The baking

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.

 

 

Experiments in banana bread

I’ve been doing some experimentation with banana bread as of late.

Of note – and of which I have pictures – are a batch of banana-blueberry-flax muffins and a spiced tea banana bread loaf.

For both the muffins and the loaf, I used the basic banana bread procedure outlined here. And I prepared the bananas using the freezer trick that I described in a previous post. If you don’t have time for the freezer trick, a good way to get very ripe bananas can be to check out the reduced-for-quick-sale produce section at grocery or fruit stores.

Here are the banana-blueberry-flax muffins:

blueberry muffins with banana and flax2

I went through the regular procedure and ingredients for the banana bread recipe linked above, but, after all of the other ingredients were mixed, I added about one cup of frozen blueberries and about 1/3 of a cup of ground brown flax seeds.

I ground the flax seeds with a coffee grinder. You could use whole flax seeds if you want to; I felt like using ground flax seeds. As for the blueberries, I’d suggest using frozen blueberries as they are often cheaper than fresh blueberries and, because they are frozen, they’re likely to keep longer than fresh blueberries.

The spiced tea banana loaf was a completely random idea that I had and decided to make happen.

I started out by boiling water in a kettle. And, then -and this served as the liquid called for in the recipe – I measured out about one cup of boiling water and poured the water into a bowl. Then, I added five regular old Earl Grey tea sachets to the bowl of water. I made sure that the tea sachets were completely immersed in the water.

I let everything sit for about ten minutes. Then, I removed the tea sachets from the water and added some spice. For spice I used about one teaspoon of ground cinnamon, half a teaspoon of ground nutmeg, half a teaspoon of ground ginger, and about one quarter of a teaspoon of ground cloves.

Because I felt like it, I added about half a teaspoon of cocoa powder to the mixture.

I added the bananas to the liquid and spice mixture at this point.

And, then, I continued, with the rest of the banana bread recipe.

The result, the lovely spiced tea banana bread loaf pictured below:

chai tea banana bread

This banana bread turned out moist, dense, and delicious, with an excellent balance of spice and flavour. Highly-recommended, and I may try spiced tea banana bread again with a different kind of tea.

I also recently tried making a chocolate cake – using the basic chocolate cake recipe I wrote about here – with a whole banana mixed into the batter. The cake was delicious, but the chocolate flavour seemed to overwhelm the banana flavour and there was really no telling that there was any banana content in the cake.

I’m somewhat curious as to how adjusting banana and chocolate content may affect the texture of the cake that that cake recipe produces, so I may continue to play with that recipe.

Or maybe I won’t.

 

 

A cake stadium for that football bowl event

On the Sunday that most recently happened, there was a major football event that happened.

This – a chocolate cake decorated with icing, candy, cookies, caramel corn, and pretzels to look like a football stadium – also happened:

snack stadium cake 2

That’s right: you are looking at a not-at-all-to-scale cake version of a football stadium. Some might also refer to such a thing as a snack stadium.

For the cake, I used the same chocolate cake recipe that I used here.

Same link for the icing, but halve the recipe and use green food pigment dye.

I used a small amount of white icing for the yard lines.  You can make a separate batch, set aside some un-dyed icing, or buy a small tube of prepared white icing.

I baked the cake in a rectangular baking pan – the same one that you can see in the picture above. That’s right: the cake was baked, transported, and decorated in one pan.

The goal posts were made from long, red, gummy candy and were held up and together by toothpicks. I pushed the toothpicks right into the centre of the gummy candy, which took some effort – and a bit of trial and error. You might want to experiment with using licorice, breadsticks, preztels, or, perhaps, something non-edible such as pipe-cleaners as goal posts.

All of the candy, pretzels, caramel corn, teddy bear cookies, and other decorations came from a bulk food store.

A cake version of a football stadium can be a fun treat to bring to a football-watching party. You can even – as I did – bring the cake to the party iced, but not decorated, set out the decorations, and let other people at the party help decorate the cake.

Here’s one last close-up of the teddy bear cookie players on their football cake field – with bags of decorations in the background:

snack stadium cake 1

You can also make a snack stadium from guacamole, salsa, chips, and other crunchy snacks. Try looking up “snack stadium.” There are some rather fascinating snack stadiums to be seen. But I thought it’d be fun to make a baked, cake version.

Fun it was. And delicious to boot

A cinnamon bun – for one

I felt like making cinnamon buns, but I wanted to do something different.

So I made individual cinnamon buns that I baked in a muffin tray.

Here’s a shot of a cinnamon bun about to go into the oven:

cinnamon bun in a muffin cup

I used pretty much the same recipe that I used here – minus the apple slices.

Once the dough was ready and rolled into a log shape, I used a serrated knife to cut individual pieces of dough about an inch and a half wide that I put into a muffin paper-lined muffin tray.

I used muffin papers. You don’t have to use muffin papers.

I baked the cinnamon buns in the oven at about 400 degrees. As I wasn’t sure how much time  would be needed to bake individual cinnamon buns, I peeked into the oven – it’s best to use the oven door window if your oven has one – to check on the buns frequently. I took the buns out of the oven after about 20 minutes, when they’d risen up nicely and had light brown, crispy-looking tops.

Cool on a wire rack – and enjoy.

Cookies for the holidays

There was, I believe, a rather-a-big-deal holiday that happened in December.

So, I baked stuff.

Mostly, I baked cookies. For all of the cookies that I made,  I used my basic cookie formula as the base of the cookie dough and modified the ingredients as I saw fit.

The first cookies were chocolate chip with chopped hazelnuts. I used cold coffee as the liquid. And I added about half a cup of chopped hazelnuts and one third of cup of semi-sweet chocolate chips to the finished dough. Before baking the cookies, I pressed holiday-theme sugar decorations into the dough. The result? This:

christmas decoration chocolate chip cookies

Next up, salted double-chocolate cookies.  Again, I used the basic cookie formula with cold coffee as the liquid. I also added slightly more salt to the dough base than I usually would. And about three tablespoons of cocoa powder. Then, about half a cup of semi-sweet chocolate chips. The result? A tasty, salted, chocolate-chocolate chip goodness, with edible silver-colour decorations that I added before baking:

salted double chocolate cookies with decoration

And, for the finale, I took some dough set aside from both of the batches already pictured and – using the procedure I wrote about here – made cookie pops.

These are the chocolate chip and hazelnut cookies in cookie pop form:

christmas cookies on a stick

These – using a different kind of edible silver-colour decoration – are the salted double chocolate cookies in cookie pop form:

salted double chocolate cookies on a stick

 

And here’s a [gratuitous?] extra shot of a bunch of cookies and cookie pops cooling:

coo kies

All of the decorations that I used for these cookies were from a bulk food store.

 

 

 

 

Strong coffee – in cookie form

These cookies had a lot of coffee – so much coffee, in fact, that you can see little grains of coffee in this post-baking close-up:

super coffee cookie

The recipe was, of course, a slightly modified version of my basic cookie procedure.

The modifications?

More liquid.

And a lot of fine-grind coffee.

No, really, it was a lot of coffee.

I added about 1/3 of a cup total of very fine-grind dark coffee directly into the cookie dough.

And I used cold, brewed coffee as the liquid.

I also added about 1 tablespoon of cocoa powder to the dough – and used a pinch or two more salt than I would usually use.

The finished cookies had a nice crunchy-on-the-outside-and-soft-on-the-inside texture. And they REALLY tasted like coffee.

The coffee taste was strong enough that these cookies weren’t quite to everyone’s taste, but it seemed that the people who did like the cookies seemed to really, really like them. The cookies didn’t last long.

 

 

Remember those convenience-store cupcakes?

These cupcakes are a nod to a certain brand of packaged cupcakes often found in convenience stores.

chocolate cupcakes3

These cupcakes likely  have a shorter shelf life than the packaged version. But they were consumed rapidly enough that shelf life really wasn’t much of an issue.

I used the same moist, dense, and choclate-y chocolate cake batter recipe that I used for this cake and these other cupcakes. For the icing filling and top-of-cupcake decoration, I used the icing recipe that I used for this cake.

I baked the cupcakes the day before filling and decorating them. Cake tends to be crumbly when it’s super-fresh – or not fully cooled – and I wanted to be able to make holes in the centres of the cupcakes without destroying the cupcakes

Holes in the centres of the cupcakes – each of which was filled with about a tablespoon of icing – were made with this lovely cupcake-corer device:

chocolate cupcakes4

Here’s another view of the corer beside a just-filled-with-icing cupcake:

chocolate cupcakes2

The pieces of cupcake that were cored out were squished back into place on top of the filling.

Then, each cupcake was covered with a few spoonfuls of chocolate ganache.

For the chocolate ganache topping, I used a modified version of a recipe from a cupcake recipe book I have. I used:

-1 1/4 cup soy milk – you could substitute another milk-like beverage if you’d like

-1 package semi-sweet chocolate chips

-2 tablespoons brown sugar

Mix the milk beverage and the brown sugar together in a pot and bring to a boil. As soon as the liquid starts boiling, remove the pot from the heat source. Add the chocolate chips to the mixture immediately and stir – with a heat-safe spatula – until thoroughly blended. Let the mixture cool away from the heat source.

The ganache topping should remain relatively liquid and easy to spread for quite some time as it cools. The texture and thickness will likely be somewhat pudding-like. It should eventually cool and solidify to a, well, chocolate ganache-like state that is more solid.

Once the cupcakes had been topped with ganache – and the ganache had slightly cooled – I loaded up my icing gun with the same icing that used for the cupcake filling. I used a small, round opening, icing tip to make a loop-y line across the top of each cupcake.

And that’s that.