Extreme Baking

Yesterday I got home from the store and saw two of my roommates playing soccer in the kitchen. First of all, who plays soccer in the kitchen?? Second of all, I hope my landlord doesn’t read this… Oh well, nothing was damaged (except my legs).

I was inspired to make cookies from my conversation with Devin Smith a few days ago, so I asked if I could bake while they pass. I began making chocolate chip cookies and I swear I have never had such a challenge. Walking between the sink to the counter, or going to get something from the cupboard led to me getting hit by the soccer ball more times than I can count. At one point I turned around and stepped directly on the ball. Honestly, although it made baking difficult, it was hilarious! What a wacky group people living in this house.

The cookies actually turned out great. They were golden brown, gooey, and chocolatey. I used the original Nestle Tollhouse cookie recipe. Yumm!

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What a ridiculous way to make cookies, but it worked out. Maybe you guys should do some extreme baking.

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Let me know what you think. Ever baked in a strange place or way?

For the Love of Baking

Today I want to talk about why I love baking. I have always loved ice cream, cake, chocolate, cookies, and all thing delicious (except donuts, I don’t like donuts). In addition to my love of sweets, I find baking to be an escape. I began baking when I was seven. At this point in my life, chaos was everywhere. My dad had just passed away and grief surrounded my family. Each of my siblings had their own unique way of coping, and mine soon became baking. I would bake with my Grandma and my Auntie. (For those who wonder, why not my mom? Well… she burns things.) And no, not baking in an Easy-Bake Oven, in the real thing. I usually had supervision and support; but I was also allowed to do my own thing. I found, and find, that while I am in the kitchen creating something, I am at peace. I use that time to think and reflect. Or sometimes I use that time to avoid thinking and just focus on the task I have–escaping to a place where everything is ok. I’ve heard many people say that baking is too particular, and they would rather just throw some food in a pot and call it soup, which I get. I mean baking does require some sense of how much ingredient is needed. But what they are missing is the way it all works together. I love how no matter what, if you at egg yolks to hot milk, it will thicken. If you add baking soda to dough, it will rise. Every ingredient has a purpose and it is how they all react to each other that makes the end result. The connectivity of a recipe and how you can personally shape it to be whatever you want is what I love about baking. 

 

What helps you escape? What do you love/hate about baking?

Healthy Chocolate Oatmeal Cookies

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Since I started this blog, I had several people ask me for healthy baking ideas. Why? I have no clue—a balanced diet or something. Originally I was not excited to pursue this, I would rather be baking sinful, melt-in-your-mouth brownies. But I decided to look into treats that wouldn’t show up on your bathroom scale. I began on pinterest and quickly found TheSkinnyFork.com, a blog with these wonderful cookies. I altered the recipe a bit, but not much; the credit really should go to Amanda Plott, for creating these magical morsels. They are lactose free, oil free, egg free, gluten free and DELICIOUS! I was concerned that you would taste the applesauce, but you definitely can’t. This is probably my new favourite recipe.

 Ingredients:

2 Ripe Bananas, Mashed

1/3 cup Reduced Fat Nut Butter (Almond, Cashew, or Peanut Butter)

2/3 cup Unsweetened Applesauce

1 tbsp. Honey

1 tsp. Vanilla

1/2 tsp. Salt

1/2 tsp. Cinnamon

Dash of Ground Cloves

Dash of Ground Nutmeg

1 1/2 cup Quick or Old Fashioned Oats (Can use gluten free oats)

1/4 cup Unsalted Cashews, Peanuts, Pecans, or Walnuts

1/3 cup Semi Sweet Chocolate Chips

1/4 cup Reduced Fat Unsweetened Shredded Coconut

Directions:

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper and set aside. Mix together the bananas, nut butter, applesauce, honey, vanilla, and spices.  Add in the oats, nuts, chocolate chips, and coconut; stir until well combined.

Scoop rounded 2 tbsp. of the cookie dough onto baking sheet, leaving an inch or two between each and flatten slightly. Place a few more chocolate chips on top of each cookie. Bake for 20-30 minutes and allow to cool. Store in air-tight container.

Approximate Nutritional Values
Servings: 18 • Size: 1 Cookie • Calories: 99.3 • Fat: 5.1 g • Carb: 12.3 g • Fiber: 1.6 g • Protein: 2.9 g • Sugar: 4.4 g • Sodium: 91.1 mg

5 Tips for the Perfect Cupcake

As some of you may know, today I brought cupcakes for my Online Communications class. I figured since they are responsible for helping me start this blog, they may as well benefit from it. Plus I always love an excuse to bake. I made a chocolate base cake, with ganache filling, and chocolate mousse buttercream frosting. I think they turned out great!

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I have honestly made thousands of cupcakes and over the countless batches, I have learned some tricks:

  1. Always add coffee to any chocolate flavoured cake. You won’t taste a few tablespoons but what it does is emphasize the chocolate flavour, making it even more delicious.
  2. A mixer is a must. Hand beating the sugar and butter together is difficult! Considering you want them to be fluffy and light, it would take forever with just a whisk. Use a mixer to save time and energy.
  3. Fill the cupcake liner two-thirds full with batter, not just one-half. To get a perfectly rounded, risen cupcake, the liner should be two-thirds of the way filled.

    IMG_0773Left: 2/3 full. Right: 1/2 full.

  4. For mini cupcakes bake them thirty degrees lower than the regular cupcake recipe says. Usually I bake mine at 320° for about eight minutes.

  5.  Use a large Ziploc bag instead of a piping bag. I find Ziploc bags to be cheaper, more accessible, and easier to work with for piping.

If you want to see some cupcake pictures, check out my gallery.

Salt in Baking—Necessary?

 

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 I have been baking since I was seven-years-old. That means I have been baking for more than half my life. I love it; but I have made my fair share of mistakes. (Shocking, I know.) One the mistakes I made the most often is leaving out the salt. I know that it has a bit of a bad reputation. And therefore you should be mindful of how much salt you’re adding to your baking, but unless you have a low sodium diet don’t omit it entirely. Salt is a key ingredient. In buttery dough, it makes it crispier, more brown, and less oily. In bread dough, it controls how much the dough rises and strengthens the elasticity of gluten. Salt also adds days of shelf life to your baking. Most importantly, it improves flavour (especially with chocolate). Salt contrasts with the sweetness to add complexity. Too sweet is not desirable; it adds balance to your baking. Salt takes your baking from meh to mouthwatering!

 

An awesome blog with more info: PIECEofCAKE

Do you add salt to your baking? Are there any other ingredients you want to know more about? 

Photo From: http://www.alibaba.com/

Gluten Free Chocolate Marbled Banana Bread

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Yesterday I spent my morning watching team Canada play hockey in Sochi and baking gluten free banana bread.

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Apart for almost cooking my computer on the stove, it all went well. The bread turned out great and WE WON! Go Canada! I was going to make this blog post all about hockey, but then I realized I know  nothing… definitely not worth your time. What I do know a lot about is baking. Here is my Gluten Free Chocolate Marbled Banana Bread adapted from mysanfanciscokitchen.com:

Ingredients
  • 3/4 cup brown rice flour
  • 3/4 cup white rice flour
  • 1/2 cup tapioca starch
  • 1/2 tsp xanthan gum
  • ¾ teaspoon baking soda
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • 1 tsp cinnamon
  • 1 cup sugar
  • ¼ cup butter, softened
  • 2 ripe bananas
  • 2 eggs
  • ⅓ cup plain low-fat yogurt
  • 1 tsp vanilla
  • ½ cup semisweet chocolate chips
Instructions
  1. Preheat oven to 350°.
  2. In a mixing bowl, whisk the flours, starch, xanthan gum, baking soda, salt and cinnamon together.
  3. Add sugar and butter to a large bowl and beat with a mixer at medium speed until blended and fluffy.
  4. Add banana, eggs, vanilla and yogurt; beat until blended.
  5. Add flour mixture and beat at low speed until just blended.
  6. Melt chocolate chips in a microwave or in a double boiler, stirring until smooth.
  7. Add 1 cup batter to chocolate, stirring until well combined.
  8. Spoon chocolate batter alternately with plain batter into a greased 8½ x 4½-inch loaf pan.
  9. Swirl batters together using a knife.
  10. Bake for 1 hour and 10 minutes, or until a wooden pick inserted in centre comes out clean.

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Swirled batter before baking

I loved this banana bread, chocolatey, sweet, and a great texture. Also, it uses some yogurt instead of butter (for more tips like this check out this post). Delicious! Let me know if this is the type of recipes you want. Do you need a recipe for anything?

Icing Crisis!

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Finished Product. (Waiting on professional photos)

Last weekend I made one hundred cupcakes and an eight-inch, four-layer cake for a wedding. This is not the first time I have done a wedding; but I still found myself fraught with nerves while baking. I baked the cupcakes and cake on Wednesday, and put them in the freezer for the wedding on Saturday. I had to transport the un-iced cakes to Calgary. Then on Friday I iced and decorated them all. Of course I thought I had brought everything I needed, but I hadn’t. I forgot my cupcake carrier and an icing thingydoo that holds the tip in place. I had to cut up a box and saran wrap it to fashion it into a holder for the cupcakes. And I had to tape my icing tip to the piping bag. (If I lost any of you, basically I had to get really creative in order to finish.) On top of those two mix-ups, I also royally screwed up my icing. I was making vanilla buttercream as I usually do, and it separated. I think mine separated because the butter was too cold for me to work with, but I’m not really sure. I tried everything I knew in an attempt to fix it, adding more icing sugar, warming the bowl, beating on a high speed, and none of it worked. I was left with a strange soupy, grainy mess. After seeking the advice of everyone else around, I asked my almost brother in-law Cameron, who, like always, came to my rescue. Google can be a magical thing, and I encourage everyone who has an almost brother in-law Cameron to utilize his googling expertise. He found a great blog: Beki Cook’s Cake Blog. And it recommends that when you have separated icing, take out one-quarter of it and microwave on high for 30 seconds or until it is warm and runny. Then drizzle it into your icing and beat on medium-high speeds for two-five minutes. It worked! The buttercream returned to its creamy and smooth consistency and I was able to complete all the cakes for the wedding. Cameron to the rescue!

Have you ever had your icing separate? How did you fix it? What is your worst kitchen disaster? 

Valentines Special: Worst Date Ever

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Last summer I went out on a date with a man, whom we’ll call Derek, this was my WORST DATE EVER! For Valentines Day I figured I would do something different than my usual baking post and instead reflect upon how atrocious this date was. That way, I am reminded that watching movies with my great friend and eating ice cream is not the worst way I could be spending my Valentines Day.

I met Derek at a dinner theatre he was my waiter. He was cute, charming, and seemed great. We went out a week later. We agreed to meet on Whyte Ave, get coffee, and see a play. I showed up a few minutes late because I couldn’t find parking, but he was nowhere to be found. I stood and waited for about half-an-hour. He finally showed up, right as I was about to leave. One of the very first things he said to me was that he had to pee. Not a great start. We walked to a café and he went to the washroom. When he came out, he said, “That feels better.” I guarantee that is one the worst things you can say after using the washroom. Gross. Then he asked where we should go. Of course I thought the adorable café we were standing would work; but he insisted on Subway. So that’s where we went. Now he did pay for my food, which was nice; but then he proceeded to tell me about his friend’s strange sexual preferences, how he dropped out of college, how deeply in debt he was, that my job in foster care was useless, and that his sister tried to kill him once. None of those shocking disclosures did it for me though; I was persistent and still gave him the benefit of the doubt. The next thing he told me was the kicker. He started to tell me about his best friend, a girl, whom he lived with and how perfect she was. And oh yeah, they are common law married! Married! At this point I was fairly ready to go home and have a big cup of tea, but I didn’t want to be rude so we walked to an ice cream place where I somehow ended up paying for his ice cream. At the end of the date he leaned forward, I took a step back waved and told him goodbye. Thus ending the most terrible date.

Tell me about your worst date. How are you spending your valentines day? 

5 Tips to Healthier Cakes and Muffins

This past summer, I brought some muffins into work. Because of this, one of my coworkers asked me about my baking. I was telling her that I usually bake a few times a week and she looked surprised. Then she basically asked me how I am not overweight if I bake that often. I told her that I bake to bake and not to eat. However, I realize that is probably not the case for most people. For people who love to eat baked goods, moderation is key. Of course you can have one slice of chocolate cake, you just might not want to eat the entire cake. In addition to moderation, there are ways to minimize calories, fats, and sugar and increase fibre.

Making your baking nutritious can be tricky. Here are some creative ways to make your baking healthier.

  1. Instead of butter use the equal amount of mashed bananas.
  2. Instead of sugar use the equal amount applesauce.
  3. Instead of vegetable oil use half olive oil and half plain Greek yogurt.
  4. Instead of white flour use whole-wheat flour. You don’t necessarily need to replace all of the white flour, you can do as much as you like.
  5. Instead of chocolate chips, use shredded coconut. Don’t do this for all of the chocolate; that would be crazy!

What are some of your healthy baking tips?

A Cake You Can Pee On

Alright, I want to discuss something that boggles my mind. I have never understood this particular thing, and frankly I think it’s ridiculous! What is this preposterous thing you might ask… Diaper Cakes.

W.

T.

F!

Even the name is crazy; who puts a diaper with or in a cake?

For those of you who don’t know a diaper cake is, it is made up of clean diapers (hopefully) shaped into something resembling a cake. These are usually given at baby showers to the mother as a way of saying here’s a bunch of cloths that will hold fecal matter, shaped into a tasty dessert.

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Picture Courtesy of Domestic Charm

Maybe I don’t get it because I’m not a mom. But I really don’t get it. Why would anyone want diapers to look like a cake? Or a cake that tastes like diapers.

Can anyone explain to me why this is even a thing? Or if you like them, PLEASE tell me why!

For those of you that I obviously don’t get, here’s a link to DIY Diaper Cakes.

For those of you I really do get, here’s a link to a delicious cake you can eat.