Baking in the UK, as opposed to America, is quite a steep learning curve. Absolutely everything is different. The obvious is obvious: metric system, water, flour, dairy. Not so obvious: ingredients with the same name are not the same, BTU output is different, heat source is electric, weight of baking vessels and material they're made of is totally something else than what I'm used to, and more.
Where to start? Test recipes you know intimately and watch how they change after every ingredient is added. Know the gram and ounce measurements of all ingredients you work with "at home." Test these weights against new weights. Have calculator within hand's reach. Make Google your friend. Test and re-test. Make minor adjustments as you go and keep careful notes.
Professional bakers have a saying,
"Anyone can make one beautiful cake at home; but can you make 100, all the same, day after day, consistently?"
What I have found, after working alongside many a professional cook and baker, is that there are also a lot of home bakers in professional kitchens. While it takes a lifetime, and then some, to learn, really know, the craft of baking, one must be willing to keep growing after one has been baking for some time.
If you do not know the weight of your ingredients you cannot scale up or down accordingly. A cup of flour, scooped by a dozen people, has a dozen weights.
While baking is emotional and intuitive, it is also science. Being particular is of utmost importance.
The frustration of baking what I know and having it come out vastly different is big. I wish I were as calm as a cucumber and as understanding as a Rabbi, but I am not. Instead I am trying to remain positive and calm and keep moving forward. Yesterday I learned, the hard way, what we call confectioner's sugar, or 10X, in the USA, also known as Icing Sugar here in Britain, does not appear to have any cornstarch in it.
Cornstarch is added to confectioner's sugar because sugar is hygroscopic: it absorbs moisture. Because confectioner's sugar is such a small particle, imagine what a mess it would be when it came into contact with air, especially rainy day or refrigerated air. The presence of cornstarch allows the sugar some breathing room, so to speak (pun?), because cornstarch hopes to absorb and dry out moisture attacking the sugar.
Why does any of this matter? Because when a recipe in America calls for confectioner's sugar it is making room for cornstarch as well as sugar. It appears the Icing Sugar here is not ground quite as small and so maybe does not need cornstarch, but I didn't know any of this until I think I ruined a lot of chocolate frosting yesterday. Oof.
Today I will hope to save/ correct it. Please say a good word for me and my frosting. Thanks.
There's more of course. Like how heavy the "sheet pans" are, but that's for another day.
Suffice to say I am forever indebted to all the British cookbooks I have come to know and love, as well as my early addiction to Vogue Entertaining magazine from Australia, Donna Hay and every kitchen I have ever baked in that has taught me something about being adaptable.