Saturday, March 26, 2011

ANSWERS TO MY TOP 5 MOST ASKED QUESTIONS!

Not only do I love baking and cooking, I love helping out people with their problems and recipes. I truly believe in karma and helping one another to succeed! Remember, my motto is "Be, think, and eat sweet!"

Below I am answering the top 5 most asked questions I get from friends, family, and foodies. If you have any personal food questions, please ask! I love to help and shed some light on your problem. You can email me (kimm1231@live.com), post your questions on my facebook fan page (Like 'Sweetness Catering'), or tweet me your question (@sweetnesscater).

1) I love watching the chocolate and sugar showpiece competition on the Food Network! I want to learn how to do that! Can you show me?
Answer: Remember, baking and cooking are skills and when you are building any type of skill you need to set your foundations FIRST. For example, when you're learning how to read, you learn the ABC'S, sentence structure, and nouns/verbs/adjectives. Then, you move onto reading an actual book. In baking and cooking, take small steps first. Learn basic knife skills, cooking knowledge, and mixing methods. Start by cooking/baking food YOU LIKE TO EAT! Do some research: read food blogs, watch the Food Network, ask your friends for their favorite recipe, and browse through magazines for recipes.

2) Why do some restaurants buy pre-package food and sell them?
Answer: Many chain restaurants order food pre-made for consistent quality, thus you will always get the same great meal every time. Many restaurants may have "their own special sauce" they have specially made just for their business only.
Also, for cost control. If someone messes up trimming a beef tenderloin, it can cost the restaurants extra money they don't have. Food places will buy pre-cuts of meats so it saves time on fabricating the entire protein.

3) How do I cut onions without crying?
Answer: Well, onions will always make you cry. It is their composition. When you cut an onion, you break the cells, releasing the contents. There are ways to AVOID a major tear-fest. First, use a sharp knife! Open a window and turn on the hood vent. Cut the knife as quickly as possible without cutting yourself.

4) I just bought a steel for my knife. Will that keep my knife sharp forever?
Answer: The steel is to MAINTAIN the sharpness in your knife, it will not actually sharpen the knife. The only way to sharpen your knife is to have your knife professionally sharpened. I don't like those small hand-held sharpeners, they don't do the job correctly and end up just ruining your knife. Think of the steel as "washing your hair" daily. Then, getting a hair cut is "getting your knife sharpened." The steel will only maintain the quality of your knife, not sharpen it.
How to use a steel? Here is a good description:
http://culinaryarts.about.com/od/culinarytools/ht/honing.htm


5) How to create new flavors for your baked good and food?
Answer: EVERYONE and EVERYTHING inspires me! Really. My two brothers love cinnamon rolls, so I am creating a cinnamon-roll cake with cream cheese frosting. One of my yoga teachers is gluten-free, so I create new gluten-free baked goods for her to taste test. I often offer cupcake taste-test to see what people like and dislike about my classic and new flavors. I saw a latte stand with a sign that read "New French Kiss Latte" and that sign inspired me to create a French Kiss Cupcake. Inspiration is everywhere, you just have to open your eyes.

I will post more answers to commonly asked questions in the future. Remember, I love helping people with their food and baking problems and questions. Just ask!
Happy Baking!

Saturday, March 12, 2011

How to tell if a baked good is DONE!

I always get asked this question: How do you know when something is "done?" From a cinnamon scone to chocolate lava cake to a classic chocolate chip cookie, it will take practice to know when a baked good is finished baking and ready to be consume. Read more to find out my helpful tips:


THINK THE 3 MAIN FACTORS:

1) TIME: The average small baked good (think: cookies, scones, biscuits, etc) take only 10-20 minutes in the oven. Smaller items = less baking times versus large items. Like how a turkey breast takes quicker to cook versus a whole turkey, a cookie takes less time in the oven versus a large pan of brownies.
2) TEMP: The average temperature of the oven should be 325-350 degrees F. Remember my "know your oven!" blog? Well, make sure you truly KNOW your oven. The newer the oven, the hotter will be, thus a 325 degrees oven will be around 350 degrees F. The older the oven is, the cooler it will be, thus a 325 degree oven will be around 300 degrees F.
3) TOUCH: Touch your baked good AFTER it is baked. It should feel soft to the touch. Touching your baked good DURING baking can lead to a mishaped baked good, esp. with cakes.

What do you baked your goodies on?
Use a flat sheet pan (also called "jelly roll" pans or "cookie" pans) lined with parchment paper. The parchment paper helps the baked good from sticking to the pan and makes for an easy clean up! When you bake a goodie directly on the sheet pan, with bottom will brown too fast. The parchment paper acts like a barrier between the bottom of the baked good and sheet pan.
When baking cakes and brownies, I like to cut the parchment paper to fit the pan and spray with non-stick spray (like PAM).
TIP: When baking a cake "lightened" with egg whites (like angel food cake or "chiffon" type cakes) DO NOT spray your pan! If you spray it, the cake will not "grow" into its proper shape.


Do I cool the baked goods on the sheet pan itself or a wire cooling rack?

See when you leave the baked goods on the sheet pan to cool, they will SLIGHTLY continue to cook (like how a turkey "keeps on cooking" once you take it from the oven). I like to under bake my goodies, by one minute, and leave it to cool on the sheet pan. Why? People like a softer cookie versus a harder cookie. Plus, putting the cookie on a wire rack takes up much needed space in the kitchen! And it is another thing to clean up.


My recipe says to insert a toothpick to test the doneness with my cakes, why?

Yes, please do this! It is difficult to "see" if a cake is done, esp. with large cakes. Carefully, insert the toothpick in the middle (because it is the "thickest" part) of the cake and remove. Comes out clean? It is done! Comes out with batter on it? Not finished! If you do not have any toothpicks, you can use a small knife.


How do you truly know once something is done?

PRACTICE! Yes, you will over bake and under bake items. Practice and knowledge is key. Make sure you read and understand your recipe and what you're baking. Ask questions. Read baking books. Check baking blogs.


Baking should be fun and exciting! Yes, you may get discourage when something does not turn out perfect, but that is part of the learn process. Baking knowledge = baking success!

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

AGAVE NECTAR: My favorite sweetener!

I LOVE sweets. It is obvious. Chocolate chip cookies to angel food cake to strawberry gelato...I crave it. In fact, sugar is the only food we are naturally crave. Daily, I need a little "sweetness" in my life.

The basic sweeteners I use:
-White refined sugar: Sucrose, from cane or beet. It is used to add any type of sweet flavoring to an item.
-Brown sugar: Sucrose plus molasses. Light brown sugar will contain less molasses than dark brown sugar. It adds more of a "deeper" sweetness than white sugar.

My favorite sweetener: agave nectar!

What is agave nectar?
It is a LIQUID sweetener from Mexico, made from several spieces of agave. It is primary made up of glucose and fructose. It is vegan, thus used in many vegan baked goods! (FYI: During the refining process, some sucrose is processed with animal bone char. It is not actually in the sugar, but used process. Some may consider white sugar non-vegan.) Agave nectar comes in light, amber, dark, and raw varities. I like the amber and dark agaves because they have a deeper and more complex flavor.

Can I subsitute it for white or brown sugar in recipes?
Agave is about 1.5x sweeter than refined sugar. You can use slightly less agave for sugars always. (For example, if a recipe calls for 1 cup sugar, you can use 3/4 cup agave.) Remember, since agave has a different composition than white sugar, the final product may be slightly different than normal. You can always sub agave for honey is recipes.

I heard gave has a "low G.I. index number." What does that mean?
The "G.I Index" is the "Low Gylcemic" Index. The "low G.I." diet is slowly spreading its way to the USA because it focuses on healthy foods, gluten-free carbs, and lots of fresh produce. The "G.I. index" was created in the 90's by two Canadian scientist. Thus, you will see many G.I. recipes in the metric system.
When a food is "bad" or unhealthy, it will have a high number. When a food is healthy, it will have a low number.
Low GI Foods: 55 and under
Medium GI Foods: 56-69
High GI Foods: 70 and above.
Agave nectar has a GI number, between 10-19 (depending on the brand)
White sugar has a GI number of 30-40.

Why is it healthier?
Agave is better than white sugar because it won't give you the sugar "rush" refined sugar does since it is natural and low GI. If you are trying to add better foods to your diet, cut out white sugar and add agave in replace.

What are other ways I can use agave?
Straight out of the bottle! Use it instead of maple syrup over pancakes and waffles. Sweetened your iced or hot tea with it, too. Or my favorite: drizzle some over a piece of whole wheat toast and sprinkle with cinnamon! Yum!

Why not try agave? It is becoming more and more popular and common. Find it at your natural health store (like Whole foods) or in the organic food section of your local grocery store!
Happy Baking!

Friday, March 4, 2011

WHOLE FOODS: Why you should support their bakery department!

Whole Foods is a local, natural, organic, healthy food grocery store. Founded in Austin, Texas, the company strives to provide a better quality food and house hold products selection. I love their chocolate selection, bulk food department, and of course, their bakery!

I recently met with Mary Bot, the bakery department head of Redmond Whole Foods. What a wonderful and truly sweet person! She informed me about their bakery and what items they make. Did you know they make special and custom made wedding cakes? It is not your average grocery store wedding cakes. They add special custom details to every wedding cake and also do delievery. All the breakfast pastries are super popular since it is located right by their espresso stand, which offers rice milk! I love it!

From what I experience, Whole Foods bakery department has their act together! A great display case filled with mini pastries, cupcakes, yummy decorative cakes, pastries, and wedding cakes. Samples of angel food cake and cream pie were out for people to try and test.

Also, Redmond Whole Foods offers cooking and nutritional classes to the public. (A small fee might be required.) I can't wait to attend one and see what their teaching to the Redmond community.

Support business that are give benefit to the community and have employees that enjoy what they do!

http://wholefoodsmarket.com/stores/redmond/
facebook: Redmond Whole Foods
twitter: @RedmondWFM