Friday, December 20, 2013

All Things 2013 Holidays

This year Holidays baking has been a blast.

Camden just turned four years old, and he wanted to help me bake more. Even asked me a few times if he could bake something like gingerbread cookies.

We made a lot of gingerbread dough that we were able to play around with the cookie cutters. We made gingerbread farm animals and gingerbread reindeer. I actually liked the cookies plain, but Camden preferred them with the all natural sprinkles.

There were many cold days that really called for a warm drink. Hot cocoa topped with marshmallow fluff and drizzled with melted chocolate. Yeah, take it to the next level of something sweeter.

And to top that off, I decided to fry dough for my kids' afternoon snack. Dredge them in powdered sugar!!! Hello, sweet snowy powder goodie-licious!!!

Just yesterday, Brek asked for a chocolate cake for afternoon snack. I baked chocolate cupcakes instead for time saving. With powdered sugar on top, they looked like snow on the chocolaty cupcakes.

Today, I showed Brek the reindeer Oreo pops I saw on Pinterest. We decided to make them together as an afternoon homeschool activity.

No recipe. No instructions. We just kinda winged it. They turned out pretty scary lookin'. Their antlers just didn't take the right shapes. We had a good laugh too.

We used Newman's O cookies, melted Enjoy Life chocolate chips, Sun Drops candy, and organic jelly beans. Scary but oh so good in our tummies.

Brek's reindeer was the one with a smile. Camden's reindeer had dark red jelly bean nose. The other one was mine.

So I will end the year 2013 of cooking and baking with this post. Happy eating something sweeter!!! Happy Holidays!!! And all the sweet stuff yet to come!!!

Click for the recipes:

Gingerbread Cookies

Marshmallow Fluff (to top the hot cocoa)

Chocolate Cake

Saturday, December 14, 2013

Chocolate Chip Cookies (dairy free)

Isn't it obvious that I have to post a chocolate chip cookies recipe? Seriously though. Chocolate chip cookie is the classic snack, dessert, or breakfast. Yes, you read it right. Breakfast. Just you wait!!!

From all of the chocolate chip cookies I tested, William Sonoma's recipe turned out best. Of course, I had to modify their recipe to fit my kids' allergy free diet. "Gone" is the butter at room temperature. "In" is the coconut oil or coconut butter.
I found a coconut butter at Whole Foods. But it is super duper expensive. I tested my chocolate chip cookie recipe, using both coconut oil and coconut butter. The cookies tasted the same, but I noticed the coconut aroma was stronger in butter than in oil. With that said, use the ingredients that are safe for your diet and within your budget.

Chocolate Chip Cookies (dairy free)
adapted from William Sonoma's chocolate chip cookies
makes about 3 dozen cookies

1 1/3 cups (6.8 oz) all-purpose flour
1/2 tsp. baking powder
1/2 tsp. baking soda
1 large egg
1/2 cup (3.5 oz) granulated sugar
1/2 cup (3.5 oz) light brown sugar
1/3 cup (3 oz) coconut oil or coconut butter
1/2 cup (3 oz) chocolate chips
  1. Line the baking sheet with parchment paper or nonstick mat.
  2. In a small bowl, shift together the flour, baking powder, and baking soda.
  3. In a large bowl, beat the egg with sugar, using an electric mixture at a medium speed.
  4. Add the coconut oil or coconut butter and beat until creamy.
  5. Add the flour mixture and combine on low speed.
  6. Add the chocolate chips and mix until they are folded into the dough.
  7. Using a medium scooper, scoop the cookie dough onto the prepared baking sheet, making sure the cookies are 2 inches apart.
  8. Flatten each cookie dough to about 1/2 inch thick.
  9. Place the cookie dough in a freezer for at least 30 minutes.
  10. Preheat the oven to 350 F degree.
  11. Bake the cookies until golden brown, about 12 minutes.
  12. Allow the baked cookies to cool for at least 5 minutes then transfer them to a wire rack to cool completely.
Note: These chocolate chip cookies can be kept in a tightly lid container at room temperature for up to 3 days. Keep the cookie dough in a freezer for up to 3 months. There is no need to thaw the cookie dough, but the cookies will need to bake a few minutes longer, about 15-17 minutes total. I usually bake the frozen cookie dough for 12 minutes, turn off the oven but leave the cookies to bake longer. Check every minute until the cookies are golden brown.
William Sonoma's chocolate chip cookies recipe I adapted from is not posted on their web site, but their book is called William Sonoma Collections: Cookies.

Optional: Add the same amount of chocolate chunks instead of chocolate chips for a robust chocolaty taste. If you can have nuts in your diet, add 1/2 cup (2 oz) of your preferred raw or toasted and chopped nuts. Mix in about 1/2 tablespoon of ground flaxseeds. Now you can have these cookies for breakfast because they are now healthy for you. Told you these cookies are meant for breakfast.


Saturday, December 7, 2013

Gingerbread Cookies

I was in the mood for baking but couldn't decide what to bake. So I posted a question on my Facebook page and asked my friends what they were craving for. They suggested gingerbread cookies. Seriously, I'm just suck when it comes to shaped cookies. Most of my shaped sugar cookies turned out to be a big blob.

I've read many Holidays books to my kids as our nighttime routine. One of the books was Maisy Makes Gingerbreads. While I was reading it, Camden kept saying, "Ouuu, I want to do that!" After reading my friends' suggestion on gingerbread cookies, I decided to give the shaped cookies another try.

After flipping through Holiday cookbooks, I decided on a recipe that might work. The cookies turned out better than I expected. Very tasty. The shapes? Well, not so much. But as long as they tasted great, right? Plus, it was my kids' homeschool baking activity. Lotsa fun for us.

I used my food processor to mix the cookie dough. But the dough can be mix by hands. I only use a food processor because Camden was helping me. It was more fun for him to "pulse" the dough with faster result and with less mess. Keep in mind that I used cold butter in this recipe. If you cannot have cow's milk, substitute the cold butter with cold (but not hard) coconut oil. The reason for cold ingredients is the make sure the dough is easy to work with. I made this cookie dough the same I'd make pie dough.

Gingerbread Cookies
makes a lot of cookies, depending on the shapes
adapted from Good Housekeeping The Great Christmas Cookie Swap Cookbook: 60 Large-Batch Recipes to Bake and Share

3/4 cup (5.3 oz) sugar
1 1/4 tsp. ginger
1 tsp. ground cinnamon
1/2 tsp. ground cloves
1/4 tsp. ground nutmeg
1 1/2 tsp. baking soda
2 1/2 (10 oz) all purpose flour, extra for dusting
1/2 cup (4 oz) cold butter, cubes
1 egg, cold
1/4 cup (3 oz) molasses 
  1. In a food processor, add the sugar, cinnamon, cloves, nutmeg, baking soda, and flour.
  2. Pulse 5 times to combine.
  3. Add the cold butter.
  4. Pulse 15 to 20 times until the dough resembles small pebbles.
  5. Add the egg and molasses.
  6. Pulse until the dough forms into a ball.
  7. If using the dough right away, place it between two parchment papers.
  8. Sprinkle the all purpose flour onto the dough then roll it out to a quarter inch thick. Tip: I use dough rings or rolling pin spacer bans to make sure the rolled out dough has exact thickness for even baking.
  9. Place the all purpose flour in a bowl. Dip the cookie cutters into the flour to ensure the dough won't stick onto the cookie cutters.
  10. Press the cookie cutters into the dough and then left them up without disturbing the patterns.
  11. Freeze the dough for at least 20 minutes. NOTE: Keep in mind that if the cookies don't hold the shapes when baked, freeze the next batch longer.
  12. Repeat the steps with the remaining dough or keep the dough in a sealed plastic bag in the refrigerator for a week or in the freezer for three months.
  13. Preheat the oven at 325°F degree.
  14. Take the dough out of the freezer when it is ready to bake.
  15. Using a large spatula (or a fish turner), take out the dough around the cookie patterns.
  16. Clean the flour or specks of dough with a fine pastry brush.
  17. Bake the cookies exactly 12 minutes.
  18. Take the cookies out of the oven and let them rest for 10 minutes. Then transfer them to a cooling rack.
  19. Once the cookies are completely cool, decorate them with icing (recipe followed).
Cookie Icing
1/4 cup (1 oz) powdered sugar
1/8 tsp. ground cinnamon
1/2 Tablespoon cold water
Natural sprinkles (optional)
  1. Mix all of the ingredients together into a thick paste.
  2. To decorate a cookie, drop a teaspoon of icing onto the cookie and spread it with a spatula.
  3. Add the natural sprinkles if using.

Friday, December 6, 2013

Chocolate Chip Banana Muffins (how to modify a recipe)

Modify recipe is turning out to be my hobby. It's actually pretty fun in a way. Kinda like working in a  science lab. Plus, I always wanted to be a scientist, wearing a lab coat. But in my case, I wear an apron and test real food.

For my family, modifying a recipe would mean that I need to substitute dairy, chicken eggs, legumes, and corn in all of my recipes. The hardest recipes to make changes to are the ones that have a lot of eggs in them. I certainly cannot bake angle food cake without eggs. See what I mean. Some recipes are just impossible to modify.

With any modified recipes, I can taste the difference in taste and texture.  It's really a trail and error.

Because homemade baked sweets taste better within a day or two. I usually cut down the recipes in half. So I only bake just enough for my family.

The time I spend in the kitchen is also a factor when I modify a recipe. Muffins bake faster than bread loaf. Cupcakes bake faster than a eight-inch round cake. Using cupcake liners also means an easy clean up. Plus, my kids can just grab the muffins they want, and no knives, plates, or forks are involved. Less clean up again. Bonus!!! So let's get started and modify a breakfast sweet.

Being on an allergy free diet means very limited selection of food. Nothing is wasted. Bananas are not just healthy snacks. When they are ripen, they are perfect for banana bread. Sometimes I even freeze the over ripen ones for future baking. Ripen ones are perfect to thicken up a smoothie.

I tested many banana bread recipe, and I found William Sonoma's banana bread recipe to be the best after it was modified. It has been my go-to breakfast recipe ever since. The original recipe is written for a bread loaf, but I bake them in muffin pan. My modified recipe is just enough for my family's breakfast or snack, about 6 muffins. Feel free to double the recipe. Notice that I use my kitchen scale religiously, so I added the measurements in ounces as well.
William Sonoma's Banana Bread
Original ingredients:
1 2/3 cups all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon baking soda
3 medium very ripe bananas, peeled
2/3 cup sugar
1/3 cup vegetable oil
2 eggs
1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract

Modified ingredients:
2/3 cups 3/4 cup (3 oz) all-purpose flour
2 1 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt (I always skip salt in my baking as I really can't tell the taste differences when salt is added or not. My kids and I also eat a lot of potato chips, so I do try to omit salt when I can.)
1/4 1/8 teaspoon baking soda
3 1 (3-4 oz) medium very ripe bananas, peeled (mashed)
2/3 cup 1/4 cup (2.5 oz.) sugar
1/3 cup 3 Tbs. (1.5 oz.) vegetable oil
2 1 (large) egg
1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract (since I add cinnamon and nutmeg, I usually omit vanilla extract. The aroma from both spices are enough.)
1/2 tsp grounded cinnamon
1/8 tsp grounded nutmeg
1/4 cup (1.5 oz.) chocolate chips (I add chocolate chips for taste. If you prefer to bake banana muffins, omit the chocolate chips. If you can have nuts, you can add your preferred chopped nuts.)

When a recipe called for melted butter, substitute it with vegetable oil. Liquid vegetable oil is perfect to add into a batter such as pancake batter. If I need to substitute butter that needs to be added into the dough, such as pie crust or cookie dough, I would use coconut oil. 

If you have issue with chicken eggs, substitute 5 quail eggs to 1 large chicken egg. If you cannot have eggs at all, substitute it with the baking powder. The amount of baking powder depends on what I am baking, so this is the time when I need to put on a scientist's hat. Remember not the add more than 1 tablespoon of baking powder in any batter because it does leave a bitter after taste. I highly recommend Kelly Rudnicki's The Food Allergy Mama's Baking Book: Great Dairy-, Egg-, and Nut-Free Treats for the Whole Family especially for egg free recipes.
Chocolate Chip Banana Muffins
modified from William Sonoma's Banana Bread
make 6 regular size muffins
3/4 cup (3 oz.) all-purpose flour
1 teaspoons baking powder
1/8 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon grounded cinnamon
1/8 teaspoon grounded nutmeg

1/4 cup (2.5 oz.) granulated sugar
3 Tbs. (1.5 oz.) vegetable oil
1 large egg
1 (3-4 oz) medium very ripe bananas, peeled and mashed
1/4 cup (1.5 oz.) chocolate chips 
  1. Preheat the oven to 350 F degree. Line the 6 regular size muffin pan with foil or paper liners.
  2. In a small bowl, sift together flour, baking powder, baking soda, cinnamon, and nutmeg.
  3. In a large bowl, whisk together the sugar, oil, and egg.
  4. Add the mashed banana and mix again.
  5. Add the flour mixture and whisk until just combine.
  6. Fold in the chocolate chips.
  7. Using a large scooper, divide the batter equally into the prepared muffin pan.
  8. Bake until the tooth pick inserted into the muffin comes out clean, about 15-20 minutes.
  9. Enjoy them while they are warm. 
Allergy Info: This chocolate chip banana muffin recipe can be made without or is free from dairy, corn, legumes (soy), nuts, or fish.