Baking Basics. Chocolate Chip Cookies and some of my “must have” tools.

Chocolate Chip Cookies

Chocolate Chip Cookies

The weather here is windy and raining.  Driving home I decided to whip up a quick batch of chocolate chip cookies for my girls.  Nothing says comfort food like the smell of fresh cookies from the oven after school  … and well, the taste of chocolate chip cookie dough!  These are my go to recipe from The Complete Canadian Living Cookbook, Best-Ever Chocolate Chip Cookies.  The review of that cookbook is for another day.  I also wanted to share a couple of my favorite tools for baking.  When it comes to cookies, you must have ice cream scoops.  For cookies I use a smaller one which is approximately 4cm or 1 5/8″ and then a larger one for muffins, 6cm or 2 3/8″.  A large offset spatula is also the best tool for lifting the cookies off the cookie sheet onto the cooling rack.  I have two offset spatulas in my pantry plus two other metal spatulas.  You do not need a lot of gadgets in your baking pantry but you do often need a couple of sizes of your favorite tools.  I’m looking forward to curling up in front of a fire tonight with my book, a hot cup of tea and a couple of these cookies.

Metal SpatulasCookie Scoops

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The smell of muffins baking in the oven on a wintery morning.

Usually once or twice a week I make muffins in the morning for my family.  If you do a couple of minutes of preparation the night before it is a quick task in the morning.  I measure all the dry ingredients out and leave them in the mixing bowl on the counter over night.  The wet ingredients I mix into a larger measuring cup and store in the fridge.  If the recipe calls for melted butter, prepare that in the morning.  In the morning while the oven is heating you can quickly mix the ingredients together.  I use a non-stick muffin pan coated with a non-stick spray.  Generally I prefer parchment paper for prepping pans but for muffins I do use non-stick pans coated with a non-stick spray (such as PAM).  Once you spray on the coating wipe off the top of the pan which will be exposed to the oven heat.  This is what makes that terrible brown coating on pans that is hard to remove.  If you use this type of spray on your cooking sheets they become impossible to clean after a while.  Parchment paper is the best and delivers the most desirable results with the minimum fuss plus it can be reused.

The muffins I made this morning were adapted from a recipe I found on a bag of King Arthur flour I bought in Hong Kong.  The recipe is Glorious Morning Muffins (not to be confused with a popular recipe that uses the whole orange in it).  The recipe has grated carrots and apples plus coconut and raisins.  I add ground flax-seed and wheat germ to the recipe with no change in texture plus I use whatever type of nut I feel like at that moment.  Even though the recipe uses 3/4 cup of oil I still consider it a healthy muffin.  I always feel better knowing we are eating homemade items, baked from the best quality ingredients, rather than any processed goods with all the additives designed to keep things fresh for months.  Enjoy and happy baking!

Received my “Baking with Julia” book today

As I mentioned on a previous post I am going to join an online group that will be baking our way through this book.  Several times a month participants will bake selected recipes from the book.  I will be posting my results on this blog.  Today I received the cookbook which is based on the original PBS series hosted by Julia Child.  Working my way through this book will be like taking a course in baking.  I look forward to learning many new tips and techniques from Julia and the twenty-seven master chefs who participated in the series.  Tonight’s homework is reading through the Baking Basics which is the first section on terms, techniques and equipment.  Typically I never read this section in most cookbooks as I have always assumed that I knew all the terms and few offered advice that was new to me.  This time I am looking forward to learning new tips and techniques from this group of expert bakers.  I will share the interesting bits with you on a future post!

Found a delicious surprise hidden away on my cookbook shelf

Lots of sour cream leftover from the holiday entertaining season!

I decided to try a new recipe from one of my existing cookbooks.  Great Coffee Cakes, Sticky Buns, Muffins and More, by Carol Walter.  This is a book I bought in Hong Kong at Page One in Times Square.  This English book store has an excellent selection of baking books except you can’t look inside because all the books are shrink wrapped!  Regardless  of this inconvenience I added many books to my collection while living there.  In the book I used today, I found a classic coffee cake recipe that used sour cream.  You need to plan ahead as the sour cream, mixed with baking soda, must sit for an hour at room temperature before starting.  The ingredients used were all simple pantry staples.  I used regular granulated sugar instead of superfine and the brown sugar was not dark as suggested.  I found the technique to be very wordy.  This might prove a bit cumbersome for an experienced baker but those new to baking will appreciate the detailed steps.  I do not recall having to beat a batter so much (more than ten minutes to add the sugar and eggs into the butter), particularily for a coffee cake, but the result was worth it.  I did use an angel food cake pan lined with parchment and the cake released from the pan beautifully when inverted.  Didn’t bother with the detailed steps suggested for removing the cake. This cake has a wonderful consistency.   All the full buttery flavor of a regular coffee cake but very light with a fine crumb.  Melts in your mouth.  The author was right when she described the cake, “Although many recipes for this type of cake exist, I think this one is extra special.” This would definitely win you some rave reviews if you were to bake it for your next gathering, regardless of the time of day.

Hello World!

I have loved baking for as long as I can remember.

Yesterday, I was baking a healthy version of oatmeal cookies for my family when I remembered a part from the previous night’s TV show Grey’s Anatomy. Sandra Oh’s character was asked to prepare a bucket list of surgeries she would like to perform.  It dawned on me that I should have a baking bucket list.  I’ve got a bucket list but it was more like a list of big life items which usually involved travelling. But can’t we have bucket lists for other, smaller areas of our lives? So I started thinking about what I might put on that baking bucket list. Wow! I was surprised by how many basic things I would like to tackle and perfect. I bake numerous times per week but it tends to be for my family’s breakfast or packed lunches. Not because I woke up inspired to bake a delicious croissant reminiscent of my last trip to Paris. Which brings me to my latest challenge.  Joining the “Tuesdays With Dorie” online group as we bake our way through another cookbook by Dorie Greenspan, Baking With Julia. I had found this group on a baking blog while I was living in Hong Kong. Unfortunately the timing was not right for me to join the group challenge then as I knew that trying to source quality ingredients would be too time consuming. I couldn’t even find a butter I liked and don’t get me started on the brown sugar. That’s a story for another day. Being the start of a new year and living back in Canada seemed like the ideal time to work on my baking bucket list and be part of this challenge at the same time. So join me as I bake my way through 2012.