To the girl who gave me advice (baking myths tackled)

“If you wear your pajamas inside out and backwards it will snow.”

Mrs. Poinsett my second grade teacher would tell us this daily in winter, and being a snow enthusiast, I listened. Let me tell you how hard it is to zip an onesie inside out and backwards… Have you ever tried to take off a wet wetsuit? How about ever tried to hook a tiny necklace clasps with fake nails? Have you ever sneezed spraying  purple tie dye powder all over your mothers freshly cleaned kitchen; then tried to clean it  up and found out it just stains everything when you get it wet? Oh come on I can’t be the only one that has happened to!! My point is it’s close to impossible.

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How did this myth or superstition come into practice? What started this phenomenon that now has children morphing into contortionists to zip their onesies? Some myths out there are so ridiculous. If I step on a crack, I can guarantee I will not break my mother’s back.  And if I stare at the microwave while its running my eyes won’t turn green and glow at night (trust me I tested this daily as a child, don’t get your hopes up).

The topic of baking does not escape the rapidly running rumors and myths. This topic actually sparked my interest because in a class I took (Writing about Food, at Cedar Crest College); a girl had the audacity to tell me my cookies would be better and softer if I stored them with a piece of bread. A piece of bread, A PIECE OF BREAD!!! What the hell would a piece of bread do? How dare she question my supreme baking abilities, who was she to question my authority!!! I’ll attack this myth later. Before I go on another rant about how much this upset me…

Baking Myths Tackled!

Myth: Shorting instead of butter will make cookies fluffier.

Answer: Sort of. It depends how much of a butter expert you are.

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Right out of the fridge butter is a solid, while right out the microwave butter is a liquid; and at room temperature butter is an odd mixture of both. In order to get butter right for cookies it has to have a certain consistency that is somewhere in between a liquid and a solid. Shorting has the correct consistency all the time and does not need to concern itself with the troubles of room temp vs. liquid state of butter.

Another reason that shorting produces a fluffier cookie is butter contains water. Shorting contains, well you don’t want to know, just know that there is no water. By containing no water, cookies with shortening are guaranteed to always stand a little taller than those made with butter.

Myth: All the alcohol in my chocolate stout cake will bake out in the oven

Answer: Eat the whole cake and you might start to get a buzz, or diabetes.

It is believed that alcohol will bake out because it has a lower boiling point than water does, but that does not mean that all of the alcohol will bake out. There can still be up to 50% of the alcohol remaining. You would have to bake a cake for over three hours to get the cake down to 5% alcohol.

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I majored in psychology in college, but I’m about to go all science on you. Alcohol can bind with both fat and water molecules. Binding to the fat molecules gives the food the flavor of the alcohol, while binding with the water makes it almost impossible to get rid of.  When water and alcohol bind they form an azeotrope, and when you boil or bake this mixture the ratio of the alcohol will always stay the same. Unless you boil out all of the liquid, but no one like a dry cake.

Myth: Baking soda and Baking Powder can live forever with the cockroaches.

Answer: While baking soda can be passed down from generation to generation, baking soda only has a shelf life of about a year (which makes me think I should restock the one in my baking supply shelf).

While baking soda is sodium bicarbonate which means when it is introduced to liquid and an acidy ingredient it bubbles which make your cakes rise. While baking powder contains sodium bicarbonate it also contains an acidifying agent and a drying agent. When baking power is added to dough it is activated by the heat of the oven.

So how do you test if your baking powder is ready to erupt? Since it is activated by heat and liquid add 1 teaspoon of baking powder to hot water. If it bubbles, it’s still fresh, If not (like I fear mine will do),  time to run to the store.

Myth: Salted Butter doesn’t spoil when it is not refrigerated

Answer: disgustingly true.

I have an aunt who doesn’t refrigerate her butter and it always look like something I just sweated out and congealed. Needless to say unrefrigerated butter grosses me out.

The reason that salted butter does not spoil is the salt. It contains so much salt that it inhibits the growth of bacteria. However unsalted butter, which I prefer, will spoil in about a week if left out to fend for itself.

Just to be safe, please, always put the butter away.

Myth: Why something is baking in the oven, opening the oven will ruin it.

Answer: Depends on what you are baking, but no for the most part

Mom this one is for you. When making cupcakes, no opening the oven will not cause them to not rise, however if you are making a soufflé I promise I will not open the door. Delicate things such as a soufflé are harder to preserve and they could flop if the door is open.

Myth: Putting a slice of bread in a sealed container with your cookies will keep them soft.

Answer: She was right.

It kills me to say this. Yes Amber you are right. Putting a slice of bread in with your cookie will make them soft. BUT WHY, WHYYYYYYY?!?!?!

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Cookies contain sugar, more sugar than breads with yeast. The sugars in these cookies are “hygroscopic” which in English means that they draw water out of the air into the sugar structure. Bread (white, wheat or rye) are not hygroscopic and evaporates its water into the air.  When a bread and cookie meet in the same environment the cookie starts taking water from the air, and the bread starts giving water to the air. So the Cookie gets soft and the bread gets hard.

Bitch.

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                Ninety

                Ninety degrees and sunny, I love it. The sun slowly turning skin to leather, I love it. Sweat dripping from my body, I love it. Yes I am one of them, I am a summer worshiper. While most people morph into lobsters, and crawl around grouching about how burnt and hot they are, I tend to jump around embracing my inner firecracker.

                Growing up in Jersey the summer always consisted of my mom complaining about the 108% humility and redoing her flat lifeless hair into perfect curls at least three times a day. My father, on the other hand, is where my approach to the summer came from. My father, if not at work, would spend the day bear footed in the garden or catching leathery skin on the boats all day.

                One thing my family could always agree on was the fresh pick of summer. During summer our garden turned into Wonderland, and walking out the backdoor was falling down the rabbit hole. Colors glistened in the sunlight and water droplets, living illusions of rainbows lay hidden under every petal. There were rows upon rows of bushy carrot tops, hundreds of long green slender string beans, cucumbers whose vines reached across the earth, like a cat waking up from an afternoon nap. The zucchini as long, and heavy, as metal baseball bats and the tomatoes the size of softballs to complete the game. 

                The things that came out of these marvels could make even the pickiest person love their veggies. Homemade tomato sauces and pizza sauces, glazed carrots, Italian string beans in a red tomato sauce, and of course zucchini bread.

                The breads of summer were always my favorite. Zucchini bread was the most popular in my household do to the sheer quantity o f Zucchini we had growing in the garden. My mother had a recipe for everything. But this zucchini bread was unlike anything I have ever had in my life. Somehow the outside of this bread was crunchy, while the inside moist and light. While the zucchini flavor could be tasted, you could also taste the sweet labors of summer. I have yet to get my fingers on this aged recipe card, but one day, one day it shall be mine… until then…

                My second favorite summer bread that my mom would make was banana bread. The only reason we would have banana bread was if I did not eat the bananas my mom bought at the farmers market that week, and if that happened it ended in a shouting match, rather than a bread baking festival like I had hoped. I was often more scared of banana bread than happy to see it because if often reflected the agony and lecture that I had to go through.

                As the years wore on I have come to love banana bread and have even tried to adapt a crispy outside similar to that of the zucchini bread.   Today I had no sugar, but many bananas that needed to be put out of their misery. Instead of white sugar I used brown giving this bread a bit of a sweeter taste.  I made chocolate chip banana bread, as well as chocolate chip peanut butter. These breads had a crunchy top a slight banana taste and a very sweet base. By far this banana bread takes the cake 100% in my book!

Mini Chocolate Chip Banana Bread

Ingredients:

3/4 Cup Brown Sugar

1/2 Cup unsalted butter, at room temp.

2 Eggs

1 Cup, or 2 medium bananas mashed

1/2 Teaspoon vanilla

1 ½ All-purpose flour

1/2 Teaspoon baking soda

1/2 Teaspoon salt

1 Cup semi-sweet chocolate chips

1 Cup peanut butter chips (optional)

Directions:

  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit
  2. Preheat a mini loaf pan. If you don’t have one you can use a standard loaf pan or you could buy one here.
  3. With a stand mixer combine sugar and butter in bowl at medium speed, until creamy.
  4. Add eggs and continue beating, scrape down side of bowl as needed.
  5. At low speed beat in bananas and vanilla.
  6. Beat in the rest of the ingredients at low speed.
  7. Stir in the chocolate chips and the optional peanut butter chips
  8. Spoon batter into prepared pans. Bake 35-40 minutes or until toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean.
  9. Let stand for 5 minutes before removing from pans.
  10. Scarf all down while warm, because let’s face it that is when they are the best.
  11. I mean, wrap each one individually in plastic wrap. Store in a cool place, preferably the refrigerator. 

Unpopular opinion: I love the sweat!!!! (Chocolate Chip Banana Bread)

 

                Ninety degrees and sunny, I love it. The sun slowly turning skin to leather, I love it. Sweat dripping from my body, I love it. Yes I am one of them, I am a summer worshiper. While most people morph into lobsters, and crawl around grouching about how burnt and hot they are, I tend to jump around embracing my inner firecracker.

                Growing up in Jersey the summer always consisted of my mom complaining about the 108% humility and redoing her flat lifeless hair into perfect curls at least three times a day. My father, on the other hand, is where my approach to the summer came from. My father, if not at work, would spend the day bear footed in the garden or catching leathery skin on the boats all day.

                One thing my family could always agree on was the fresh pick of summer. During summer our garden turned into Wonderland, and walking out the backdoor was falling down the rabbit hole. Colors glistened in the sunlight and water droplets, living illusions of rainbows lay hidden under every petal. There were rows upon rows of bushy carrot tops, hundreds of long green slender string beans, cucumbers whose vines reached across the earth, like a cat waking up from an afternoon nap. The zucchini as long, and heavy, as metal baseball bats and the tomatoes the size of softballs to complete the game. 

                The things that came out of these marvels could make even the pickiest person love their veggies. Homemade tomato sauces and pizza sauces, glazed carrots, Italian string beans in a red tomato sauce, and of course zucchini bread.

                The breads of summer were always my favorite. Zucchini bread was the most popular in my household do to the sheer quantity o f Zucchini we had growing in the garden. My mother had a recipe for everything. But this zucchini bread was unlike anything I have ever had in my life. Somehow the outside of this bread was crunchy, while the inside moist and light. While the zucchini flavor could be tasted, you could also taste the sweet labors of summer. I have yet to get my fingers on this aged recipe card, but one day, one day it shall be mine… until then…

                My second favorite summer bread that my mom would make was banana bread. The only reason we would have banana bread was if I did not eat the bananas my mom bought at the farmers market that week, and if that happened it ended in a shouting match, rather than a bread baking festival like I had hoped. I was often more scared of banana bread than happy to see it because if often reflected the agony and lecture that I had to go through.

                As the years wore on I have come to love banana bread and have even tried to adapt a crispy outside similar to that of the zucchini bread.   Today I had no sugar, but many bananas that needed to be put out of their misery. Instead of white sugar I used brown giving this bread a bit of a sweeter taste.  I made chocolate chip banana bread, as well as chocolate chip peanut butter. These breads had a crunchy top a slight banana taste and a very sweet base. By far this banana bread takes the cake 100% in my book!

Mini Chocolate Chip Banana Bread

Ingredients:

3/4 Cup Brown Sugar

1/2 Cup unsalted butter, at room temp.

2 Eggs

1 Cup, or 2 medium bananas mashed

1/2 Teaspoon vanilla

1 ½ All-purpose flour

1/2 Teaspoon baking soda

1/2 Teaspoon salt

1 Cup semi-sweet chocolate chips

1 Cup peanut butter chips (optional)

Directions:

  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit
  2. Preheat a mini loaf pan. If you don’t have one you can use a standard loaf pan or you could buy one here. If using a regular loaf pan adjust the cook time to one hour. 
  3. With a stand mixer combine sugar and butter in bowl at medium speed, until creamy.
  4. Add eggs and continue beating, scrape down side of bowl as needed.
  5. At low speed beat in bananas and vanilla.
  6. Beat in the rest of the ingredients at low speed.
  7. Stir in the chocolate chips and the optional peanut butter chips
  8. Spoon batter into prepared pans. Bake 35-40 minutes or until toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean.
  9. Let stand for 5 minutes before removing from pans.
  10. Scarf all down while warm, because let’s face it that is when they are the best.
  11. I mean, wrap each one individually in plastic wrap. Store in a cool place, preferably the refrigerator.