Posts Tagged ‘baking tips’

Tuesday’s Tip with The Kitchen Whisperer – Tips about Apples

With Fall here, apples are abundant! Today I’m sharing with you some of my tips about what are the best types of apples for cooking, baking and saucing.

I can’t help it but every time I hear someone mention apples I don’t think about the company or the phone, nope. I think about “Good Will Hunting” and the line “How do you like them apples?”  Ya I know, I’m a dork but it’s such a great movie. Maybe it’s because I’m an uber math nerd or I like it when the underdog shuts up the pompous jerk.  Now you would think the first thing I, of all people, would think about when I hear the world apples would be: apple pie, apple strudel, apple cake, apple crumble, baked apples, stuffed apples or caramel apples. But sadly I don’t but it is a very close second.

Since here in Pittsburgh, apples are in season, knowing which apple to pick for which “application” is important. Do you want to make applesauce? What about a pie?  Baked goods?  Cakes?  Just like all chocolates are the same, not all apple varieties are the same. Each one will give you a different result dependent on how you use it. Some apples just won’t work right in say applesauce where as other apples will just turn to mush if you bake them.

The list below comes from information passed on through the years in my family, kitchen failures in my house (trust me, there’s been many) or tidbits I’ve picked up throughout the years.

Do you have a favorite type of apple?

Tuesday’s Tip with The Kitchen Whisperer – How to tell when brownies are done!

Are you a fudgie brownie lover or do you prefer that cake-like texture?  On today’s Tuesday’s Tip with The Kitchen Whisperer I’m giving the basics on how to tell when brownies are done!

So my house is a house divided… that is when it comes to brownies. I prefer a denser, cake-like brownie that is rich and firm with a deep chocolate flavor.  However Mr. Fantabulous, he’s all about that fudge texture.  He wants ’em fudgy, almost unbaked-like and soft.  Now don’t get me wrong I’m certainly not going to turn my nose up at ‘his’ however when I’m making brownies for me I prefer my style and let the frosting or ganache be the ‘gooey’ part versus the actual brownie itself.

Cake-like brownies contain less fat (butter or oil), have more eggs (or at least more yolks – this is what lends to its richness) and more flour.  This is what gives them their height and firmness. The texture has a tighter crumb as well.  Fudgy brownies get their consistency from more fat, less flour and less eggs.  The butter is melted instead of put in cold. They tend to also have a bit more chocolate in them.  Their texture is more gooey and soft. But what about Chewy brownies?  Yeah so to be honest I never understood this type of brownie.  It’s just …weird.  But if that’s what you’re into just add more eggs and use bread flour instead of ap flour.  The higher gluten in the bread flour will also give you that chewy texture.

While both types of brownies contain the same ingredients, the proportions vary greatly.
Which school of brownies do you follow – cake or fudgy?

Tuesday’s Tip with The Kitchen Whisperer – Use Cookie Dough for a Pie Crust!

Step up your pie game with cookie dough pie crusts!  Take your best cookie dough and transform it into a killer pie!  2 desserts in one!

Let’s face it, pie crusts rock but they can be scary to the first time pie baker.  It’s not that they are really hard to make as the ingredients are pretty basic – flour, butter, shortening, ice water (and maybe some sugar) but that’s it.  Where the issue I think lies for some people is that they either overwork the dough causing it to be tough OR rolling it out. It takes practice but definitely give it a try.  My Basic Sweet Flaky Pie Dough is no fail and super easy!

However today, with the holidays being chaotic and personally my house being in utter disarray from all of the construction, finding counter space to roll out a crust can be challenging. So today on Tuesday’s Tip with The Kitchen Whisperer I’m giving you a “cheaters” way to get a great crust with no rolling required. Simply put, use cookie dough as a pie crust!

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Yep, seriously cookie dough!  Plus think of it this way, if you use cookie dough AND you turn it into a pie you’re literally taking 2 great desserts and turning them into 1!  SWEET!  Now one thing to note, this is only for pies that are filled AFTER they are baked; i.e., Blind Baked shells

My fav – chocolate chip cookie dough crust with chocolate french silk cream filling!

Tuesday’s Tip with The Kitchen Whisperer – The Difference Between Bakery Extracts, Emulsions and Oils

Growing up my mother had the biggest bottle of imitation vanilla extract I swear God created. And I HATED it!  It tasted…fake. However that’s all we could afford.  Sure it would give stuff vanilla flavor but it never tasted like really deep vanilla.  Then one year someone had given my mother a bottle of actual pure vanilla extract.  OMG people you would have thought this person gave her the winning lottery numbers.  Once you have something made with pure vanilla you will never EVER go back to that imitation stuff.  However I agree, the pure stuff is expensive. But if you can afford it, make your own as it drastically cuts down the cost!  Check out my post here on how to make your own!

Often I get asked what’s the difference between these things and more importantly does it make that much of a difference?  The answer is it depends. It honestly depends on the application and your expected outcome.  If you want super intense over-the-top vanilla flavor go with an oil or emulsion. If you don’t want to alter the color of your item go with either the extract or the oil. This is more so for frostings or white cake.

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Extracts – Extracts are alcohol based either traditionally made with vodka or bourbon.  I’ve shared with you how to make homemade vanilla bean extract.  Extracts come in either a pure version or an imitation one. Pure extracts are more potent than imitation extracts.  Imitation extracts are made with a synthetic compound called vanillin.  Many will ask why use the imitation stuff when you can purchase or make the real stuff.  Two reasons come to mind – cost and coloring.  Pure extracts are certainly more pricey than imitation but in my opinion they are definitely worth it. Secondly is the imitation extracts are usually clear in color.  This clear color won’t alter the color of batters and frostings. 

These baking tips can make your holiday baking that much more awesome!

Tuesday’s Tip with The Kitchen Whisperer – Baking with Room Temperature Ingredients

In most cake recipes it calls for room temperature ingredients; i.e., eggs and butter. Do you know why?  Why not just take the butter out, melt it and use it in the recipe?  And does it really, really matter if my egg is still cold?  Well on this week’s Tuesday’s Tip with The Kitchen Whisperer I’m going to be talking about Baking with Room Temperature Ingredients.

Actually yes, it makes significant difference.  You see when eggs, butter and even milk are at room temperature, when they are added to a recipe they form an emulsion when whipped, beaten or creamed. This emulsion traps air.  The end result is a cake crumb that is light and airy.  When the ingredients are at room temperature the batter will combine more evenly and become smooth.  Cold items such as the fats in butter or eggs never really incorporate completely thus you end up with hard, dense cookies that, as my Dad would call ’em… sinkers.

 

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Think of it this way…  Have you ever tried to whip cream cheese straight out of the fridge?  Sure it’ll whip BUT you will always end up with little clumps that never quite go away thus lending to clumpy, cloggy cheesecakes.  Gross, huh?  But if you let that cream cheese come to room temperature before you whip it, you’ll end up with a silky smooth texture each and every time.

So what happens if you’re really short on time or you forgot to let the stuff set out and come to room temperature?

♥ For butter, place the unwrapped butter on a plate.  Fill up a glass container larger than the butter with very hot water.  Allow the water to sit in bowl until the sides are very warm. Empty the water out, wipe out the inside of the container and then place the container overtop of the butter.  The heat will soften the butter in under a minute.  Check it after thirty seconds. Voila!

♥ For the eggs, put the uncracked eggs in a container and put warm(not boiling) over it covering it completely for 15 minutes.

♥ To quick soften cream cheese, Place the wrapped package of cream cheese sealable plastic bag.  Place the bag into a bowl of hot tap water.  In about 5 minutes, the cream cheese will be softened.

See, easy peasy so no more excuses, right!?

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