Helpful Hints

Feb 11, 2015

The Difference Between Baking Powder & Baking Soda

Baking powder and baking soda are NOT THE SAME. They can not be substituted for one another. They are both leaveners but they are chemically different.

Baking Powder:Baking SodaBaking soda is used in recipes that contain acidic ingredients like buttermilk, brown sugar, yogurt, lemon juice, honey, vinegar, or chocolate (except Dutch process). The acid in the recipe reacts with the baking soda, allowing your baked goods to rise. Baking powder is generally used when there is no acidic ingredient in the recipe. Bottom line: baking soda needs an acid; baking powder does not. – Jenny Jones

Jan 10, 2015

Cake Strips to the Rescue

If you bake a lot of cakes there are two issues that need fixing. One is that they rise too much in the center and the other is that the edges get over-baked and dry. A cake strip will fix that. Here is my yellow cake baked with no cake strip. It’s domed in the middle and the edges are overdone and dry.

What Are Cake StripsAnd here it is with a cake strip – perfectly flat and the edges are soft and evenly baked.

IMG_6091 copyA cake strip is easy to use. You just soak it in water for about 15 minutes, then press out the excess water and wrap it around the pan just before baking.

bcake_wrap

It protects the edge of the pan from getting too hot and the cake will bake evenly. If you can’t find one, you can fashion your own using fabric. I have never done that but you can find lots of how-to’s in the internet. They’re also called baking strips for cakes.

While working on this recipe I was surprised by something I learned about cake pans. It’s about the color. I always knew that a dark pan absorbs more heat so baked goods will brown more than in a light colored pan. But I baked two cakes, both with cake strips, in two different pans that I considered light colored. But look at the difference…

Cake Pans1200_6284The pan on the left is my more expensive Williams-Sonoma Gold Touch pan that I never thought of as dark. The pan on the right is a cheaper silver colored pan (with no brand name so I don’t even know where I got it) but the cake in the cheaper silver pan came out perfectly. The edges were velvety soft and the cake didn’t brown too much. The one on the left was okay but the edges pulled away a bit and it browned a little more. Bottom line: use a silver colored pan and a cake strip for a perfect, soft, yummy cake.

Speaking of cake, this simple yellow cake is one of my easy-to-make healthier cakes and it’s my go-to cake for all kinds of frosting and filling. It’s soft and not super sweet… and it’s made without butter. I’ll be posting the recipe soon, so get your cake strips ready! – Jenny Jones

Dec 27, 2014

How To Store Parsley

I’ve had this parsley for over a month! If you’re tired of throwing away wilted parsley, you will love this easy way to store fresh parsley. Just put it in a glass of water and cover it loosely with a plastic produce bag. I use the bag I brought it home in from the store.
IMG_0418Fresh parsley is great to use in cooking but I only use a little at a time. I used to keep it in the vegetable drawer in a plastic bag but I always had to throw it away before I could use it all up. There had to be a better way. So I tried putting it in a glass of water in the fridge and it kept a little longer but after a few days it was drying out.

The solution to drying out had to be plastic so I tried putting a light weight plastic produce bag loosely over the parsley and glass and I could not believe how long it lasted. I put it away on November 23rd. That was five weeks ago! And look at it today…

IMG_0695I’ll be using this parsley until 2015! I’ll let you know when it finally runs its course – probably six or seven weeks. I just had to share!

Dec 8, 2014

How To Freeze Pecan Balls

Guess what? There is no difference between frozen and freshly made pecan balls. I tested them myself and asked two other people to do a blind taste test and no one could tell the difference. This is good news because anything you can make ahead for the holidays is helpful. I’m sure there is more than one way to freeze these delicate Christmas snowball cookies but here is how I did mine:

  1. Once they were completely cool and after the second roll in powdered sugar I gently placed them in a freezer bag so they were not touching.
  2. I removed as much air as possible from the bag and placed them gently in the freezer.
  3. To thaw I let them thaw overnight in the refrigerator and then brought them to room temperature.
  4. Then I gently rolled them in powdered sugar again to freshen them up.

So there it is. This is how you can freeze your homemade pecan balls and have extra time for…. making more! To make these super easy Christmas cookies, click here for the recipe.  – Jenny Jones

Nov 12, 2014

Metric Conversion Chart

PLEASE NOTE: I NEVER EXPECTED SO MANY INTERNATIONAL VISITORS AND HAD NO EXPERIENCE WITH MEASURING BY WEIGHT. THE GENERALLY ACCEPTED STANDARD FOR FLOUR IS LISTED IN BLUE AND HOW IT WEIGHS IN MY KITCHEN IN RED.

Flour
1 cup  =  4 1/4 ounces =  Generally Accepted 120 grams – When I weigh I get 125-130 grams

1/2 cup  =  2  1/8  ounces =  60 grams / 63-65 grams

1/3 cup  =  1 1/2 ounces  =  40 grams / 42-43 grams

1/4 cup  =  1.05  ounces  =  30 grams / 31-32.5 grams

Granulated & Caster Sugar
1 cup  =  7 ounces  =  200 grams

1/2 cup  =  3.5 ounces  =  100 grams

1/3 cup  =  2.3 ounces  =  66 grams

1/4 cup  =  1.75 ounces  =  50 grams

1 Tablespoon =  0.45 ounces  =  12.50 grams

Yeast
1 packet = 7 grams

1 teaspoon = 3 1/2 grams

1/4 teaspoon = 1 gram

Powdered Sugar & Powdered Cocoa
1 cup  =  4 ounces  =  114 grams

1/2 cup  =  1.75 ounces  =  50 grams

1/3 cup  =  1.15 ounces  =  33 grams

1/4 cup  =  .85 ounces  =  25 grams

1 Tablespoon =  0.20 ounces  =  6.25 grams

Liquids
1 cup  =  8 ounces  =  240 mL

1/2 cup  =  4 ounces  =  120 mL

1/3 cup  =  2.6 ounces  =  80 mL

1/4 cup  =  2 ounces  =  60 mL

1 Tablespoon =  0.50 ounce  =  15 mL

Butter
1 Tablespoon  =  0.50 ounce  =  14 grams

1/4 cup  =  2 ounces  =  56 grams

1/3 cup  =  2.6 ounces  =  75 grams

1/2 cup  =  4 ounces  =  113 grams

1 cup  =  8 ounces  =  226 grams

Oven Baking Temperatures
225 degrees F  =  110 degrees C  =  1/4 gas number
250 degrees F  =  130 degrees C  =  1/2 gas number
275 degrees F  =  140 degrees C  =  1 gas number
300 degrees F  =  150 degrees C  =  2 gas number
325 degrees F  =  165 degrees C  =  3 gas number
350 degrees F  =  180 degrees C  =  4 gas number
375 degrees F  =  190 degrees C  =  5 gas number
400 degrees F  =  200 degrees C  =  6 gas number
425 degrees F  =  220 degrees C  =  7 gas number
450 degrees F  =  230 degrees C  =  8 gas number
475 degrees F  =  245 degrees C  =  9 gas number
500 degrees F  =  260 degrees C  =  10 gas number

…Below are all the charts I had perviously posted, compiled from other sources…

Liquids (and Herbs & Spices)

ConversionChart

Weight

Screen shot 2014

Length (1 cm = 10 mm)

Screen shot4

Temperature

Cooking Tempertaures Chart

Nov 9, 2014

The Difference Between Yams and Sweet Potatoes

Are you making candied yams this Thanksgiving? Guess what? Candied yams are not yams. They are sweet potatoes! Check this out:

1) This is a sweet potato…

Sweet-Potato-or-Yam

2) And this is a sweet potato…

Sweet-Potato-or-Yam-1

3) THIS  is a Yam…

 shutterstock_148491962-1

 

1) The yellow sweet potato, the one commonly called sweet potato, has a thicker skin and firm yellow flesh that’s a bit drier and starchier than the orange one.

2) The orange sweet potato, also called “red garnet” and “jewel,” has a softer skin and a deep orange flesh that when cooked, becomes very soft, almost like mashed potatoes. Plus they are sweeter than the yellow ones. These deeper colored sweet potatoes have more vitamin A than carrots.

3) Yams, which have a black bark-like skin, are native to Africa and Asia and I doubt if you could even find one here in the U.S.

There’s so much confusion about the difference between a yam and a sweet potato. That’s because the USDA labeled the orange ones “yams” to differentiate the two main varieties of sweet potatoes but the truth is, sweet potatoes and real yams are not even related. Most of us have never even eaten a yam.

So the bottom line is… unless the Supreme Court intervenes, we will continue to call the yellow ones sweet potatoes and the orange ones yams. It’s just simpler. The good news is they are interchangeable in most recipes, even candied yams. Besides vitamin A, these vegetables have lots of fiber, calcium, iron, and vitamin E so try to cook with them all year. I use the yellow ones for sweet potato fries and with my roasted vegetables and the orange ones for baking my sweet potato chocolate cake.

Well, this is good information but it doesn’t really change anything, does it? Happy Thanksgiving!

Aug 23, 2014

Parchment Paper vs. Wax Paper

Are parchment paper and wax paper the same?

My response… Parchment paper and wax paper are very different. Wax paper is actually coated with wax and not intended for use in the oven. The wax would probably melt in there anyway and wind up on your food. It’s good to use for messy work like rolling dough and breading or you can sift dry ingredients on it to save washing a bowl. Parchment paper is grease and moisture-resistant and is made for use in the oven, perfect for lining pans and baking sheets for easy removal. If your parchment paper sticks, it’s likely an inferior quality paper. The only brand I use is Reynolds and it never sticks.

Aug 12, 2014

How To Measure Ingredients

Professional bakers generally weigh ingredients but I don’t consider that practical so I do what I think most of us do, which is use measuring cups and spoons. Measuring liquids is pretty simple and requires a glass or plastic cup with markings that should be viewed at eye level, but dry ingredients are where recipes are affected the most. The proper way to measure flour is to first stir the flour in its container in case it has settled too much and become compacted. Then you are supposed to spoon it into your dry (stackable) measuring cup. Since I bake so much I keep my flour in a covered container but I always stir it first before measuring. My method is “dip and level” meaning that after I stir the flour around in the container, I dip my measuring cup into the  flour, do not tap or shake the cup, and then I level off the top with a knife. I dip and level with sugar also but it does not tend to settle as much as flour. With small dry ingredients like spices, baking powder, etc. I just dip in the measuring spoon, scoop it up and then level off with a knife. I think most failures in baking happen by not stirring and aerating the flour first.

Here’s some advice I have based on some mistakes I have made:

1) Never measure liquid things like vanilla or oil in a measuring spoon over the bowl you’re working in – it can easily spill over into your bowl and there’s no way to fix it.

2) Never break an egg directly into a batter but always into a small bowl or cup first. You’d be surprised how often you’ll find a piece of egg shell.

3) When baking with cocoa powder sift it together with the other dry ingredients because it’s not always easy to incorporate it later.

I also found a couple of helpful links below…

http://allrecipes.com/video/30/how-to-measure-ingredients/detail.aspx

http://sallysbakingaddiction.com/measuring-101/

Mar 24, 2014

My ribs are NOT spicy hot.

Best Oven Bbq Ribs Recipe

My fall-off-the-bone ribs are NOT spicy hot. This recipe has been really popular but having an international following has brought on some new challenges. I’m hearing, “I made your fall-off-the-bone ribs and they did fall off the bone but they were so spicy hot we couldn’t eat them.” It turns out that spices are not the same all over the world and the different labeling in some countries has caused my delicious ribs to be too hot to eat. But I don’t like spicy foods and my ribs are not supposed to be hot, so I am here to clarify the confusion for my international visitors.

My rub and sauce recipes call for Chili Powder but I think some people are using Chili Pepper which is not the same thing. Not at all.  Chili Powder is a mixture of spices and peppers and is a bit spicy but not anywhere near hot. That’s why I use 2 teaspoons in my rub and my sauce. But 2 teaspoons of Ground Chili Pepper, which is pure cayenne pepper, will bring tears to your eyes!

As if that’s not enough, the terms “chili” and “chile” are often used interchangeably but they don’t always mean the same thing. Chili powder is usually a blend of spices and it not considered hot, while Chile powder most often refers to pure ground spicy hot chiles. Since every country is different, the only way to tell is to READ THE INGREDIENT LABEL and DO NOT USE pure ground cayenne red chili pepper.

Pepper_Image_02

The recipes I post are all the things I make for myself and I do not like hot & spicy foods so I hope this helps everyone from Malaysia to Australia to Belgium enjoy these delicious fall-off-the-bone, NOT SPICY HOT ribs. And my thanks to Lee and Alissa who took time to let me know. Click here for the recipe. – Jenny Jones

Jan 28, 2014

How To Make Perfect Hard Boiled Eggs

How To Make Hard Boiled Eggs Easy To Peel

I make a lot of hard boiled eggs.  A lot. There are some in my fridge right now… perfect, easy to peel, no green ring, hard boiled eggs for snacking, breakfast, deviled eggs, and egg salad. I’ve learned a few things about how to make foolproof hard boiled eggs so here’s what I know…

1) Really fresh eggs will be harder to peel so use your older eggs for boiling.

2) Place eggs in a pot and cover completely with cold water.

3) Do not crowd too many eggs in the pot or they may not cook.

4) If you see a stream of bubbles coming out of an egg in the cold water that means it’s cracked. Remove the cracked egg and save it for cooking.

5) Add ½ teaspoon of baking soda to the water. If you don’t have baking soda, use salt.

6) Bring the water to a full, rolling boil.

7) Cover the pot and turn off the heat, leaving the pot on the warm burner.

8) Set a timer for 17 minutes. Prepare a bowl of ice water.

10) After 17 minutes remove the eggs from the hot water using a slotted spoon and place them in the ice water for 2 minutes. They will still be warm inside after two minutes.

11) Serve immediately or keep refrigerated.

11) Freshly boiled, warm eggs will be easier to peel than cold ones.

12) Peeling them under running water makes peeling easier.

13) Start to peel at the fat end of the egg for easier peeling.

So that’s all I know about making perfect hard-boiled eggs. Now here is why I eat them: Eggs are a great source of….

~Protein, B vitamins, and minerals.

~Choline, which reduces inflammation, protects against breast cancer, and supports brain health.

~Lutein and Zeaxanthin to ward off macular degeneration.

~Sulphur for shiny hair, strong nails, and glowing skin.

~New research tells us that egg yolks contain dietary cholesterol but they do not raise blood cholesterol. For the latest research on eggs from Prevention Magazine, click here.

So that’s everything I know about making perfect, easy to peel, no green ring hard boiled eggs. Now here’s as quiz: Q: Why do brown eggs cost more than white ones? A: Because the hens are bigger and it costs more to feed them. Nutritionally, there is no difference.