Tuesday, December 24, 2013

Merry Christmas!

I wish you all a wonderful Christmas with family and friends. Your readership and loyalty are greatly appreciated.

Merry Christmas and Happy New Year!

Thursday, December 19, 2013

Sugar-Free Holidays

If you have a diabetic person in your household – as I do – it sometimes becomes difficult to prepare foods especially for them. Of course, they have to count carbs, but also keep sugar to a minimum.

Sugar helps to brown foods, and when using sugar substitutes the end result may not be the same. The substitutes work well in savory foods and in foods that don’t require browning.  However, I’ve found the Splenda website (http://www.splenda.com) to be a good resource when it comes to recipes for baked products.

These cookies turned out very nicely – flavorful and tender. The recipe was on the Splenda website.

SUGAR-FREE SUGAR COOKIES

1/2 cup butter, softened
1/2 cup shortening
1 cup granulated Splenda
2 tablespoons milk
1 large egg
1 teaspoon vanilla
2 1/2 cups self-rising flour
1/4 teaspoon salt

Cream butter and shortening at low speed. Add Splenda and mix well. Beat in milk, egg and vanilla. Gradually add flour and salt.

Roll into 1” balls with floured hands. Place on parchment-lined baking sheets. Flatten with back of spoon.

Bake at 400 degrees for 6 to 8 minutes. Store airtight.

Notes:

I didn’t have self-rising flour, so I used this substitution:
In 1-cup measuring cup place 1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder, 1/4 teaspoon salt. Fill to top with all-purpose flour and level off. Makes 1 cup. The original recipe called for 3/4 teaspoon salt, but I cut that amount back a bit due to the salt in this mixture.
 
I plan to put a bit of frosting on the cookies, and found this recipe:

SUGAR-FREE COOKIE GLAZE

1 1/2 cups Splenda
1/4 cup cornstarch

Blend well. Stir in 5 teaspoons water and mix till smooth.

Of course, all the other recipes I’ve used this year are full-sugar! My baking efforts have not been as great as in past years – only 5 different batches, for a total of 21 dozen. The candy has not been made yet. And the only cake I’ve done is the Sour Cream Coffeecake that I make every year for Christmas Day breakfast. I may be running out of time! Are you? As I try to tell myself every Christmas, “If it doesn’t get done, it didn’t need to be done!”
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“Christmas is not a time nor a season, but a state of mind. To cherish peace and goodwill, to be plenteous in mercy, is to have the real spirit of Christmas.”
(Calvin Coolidge)

“Christmas waves a magic wand over this world, and behold, everything is softer and more beautiful.”
(Norman Vincent Peale)
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Your comments and suggestions are always welcome. Thanks for reading!




Monday, December 9, 2013

Baking Ingredient Substitutions

This post came about because I ran into one of those situations where I started cookies but didn’t have enough of one important ingredient – molasses. And I really wanted those cookies! So I did what all cooks do and looked for a good substitution.

Here are the substitutions for molasses. For each cup of molasses, substitute one of the following:

1 cup maple syrup
1 cup dark corn syrup
1 cup honey
3/4 cup packed brown sugar
3/4 cup granulated sugar and 1 cup hot water

Any one of these would work well. I had about 1/2 cup molasses so I combined maple syrup and light corn syrup for the remaining 1/4 cup needed for my recipe.

There are different kinds of molasses, including light, dark and blackstrap. Molasses are a byproduct of sugar production. Either light or dark work well in cooking; however, blackstrap molasses are too strong and bitter for cooking without being mixed with light molasses.

Here are a few more substitutions that may come in handy when doing your Christmas baking:

Allspice (1 teaspoon) = 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon + 1/4 teaspoon ginger + 1/4 teaspoon cloves

Baking Mix (1 cup) = 1 cup pancake mix

Baking Powder (1 teaspoon) = 1/4 teaspoon baking soda + 1/2 teaspoon cream of tartar + 1/4 teaspoon cornstarch

Brown Sugar (1 packed cup) = 1 cup granulated sugar OR 1 1/4 cup confectioner’s sugar

Buttermilk (1 cup) = 1 teaspoon white vinegar + 1 cup milk

Cake Flour (1 cup) = 1 cup all-purpose flour minus 2 teaspoons

Cardamom (1 teaspoon) = 1 teaspoon ground anise

Cornstarch (1 tablespoon) = 2 tablespoons all-purpose flour OR 4 teaspoons instant tapioca

Cocoa (1/4 cup) = 1 square (1 oz.) unsweetened baking chocolate

Corn Syrup (1 cup) = 1 1/4 cup sugar + 1/3 cup water OR 1 cup honey

Egg (1) = 2 1/2 tablespoons powdered eggs + 2 1/2 tablespoons water OR 1/4 cup liquid egg substitute OR 3 tablespoons mayonnaise OR 2 egg whites OR 2 egg yolks OR 1/2 banana, mashed

Granulated Sugar (1 cup) = 1 cup brown sugar OR 1 1/4 cup confectioner’s sugar OR 3/4 cup honey OR 3/4 cup corn syrup

Marshmallows (1 cup miniature) = 10 large

Marshmallow Cream (1 jar) = melt 16 oz. marshmallows with 3 1/2 tablespoons corn syrup in a double boiler

Self-Rising Flour (1 cup) = 1 cup less 2 tablespoons all-purpose flour + 1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder + 1/2 teaspoon salt

Shortening (1 cup) = 1 cup unsalted butter OR 1 cup margarine minus 1/2 teaspoon salt in recipe

Sweetened Condensed Milk (1 14 oz. can) = 3/4 cup sugar + 1/2 cup water + 1 1/8 cup nonfat dry milk – bring to boil and cook, stirring often, till thick OR 1 cup nonfat dry milk + 2/3 cup sugar + 1/2 cup boiling water + 3 tablespoons melted butter

Semi-Sweet Chocolate (1 oz.) = 1 oz. semi-sweet chocolate chips + 1 teaspoon shortening

Vanilla Bean (1/2 bean) = 1 tablespoon pure vanilla extract
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If you have snow like we do here, the kids may like this fun project. Fill spray bottles with water then add food coloring. Use this “spray paint” to paint pictures in the snow!
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And here is the recipe for those cookies!

GINGER SPICE CHEWIES

3 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 cup brown sugar, firmly packed
2 teaspoons ground ginger
1 teaspoon ground cloves
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 teaspoon ground allspice
1/2 cup butter or margarine, softened
1 egg, slightly beaten
3/4 cup molasses

Mix dry ingredients in a large bowl. Add butter, egg and molasses. Mix until completely blended. Dough will be very stiff (you may need to use your hands). Cover and refrigerate for 1 hour. Roll into walnut-sized balls and place on parchment paper-lined baking sheets. Press down lightly with a fork dipped in flour (knock off excess flour).

Bake at 350 degrees for 12 minutes, or until set and lightly browned on bottom. Remove to cooling racks to cool. Store tightly covered. Makes approximately 5 1/2 dozen.

These look a lot like ginger snaps, but are much softer. Yum! (Note added 12/10/13 - After a couple of days they will tend to get crisp - to keep the cookies soft, place a piece of bread in the container.)

The dry ingredients in this recipe could be layered in a wide-mouth quart jar for a great gift…be sure to remember to give the recipe! 

Happy Baking!
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Your comments and suggestions are always welcome. Thanks for reading!

Tuesday, December 3, 2013

It’s Cookie Time!



With Thanksgiving behind us we seriously get into the Christmas season. And that means baking cookies and making goodies for friends and family. Planning and organization will make it much easier. In years past my daughter and I baked dozens and dozens of cookies, but these days we just don’t seem to eat as many. That’s probably a good thing!

I hope Tip Tuesday has some information that will help make your baking efforts more enjoyable and more successful.

1) Select your recipes, check your supplies and make a shopping list. Nothing is more frustrating than starting to bake and having to make a quick run to the supermarket.

2) Always use the best quality ingredients you can afford. Use large eggs, unsalted butter and pure flavoring extracts. If using margarine rather than butter, make sure it is at least 80% vegetable oil. Others will have too much water and won’t work well.

3) Set out ingredients and supplies - and have a pan of hot soapy water ready for cleanup. Keeping things cleaned as you go will make everything easier and more fun.

4) Have ingredients at room temperature. Eggs, butter and other refrigerated items will mix much better. If you forget to soften the butter, don’t try to melt it in the microwave as it will get too soft. Simply grate it onto a plate and it will be ready in just a few minutes.

5) Most cookie dough can be frozen. Wrap well in wax paper then place in a zipper freezer bag. Label and date the package. If you might want to bake just part of the dough later, divide it in half then wrap. Thaw dough overnight in the refrigerator.

6) Dough for rolled cookies should be chilled for 15 to 30 minutes before rolling out. Work with a small amount of dough at a time, leaving the rest in the refrigerator.

7) Always preheat the oven. Line the baking sheets with parchment paper (a wonderful invention!) to prevent sticking. Use shiny cookie sheets – dark pans will absorb more heat. Pans with low or no sides are best for good heat conduction.

8) Do not substitute basic basic ingredients (flour, etc.) – follow recipe exactly. Measure properly. Spoon dry ingredients into measuring cups then level off. Do not pack – except for brown sugar, which should always be packed and hold its form when put into the bowl. Liquid ingredients should be measured into a lipped measuring cup and checked at eye level.

9) Leave 2 inches between cookies on pan. If baking 2 pans at a time, rotate them halfway through baking. Use that timer!

10) Remove immediately to wire rack to cool. Some recipes, however, will recommend cooling on the pan for a minute or two. Let the cookie sheets cool completely before putting more cookies on to bake. A hot pan will cause the dough to start spreading.

11) To cut brownies easily use a plastic knife. They will not stick as much.

12) Proper storage is key to good cookie results. Store crisp cookies in a container with a loose lid. Soft cookies should be stored airtight with wax paper between layers. If they start to dry out, a piece of bread in the container will help.
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Now for a recipe. It’s an old one that I’ve made almost every year, but I have no idea where I got it. It’s written on an old, yellowed sheet of notebook paper, wrinkled and spattered from years of use. These are delicious!

SPICY SUGAR COOKIES

1 1/4 cups butter, softened
2 cups granulated sugar
2 eggs
5 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon salt
4 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon nutmeg
1/2 cup milk

Cream butter and sugar. Add eggs and beat until fluffy. Stir together dry ingredients and add alternately with milk, beginning and ending with flour. If dough is too sticky, add just enough flour to handle. Chill for 30 minutes. Roll to 1/4” thickness and cut. If desired, sprinkle with colored sugar. Bake on a parchment-lined pan at 350 degrees for 8 minutes, until set and lightly browned on bottom. Makes about 100 (depending on the size of your cutter, of course!).
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A great cookie gift!

CANDY COOKIE MIX IN A JAR

1 1/4 cups granulated sugar
1 1/4 cups mini M&M candies for baking
2 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon baking powder

Mix flour, baking soda and baking powder. In wide-mouth quart jar layer sugar, then M&Ms, then dry ingredient mixture. As you put in the layers, pack each one in tightly because jar will be full. Tighten lid and decorate jar as desired. Attach recipe:

Empty contents of jar into large bowl and mix well. Add 1/2 cup butter, softened. Stir in 1 egg, slightly beaten and 1 teaspoon vanilla extract. Mix completely. Shape into walnut-size balls and place on cookie sheet lined with parchment paper. Bake at 375 degrees for 12 to 14 minutes until slightly browned. Cool on pan for 5 minutes, then remove to wire rack. Makes about 2 1/2 dozen.

NOTE: Chopped nuts would be good in these, as would broken pretzel pieces or coconut.
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"A balanced diet is a cookie in each hand." 

(Unknown)

"Christmas cookies and happy hearts,
This is how the holiday starts!"

(Unknown)
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HAPPY BAKING!
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Your comments and suggestions are always welcome. Thanks for reading!