Classic American Buttercream

Frosting, my favorite part of the cake, I’m convinced that cake was invented to hold up frosting, am I right?

Were gonna make the real deal here, that frosting that is on bake sale cupcakes, birthday cakes etc..  If you are skittish about sweet icing than stop reading here, this is old school icing!

Here’s what your gonna need.

Pretty simple yeah!  And you don’t need that fancy schmancy organic shortening, I like it because it is non-hydrogenated, but any brand of unflavored shortening will do.

Again I am using a stand mixer, but a hand mixer will work just fine.

Now just place the shortening and butter in a bowl and beat them together until light and fluffy.

Hey look an action shot, I’m all about keeping it exciting!

Next add the powdered sugar all at once along with the vanilla.

With the mixer on low, beat gently to combine.  At this point it will be very thick, but that’s OK we’ll thin it down with a little water, milk, or cream. Scrape down bowl as needed

With the mixer still on low, add the liquid of choice one tablespoon at a time until it is creamy looking and spreadable, you will need just 1-4 tablespoons.  There is no exact amount here, it will depend on humidity, brand of confectioner’s sugar, phases of the moon, etc….

As you can see it is very creamy looking without any air beaten in.  At this point it is great for decorating/piping, making roses etc..

Now if you want it more fluffy, as just an icing for a casual layer cake, you can now turn up the speed and whip some air into it, beat for about 5 minutes on high and you’ll get a nice fluffy frosting. Like this

At this point it is ready to frost a cake with, or just eat it out of the bowl, it’s up to you, nobody’s lookin’

And yes I just happened to have a cake layer hangin’ out in the freezer yearning for frosting.

Now wasn’t that easy?  This is so much better than icing in a can, and so much more versatile, not to mention having a few hundred less ingredients…

You can flavor it any way that you please.  Instead of vanilla or in addition to, you can add any extract that you like, I like almond extract (careful with this one, it’s strong, a little goes a long way), lemon, peppermint, the sky’s the limit!  You can even add a 1/2 cup of cocoa powder with the powdered sugar for a chocolate buttercream.

You can even switch up the fats a little.  If you want a pure white icing you can go with all shortening and no butter, and use a clear vanilla extract (you can find Wilton brand in craft stores) you can use all butter for more flavor, but the icing will be a little softer and a little harder to work with for icing roses, but is a tasty choice.

Printable recipe click here

  • 1/2 cup shortening (room temperature)
  • 1/2 cup (1 stick) room temperature butter
  • 1 pound, about 4 cups powdered confectioner’s sugar
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1-4 tablespoons water, milk, or cream

 

 

Posted in Frostings, Fillings, and Glazes | 1 Comment

Chocolate Chip Cookies

Here is a classic a cookie that is almost universally loved, I mean who doesn’t love chocolate chip cookies?

 

Let’s get this started, here is what you’ll need.

So what’s with that ginormous tub of chocolate chips?  I get them at the club store, they are such a great deal there, it comes out to about 1/2 price for the nestle chips this way.  Heck even store brand chips are over $2.00 a bag here!

Now take that melted butter and both sugars an combine them in a bowl.  “MELTED BUTTER”?  Yup melted, it changes things up a bit, gives a little better texture, and really, would I steer you wrong?

I’m using my big Kitchenaid mixer, but a regular hand mixer will work just fine.

Now beat it up to combine.  This is sorta “creaming” but since the butter is melted, you won’t get a proper creamed mixture here, but that’s OK, it’ll work out.

Now add the vanilla, and egg, and egg yolk.  Why not just a second whole egg?  Well not to get too geeky on ya, but egg whites have a slight drying effect on baked goods, omitting the white on one egg, helps keep these nice and moist and chewy. How do you separate an egg?  Check out this video  Just discard the extra egg white or make a facial mask out of it, whatever works for you…

now beat this with an electric mixer on medium speed until it looks light in color and nice and silky.

Now take the flour, baking soda, and salt and whisk together in a small bowl, you don’t need to see me do this again do ya?

Add the flour mixture all at once to the butter, sugar, and egg mixture.  Mix on low speed with your mixer until combined, scraping down the bowl as needed.  If you are using a big stand mixer like me “jog” the motor a few times to avoid wearing all that flour, don’t ask me how I figured that out…

do not over beat. It should look like this

Now just mix in some chocolate chips, you could add some toasted pecans or walnuts here if you like, I would go for 3/4 cup.  I like to mix them in by hand, you don’t have to be like me though, you can use the mixer.

Now the dough must chill for at least one hour, this is very important.  Since we melted the butter the dough is quite soft and it will likely spread and produce a flat cookie.

I like to use my “disher”  which is like a small ice cream scoop, I use a vollrath #24 disher (red handle) or a #30(black handle).  I get these at restaurant supply and they are awesome, they work so much better than those small white plastic ones you get at the mega store or the dollar store.  Restaurant supply is my toy store, I spend way too much time there, I hope that I don’t creep them out.

I dish out the dough onto a parchment lined sheet and pop those lumps into the fridge to chill out.  Chill them for one hour, or even better overnight.  You will be amazed how much better the cookies taste after a night in the fridge, the flavor changes to a more caramelly (look I just made up a word) bundle of goodness.  Just make sure that if you leave the dough overnight that you wrap it tightly so it doesn’t taste like that leftover chinese food you have in there.

Preheat oven to 325 degrees.

Now that they are nice and cold arrange on an un-greased or parchment lined cookie sheet.  You will want to keep a space of around 2 inches to allow for them to spread.

I only baked six, because if I had baked 12, we would have eaten 12, and well, there goes my girlish figure.

here is what I did with the rest of the dough, once it is chilled it is firm enough to put in a freezer bag and freeze.  Now to keep rob out of the cookie dough lumps..

Now pop that cookie sheet into the preheated 325 degree oven.

Bake for 11-15 minutes or until they are light brown around the edges, puffed in the middle and no longer wet looking in the middle.  They will still seem slightly underdone, but they will finish on the pan, no really they will!

They will fall a bit when they cool, but don’t panic, that way you know you have done it right!

Here’s your lumpy, bumpy, crunchy, chewy bundles of goodness

Click here for printable recipe

  • 2 cups all purpose flour
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 3/4 cup melted butter (1 1/2 sticks)
  • 1 cup lightly packed brown sugar
  • 1/2 cup white granulated sugar
  • 1 tablespoon vanilla extract
  • 1 egg
  • 1 egg yolk
  • 2 cups of semi sweet chocolate chips (11-12oz bag)
  • 3/4 cup chopped walnuts or pecans (optional)

 

 

Posted in Cookies and Bars | 8 Comments

How to separate an egg!

Here is a quick tip that you will find useful in lots of baking recipes.

Separating egg whites from egg yolks is quite easy, but if you have never done it before it can seem tricky.  Here is a quick video to show you how to do it.

See now wasn’t that easy!

As you can see it’s really quite simple.  Using room temperature eggs makes this process even easier.

When using egg whites for whipping in recipes like meringue, angel food cake etc. You will want to make sure that you do not break the yolk and get it mixed into the white, the fat from the egg yolk will prevent the whites from whipping properly.  When whipping egg whites, you need to use a very clean bowl, free from any oil or grease residue, this will also prevent your whites from whipping properly.  I suggest using a glass or metal bowl for whipping whites, as it is much easier to remove oily residue from them than plastic bowls.  Also plastic is made from oil (petroleum) so even that can cause problems with whipping.

 

Posted in Techniques | 3 Comments

Brownies!

Who doesn’t love brownies?  Fudgy goodness, comfort food at its best.

Here is my favorite recipe for brownies, it is a great “pantry staple” type recipe, no fancy melted chocolate, very little fuss.  And did I say fudgy?

Let’s start this!

Get that oven set to 350 degrees.

prepare an 8×8 pan by greasing with some pan spray or a thin coat of soft butter or shortening. You can make a parchment sling like I did if you wish, makes it easier to remove from pan, and you can protect a non-stick pan, not having to cut the brownies in the pan.

Are you sick of looking at my giant sugar and flour containers yet?  Speaking of that it looks like I am running dangerously low on white granulated sugar, I don’t know how I could have let that happen, I promise to do better next time.

First you will want to melt the butter, I use the microwave for this, you can use the sun’s rays and a magnifying glass to do this but the microwave is much quicker.  Add the sugar, eggs and vanilla and mix well, it should look like this.

Now you’ve seen me do this before, but I’ll show you again, because this time it involves cocoa, HOW EXCITING!  Mix the flour, cocoa, baking powder, and salt together with a whisk, making sure to get rid of any cocoa lumps in the process.  You’ll notice only 3/4 cup of flour, yes you read that right, that is what makes this more of a very moist brownie and less like a cake.

I told you, cocoa really livens up the party!

Now take that dry mixture and dump it all at once into the wet, buttery goo that we mixed up a few minutes ago, you didn’t lose it did you?

Now just mix it in using a spoon, or if you wanna be like me (and why wouldn’t you) you can use this funky tool, it’s from the Williams Sonoma Dr. Seuss collection.  No not really, it is a “dough whisk” that I won at a baking demonstration years ago because I’m so much smarter than everyone else, OK maybe not smarter, but luckier?  Don’t over mix, little lumps are OK, just like in quick breads.

Should I do it, will it be too much chocolate?  Shush, there’s never too much chocolate!

I went with a 1/2 cup of chocolate chips.  You could also add a 1/2 cup of walnuts or pecans if you want

Yeah, that’s better!

Just mix-em in and pour into your prepared pan.  Smoosh it around a bit get it distributed nice and evenly.

Now put them in that preheated 350 degree oven, you remembered to preheat right?

Bake for 30-40 minutes, I know that this is a large window, but all ovens are different, pans will perform different, so we just need to start checking at about the 30 minute mark.   They are done when the center of the brownies are puffed, the top is cracked and the brownies have started pulling away from the sides of the pan.  A cake test won’t work well here, because brownies are fudgy and they will still be gooey even when fully baked and hot.

Here is how they should look.

Looks good doesn’t it, they look done!

Now this is the hardest part, but you really need to let them cool, step away, resist the urge!  Once cool slice into 2 pieces, OK maybe more if you aren’t feeling gluttonous.  and here they are in all their fudgy goodness.

Click here to print recipe

  • 3/4 cup melted butter
  • 1 1/2 cups sugar
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 3 eggs
  • 3/4 cup all purpose flour
  • 1/2 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt

 

Posted in Cookies and Bars | 2 Comments

Butter, margarine, lard……

Fat, yup, fat, that’s what we are talking about today.

Fat in your baked goods, unlike your behind is a good thing.  Fat serves different roles in baked goods from flavor, to tenderness, to helping it leaven (rise).

Which fats should be used, and is it OK to make substitutions?  I hope that I can help answer that, or at least shed some light.

Butter– sweet sweet butter!  This one is my favorite, butter adds lots of flavor.  Standard butter here in the good ‘ol USA is around 80% fat which makes it great for a lot of applications.  Butter comes in both salted and unsalted.  I use salted most of all, I always have it around and it is my go-to fat.  Sometimes I will reduce the salt in my recipe slightly if the recipe calls for unsalted butter, usually 1/4 teaspoon per stick called for in the recipe.  Unsalted butter is also available, and it isn’t just for people with high blood pressure, but for recipes that have a very delicate flavor like a butter spritz cookie or a European style butter cream.  If you want the best butter, get a European style, often found under the brand names Plugra, and Kerrygold, they have a higher butterfat and richer flavor.  Always buy butter in sticks, not in tubs, very often butter in tubs has been whipped and is full of air, this will throw off your recipe.

Margarine– Likely my least favorite fat to bake with and the one that you have to be the most careful with.  NEVER and I feel strongly about this, should you ever use “Tub”margarine spread in baking recipes.  Tub spreads often have too much water in them and not enough fat.  These can cause very bad results especially in recipes like chocolate chip cookies where fat performance is crucial.  If you are going to use margarine in sticks, look for ones that are marketed specifically for baking or contain 80% fat.  Most stick margarine here in the USA, is still contains trans fats, a very bad thing, to get a good baking margarine without trans fats will cost as much or more than butter.

Lard– great fat for making pie crusts, and biscuits.  It has fallen out of fashion since vegetable shortening came to the market as a “healthier” alternative, but we now know that isn’t really true anymore.  Lard is 100% fat.

Shortening– best known from the brand name Crisco.  Shortening is pretty much great for the same things as lard and they are used interchangeably.  There is also “butter flavored” shortening, used as a replacement for butter.  Now that artificial trans fats have been shown to be very unhealthy, shortening manufacturers have reformulated their product to be “trans fat free” per serving, which only means that they have 1/2 a gram or less of trans fat per serving, they still have an unhealthy dose of partially hydrogenated oil in them, the source of trans fats.  With that said, I have used an organic shortening from Spectrum Organics that is not hydrogenated and works really really well, it is expensive but a good alternative to hydrogenated shortening. shortening is 100% fat.

Oil–  this is fat that stays liquid at room temp.  Popular varieties are “vegetable oil” which is mostly soybean, safflower oil etc.  There are blends and canola.  These are flavorless oils that are great for baking.  Oils are great for cakes and quick breads because they will produce very moist products.  Cakes will stay nice and soft even when chilled, unlike cakes made with butter which are best eaten at room temperature.   You should never replace butter or any solid fat with oil unless instructed to do so.  They are not always interchangeable, especially in baked goods like cookies. Oil is 100% fat.

Applesauce– APPLESAUCE IS NOT A GOOD SUBSTITUTION FOR FAT!  I feel strongly about this.  Applesauce is water (or mostly so) and water and fat are two different things.  Many people use applesauce in quick breads, and while these are still moist, they are more gummy, less tender and don’t rise quite as high.  You will not find me using applesauce as a substitution, I don’t make “diet” desserts.  I like to eat desserts in their full glory, but in moderation, I like to enjoy the real deal.  If you are looking for lighter desserts, I would search for recipes specially formulated to be lower fat, and not try to adapt a recipe.  Low fat baking can be tricky, remember, baking is chemistry and it is really easy to mess up a recipe with incompatible substitutions.  Applesauce is 0% fat

Hopefully you will find this post informative!

Posted in Ingredients | 3 Comments

Blueberry Coffee Cake

Here is a pan full of yum, great for a weekend breakfast, great to make for company!

Blueberry coffee cake recipe

First prepare the  8×8 pan by greasing lightly and dusting with flour.

Here is the cast of characters, most of them look familiar.  You’ll notice some blur in this post, no I wasn’t getting artsy fartsy on you, just forgot to charge the batteries in the camera, and my camera gets a bit manic when focusing on low battery, kinda like me with low blood sugar.

Here’s the star of the show, the blueberries.  These are like the blueberries that I grew up with in Maine, tiny wild blueberries, and to me they are the best in the world.  These are just perfect in just about everything.  I am lucky enough to be able to get them frozen at Trader Joe’s, these are from Quebec Canada.  You can use fresh or frozen blueberries in this recipe, whichever you can get your hands on, even the big blueberries work well if you can’t find the tiny ones.

First, in a small bowl, combine flour, baking powder, and salt.  Whisk to combine.

Next in another bowl combine the  soft butter and both sugars.  Make sure the butter is nice and soft but not melted, just take it out of the fridge about an hour before you are going to use it.

Now whip it, whip it good……  Well that was kinda nerdy, it’s part of my charm.  Your going to want to use a mixer for this,  you don’t need a big heavy duty stand mixer here, they are awesome, but a regular hand mixer will work just dandy.  You want the butter and sugars to be nice and fluffy.

Next add the eggs and the vanilla.  I love the smell of good vanilla, I’ve often thought of using it as cologne.

Now beat that together until nice and smooth.  Add half of the flour mixture.

beat until combined, and then add 1/2 of the milk

beat until combined and repeat with the second half of the flour mixture and the milk.

Why are we doing it this way, alternating the milk and the flour?  We want a nice smooth batter here, this is going to have a soft tender crumb, so we want a nice smooth batter without too much beating.  If you were to add the flour and the milk at the same time, it could clump and make little flour lumps, not good in a cake, then you would have to beat the tar out of the batter to get it smooth again, resulting in a less tender cake.  It’s true, I’m not just makin’ that up!

Next in that bowl where you had the flour mixture, put your blueberries in it with a teaspoon of flour and toss them around a bit to coat them.  Why do this?  This helps keep the blueberries from sinking to the bottom.  Why does this work, I’m not sure, I’m gonna go with magic..

Now just mix those berries into the batter. Just fold them in gently.

Pour the batter into the prepared pan

Set the batter aside and prepare the topping.  Now the topping is optional, I have had success with this in my convection oven, but when testing this recipe with the convection turned OFF, the topping sunk into the cake a bit.  If you want to skip the topping, just combine 2 tablespoons of sugar and 1/4 teaspoon cinnamon and sprinkle that over the top before baking.

Prepare the topping, combine all of the topping ingredients in a small mixing bowl

using a pastry cutter or two knives, or even your bare hands, work the ingredients together.  What you are trying to accomplish here is cutting the butter into tiny pieces, creating a topping that looks kind of like wet sand with maybe a few small stray bits of butter scattered.  If you use your hands, just rub the butter and the rest of the ingredients together with your fingers.  Of course I assume that you have impeccably clean hands!

Now you can mix in a 1/4 cup of finely chopped pecans if you wish, and I highly recommend that you do

And sprinkle the topping evenly over the batter

Now slide into that preheated 350 degree oven and bake for 25-35 minutes, or until the cake tests done.  It tests done when a toothpick or knife is inserted near the center and when removed, comes out clean without any batter stuck to it.  A few moist crumbs are OK though, you don’t want a dry cake, I mean what will people say?  Your street cred as a baker will be shot, we just can’t have that.

Place the pan on a cooling rack and cool for 15 minutes.  You can remove from pan by placing a plate over the pan and inverting.  Then place the cooling rack on top of cake and inverting again so that it is right side up.  Finish cooling on the rack.  You could also make a parchment sling like I did and just lift out the cake.

here is the finished product,  ta da!

I could have just buried my face in it, but I didn’t

Printable recipe click here

  • 1 cup all purpose flour
  • 1 1/2 tsp baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1/2 cup (1 stick) softened butter
  • 1/3 cup lightly packed light brown sugar
  • 1/4 cup white sugar
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 2 eggs
  • 1/2 cup milk
  • 1/2 cup blueberries

topping

  • 2 tablespoons cold butter
  • 2 tablespoons all purpose flour
  • 1/3 cup white sugar
  • 1 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1/4 cup finely chopped pecans (optional)

 

 

 

 

Posted in Cakes, Quick Breads and Muffins | 2 Comments

Measuring Flour?

Yes, you read the title correctly, I’m doin’ a post on measuring flour!

This might be one of the biggest mistakes that beginning bakers make.  Professional bakers weigh their ingredients which is by far the best way, but I understand that most novice bakers will not have a digital scale.

Why not just dip your measuring cup in a bag of flour?  Why not just dip your paw into the bag and eyeball it?  ‘cuz you’re not suppose to!  Baking is chemistry, good recipes are ones where everything works together in perfect unison, throw off one measurement and the whole recipe is often affected.  Have you ever made a recipe that seemed to come out better before?  It could be from not measuring exactly the same every time.

Cooking is different from baking and it is a lot easier to freestyle when cooking, unless you are an experienced baker, stick to the recipe and measure carefully.

This is a great video from the folks at King Arthur Flour, I highly recommend their products, and their website is treasure trove of baking recipes!

King Arthur Flour isn’t paying me to show this video, they don’t even know me, who knows if they’d even like me!

Posted in Techniques | 2 Comments

Bread!

So are you really intimidated by the thought of making your own homemade bread WITHOUT a bread machine?  Well SNAP OUT OF IT!  It’s really easy if you know a few simple steps!

Here is a really easy basic white bread recipe.  This isn’t a recipe that’s gonna win you a blue ribbon, but it is a great place to start on on your journey to becoming a bread baker.

Here we go!

Here are the cast of characters.  Yes, I buy yeast in bulk, it is so much cheaper that way, but you can buy the packets,  that’s OK too.

First what you need to do is get the water up to temp, you are looking for between 105 degrees and 120 degrees, you really don’t want to go over 120, or you will risk killing the yeast, and you don’t want that on your conscience do you?

 

Now just pour that warm water into a nice large bowl, add sugar and sprinkle yeast over the water.

Let it sit for about 10 minutes and in that time…..

IT’S ALIVE, IT’S ALIVE!  While you were gone, the yeast has come to life, the bacteria are having a grand ol’ time, living a life of burping and farting, that’s their purpose in life, much like someone I know and love, I won’t mention names, but it rhymes with Frob…..

And you thought Sea-monkeys were cool.

Now comes the melted butter (not too hot, let it cool) and the first 2 cups of flour.  I always add some flour before adding the salt, yeast much like my mother-in-law hates salt, it can kill it, hypertension?

Now give it a quick stir and add the salt, don’t skip it, this is essential for flavor in bread, and 3-4 cups of flour.

Now you should have a shaggy sticky mass of dough.

As you will have noticed, we haven’t added all of the flour yet, we are going to do that during the kneading process, it’s just too hard to stir it all in with the spoon.  Don’t try to be a hero

Now on a clean counter top, sprinkle a cup of flour.  Plop the dough out and roll it around.

And start kneading.  This is easy, just beat the tar out of it!  Grab the dough and fold it over itself.

Then using the “heel” of your hand smash it while pushing away.  Somehow my hand got sunburned between these two pictures, solar flare?

Keep doing this over and over for about 15 minutes only adding enough flour to make the dough not too sticky.  You may not need all 7 cups, different brands of flours absorb moisture differently, so this isn’t an exact science. The dough should be still pretty soft, you don’t want a very stiff dough, stiff isn’t good here. You know when you are there when the dough takes on a nice smooth appearance and is very elastic.

Now clean that bowl that you mixed in, dry and add about a tablespoon of oil, swish it around in the bottom.

Now plop your ball of dough, smooth side down in the bowl and squish it around a bit.

Now flip it over so that it is shiny side up.  The oil keeps the dough moist and prevents a crusty skin from forming.

Cover with plastic wrap and set in a warm spot in the kitchen until it is double in volume.  This again varies, this could take an hour or it could take 2 depending on the temperature of your kitchen, be patient let the yeast do their thing.  Since you fed them some sugar, they have all they need to produce lots of gas.

Woo Hoo magic!

Now sprinkle the counter with a bit more flour, and plop out the dough.

Now divide in half.

Take one half of the dough and flatten with your hands.

Now fold in the ends, and the sides and pinch all together.

and shape it a bit so it looks more like a loaf.

Repeat with the second half of the dough.

Now grease two standard sized loaf pans (9×5″), you can use the pan spray here, it works great.  Place one loaf into each pan.

Now cover again and let rise a second time, until the dough just peeks over the tops of the pans.

When they start getting close, preheat the oven to 375 degrees.

Now this next step is optional and it is what my mom would call “gilding the lily”.  You can take a very sharp knife and score the tops of the loaves.  The first one I did some simple slashes and the second one, I did  one long cut down the length of the loaf and put butter in the slit.  This is going to make a “buttersplit” loaf.

Now simply place the loaves in the preheated oven and bake for 25 to 30 minutes.

You will want loaves that are golden brown top and bottom.  The internal temperature should be at 190-200 degrees if you are not sure and want to check with an instant read thermometer.

Once baked you will want to remove them from the pans immediately onto a cooling rack.  If you were to leave them in the pans, they would sweat and the bottom crust would be soggy.  Did, I just mention sweat and soggy bottoms in the same sentence?

The recipe

  • 6-7 cups all purpose flour (bread flour works well too)
  • 3 tablespoons sugar (honey is a good substitute)
  • 1 tablespoon salt
  • 2 tablespoons melted butter or shortening
  • 2 packages active dry yeast (4 1/2 teaspoons bulk yeast) (instant, or rapid rise work too)
  • 2 1/4 cups warm water (between 105-120 degrees)

 

 

 

 

Posted in Bread and Dough | 9 Comments

Quick Breads, What are they exactly?

Hey Ya’ll, I guess that it would have been better to put this post BEFORE my recipe for zucchini bread, but I forgot!

Muffins, biscuits, beer batter breads, waffles, pancakes, etc. all fall into the quick bread category.  Quick breads unlike yeast breads (think sandwich bread) don’t require kneading and are leavened or risen by a chemical reaction using baking soda or baking powder, instead of yeast. These two leavening are not interchangeable, you cannot swap one for the other.

Baking powder is almost always “double acting”, what this means is that it reacts (puffs) twice, who would have guessed!  The first reaction is when it is combined with liquid, you’ll notice the batter start to bubble, especially with pancake batters.  The second reaction happens when heat is applied.  Recipes made with strictly baking powder don’t have to be baked immediately.

Baking Soda, is a “single acting” leavening, baking soda puffs just once.  Baking soda is activated by an acidic ingredient in the recipe.  Recipes that contain buttermilk, yogurt and such will cause a larger reaction and a fluffier batter.  Since baking soda is activated immediately, it needs to be baked immediately or else you risk a flat quick bread.

How are quick breads different from cakes you ask?  Quick breads are usually very moist and dense and ingredient rich.  They are usually sweeter than a cake and contain lots of fruit, either mashed like a banana or vegetables shredded like zucchini and carrot.  Carrot cake is actually more of a quick bread than a cake, it is made using the quick bread/muffin method.

The thing that sets quick breads and cakes apart the most, is the mixing method.  The biggest part of this method is the mixing procedure.  With quick breads, all of the liquids are combined at once, and the combined dry ingredients are added to that, mixing just to combine, a lumpy batter is desirable in quick bread batter.   With a cake you are looking for a finer, fluffier texture, which requires a much more specific mixing method, we’ll get to that in another post.

Now go make a quick bread!

Posted in Quick Breads and Muffins | Leave a comment

Zucchini Bread

For my first recipe, were startin’ off slow, something easy.

Zucchini is everywhere in the summer, it’s the kind of thing that gardeners are begging people to take, this stuff multiplies like crazy, it’s like the rabbit of the vegetable world.

First get that oven going.  With this being a longer cooking quick bread, go low and slow so set the oven to 325 degrees.

Next you want to prepare 2 standard sized loaf pans (9×5″).  To do this give them a good coating of shortening or butter, you can also use pan spray, but wipe away the excess.  Next add some flour to the pans an turn them all around to coat, banging out any excess flour over the trash can.

Why not just spray?  Well you can, but you will get prettier loaves this way, the batter has something to grab on to and climbs the sides of the pan, giving you a nice tall loaf, not one with crusty ridges and a hump in the middle, but if you like humps, who am I to judge…

Your pans should look like this.

Next, and this is optional, make “slings” out of parchment paper, these will help you lift out the bread, this will save you heartache later.

Now here is the cast of characters.  Notice I am using small zucchini.  These have much less water than the big overgrown ones, if you are using those, you can omit the water in the recipe.

First shred the zucchini.

Next in a large bowl, mix the oil, vanilla, eggs, sugar, water and zucchini until thoroughly combined.  No special technique here just mix it up.

Next combine the dry ingredients, flour, baking soda, cinnamon, nutmeg, and salt.  Combine thoroughly with a whisk.  You can use a sifter here if you wanna show off, but this works just fine, I don’t need no stinkin’ sifter!

Add the dry ingredients all at once to the wet.

Stir just to combine. Stir just until combined, resist the urge to beat the tar out of it!  You want a slightly lumpy batter, lumps are good, embrace the LUMPS!

Next toss in the walnuts, or if pecans are your thing, toss those in, just chop em’ a little, or don’t,  this is your zucchini bread!

Remember just stir to combine, and step away from the bowl!

Now just pour your batter into the prepared pans, dividing evenly.  I got about 32 oz. in each pan.  Yes I weighed them….. you don’t have to be like me, you can just eyeball it.

Now slide them into that preheated oven.  These will bake for around 45 min to an hour.  They are done when a knife inserted near the center comes out without batter on it, a few moist crumbs are OK, but not wet batter.  The loaves will also feel firm when pressed gently, unlike my gut…  After baking let cool in pans for 10-15 minutes.  After cooling for 15 minutes remove by pulling up on the parchment and placing on a cooling rack or if you didn’t use the parchment, run a knife or spatula around the edge and shake gently until the loaves fall out of the pans, place on cooling racks to cool, or if you are hungry, grab a hunk and smear with butter!

See how those slings made removal a cinch?  No tears, no swearing, just perfection!  See I knew you could do it!

Now for the recipe.

  • 2 cups shredded zucchini
  • 2 cups sugar
  • 1 cup vegetable oil
  • 4 eggs
  • 2 tsp vanilla
  • 1/3 cup water (omit if your zucchini is watery, large overgrown ones usually are)
  • 3 1/4 cups all purpose flour
  • 1 tsp cinnamon
  • 1/2 tsp nutmeg
  • 1 1/2 tsp salt
  • 2 tsp baking soda
  • 1 cup chopped walnuts (or pecans if you wanna be like that)

 

Posted in Quick Breads and Muffins | 3 Comments