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The Scone Epiphany!

27 Feb

 

Over the past few weeks, i have been experimenting with different scone flavors for the local coffee shop for which I provide.  I started with Orange Cranberry and when those began to fly out the door… the demand caused the manager and I to brainstorm about what other flavors customers would like.

I gave her about six to seven options for the next endeavor and she chose Lemon Poppyseed and Ham & Cheddar- another sweet flavor and a savory one that we thought may appeal to the afternoon crowd.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Now, I have been making these scones (mainly the orange cranberry ones) for months!!  My roommate and friends have heard me talk about making them, etc…. yet for some reason, no desire to try them or see what the whole scone things was about occurred to anyone…. Until!

 

me: “Roommate, try this Lemon Poppyseed scone to see if there is enough lemon flavor”

roommate: “ok”.  She takes a bite.

me: “What do you think?”

roommate: “Oh my goodness!  This is great! I never knew scones were this yummy!”

 

And this is when the Scone Epiphany took place…

 

From that day on, word has spread.  I have had friends go to the local coffee shop to buy scones for breakfast.  I have had my roommate offer to pay for a scone that i technically bake in our shared kitchen!  I have even had friends ask for a sign up sheet at our weekly dinner to put in an order for them for the next week!

This is a fun epiphany for a couple reasons….

  1. Scones are indeed delicious! They are somewhere between a biscuit and a muffin…. holding the same creative flavor possibilities as muffins, yet with the not so delicate nature.
  2. Because my friends do get so excited about such things… It has become a great conductor of business for this coffee shop… and thus, jennycakes!  We are selling out of scones a couple times a week now!

 

So, jennycakes fans…. if you have not tried a scone in a while (or ever!)…. Now is the time!!!  Either whip up a batch in your own kitchen or go out to a local bakery and savor one with a hot cup of joe!

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Scrape, Scrape, Scrape… and then Scrape again!

22 Oct

Scrape, Scrape, Scrape… and then Scrape again!!!

       Have you ever mixed up a batch of cookies or cupcakes or brownies in the mixer?  You carefully follow the instructions… All the ingredients were measured out precisely… You carefully add everything, in order, mix everything for the exact amount of time the recipe says…. and THEN you begin to divide the batter either into mounds on a cookie sheet or into cupcake liners… and as you near the bottom of the mixing bowl, you find half the ingredients just sitting there!  Not mixed into the rest of the batter!!  You think to yourself, “What did I do wrong?”

Well, the most omitted step (in my humble opinion) in a recipe is the simple act of scraping.  In my very first class in culinary school, Baking Foundations, one of the steps that was repeated over and over… and over again, was scraping!  We would present our finished products to the chef instructor, knowing that every flaw was about to be pointed out:  “See those streaks of raw flour in your poundcake? You didn’t scrape enough!”  “Do you notice how crumbly your texture is, when it should be uniform and spongy?  You didn’t scrape enough!”  So I learned very early on, that taking the time to scrape down that mixing bowl is of utmost importance!!

Here is an example of how I wish most recipes were written… and then below I will give a better definition of what scraping should look like.

1.  Cream butter and sugar until light and fluffly

2.  Turn off mixer, remove bowl and attachment and SCRAPE down both into center of the bowl.  Reattach all.

3.  On low speed, add each egg until fully incorporated. Add vanilla.

4.  Turn off mixer, remove bowl and attachment and SCRAPE down both into center of the bowl.  Also, be sure to turn up the batter from the bottom of the bowl. Reattach all.

5.  Add sifted (remember last blog?) dry ingredients, mix until just incorporated.

6.  Turn off mixer, remove bowl and attachment and SCRAPE down both into center of the bowl.  Also, be sure to turn up the batter from the bottom of the bowl. Reattach all.

7.  Mix again, for only 30 seconds until batter is smooth and homogenous.

Yes, the process went from four steps to seven, but I promise that the results will never fail you!  

Below are pics of before and after scraping.

Scraping is simply using a rubber spatula or bowl scraper (my personal choice) and making sure that all the batter that has

come up on the sides of the bowl, the batter that is clinging to the attachment and the batter that settles in the bottom of the bowl, get re-centered, if you will.  Rarely does that attchement- be it a paddle, whisk or dough hook- ever really reach the bottom of the mixing bowl.  This means that whatever settles down there, will never be mixed in with the rest of the ingredients, unless it is given a little manuel help!

To Sift or Not to Sift

30 Sep

To Sift or Not to Sift….

It is the age old question (among other more important age old question, such as: What’s the meaning of life?) When a recipe says to sift the dry ingredients, the question that always goes through my mind is: Do I have to?  And when I ask this, I do it in a whiney voice because it means one more step, one more thing I’m going to have to wash!  Usually I am not spending a leisurely Saturday baking and have time to do everything “the right way”.  I am usually whipping something up the night before… or one hour before, fitting in baking a cake or batch of cupcakes into an already crazy busy schedule.  Clearly adding the butter can’t be omitted, but for me, sifting is the first to go.  Yes, my cupcakes still turn out tasty and beautiful, but are they the tastiest and most flavorful they could have possibly been?

 So, what is the big deal with sifting anyway?

Well, its about quality.  More specifically, quality of your finished product.  When professionals look at their final product, whether it be bread, pound cake or cupcakes, they typically cut it in half and break it apart (yes, just like communion) to examine the crumb.

Crumb is a term referring to the interior texture, gluten network, tenderness, and general feel of a bread.  Desirable crumb size and texture varies depending on the product. (taken from website: http://www.thefreshloaf.com)

With some breads, sifting may not be as important because the dough is mixed so much that all the ingredients are worked together well.  Raw bread dough is smooth and elastic and no one ingredient is visible.  In other breads, such as focaccia and ciabatta, the crumb is fully of large gaps that air bubbles have formed when baking.  For these breads, this is a good thing.

 Cakes are a different story.  Over mixing cake batter, to be extreme, is detrimental!!  Without getting too scientific: over mixing = a tough cake.  Nobody wants a tough cake!  The most pleasing cake is one that is fluffy and light.  So, how do you get a light airy cake, but make sure that everything gets mixed in well enough?  In essence, how do you prevent over mixing?

Now get ready…. I am about to reveal why sifting matters.

Imagine biting into a gorgeous cupcake and there is a big clump of raw flour or cocoa powder.  Trust me, it is not a nice experience.  Flour does not naturally “cook out”.  Unless it is worked in with a liquid (butter/oil, sugar, egg mixture), it will remain raw.  Same with cocoa powder, baking soda, baking powder and spices!

So here are two main reasons to sift:

  1. It takes lumps out of ingredients mentioned above. Once  you have sifted the ingredients, anything left in the sieve should be thrown way.
  2. It homogenizes the ingredients to insure even distribution throughout the batter. (which means no mouth full of raw flour!)

Will forgoing sifting ruin your dessert?  Nope, not at all (in most cases).  But will taking the time to quickly sift those dry ingredients benefit your dessert? Absolutely.

So, the moral of the story is (or blog as it is):  If you have the time, take the time.  Sifting is a wonderful technique to enhance the texture of your cakes.

Cakes for a Cause….

5 Sep

Cakes for a Cause… this phrase has been rolling around in my head since Christmas time of last year.  I had worked in previous years as a professional pastry chef, yet more recently than that I had returned from a year traveling the world.  I didn’t travel as most do, hopping from resort to resort, sight seeing in the biggest cities. I lived in the slums of the least desirable towns and cities in countries on four different continents. I saw too many needs to comprehend.  And then i returned to America… back to my “real” life.

So there I was, just over a year later, thinking about possibly getting back into the dessert world, yet knowing I couldn’t ignore what I had seen.  That’s when “cakes for a cause” rang through my ears.  Why not use the skills I already had to meet the needs of those impoverished and neglected all over the world?!  There are so many organizations truly making a difference… Why not support them through the making and selling of my baked goods?!

That’s what jennycakes is all about!  It’s using my passion to help fund projects that are actually bringing hope and change.  My goal is that one day soon, jennycakes will partner with a different organization every 3-6 months and donate proceeds from sales to projects currently in progress.  I cannot wait to see how these partnerships turn into testimonies and stories of how even something as small as a cupcake can make a difference.