Archive for the ‘Baking’ Category

Kumquats – a recent discovery

Wednesday, July 20th, 2011

I recently have become acquainted with kumquats.  They are truly an intriguing little fruit.  The ones I tried were quite small and condusive to simply plopping in the mouth, whole.  The fruit can be larger but those might be a little too big for eating whole.  The first taste is shockingly sour but is somehowed mellowed with a sweeter finish.  They make a wonderful snack but can also be used for jams, chutneys and relishes.  They are also encorporated in baking items like muffins and cake batter. When trying to imagine their many applications compare them to orange and lemon rinds. 

Kumquats can be used in much the same way, but the entire fruit can be used (not just the rind), removing seeds first, and then sliced or chopped to the size you need.

They can also be used as a garnish in salads.  When stored in the fridge they have a decent shelf life giving you plenty of time to find places for them.

Making chocolate chips from scratch

Tuesday, April 12th, 2011


So why would any sane person want to make their own chocolate chips?  Only one reason I can think of and that is food allergies.  The inspiration for this experiment came from a co-worker whose son is allergic to soy lecithin.  Soy lecithin is in so many food products, including chocolate chips.  She had asked me one day if one could make chips from scratch and the question so intrigued me that I gave it a shot.  Here are the results.  This post serves as an excercise for anyone who has to be careful with food allergies and would like to substitute/recreate/conjure comporable ingredients.


Cooks frequently substitute unsweetened chocolate baking squares by melting shortening and then adding cocoa.  With that in mind I attempted to make a sweetened chocolate version using the same technique.


I used butter, instead of shortening, thinking that would improve the flavor. 


That was melted in a small pan…


and then to that I added some powdered sugar and unsweetened cocoa powder. 


I used powdered sugar thinking the granulated might turn out grainy.  If I were to do this again I might try the granulated, just to see.

FYI – I used the following ratio of ingredients, which once again, may not be perfected but was merely a starting point.  The ratio was 4:8:6, in this order…butter:cocoa:sugar and I happened to use tablespoons for the measure. 

If I were to repeat this I would try less butter and a little more sugar.  Just a thought but it demonstrates how you might think through and adjust as you are trying to find alternatives that work for you.


Once the mixture was ready I poured it on a sheet of parchment and spread it out a bit.  I didn’t want the sheet too thin or the chips would be too thin.  I was trying to find a balance.  Once the chocolate hardened…


I broke and cut it into smaller pieces and then placed it in the freezer to get super firm.  I mixed the cookie ingredients and then added the frozen chips last so they would withstand the mixing.  They were baked as usual.


 When they came out of the oven there were some edges that were somewhat melted so I took an offset spatula (or a knife) and brought them back to the edge of the cookie for a more even shape.

The first bite or two was a bit of a shock to the palate, just because they aren’t exactly what you might expect from chips but honestly, they grew on me.  I like dark chocolate and this was a pleasant combination for me.  I took the platter of cookies to work with a note of explanation for any who dared sample.  The cookies got a thumbs up!

Granola bars – true granola bars

Tuesday, March 15th, 2011


A true granola bar recipe is hard to find.  This is the real thing, reminiscent of the ones they sell in the stores.  After all…isn’t that our goal –  to duplicate store bought products?  I was given this recipe years ago by a young woman who helped us at the restaurant.  She got it from a niece who got it from a seventh grade home economics teacher.  I will ever be grateful.

The recipe and instructions follow.  It is very easy and allows for any variations you care to make.  The recipe is not at all difficult but there are three techniques involved that will insure your success. 

1) For the full recipe, use the pan size designated

2) Make sure the mixture is spread perfectly even in the pan

3) Do not overbake

Bear those three things in mind and you will have great results.  Here we go…

Basic Granola Bar Recipe:

1 cup sugar

5 ounces butter or real margarine

3 tablespoons honey

3 tablespoons karo syrup

2 tablespoons peanut butter (optional)

4 3/4 cups rolled oats (quick not old-fashioned)

4 cups added ingredients (total)- this can be a combination of different nuts, chocolate chips, other baking chips, coconut, raisins and other dried fruits, anything you care to try.


In large bowl combine first five ingredients.


Cream together well.


Add oats and your choice of 4 cups of personalized ingredients.


Mix well and then spread evenly in greased baking sheet.


This recipe is perfectly suited to what is known as a half pan or a pan 12×18.  If you decide to make a half recipe, then adjust the pan size accordingly.


Press the dough with fingers making sure the granola is perfectly even all across and not thinner of thicker in any part.


Bake in 350 oven between 15-20 minutes.  You want the granola to be set but not brown around the edges.  Believe it or not the picture above is baked.  Notice that the edges have not begun to turn brown.  This is the tricky part and might take some guesswork the first time or two.


When the granola has cooled slightly but not completely, cut in half using a folded sheet of parchment of paper as a guide.


Then quarter the pan, again using the paper as guide…


and from there cut as many portions as you like in whatever shape you prefer.  Once the granola is cut, allow to cool completely and then store in heavy ziploc bags or nice airtight containers.  This truly is the best recipe I have ever worked with.  My favorite combination of ingredients is 1 cup chocolate chips, 1 cup coconut, 1 cup pecans and one cup raisins…but honestly…any combination tastes great!

Preassembling ingredients for later baking

Wednesday, March 9th, 2011

I look forward to breakfast every day.  I’m always hungry for it and even the night before, as I’m getting ready for bed I’m thinking about what I need to use from the fridge for breakfast.  Menu options for breakfast are vast but because we are working under constraints of time some of those options are only available on weekends or days when we are less pressured to run, run, run…


Last week I was really craving coffee cake with my breakfast but I was reluctant to even consider it because it seems that most mornings I’m doing well just to get myself ready and out the door on time.  No way would I be able to throw together a “cake” recipe, bake it and eat it in one quick morning.  And I wasn’t willing to wake up early to do that.  But I had an idea.  What if, the night before I were to throw together the ingredients and get it all set up to bake?  Would it bake and rise properly the next morning?  I was willing to give it a try.


The night before I assembled all the ingredients in the pan.  BTW – I typically dimple the top with my fingers just to give it a rough look rather than a smooth surface (I like it when the streusel sinks into the holes, and gets in the middle and bottom).  I covered it with film and set it in the fridge overnight. 


The next morning as I rolled out of bed I turned on the oven.  Once it was preheated I put the pan with the ready batter and streusel inside, set the timer, went about my other preparations and 20 minutes later was enjoying the smell and taste of freshly baked cake.  It was great.  Nothing was compromised.  In fact, since then I have begun using other breakfast baking recipes and once again, doing a preassemble the night before with little finishing touches the next morning. 


If you know that is an option available to you, it might help diversify your breakfast menus.  It’s also a great option when you have company and want something special but can’t afford the time.   Another thing to remember is that baked products usually freeze beautifully. Simply double wrap individual pieces, toss them in the freezer and enjoy them later.   Just an afterthought…and I will try this…Why not take this a step further and do what manufacturers do and preassemble the batter in a pan, cover, FREEZE and then thaw the night before baking and see what happens!  That way you can make it days ahead, when you have more time.  I’ll bet it will work.

Search The Chef Within Blog