The baking

Month: April, 2013

Gingerbread cookies

Recently, I had a conversation about baking that inspired me to try and develop a cookie recipe without any cholesterol, added salt, or added higher-sodium ingredients.

I played around with developing cookie dough and made a few test batches.

Baking is all about chemistry, so my concern was getting the chemistry right for cookies that held together, had a decent texture, and, of course, actually tasted good.

The test batches resulted in a rather delicious batch of vanilla-flavoured, sugar-cookie-esque drop cookies with chocolate chips and unsalted pecans. No pictures exist of this batch. The cookies were given to people and, I believe, these people ate the cookies. The feedback seemed to be positive.


The no-cholesterol part was relatively easy as I don’t use eggs when baking anyway and use vegetable or seed oil instead of butter or lard.

The no-added-sodium part seemed a little more tricky to me as I often use baking soda and baking powder as ingredients to substitute for egg.  Also, I like cookies that are slightly salty.  Not adding salt itself was easy.  I solved the egg substitute problem by using freshly-ground flax seeds – I used a coffee grinder – and adding water.

While making peanut butter cupcakes last week, I was putting away a bottle of molasses – and I got the idea that, hey, maybe I could make a GINGERBREAD version of the no-cholesterol, no-added-salt-or-sodium cookies. So I did:

gingerbread 2

The cookies were delicious.  They were crispy on the inside, soft on the inside – and they had a nice, spicy, gingerbread flavour.

Here’s what I used:

-1/3 cup vegetable oil – I used canola oil

-1 cup sugar – I used regular, white, fine-grind sugar

-1/4 cup molasses – I used blackstrap molasses

-ground flaxseed – I put two tablespoons of whole, brown, flaxseeds in a coffee grinder and ground to a very fine grind

-2 teaspoons cornstarch – you could also use arrowroot or another powdered starch

-2 teaspoons ground ginger – I wanted the cookies spicy, you could use less ginger – or chopped, fresh ginger – if you’d like

-1 1/2 teaspoons ground cinnamon – adjust this amount to your taste

-1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg – adjust this amount to your taste

-1/4 teaspoon ground cloves – adjust this amount to your taste

-1/3 cup cold water

-1 cup flour – I used regular, unbleached, all-purpose flour

Mix all of the ingredients but the flour in a large bowl. When the mixture is well-combined, add the flour.  You may need to add slightly more water or flour after all of the other ingredients are added if the dough is too dry or wet for your liking

Roll dough into ping pong ball-size pieces, put on a cookie tray, and bake at 375 degrees for about 10 to 15 minutes. Check on the cookies to make sure that they don’t over-bake. They should be done when the outside of the cookies are ever-so-slightly crispy or hard to the touch. Transfer to a wire rack to cool.




Baguette bread – with a hockey twist

I’ve been occasionally experimenting with bread the last little while.

Recently, I came across a photo online that inspired me to bake this:

hockey bread 2

That’s right. It’s a baguette: a baguette shaped like the logo of a certain hockey team.

Actually, to be more accurate, the baguette is an olive baguette.

The baguette was easy to make. The only major modification I made to the recipe was to roll in about 3/4 of a can of pitted and sliced black olives – with a sprinkle of salt – into the loaf.

And, of course, I also shaped the bread into the logo before letting it do the final rising.

I also used regular all-purpose flour, regular yeast, and omitted the egg yolk wash. The bread turned out just fine.

I made the dough with the dough cycle on a bread machine. I used a recipe I found elsewhere online. I plan to use this recipe again.

Here’s the recipe:

-1 cup water

-2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour – I used unbleached all-purpose flour

-1 tablespoon white sugar

-1 teaspoon salt

-1 1/2 cups regular/traditional dry yeast

Follow the instructions for your bread machine to make the dough. When the dough is ready, put it in a lightly oiled bowl, cover, and let rise until doubled in size. Punch the dough down and then shape it – into whatever shape you’d like. Cover the dough and let it rise again until it has, once again, doubled in size.

Preheat your oven to 375 degree and bake for about 20-25 minutes – or until the outside of the bread is golden brown.

Total bread win.

Two measuring cups, not quite alike in usefulness, in the kitchen where I lay my scene

From long-term annoyance break to new purchases.

Where metric measurements inconvenience North American baker.

Forth from a grocery store near the border…

…the which if you with patient reading attend,

What here shall miss, this blog post shall strive to mend.

And cut.

Yes. I totally just Shakespeare referenced in a baking blog.

Anyway, I bought a new measuring cup.

The purchase was a result of a long-term, first world, problem that had been inconveniencing me quite a bit.

I now own two measuring cups. The new one is on the right:

Measuring cup 1

I bought the measuring cup on the right at a grocery store in the United States. I bought the measuring cup on the right in Canada – likely, if I recall correctly, at a certain store that allegedly also sells tires.

The two measuring cups are made by the same company and almost exactly the same size.

The difference? One measuring cup has US Imperial measurements showing on the side that you’d see while holding the cup with your right hand. One cup has metric measurements showing on the side that you’d see while holding the cup with your right hand.

I’m right-handed.

And, while I usually use my own recipes and improvise while baking, I sometimes need to measure stuff. And I sometimes use recipes.

Canada uses the metric system of measurement. My baking habits – along with all of the cookbooks I own and most of the recipes I use from other sources – very much do not use the metric system. It’s all Imperial. Or guess work.

What I found inconvenient about using my older measuring cup was that, if I held the handle in my right hand to look at a measurement, I would have to twist my wrist, put the cup down, or switch to my left hand to see the Imperial measurements. I did not approve.

This is the holding-the-cup-in-your-right-hand view of the Canada-bought, metric-on-the-side-I-want-Imperial-to-be-0n measuring cup:

measuring cup 2

And this is the holding-the-cup-in-your-right-hand view of the US-bought, Imperial-on-the-side-I-want-Imperial-to-be-on measuring cup:

measuring cup 3

Major improvement.

And it was a bonus that the US measuring cup cost just less than $5.00 USD before tax. It would have been a bit more in Canada.

I have seen Imperial-on-the-side-I-want-Imperial-to-be-on measuring cups at stores in Canada, but they seem to never be the size or the price I am looking for.

A little search engine-fu seems to indicate that some left-handed bakers in the US sometimes have measuring cup complaints similar to mine. But in reverse[?]

The new measuring cup got its first use while making peanut butter cupcakes last night.

Baking inconvenience: dealt with.

For there never was a story of more woe,

Than this of me and my measuring cup.

Peanut butter cupcakes

Peanut butter cupcakes happened last night.

The cupcakes were another fabulous – and slightly modified -baked result of a recipe from a favourite cupcake cookbook.

The end result looked like this:

peanut butter cupcakes 4

The topping is chopped, roasted, peanuts on top of melted chocolate.

The slight modifications that were made to the recipe were:

-using a different kind of peanut butter than the chunky, peanuts-only peanut butter that the recipe called for and that, normally, I would have used.

-using melted chocolate chips for garnish instead of using the chocolate ganache that the recipe called for.

The peanut butter that was used? This:

peanut butter cupcakes 1

This peanut butter doesn’t actually taste like the chocolate and peanut butter candy that it shares its name with. But it is delicious nonetheless. I’d actually never tried said peanut butter before – ever. So a thanks is in order for the person who introduced me – and who both brought the peanut butter over to my kitchen and helped with the baking.

As far as I’m aware, this peanut butter isn’t available in Canada, but it is, allegedly, sold in some grocery stores in the United States. It can also be found online.

Anyway, back to the peanut butter cupcakes:

They were soft, and fluffy, and peanut butter flavour, and awesome. I would most definitely make these again – and perhaps play around with different variations using chunky peanut butter, almond butter, or cashew butter.

And now for something [not at all] completely different, this is what the peanut butter cupcakes looked like fresh from the oven:

peanut butter cupcakes 3


Pretzel on the inside – cookie on the outside

It started with a trip to a well-known bulk food store chain:

I was browsing the aisles, and, amongst the wasabi peas, chips, and other crunchy treats, I spotted a barrel of sourdough pretzel nibs. And I had an idea.

The sourdough pretzel nibs were about the size of a large grape – and they looked like this:

preztel on the inside 1

And my idea?

I decided to bake the pretzels inside chunky peanut butter and chocolate chip cookie dough.

I used a peanut butter variation on my basic cookie dough formula. There are instructions here. I decided to use chunky peanut butter because that was the kind of peanut butter I happened to have around.  You could also use smooth peanut butter, or almond butter, or cashew butter,  or whatever-butter. I added about one third of a cup of chocolate chips to the dough after all of the other ingredients had been mixed together.

To wrap the pretzel nibs in cookie dough, I took  pieces of dough about the size of a ping pong ball, gently flattened the dough, and, then, wrapped each piece of dough around one pretzel nib. You may have to move the dough around a bit and model it to fully cover each pretzel piece.

Here are the dough-wrapped pretzel cookies, right after going into the oven:

preztel on the inside 2

I baked the cookies at 375 degrees – farenheit – for about 10 to 15 minutes. I took an occasional peek into the oven door window to watch for when the cookies looked done.

When the cookies were done – and ready to come out of the oven – they looked like this:

preztel on the inside 3

Deliciousness all around.

Easy to make.

And highly-recommennded.