The baking

You don’t have to be exact

When I mention that I bake – or when I share some of my baking – I often hear comments with some variation of “I can’t bake. Everything has to be exact. That’s just too much trouble for me.”

I hear it. Again and again. And I usually don’t bother to engage.

Because I disagree.

I don’t think you have to be exact.

You don’t have to measure every ingredient down to some fraction of a gram or cup.

You don’t have to weigh stuff.

You can substitute.

And you can experiment.

Usually.

Use your judgement and all that. And this is strictly my opinion.

But really though, one of the things I enjoy most when baking is experimenting and trying out new ingredients or substitutions.

Yes, baking is chemistry – though, really, everything is chemistry and chemistry is everything – but baking is chemistry that you can play around with.

You might screw up.

You might burn whatever you’re baking. Or you might forget to add the sugar. Or, for some reason that you just can’t figure out, whatever you’ve baked might be hard as a rock or of some other undesirable quality.

If you can’t figure out what went wrong, the internets – or the general instruction pages in your old batter splatter cookbook, if you happen to have such a thing – can probably help you out.

Not convinced? You can start by following instructions or a recipe as much as possible – then experiment as you get more comfortable with baking.

You can learn.

You can learn to bake better.

And bake more delicious.

You don’t have to be exact.

Not always

Pecan chocolate chip cookies

The title pretty much says it all.

These were chocolate chip cookies – with pecans.

I used the old basic cookie procedure along with about half a cup of semi-sweet chocolate chips and about half a cup of pecans.

For the pecans, I bought a package of pecan halves and, then, chopped the pieces a little smaller on a cutting board with a knife.

Here are the cookies – posed, of course – as they cool:

coo kies 2

And here they are again, on a plate:

coo kies 3

Note the random – and colourful – structures from around the world on the edge of the plate. Fun plate is fun.

Delicious cookies are delicious.

Two pies in one?

Some time ago, I acquired a pie pan that allows one to make two different kinds of pie at once.

A pie could look like a regular old, one-kind-of-pie pie on the surface:

piiie1

But, on the inside, thanks to a pop-in pan bottom that splits the pan in two, you could actually have two different kinds of pie.

Here’s half apple pie without spice and half apple pie with spice:

piiie2

Rather fun.

And good pie too.

I’m interested in further experimentation with different kinds of dessert pies.

And I’ve thought about using this pan to make a savoury pie on one side and a dessert pie on the other.

You could, in theory, make dinner and dessert in one pan.

Fascinating.

Baking, on The Baking

It’s been a while since I posted.

But I have been baking things.

One of the things I baked was a batch of cupcakes.

Chocolate on chocolate.

I used the usual recipes – slightly modified, of course – for the cake itself and for the icing.

The main modification was that I added a little bit of coconut flour – for flavour – to the cake batter.

I also used coconut flour in the icing.

For decoration, I opened up and tried a vial of edible glitter – in gold – that I’d picked up but hadn’t gotten around to using.

Cupcakes, chocolate, coconut, glitter: all rather fabulous.

And here the cupcakes are:

coo kies 8

And that is indeed a custom The Baking cutting board.

Oatmeal cookies

It had been a while since I’d had a nice oatmeal cookie.

So I made a batch of oatmeal cookies with chocolate chips.

And they were absolutely fabulous:

oatmeal chocolate chip cookies

I used, as per usual, my basic cookie ingredients process.

To modify the dough to make oatmeal cookies, I added extra liquid – about one quarter of a cup total – and about thee quarters of a cup of oatmeal.

I used plain, quick-cook oats. Large-flake oats would probably work too, albeit with a slightly different final texture.

I also added a pinch or two each of cinnamon, nutmeg, and cloves. The idea with the spice was for a light trace of spice in the cookies, not full-on spice flavour.

I used about half a cup of chocolate chips.

I like relatively crisp cookies, so I made these cookies thin and baked them a little longer than I would have if I wanted them to be soft.

Yep.

[Everyone] heart[s] cookies

I made cookies. 

The cookies were shaped like hearts.

Here they are:

giantheartcookies

I used my usual cookie formula, with a few modifications.

But I didn’t use a cookie cutter to make the heart shapes.

Really.

Look carefully at the cookie in the centre of the picture. You might be able to see small seam-like lines that give away how the heart shape was made. I took three round pieces of cookie dough, flattened them into regular, round-ish shapes, and then shaped and pushed the pieces together into a heart-like shape. I used the edge of a butter knife to straighten out some of the edges.

As for the modifications to the cookie formula, I added about a teaspoon or so of cocoa powder to the dough, and used about a quarter of a cup each of chocolate chips and chopped hazelnuts. I used cold coffee as the main liquid ingredient.

I added the cinnamon hearts and heart-shape gummies – both from a bulk food store – as the cookies were cooling on a wire rack after baking. I used the still-melted chocolate chips as a sort of glue and pressed the cinnamon hearts and gummies into exposed chocolate chips. Once the chocolate had cooled and hardened, the cinnamon hearts and gummies stuck.

 

Banana-blueberry muffins

I made banana bread again.

Banana bread is, generally, a good thing.

This time, I modified my basic banana bread procedure and used about 3/4 of a cup of frozen blueberries along with 1/4 of a teaspoon of ground cloves.

The final result, displayed on a cupcake tree:

banana blueberry muffins

Most excellently delicious.

And remember the freezer trick if you want to make the bananas easier to deal with.

Cake, cones, whiskey

wskckcone4

These are chocolate cake cupcake cones, with whiskey-vanilla icing.

I’m actually not big on using alcohol as a baking ingredient – I find that you can’t always taste it in the finished product – but I decided to try whiskey icing anyway. I like to experiment with baking.

The icing tasted good, but I couldn’t always taste the whiskey. Other people who tried the cupcakes said that they could taste the whiskey. So, that’s that.

Anyway, to add a little colour to the finished product, I decided to use coloured ice cream cones to bake these cupcakes in. Most grocery stores sell flat-bottom ice cream cones in packs that have a mixture of plain/yellow-ish, pink, and brown – chocolate? – cones.

The pink cones looked like this:

wskckcone1

And the brown cones looked like this:

wskckcone2

Now for the how-to:

I used the chocolate cake recipe that I used here. I used a modified version of the icing recipe that I used for the same project. The modifications to the icing recipe were that I didn’t use food colouring and that I used whiskey as the non-vanilla liquid ingredient.

For getting the cake into the cones and baking them, I suggest following the procedure I wrote about here.

And here’s one more close-up of the very much finished and very much delicious cupcake cones:

wskckcone3

 

Memories of cheesecake

Ok, so maybe the reference – it’s in the post title, and, if you get it, you get it – is kind of cheesy, but this cheesecake-like creation actually contains no cheese at all.

And cue the drum noise for the wordplay.

Anyway, even though the cheesecake featured in this post contained zero per cent cheese, I’m going to refer to it as a cheesecake, for ease of typing and writing and so on.

Shortly after acquiring a springform pan, I put said pan to use making a chocolate and vanilla swirl cheesecake. Actually, to be more accurate, I made a chocolate-coffee and vanilla-coffee marble cheesecake with an Oreo cookie crumbs crust.

The cheesecake was delicious.

And a slice of the finished product looked like this:

vegan cheesecake2

And, from another angle, this:

vegan cheesecake1

 

For the recipe, I used this recipe as a base/guideline, and modified things to suit what I wanted, what ingredients I felt like using, and what I thought would work better.

My version of the recipe:

-For the crust, I used Oreo baking crumbs. You can buy Oreo baking crumbs from the grocery store in a box or you can buy them in bulk from bulk food stores. I used the crust recipe on the on the Oreo baking crumbs box, which calls for mixing  1 1/4 of a cup of the baking crumbs with 1/4 of a cup of margarine. I used room-temperature Earth Balance margarine. Once the crumbs and the margarine are mixed, pour the mixture into an assembled/put together springform pan and spread and press the mixture evenly along the bottom and sides of the pan. At this stage, you can either move the pan to the side until the filling is ready OR you can bake the crust for a few minutes. I prefer a baked crust: it turns out crispier and, in my opinion, much more delicious. If you decide to bake the crust, pre-heat the oven to 325 degrees and bake the crust for about 5 or so minutes before removing it.

-Before starting on the filling, pre-heat the oven to 325 degrees, if it’s not already pre-heated from baking the crust.

Next, start making the filling.

For the filling, I mixed the following ingredients all together in a bowl:

– crumbled FIRM tofu. I took the time to try and translate this amount of tofu called for in the recipe into more-easily-understood fractions-of-the-kind-of-tofu-block-that-I-usually-buy-terms. Using the size of the tofu blocks usually sold in the cold section of the grocery store, this works out, in my estimate, to just over 1 and 1/2 blocks of firm tofu. The calculations aren’t exact, but I’ve successfully made two of these cheesecakes so far using my calculated amount of tofu. You may need to do your own calculations if you’re using smaller or larger tofu blocks. Drain excess liquid from the tofu before you use it. And crumble or mash the tofu once it’s in the bowl.

-1 1/2 cups sugar. I used regular, fine-grind, white sugar

-1/4 cup canola oil

-1/2 cup soy milk. You could use almond milk or rice milk, or, really, pretty much whatever edible liquid matter – such as, say, water – that you wanted.

-1/4 cup cold coffee. The recipe called for rum. I didn’t have rum. Coffee worked. Rum would probably work too.

-1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract.

Mix everything together. I used an immersion blender. You could probably use a regular blender or, in a pinch, you could use a masher or egg beater or some combination of random mixing tools. I think, though, that using an immersion blender would result in the best and smoothest texture for the filling.

Blend until the  the mixture is smooth, free of random lumps and chunks, and somewhat custard-like in texture and consistency. If you’re using an immersion blender, achieving the custard-like texture and consistency will take several minutes and several stops to scrape the sides and bottom of the bowl with a spatula.

Once the mixture is blended, pour about half of it into another bowl and add about 4 tablespoons of cocoa powder. Blend the coca into the mixture.

Now it’s time to start pouring the cheesecake filling mixture into the already-prepared crust in the springform pan.

To achieve the chocolate and vanilla marbled effect:

-you could either pour alternate blobs of filling from the vanilla and from the chocolate filling bowls into the pan – starting with an initial layer that completely covers the bottom of the pan – until both bowls are empty.

-OR you could pour random, alternate, amounts of whichever filling you want into the pan until both bowls are empty.

I used the first method, and then, I took a clean bamboo kebab skewer and – being careful not to touch or move around the crust on the bottom or the sides of the pan – swirled it around a bit.

To bake, carefully transfer the filled springform pan into the, preheated, oven – you may want to put the pan on a cookie sheet to protect the bottom of your oven from any leaks – and bake it at 325 degrees for about one hour and fifteen minutes.

Yes, really, one hour and fifteen minutes.

The cheesecake will almost certainly not look like it’s done after one hour and fifteen minutes. A ready-to-come-out-of-the-oven cheesecake should look ever-so-slightly more solid and set and less custard-like. Check on the cheesecake – ideally through the oven door window – during cooking to make sure that all is well and over-cooking isn’t happening.

When the cheesecake is judged ready to come out of the oven – or it’s been one hour and fifteen minutes – remove the pan from the oven and transfer it to a wire rack to cool.

Leave the pan to cool on the wire rack until the pan and its contents have cooled down to room temperature.

Next, transfer the room-temperature pan to the fridge to cool further. It’s probably best to leave the cheesecake in the fridge to cool overnight. And it’s probably NOT a particularly good idea to try to take the side piece off of the springform pan before the cake has had a chance to cool in the fridge overnight.

Once the cake is cooled, carefully remove the side piece of the springform pan. You may want to run a thin wooden or rubber spatula between the edge of the pan and the cheesecake crust before attempting to remove the side piece.

A few assorted tips:

-Don’t use silken tofu. Use firm tofu. Really.

-The cheesecake needs a long time to cool.

-If you poke or prod at the cheesecake while it’s cooling, you’ll probably either make a mess or leave marks on the cheesecake. Refrain, if you can.

All who tasted this cheesecake reported that it was delicious.

So, bon appetit and such.

 

Spring[form pan]

Insert wordplay about spring – or lack thereof, apparently, this year – here.

I recently bought a springform baking pan.

I’d wanted a springform pan for a while, but, as my kitchen storage space is not anywhere near ample, I had resisted buying such an item.

One day, however, while browsing a kitchen store with thoughts of various cakes in my head, I happened upon a plain, just-right-size, and reasonably priced springform pan.

And here it is:

pan1

The cool thing – and main feature/thing it does – about a springform pan is that it the sides of the pan separate from the bottom.

Just unbuckle:

pan3

And the pan separates into its two pieces:

Springform pans can be, and generally are, used to make cheesecakes, ice cream cakes, and European-style cake/pie creations.

So far, I’ve used this pan for two cheesecake-style creations and one modified version of the aforementioned European-style cake/pie creations. For the cake/pie creation that I made, I used a modified version of this recipe.

Now, for a bit of a Captain Obvious point: most recipes that call for a springform pan will likely specify when to separate the two pieces of the pan.

Usually, the time to separate the parts of the pan is whenever whatever is in it is done baking, cooling, setting, freezing, or whatnot. It’s probably a good idea to wait until you’re sure whatever you’re making is fully ready and/or cooled before attempting to separate the parts of the pan. Running a thin wooden or silicone kitchen tool or spatula between the sides of the pan and its contents before separating the pieces of the pan may help prevent pieces of the sides of the contents of the pan from sticking to the sides of the pan.

On a very-much-related note, it’s probably also a good idea to make sure that the two pieces of the pan are properly and completely buckled together and closed before putting anything into the pan. And, as leaks are possible, you may want to put your springform pan on top of a cookie sheet or shallow pan if you’re using it in the oven.