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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Cheaters Coffee Cake

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The Journey of the Crumb Cake

                I was never one for cheating, but I like to win. Family monopoly games turned into battles to the death, unless I was the dealer. If I was the dealer, it was always a landslide victory in one direction. I’m not saying I cheated; I just helped out my cause a little.

                Cheating in sports is another thing, I never cheated, but cheaters always made the game more interesting. There was always that one team at the softball field that counted too many runs, or sent someone up to bat to early. This was always resolved with at least one coach being ejected from the game, parents screaming obscenities, and at least one girl crying. It’s not a game unless someone cries.

In baking I can proudly say my cheating is minimal. I prefer homemade everything, to premade anything. Cookies in the bag don’t cut it, box cakes can suck it, and store bought can remain in the store. There is an adventure involved in cooking from scratch, a sense of accomplishments, and pride.

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Don’t cheat and use a stand mixer, DONT DO IT! Do what I say not what I do.

Today, I confess, I cheated. Today I made coffee cake and used (gulp) Bisquick. I could have made homemade Bisquick, but I’ll save that for another story. This was one of the easiest recipes I could have ever followed, and at 7:00am easy is what I need. I even accomplished this recipe without my morning cup of coffee.

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                Apparently, this Bisquick coffee cake is a classic. My mother commented how her mom used to make it, and on mother’s day, tradition is the only thing that mattered. The cake part is light and fluffy, sweet and moist, comparable to a slice of cloud from the heavens. The crumbs, if you are a coffee cake fiend, like myself, I recommend doubling or tripling the crumb topping. I doubled it, and still could have used a little more. But the small balls of sugar will forever satisfy my early morning sweet tooth.

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The crumbly finished product

Without further ado, here is my slice of early morning goodness. Remember, cheaters never win, but at first they do succeed.

Cheaters Coffee Cake:

Ingredients:

Cinnamon streusel

1/3 Cup Original Bisquick mix

1/3 Cup packed brown sugar

1/2 Teaspoon ground cinnamon

2 Tablespoons firm margarine

Coffee Cake:

2 Cups Original Bisquick mix

2/3 Cup milk

2 Tablespoons sugar

1 Egg

Directions:

  1. Heat oven to 375*F. Grease a 9 inch round pan.
  2. In a small bowl, stir streusel ingredients until crumbly. If you like big crumbs try using your hands. For smaller finer crumbs use a whisk.
  3. In a medium bowl, mix coffee cake ingredients until blended, then spread evenly in pan.
  4. Sprinkle the streusel on top of the cake batter.
  5. Bake 18 to 22 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the middle comes out clean.