Baking in New Zealand’s High Humidity

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Baking is hitting it big in New Zealand (bakers even won Mitre 10’s community of the year award). More and more people are getting into baking only to be discouraged when their recipes don’t turn out the way they were supposed to. The culprit is humidity. As humidity levels exceed 80 percent, your recipes will need some adjustments to hit perfection.

1. Lose a bit of Liquid

Professional bakers can stick to the original recipes because they bake like the wind. However, if you take your time baking, your ingredients will probably absorb a lot of moisture from the air. Don’t fill your measuring cups to the exact line or remove a couple of tablespoons once you hit the accurate measurements. A little less water or milk probably won’t affect your recipes too much; make sure you don’t reduce essential ingredients that contribute to flavor.

2. Turn to Alcohol

Instead of adding water to balance your mixes (especially for fondant), use a bit of vodka. It’s colorless and virtually tasteless, especially after baking. Don’t worry about the alcohol content; it’ll just evaporate inside the oven, leaving your treats suitable for kids. If vodka is unavailable, you can try bourbon or maybe even white rum.

3. Add a Few Minutes of Baking Time

chef baking pastriesAs your treats absorb humidity from the air, baking by the book might leave them a bit underdone. Give your pastries, cookies, or cakes a little more oven time (around 3-10 minutes). When in doubt, go over. Overbaking by a minute or two should be okay. Just make sure you note the length of time in a notebook because you might need to fine-tune your baking times before you get the perfect one.

4. Avoid the Fridge

The humidity might tempt you to store your treats in the refrigerator. However, you should do so with care. While pastries, cupcakes, and cookies shouldn’t have issues, your fondant-covered cakes will have problems. Storing fondant in a refrigerator will suck out its moisture (at an alarming rate), making it prone to cracks and breaks. When you do take it out, the cold fondant will immediately cause the humidity in the air to condense on its surface, leaving dew-like droplets than can smudge your colors as they run down your cake.

5. Get Air Conditioning

Air conditioning quickly gets rid of the humidity. It might seem like a waste of electricity to bake with the air conditioning turned on, but it’s the easiest way to drop humidity levels as close to zero as possible. You can keep it off while you’re baking, but make sure to turn it up when you’re working with fondant. A cool, dry room will make it easier to work on cakes or chocolate-covered treats, and it also makes the work a little more comfortable.

Don’t let humidity get you down or ruin your baked goods. Make a few adjustments and do a ton of experimenting. Sooner or later, you’ll be baking to perfection — humidity or no humidity.

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