Summer baking tips from the experts

Jo Romero

Need inspiration for new and interesting desserts to make this summer? We asked expert bakers for some tricks of the trade, along with some inspiring dessert ideas - even for when it’s too hot to turn the oven on. 

Leave the oven turned off

Our bakers have plenty of ideas for desserts you can whip up without using the oven on those hot, sticky days. Bea Vo, author of Tea with Bea and owner of Bea’s of Bloomsbury pâtisserie has a few ideas. ‘Take some of your favourite berries and infuse them with your favourite alcohol - if you want to fancy it up, add some spices like star anise or vanilla with a bit of honey and let them macerate for a few hours in the fridge. With some ice cream and nice biscuits it makes for a complete dessert.’ And what about ice cream sandwiches? ‘So easy yet so tasty.  Bake your own biscuits or use store-bought, and liven it up by layering a bit of jam or curd on one side of the biscuit before adding the ice cream and sandwiching.’ She recommends covering the edges with mini choc chips, coconut or baking sprinkles. If you’d rather bake the biscuits yourself, make them the evening before, when it’s cooler, and keep them in an airtight container until needed.

Don’t forget the salt

Master Chocolatier Paul A Young, who is appearing at The Cake and Bake Show at Earl’s Court this September, told us about the need for salt, even in sweet dishes. ‘Whenever you're baking anything sweet, add a pinch of sea salt’, he says. ‘I put a teaspoon in my chocolate cakes. It lifts and balances the sweetness and brings out other flavours. There's not enough in it to be able to taste it, but it's like putting salt in bread: you know when it's not there.’

Make perfect meringues

Fluffy, white meringues are the quintessential summer bake, sandwiched with whipped cream and fruits. But they can be tricky to master. Great British Bake Off winner John Whaite, also appearing at The Cake and Bake Show in September, has some advice for you. ‘When making meringue, it's important to make sure the egg whites are medium to stiff peaks before you even think about adding the sugar (a spoonful at a time),’ he says. ‘Most recipes say 'whisk the whites to soft peaks' but this isn't true, they need to be medium/stiff.’ It’s also worth mentioning that you’ll need to make sure your bowl and whisk are both immaculately clean. One speck of grease on either and your meringues just won’t stiffen, no matter how much you whisk them.

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Use seasonal and summery fruits

Loretta Liu has worked alongside great chefs such as Pierre Gagnaire and Raymond Blanc and now owns her own pâtisserie, On Café, in London. She says this time of year is the best to visit a Pick Your Own Farm. ‘Pack lots of seasonal fruits and berries and make preserves with them,’ she told us. ‘You can keep them for months to come in an air-tight jar. It is the best time to make delicious fresh fruit tarts and pies.’ Bea also says to think about which fruits evoke summer. ‘Think tropical:  pineapple, mango, papaya, they always get us in that summer mood.’

Make the most of your freezer

An icy, refreshing treat is just the thing when it’s hot and humid outside. And our bakers gave us some inspiration for sweet treats you can make using the freezer. Bea suggests frozen bananas. ‘Why they haven't caught on here, I don't know,’ she says, ‘but they’re great, and made famous by the show Arrested Development. Freeze some bananas on a stick, create your own caramel and chocolate sauces, and a selection of things to dip them in like marshmallows, freeze-dried strawberries, crushed hazelnuts, and you have an amazing dessert that's also good for the kids.‘ Loretta says that sorbets and ice lollies are simple to make using fresh fruits, juice and purée. ‘Use an ice lolly mould with sticks and get the kids to create their favourite fruit flavours with small cut fruits in the mix.’ And with all that fresh fruit, Loretta says the lollies ‘will cost pennies but pack lots of goodness’.

What are your favourite summer desserts? Do you have any baking tips to share? Tell us over on Twitter now.

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