Baking in Manila and the rest of the Philippines is undergoing a renaissance of sorts. Bakery tools or supplies are now readily available, and more and more people are trying their hand at baking — whether professionally or as a hobby. However, if there’s one thing driving bakers in the Philippines crazy, it’s the humidity. With humidity levels often exceeding 80 percent, recipes need a little tweaking and cakes require a bit more care.
1. Cut a Little Water
Adjust your methods a bit by removing a tablespoon or two of water. Unless you bake like a whirlwind, chances are your ingredients will get to absorb some of the moisture in the air. Remove a bit of water or milk from your recipe; it’s easier to add water if your mix is dry than it is to remove it. Just make sure not to reduce your essential flavoring ingredients like vanilla, almond extracts, and the like.
2. Break Out the Vodka
If you need to add more water but you’re afraid of ruining the balance of your mixture, consider adding a bit of vodka. Vodka is colorless and won’t affect your cake or fondant’s flavor. Alcohol evaporates fast so your cakes will still be suitable for kids. If you don’t have Vodka, Manila’s homegrown Tanduay White Rhum works exceptionally well and is a lot less expensive.
3. Add a Bit of Oven Time
The extra moisture might make your pastries, cookies, and cakes a little bit underdone. Add 3-10 minutes to your baking time and note how much time you added and mark it in your recipe book. You need to continually check your oven every few minutes, especially on your first few attempts, to make sure you don’t overbake.
4. Be Careful with Refrigeration
The Philippine heat might tempt you to store your baked goods in your refrigerator, but this can be disastrous to fondant. While you can store pastries, cookies, and cupcakes in the fridge, cakes covered in fondant won’t fare as well. A refrigerator can dry your fondant, causing little breaks and cracks. When you finally take it out of the fridge and expose it to humidity, condensation can wreak havoc on your colors as tiny droplets of water appear and slowly drip down the sides of your cake.
5. Air Conditioning Solves Everything
If you don’t want to bother with all these adjustments, turn on the air conditioning. Your air conditioning unit will drop humidity down to zero or somewhere close to it. You can also keep your cakes, fondant, and chocolate-covered goodies from melting in the sweltering heat. You’ve got your oven, your mixers, and all your other baking tools, but you might need to invest in air conditioning to manage the heat and humidity.
Overall, don’t let humidity ruin your baking experience. Make a few adjustments and with a bit of experience, you can bake to perfection humidity or no humidity. Of course, you can always take the easy road and use air conditioning.