Archive for the ‘Baking’ Category

Storing and utilizing those extra egg whites and egg yolks

Tuesday, February 8th, 2011

egg whites

Do you ever find yourself with extra egg whites or egg yolks?  When that happens and you don’t have an immediate use for them it helps to remember that they can both be frozen.  And here are two ways of doing that.

One way is to freeze them in a pint jar or a sour cream container.  This is a good method especially if you’re going to use a large amount in a recipe, like an angel food cake.  A recipe for angel food cake calls for 12 egg whites.  So designate a pint jar and put a label or some masking tape on the side.  Everytime you have extra whites add them to the jar and keep a running total on the label and keep the jar in the freezer.  When you reach twelve, you’ve got enough for a cake, which is about one pint.  Same goes for a 15-ounce plastic container; when it’s about full you have enough for one angel food cake.  One caution, though; leave a little headroom at the top of any glass jar.  If you fill the jar all the way to the brim with whites or any food, the jar will crack as the whites freeze and expand.  So be aware of that.

Another way to freeze whites is to do so individually.   And this is best done with the help of an ice cube tray.  As you get extra whites, freeze one white in each cube compartment.  When the whites are frozen, transfer them to an airtight bag or some other airtight container and make sure you label your container.  The advantage of freezing egg whites, individually, is that there’s no guesswork in trying to figure out how many to thaw.  You simply pull the number of cubes a recipe calls for.

For extra yolks I typically store them in a yellow margarine container and use them within a week by adding them to scrambled eggs, puddings, pie fillings, all kinds of baking items or recipes that call for smaller eggs.  Egg whites and yolks can be kept in the freezer for 6 months, which should give you plenty of time to find another use for them.

Do you really need a butane torch for Crème Brulee?

Tuesday, February 1st, 2011

creme brulee

My sister recently traveled back east and while dining out ate a most wonderful crème brulee.  It was so delicious she was inspired to learn to make it herself.  She was under the impression that she needed a special torch for creating the “brulee” and that is probably something many cooks might wonder.

It is true that most restaurants will use a butane torch for burning the sugar on a brulee.  This torch is actually the hand held kind of torch you would find in a home improvement store, so there’s nothing special about it.  I’m sure you could go to a gourmet kitchen ware shop and pay more for a better looking torch but it’s not necessary.  But here’s the interesting thing about the torch method.

The reason most restaurants are using a torch is not because a torch is required for the job but because most commercial gas ovens do not have a broiler.  The correct method for making a brulee is to slip the custard and sugar under a broiler and allow the heat from above to caramelize the sugar.  But because most restaurants don’t have broiling capabilities chefs have resorted to the butane torch.

So finally there’s an advantage for the home cook.  You have a broiler and can do it correctly and get better results.   One word of caution though…there is an order to things.  Regardless of what recipe might indicate you should bake your custards, let them cool 15 or 20 minutes, then you should sprinkle them with sugar and take them to the broiler.  You can then refrigerate them until service but do not do the broiling when the custard and the glass ramekin are cold.  If the glass ramekins goes from the cold fridge to the blaring heat of the broiler they could crack.  So remember the order (see below).

Having said all this I will concede that a torch can be handy for other uses in the kitchen.  A meringue on a pie can be lightly browned with a torch as well as a baked Alaska.  And it can be quite dramatic to fire up the old torch, especially when there’s company and people are looking on.   But I really do believe that a broiler gives a more even and better looking end result.  So – it’s up to you.

Here are the four steps:

1) bake your custard until set

2) let sit for 20 minutes on the counter

3) sprinkle with sugar and broil while it is still warm

4) chill

Perhaps something to try for Valentines!

If you think your cornbread could use some improvement…here’s help

Tuesday, January 18th, 2011

This is the time of year I look for any excuse to make a batch of cornbread.  For me, it is indeed comfort food.  But I have to say that I’m never happy with the recipe on the box and even though I’ve never purchased a mix I have to believe they don’t have much to offer other than being quick and perhaps filling.  For me cornbread is never sweet enough or moist enough so I’m always looking for fixes in those areas.  If you share similar frustrations here’s what I’ve come up with, so far.

To fix the sweet you can simply double the sugar amount a recipe calls for or supplement it with honey or molasses, two very “homey” and southern sweeteners.  To make something more moist generally means you need to be adding more fat.  So you can easily double the amount of oil the recipe calls for or you can get creative with what I call moisturizing ingredients.

For a number of years I would add a can of creamed corn to the recipe (and then reduce the milk amount) to help with both the sweetness and the moistness.  So that’s one possibility.  Most recently I discovered that leftover mashed potatoes can add a wonderful moistness.  A cup of potatoes to one standard batch of bread (which calls for one cup of cornmeal and one cup of flour) is about the right amount.  I honestly couldn’t believe how well that “experiment” turned out.  You can also increase the eggs to 2 and that makes it lighter and moister.  And then there are a number of ingredients that you can add for interest and more texture; things like chilies, roasted peppers, olives, chunks of cheese, onions…about anything that sounds good to you…

Cornbread is the perfect food to fiddle around with.  The batter is so forgiving and accepting of added ingredients it’s hard to go wrong.  It’s a great place to practice your “chefing” skills.  Following is the ingredients list for the standard recipe found on many boxes and then immediately following would be the amounts with possible improvements, as mentioned earlier.

Cornbread (original)

1cup cornmeal

1 cup flour

1/4 cup sugar

1 tablespoon baking powder

1 teaspoon salt

1/4 cup oil

1 egg, lightly beaten

1 cup milk

Revised Cornbread

1 cup cornmeal

1 cup flour

1/2 cup sugar

1 tablespoon baking powder

1 teaspoon salt

1/2 cup oil

1 or 2 eggs, lightly beaten

1 cup milk

Brown sugar – you can make your own

Wednesday, December 15th, 2010

opener

The other day I needed to make the recipe for baked caramel corn (featured in an earlier post) and as I looked over the recipe I realized I had no brown sugar.  I was in no mood to go to the store and was about to try it with just white sugar when it occured to me…

molases-and-sugar

that all brown sugar is is white sugar mixed with molasses.  I had molasses.  So…I created my own brown sugar.   And this is the “recipe”. 

in-bowl

For every cup of sugar add one tablespoon of molasses for light brown sugar and two tablespoons if you are wanting the dark.  I could not tell the difference in the final product.  I may never buy brown sugar again.

If you are using the brown sugar as part of a recipe for example in cookie dough, cake batter, sauces, then there is no reason to mix the two ingredients together beforehand. 

If you want plain brown sugar to top your hot cereal, then you will need to blend the two together (use your fingers or a food processor works well too) to distribute the molasses evenly and impart the flavor throughout.

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