Here are some random bits of information I've come across through my time in baking, making desserts, and just playing with sugar!
BUTTER- must always be softened and NOT straight out of the fridge! If it is hard, it will not cream well with your sugar and that the base of your cake/biscuits/pastry/cupcakes will be not as it should be! If you just decided that you'd like to bake this instant and cannot suppress the urge, here are some tips to SPEED UP the process of warming/softening the butter...
1- hold it (while it's still in the packet/case) over a warm stove.
2- keep it outside.. (if you happen to live in climates like Dubai!)
3- fill the sink with warm water... carefully enclose the butter in a container/covering, and place in the water
4- (never tried this one, though) grate it into a bowl... this supposedly works.
EGGS- when you need to separate the albumen (white) from the yolk, use the freshest eggs you can find! They aren't as flowy and loose as other eggs!
I wonder what the best methods for separating eggs are, though. I've seen many different versions. There's a version where one splits the eggshell into two halves and continuously attempts to pour the yolk from one shell to the other, thus letting the white drop into a bowl below. Another attempt I've seen is breaking the eggshell and letting the egg drop into your hands and then slightly opening your fingers for the white to seep through.. this method is somewhat... disgusting and unhygienic and can be VERY messy if the egg yolk decides it'd like to break... (usual for an older, not so fresh egg)
AS FOR ME, I very carefully crack a little hole into the eggshell and let the white seep through to a bowl.. then I'm only left with the yolk. I remember this one time I was making soufflés with a very good friend of mine, and the eggs kept playing pranks on us! We had to make around three attempts until they were properly separated... At one point we nearly got it, but then the yolk just fell into it, and another time I happened to have a butterfingers moment and the egg slipped from my hand..
When you just need the yolks, the white's needn't go to waste! Use them to make healthy, low-cholesterol omelettes! I still need to find a function for the yolks though if I use the whites only......
Something I've gathered just through reading recipes.... Fan forced ovens always need to be preheated at 20 Celsius less than the temperature given in the recipe...
Also, preheating the oven is VERY important but apparently it doesn't really make a difference to the cooking time whether it's been preheated 10 minutes or an hour....
FOR CONVENIENCE'S SAKE-
measure all your ingredients out before you start! and organize them in bowls! I arrange them to the point that I do so chronologically... first comes the bowl with the butter, then the sugar, then the flour... etc...
To save yourself washing up and to be kinder to the environment and not waste water!...do this.. : if several of the ingredients need to go in together, then put them all in one bowl!
Arranging all your ingredients beforehand really saves you a lot of time and hassle!
THE ONLY INGREDIENTS YOU NEED FOR CHOCOLATE DECORATIONS are the chocolate itself (melted, of course) and baking paper! You can shape the chocolate however you want to shape it and let it dry on the paper.. it's very easily to peel afterwards.. I personally prefer using chocolate decorations in milk, white, and dark for an elegant contrast... lovely for the taste buds, too!
MILK = COCOA BUTTER, COCOA SOLIDS, SUGAR, MILK
WHITE = COCOA BUTTER, SUGAR, MILK
DARK= COCOA BUTTER, COCOA SOLIDS, SUGAR (more solids than butter though)
These are the equations that differentiate chocolate if I remember them correctly!