Student Ruby Tandoh, a finalist on BBC Two’s Great British Bake Off, explains how she managed to create star bakes in her tiny kitchen and on a limited budget.
Working from a small student kitchen while competing in a national baking competition required Ruby Tandoh to stretch her resources to the maximum. With space and money at a premium, Ruby's ascent to the final of Great British Bake Off was down to an economical use of both. We asked her to share her tips for thrifty baking.
Get the most from nuts...
Toasting nuts in the oven for 10 minutes before using them is an easy way to deepen their flavour, and saves you from having to use pricey liqueurs, oils and extracts.
... and dried fruit
Soaking inexpensive dried fruit in tea to plump it up is another quick trick.
Get creative with your cake adornments
A little fruit peel boiled in sugar syrup and tossed in granulated sugar is a great alternative to specialist cake decorations.
Precision is key
Electronic scales are crucial – mechanical ones are often imprecise, while conversion to volume measurements (such as cup measures) is notoriously inaccurate.
Read the bbcgoodfood.com review of digital kitchen scales.
Don't forget spoons
For the same reason as using digital scales, I highly recommend a set of proper tea spoon and tablespoon measures. A few pounds spent on these bits of kit will save you a lot of time, money and frustration in failed recipes and wasted ingredients.
Invest in flavour
I beg you to buy a good jar of vanilla bean extract. It might seem like an indulgent purchase, but its flavour is infinitely deeper and more potent than a cheap, synthetic vanilla essence – you’ll use far less and achieve better results along the way. If you ever need reminding of just how worthwhile an investment it is, dip a teaspoon into the thick, vanilla-flecked custard of a real crème brûlée.
My kitchen had an inconsistent oven so old that was fiercely hot at the top and far cooler at the bottom. Waiting to see whether your bake will emerge from the oven scorched or raw is not the sort of cliffhanger that anyone should have to endure – which is why the baking purchase I recommend most is an oven thermometer. It will quickly become your new best friend and, at around £5, it’s a lot cheaper than shelling out for a new oven.
We'd also love to hear how you bake on a limited budget - share your tips with us below...