 9:50 AM on September 1, 2011

Beer Bread! (There are a ton of different recipes, google around for one you like)
posted by furiousxgeorge at 9:52 AM on September 1, 2011

Gateau au yaourt
posted by neroli at 10:17 AM on September 1, 2011

The Be-Ro Book is old school (it's on to its 41st edition) but for many in Britain, it's a baking primer: cakes, pastries, pies. It's also been metric for a while. The offer listed on that linked page is UK-only, but perhaps a British MeFite can send you a copy?
posted by holgate at 10:22 AM on September 1, 2011

Nigella Lawson's Dense Chocolate Loaf is easy and delicious. You can guesstimate the teaspoon of vanilla without any serious repercussions, and a teaspoon of baking soda is about 5 grams.
posted by elsietheeel at 10:39 AM on September 1, 2011

I'm breaking my answer into two, because it got too long. This first part contains some general advice that I hope will help your first baking experiments work out.

First, if you want metric recipes in English, I suggest you look specifically for British ones. British recipes quote their ingredients in metric weights and volumes (and teaspoon etc. measures), never in cups (let alone "sticks of butter" or "squares of chocolate"). So a site like the BBC's recipe site should suit you, once you've got some confidence that baking will not lead to the kitchen and its occupants being devoured by an enraged yeast demon.

Modern British recipes also quote oven temperatures in degrees Celsius, and they often include a translation for gas ovens, which are generally labelled in gas marks rather than in degrees of any kind. It's faintly possible that your gas oven, despite not being British, is labelled in a scale that correlates closely to gas marks. If so, that'll save you some bother. The conversion table in the linked Wikipedia article should help you find out.

To follow British recipes, you'll need a weighing scale and some teaspoon measures. You can probably get measuring spoons in a local kitchenware shop. If you can't find something of that ilk, or prefer not to, then you'll probably be OK with the teaspoons you've got; and you'll need to know that a dessertspoon is two teaspoons (10ml) and a tablespoon is three teaspoons (15ml).

Your oven is smaller than a standard British oven. If a recipe tells you to bake something on the middle shelf, ignore it: the bottom of your oven is probably at middle-shelf distance from the top, and if you try to elevate what you're baking, you might find that it won't have enough space to rise.

The major catch with following British recipes in continental Europe is this: you may have trouble getting hold of bicarbonate of soda (sodium bicarbonate; baking soda), which is a very common raising agent in British baking. Here in the Netherlands, I can only get it in import shops, fortunately including the ubiquitous East Asian grocery stores. If you can't get it, then I suggest you steer clear of recipes that include it. Baking powder is something different, and is readily available here and in Germany; you're only one country further to the east, so hopefully it's available there too.

Answer 2, with actual recipe suggestions, will follow shortly.
posted by ManyLeggedCreature at 11:08 AM on September 1, 2011 [1 favorite]

And here's answer 2, with three recipe suggestions.

Shortbread is the easiest baking recipe I can think of. Combine three ingredients ("caster sugar" is just ordinary white sugar, incidentally, and "plain flour" is white flour with no added raising agent), roll out, cut, bake. If you don't have a rolling pin, you can just flatten the shortbread by hand: it'll look rustic.

Only slightly more complicated: Victoria sponge. This is a very forgiving sort of cake, in my experience. The recipe uses self-raising flour, which is white flour with a raising agent added; if you can't get it locally, then you can apparently (I haven't had to try this) approximate 250g of self-raising flour with 250g of plain flour plus 2 teaspoons of baking powder.

Your oven is probably too small to bake two cakes at once, so halve the ingredients; when you've made one, you can eat it as-is, or ice it using the buttercream recipe, or make a second one and produce the filled layer cake the recipe intends. If you can't get vanilla extract, don't worry about it; the cake will taste nicer with, but will still be convincingly cakey and edible without.

And a third step: if you can get bicarbonate of soda from somewhere, then Nigella Lawson's banana bread is pretty much as easy as she says it is. It's also very tasty, and keeps for a week; and the flavour improves over the first day or so.
posted by ManyLeggedCreature at 11:17 AM on September 1, 2011 [1 favorite]

Oh drat, I missed one ingredient translation: The buttercream icing in the Victoria sponge recipe I linked to uses "icing sugar", which is powdered white sugar; I think it's the same as the "confectioners' sugar" that turns up in US recipes sometimes. If you can't buy it locally, you can make it by putting ordinary sugar through a coffee grinder, but I think you'd want a separate grinder for that purpose. Anyway, don't try to substitute normal granular sugar for icing sugar; the results will be disappointing.
posted by ManyLeggedCreature at 11:38 AM on September 1, 2011

Seconding the Be-Ro book. It's tiny yet fabulous.
posted by scruss at 12:20 PM on September 1, 2011

If you can't get sodium bicarbonate where you are, you can still substitute baking powder (in double or triple the quantity) in many recipes if you're not that concerned about getting a full rise.

The Difference Between Baking Powder and Baking Soda.

How Do I Substitute Between Baking Powder and Baking Soda?
posted by elsietheeel at 12:27 PM on September 1, 2011 [1 favorite]

Does cream come in those plastic cups (~250 ml) where you live? The easiest recipe I can think of basically goes like this:

1 cup (the one it came in) of cream
2 cups self-raising flour (or just flour + baking powder)
1 cup sugar
4 eggs
vanilla (or vanilla sugar)

Mix until smooth, pour into greased sheet-pan, bake for ~20 minutes at ~190°. I have no experience with gas stoves, though.

Once it's cooled down, top with a buttercream (and fruit), ganache (much easier than it sounds; e.g. ) or icing sugar mixed with lemon juice.

It won't be as fantastic as the more complicated recipes, but it's great for new bakers. (I'm very sorry for using up all of the parentheses)
posted by pishposh at 12:35 PM on September 1, 2011

People kill me.

If you would like the easiest baking recipe, then I am very sorry but I do not think we need to be making icing today. Try basic scones. If you cannot get the self-rising flour required, try intermediate scones. In the absence of self-raising flour, you will require a rising agent aka bicarbonate of soda.
posted by DarlingBri at 2:15 PM on September 1, 2011

Self-rising flour is a cup of all-purpose flour with 2 teaspoons removed, plus 1 1/2 teaspoons of baking powder and 1/2 teaspoon of salt.
posted by elsietheeel at 3:14 PM on September 1, 2011

Or, since we're being metric, 120(ish) ounces of flour, plus 7.5 grams of baking powder and 3 grams of salt.
posted by elsietheeel at 3:17 PM on September 1, 2011

Ugh. 120 GRAMS of flour, not ounces. That would be ridiculous.
posted by elsietheeel at 3:18 PM on September 1, 2011

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