Thursday, April 28, 2011

COOKIE CHARACTERISTICS!

I love, LOVE cookies! And, who doesn't? A classic chocolate chip cookie with a tall glass of milk, or perhaps a spiced gingerbread man in the snowy winter, or even an almond shortbread on a sunny afternoon. Whatever your favorite type of cookie is, you want to know how to make it PERFECT and your way. I love soft, tender, nutty shortbread. My fathers loves large, extra chewy cookies. My mother only goes after anything super crispy and dark! What your preference on your type of cookie does not matter. What matters is how to make it correctly. Read more to find out what ingredients make a cookie have its characteristics.

CRISP COOKIES: (example: tuile and shortbread cookies)
-Low moisture/liquids (like eggs)
-High sugar and fat
-Longer baking time
-Small size


SOFT COOKIES: (opposite of a "crisp" cookie; example: chocolate chip cookie)
-High liquid
-Low sugar and fat
-Contains a hygroscopic sugar ("absorb moisture" type of sugar), such as honey, molasses, and corn syrup.
-Low bake time
-Large size


CHEWINESS: (example: oatmeal raisin cookies)
-High sugar and liquid
-Low fat
-High egg content
-Strong gluten (flour/dry goods) development


SPREAD/LARGE SIZE:
-High sugar content
-High baking soda content
-Creaming the fat and sugar for a long period of time
-High liquid content
-Strong gluten flours (like bread flour)



MY CHOCOLATE CHIP COOKIE RECIPE:
Below is my favorite, all time chocolate chip cookie recipe with details at every step. They come out soft and delightful!

-Pre heat oven to 325 degrees F. Have 2 parchment-line sheet trays ready to go! (no grease or pan spray is needed!)

1) In a Kitchen Aid mixer, with the paddle attachment, cream 2 sticks of soft, unsalted butter, 1 cup of brown sugar, and 1/2 cup of white sugar.
-Cream until light and fluffy, approx. 10 mins.
-Stop the machine and scrap down 3 times during the creaming process.
-Make sure to "pack" the brown sugar when measuring it.


2)In a microwave safe container (like a mug), whisk together 2 large eggs and 1 tablespoon of vanilla. Microwave for 10 seconds, just until the "chill" is gone. With the mixer still going on medium speed, SLOWLY add the eggs/vanilla mix.
-Stop the machine half way adding the eggs and scrape again. Why? You're making an uniform batter!
-If the mixture looks like it "broke" or "too wet," you added the liquids too fast or the liquids where too cold. Add a bit of the flour to it.


3) Sift all the dry ingredient together in a large bowl: 2 1/4 cups all-purpose, unbleached flour, 1 teaspoon salt, and 1 teaspoon baking soda. Stop the machine. Add the dry ingredient and 1 bag of semi-sweet chocolate chip cookies (and some chopped walnuts if you're like me). Mix on SLOW until just combined.
-Mixing too fast and long will cause a strong gluten-development in the cookie dough, which will cause the cookie to be chewy...if that is what you want.
-Scrape again! Esp. at the bottom where flour chunks tend to hide.
-I love using an ice-cream scoop to evenly portion out my cookie dough. About 9 cookies will bake on an average/medium size sheet pan.
-Bake for 8 mins, and rotate the pan half way for EVEN cooking! The cookies will be done when the edges are slightly brown and the middle is "almost" done, yet still soft.
-Cool the cookies directly on the pan. Eat, share, and SMILE!


Happy baking!
Re-Read these past blog posts for more info on cookies:
"Baking powder vs Baking soda"
"To sift or not to sift"
"The creaming method"
"Know your oven"

Saturday, April 23, 2011

Recap on last Sunday's Second Annual Cupcake Camp!

On a sunny Sunday, many cupcake bakers, lovers, and adorers gathered at the Canal, in Ballard, to celebrate CUPCAKES! Yes, the magnificent little treats filled the room with sweet smells and delights. What could top off a gorgeous day better than sharing some sweetness with the community?!

Last year's cupcake camp I attended I supported Spitfire Restaurant, where I currently work. I brought my "kimm-chi" cupcakes, made with real kimchi, and it received honorable mention for the most unique cupcake.

This year, I went as Sweetness Catering and had my own personal table set up! I know simplicity sells, so I brought my chocolate cloud (all chocolate) and white cloud (all vanilla) cupcakes. There were a TON of unique and creative cupcake flavors brought my major cupcake business, small bakeries, and personal caterers, like myself. I felt so honored to be among such sweet, successful, and amazing businesses.

Not only did I get to present my cupcakes, all 350 mini's, I got my word out to the public, met lovers of anything sweet, and saw familiar faces from last year! Kudos to Carrie Middlemiss, owner of Bella Cupcake Couture (http://www.bellacupcakecouture.com/) who organized and hosted the ENTIRE event. She is one truly sweet and kind soul.

I can't wait for more foodie events in the Seattle-area and next year's cupcake camp. I am already brainstorming more creative flavors to share with the public.
Happy baking!

Saturday, April 2, 2011

How to prep your baking pans!

What is a crucial step in baking? Making sure your baking pans are properly prepared for your baked good to be baked! Not only is "know your oven" is helpful, know your baked pans is necessary for a wonderful baked good delight!

GLASS VERSUS METAL:
Most old-school pans are glass or metal. Yes, I do have a couple metal pans. But I do love glass because it has more baking purposes and it is easier to clean up.
The key is knowing WHAT YOU ARE baking when choosing metal or glass pans. Glass pans are great for retaining heat and browning, the item will stay warm after it is out of the oven! I like to reduce the oven temp by 10-15 degrees F, when using glass, since it hold heat in very well. When cooking anything acidic, also choose glass pans. Metal pan will discolor the acidic food.
When do you use metal? BROILING! Never use glass when broiling. Choose a safe high-heat, metal broiling pan.
Most people find glass pans are easier to use, clean, and last longer than metal pans.

I do love my metal cake pans. Why? With metal, you can have nice, sharp, clean, straight lines! Perfect for a square or rectangle shaped cake. Metal pans also makes it easy for storing and will not break if it dropped!

PAN SPRAY OR PARCHMENT?

Many recipes will say "grease" your baking pan or "line it with parchment paper." I suggest when baking cake, brownies, or bar cookies, to line the pan with parchment paper AND spray the pan with food-safe-spray like PAM. Cut the parchment paper so it will line the pan perfect. The parchment paper will help the bottom not burn and the spray will help for easy-removing of the baked good and clean-up.
DO NOT spray or parchment paper-line angel food cake or any cake with an addition of egg whites (called "chiffon cakes"). Angel food cake needs to "grow" and the spray will hold it down!

What about recipes, esp. for brownies, that say to line it with foil and have "flaps" over the side for easy removal?
This is also a great idea! If you choose to do this, make sure the foil is perfectly lined and also do grease the bottom.


What about recipes that say butter and flour the pans?

I do not like doing this because it gives a "flour-y" taste to the edges of the baked good. You will get white marks on your item.

What about cookies?
Just parchment lined cookie pan. No need to grease due to the fat content already in the cookie.

OTHER HINTS:
-Cupcake pans: Lined with cupcake wrappers! Cupcakes have MATURED! Cheap wrappers will feel/look "soggy" after being baked. Please avoid foil wrappers, they will not properly "stick" to the cupcake itself. There are many high quality cupcake wrappers on the market.
-Casseroles: Spray the glass pan! Glass pans are easier to uniformly cut versus metal pans.
-Flexi-Pans: No need to spray or line these pans due to the uniform quality of the pan material. Yet, these tend to be very flexible and might "change" the shape of your baked good when baking. Very easy to clean and store!
-Silpat: Silpats are French non-stick baking mats. Many professional use them for candy and sugar work. They tend to be expensive, so only by Silpats if you are going to use it on a regular basis. If not, just stick with the parchment paper.

Remember to collect baking pans that you use on a REGULAR basis! You can have all glass pans, or all metals...or a flexi-pans! Choose what fits your baking lifestyle.

Happy Baking!