Know Your Ingredients – Sweet Potatoes
What has as much fiber as a bowl of oatmeal, almost twice the Vitamin A of carrots, more potassium than a banana, and is a good source of Vitamin B6 and Manganese? The sweet potato! Surprised?
The sweet potato is one of the healthiest foods in the Southern diet, achieving super food status for its powerful antioxidants and carotenoids that protect the body against cancer, heart disease and boosts the immune system.
One large sweet potato has approximately 162 calories, compared to 278 for a regular baked potato. It is naturally low in sodium and fat.
Of course, the problem is that most sweet potato recipes tend to drown them in butter and sugar. But this no longer needs to be true. Sweet potatoes are gaining attention of chefs and home cooks for their delicious flavors and outstanding nutrition.
How to Use Sweet Potatoes
Healthy Baked Sweet Potatoes
Baking or microwaving is one of the easiest ways to use sweet potatoes. Simply cook them the same way you would an Idaho potato. When it comes time to dress them, get a little creative. Instead of butter, try topping them with a sprinkle of cinnamon and top with a spoon full of pineapple tidbits. This is a healthy way to enjoy the flavors of sweet potato casserole, without the fat and sugar.
To Bake Sweet Potatoes:
Wrap each potato in foil and place in a 400 degree oven for 1 hour. Remove from the oven and slit open. Stuff as desired.
To Microwave Sweet Potatoes:
Wash the outside of each potato and prick the skin in several places with a fork. This will allow the steam to escape without rupturing the skin. Place on a microwave safe plate and microwave on high for 8 minutes. Press the potato, it will yield easily when done. If it is still hard, microwave for 2 more minutes or until done. Cooking times vary with the size of the potato and the power of the microwave.
Sweet potatoes are now listed as a super food. These southern favorites are high in fiber, vitamins A, B6 and C, potassium, manganese and complex carbohydrates. The extra fiber means that they don’t affect your blood sugar the way that white potatoes do. (Assuming, of course, that you aren’t loading them up with sugar.) Try these baked sweet potato fries with salt and pepper or be adventurous and try them with garlic powder, cinnamon, or your favorite seasoning mix. Sprinkle the seasoning on the pan to prevent the fries from sticking. While the amount listed may seem like a lot, a good bit of it will be left behind on the pan.
Crispy Baked Sweet Potato Fries Recipe
4 Sweet potatoes, cut into wedges
2 Tablespoons olive oil or canola oil
1 Tablespoon kosher salt
1 Tablespoon crushed black pepper
Large sheet pan
Oven, preheated to 425 degrees F.
Preheat the oven to 425 degrees F. Spread the salt and pepper over the sheet pan.
Toss the sweet potato wedges in the olive oil to coat.
Spread the sweet potatoes in a single layer on the baking sheet. Turn them once so that a little of the seasoning sticks to all sides. The majority of the salt and pepper should remain on the pan, creating a barrier to sticking.
Bake the sweet potatoes for 40 minutes, turning the fries halfway through the cooking time. The fries are done when they are brown and crispy on the outside and soft in the center. Large wedges may take longer.
When I was a child, my grandmother would always make my favorite dessert when we came to visit. By the way, she made EVERY grandchild’s favorite. Her chest freezer sat in her dining room, and when we arrived it would be covered by a tablecloth, displaying an assortment of desserts that boggled the mind. Every grandchild would find their favorite among the offerings, accompanied by her pound cake and a few others for the adults. She must have baked all week prior to our arrival.
I always requested Banana Pudding. She would make a large pan of Banana Pudding crowned with meringue. To this day, I cannot see a bunch of bananas without thinking of her banana pudding. When bananas were scarce or too expensive, she would use drained canned pineapple (crushed). That was excellent, also.
I admit that I am a lazy cook. Usually I will leave off the meringue. But you should try it this way- it is worth it.
Banana Pudding Recipe
2 Tablespoons self-rising flour
2/3 cup sugar
1/8 teaspoon salt
2 eggs, separated
2 cups milk
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
12 ounce package vanilla wafers- a good quality wafer
3 large bananas
2 tablespoons sugar
1. Preheat the oven to 400 degrees.
2. Place flour, sugar and salt into a heavy saucepan, stir well and set aside.
3. Beat the egg yolks in a large mixing bowl at high speed of an electric mixer until foamy, add milk, mix well.
4. Stir the egg yolk mixture into the flour mixture and cook over MEDIUM heat, stirring constantly until thick and smooth.
5. Remove from heat and stir in vanilla.
6. Layer the vanilla wafers alternately with the bananas in a 1 ½ quart baking dish, beginning with wafers. Put down 1 layer of wafers, then a single layer of bananas, more wafers, more bananas, so on until all the wafers and bananas are used.
7. Pour custard over the top of all so that all the bananas and wafers are covered. You want the pudding to run down between the cookies and cover all. Usually I will shift them around slightly with a knife to allow the custard to run down into all.
8. Beat the egg whites at high speed of electric mixer for 1 minute. Then gradually add 2 tablespoons sugar, a little at a time, beating constantly until stiff peaks form and sugar is dissolved. This may take 2-5 minutes. Peaks should be stiff enough to hold their own when the beaters are lifted.
9. Spread meringue over pudding, pushing it all the way to the edge of the casserole dish to seal.
10. Bake at 400 degrees for 6 to 8 minutes until the meringue is golden brown.
NOTES: Some cooks add the pudding between the layers: 1 layer cookies, l layer banana, 1 layer pudding. I usually layer the cookies and bananas first then make the meringue, then the pudding, this way it is poured over the cookies while hot. The pudding will thicken as it cools.
Safety Note on Meringue: Since meringue is not thoroughly cooked there is a chance of salmonella using raw egg whites. Instead, use pasturized eggs or powdered egg whites (reconstituted) to make your meringue.
IMPORTANT NOTE ON MERINGUE: The egg whites must be beat with an absolutely clean and grease free beater and bowl. Don’t use a plastic bowl as they tend to harbor a layer of grease that never comes out. You have to clean the beaters thoroughly after the pudding is made, before making the meringue.
Note on making the pudding: You tend to get tired of stirring the pudding, and want to increase the heat to high. Don’t! If you get impatient and increase the heat, you risk burning the pudding.
Easy Cookie Recipes – One Recipe with Many Variations
By Karen Ciancio
There are so many cookie recipes around but often so little time to bake during the busy holiday season.
The solution? A great tasting basic cookie recipe that quickly and easily turns into such a variety of easy to make Christmas treats, friends and family will think you poured over all your favorite Christmas cookie recipes.
Let’s start with the basics.
Basic Cookie Dough Recipe
1/2 cup (or 1 stick) butter (or margarine) at room temperature
1/2 cup brown sugar, lightly packed
2 tablespoons sugar
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1 large egg
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
In a large bowl, combine all the ingredients except the flour. Beat with an electric mixer, scraping the sides of the bowl several times, until the mixture is light and fluffy. With mixer at a low speed, add the flour gradually, beating just until everything is well blended.
Place the mixture on a baking sheet using a tablespoon measure and press down with a spoon to flatten a bit. Or roll our and cut into shapes with a cookie cutter. Bake at 350ºF for about 12 to 15 minutes, until golden.
This basic cookie mixture is also the base for the following cookie recipes (all baked in a preheated oven at 350ºF).
(Makes about 32)
Add 1 tablespoon of grated orange zest to the recipe. Shape into a log that is about 1 1/2″ in diameter and refrigerate for 4 hours.
Slice dough into 1/4″ thick slices. Place on cookie sheet. Cookies can be decorated with candies, rolled in colored sugar, or cut into pretty holiday shapes before baking. Bake in preheated oven for 12-15 minutes, until lightly browned.
Cherry Coconut Chocolate Squares
(Makes about 54 squares)
In addition to the basic dough you will need:
1/4 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
3 large eggs
1 1/2 cups granulated sugar
1 teaspoon almond extract
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
3 cups flaked coconut
1/2 cup maraschino cherries, well drained and coarsely chopped
Line a 13″x9″ baking pan with foil.
Stir cocoa powder into basic dough mixture. Press evenly into the prepared pan. Bake for 10-15 minutes or until the crust looks dry.
In a medium bowl whisk together eggs, sugar, almond extract and baking powder until well blended. Stir in coconut and cherries. Pour over the baked crust.
Bake for 30-35 minutes, until top just begins to brown and a toothpick inserted near the center comes out clean. Cool in the pan on a wire rack. Lift it out on to a cutting board using the foil ends and cut into 1 1/2″ squares. Squares can be stored in an airtight container for up to 3 weeks.
Coconut Pineapple Cookies
(Makes about 36)
In addition to the basic dough you will need:
1 1/2 cups sweetened flaked coconut
1/3 cup pineapple preserves (use raspberry or apricot if you prefer)
Add 1 cup of the flaked coconut to the basic dough mixture and mix well. Shape the dough into 1 1/2″ balls and roll in the remaining coconut to coat them. Place the balls 1″ apart on lightly greased cookie sheets. Make a deep indentation in the center of each cookie with your fingertip.
Bake for 12-15 minutes until the cookie is firm and the coconut is lightly toasted. When cooled, fill each hole in the center of the cookies with the preserves.
You can vary this basic dough to make a wide variety of cookie recipes. Add other flavorings like maple, ginger or cinnamon. Add chopped dried fruits like apricots or dates. Or bake them plain in holiday shapes and decorate with colored icing.
Karen Ciancio is a cook and lover of all things food and cooking related. Her website http://www.cookingnook.com contains easy dessert recipes, plus lots of other recipes, cooking tips, measurement conversions and kitchen ideas.
by: Mimi Cummins
Many bakers ask for tips and instructions on decorating cookies. Well that’s a tall order because there are as many ways to decorate cookies as there are cookies! Here are a few guidelines for novices and experienced bakers alike to help you generate your own ideas for cooking decorating.
DECORATING COOKIES BEFORE BAKING
Cookies can be decorated before baking with materials that withstand the heat of baking. Some things that you can place on your cookies before baking are:
- colored sugars or natural sugars such as pearl sugar
- jimmies, non-pareils, silver and gold drag, and other sprinkles
- raisins and dried fruits such as cranberries
These items can be placed on top of almost any cookie to dress it up a bit and give it a more festive appearance.
Paint a Masterpiece
You can also paint your cookies before baking them. Make an edible food paint out of an egg yolk mixed with a few drops of food coloring and paint the cookies with a clean paintbrush. The paint will dry while baking and give the cookie a colorful, glazed appearance. This is a fun activity for kids!
A bit of Trompe L’oeil
The folks at Better Homes and Gardens have a creative recipe for Colored Cream Dough which is a dough of frosting consistency that can be piped onto cookies with a pastry bag fitted with a writing or star tip, and then baked. The result is a cookie that looks like it has been frosted but the frosting is baked on and hard.
DECORATING COOKIES AFTER BAKING
Decorating cookies after baking them requires that you apply some kind of liquid-based substance that will adhere to the baked cookie, or that will act as a glue to attach other items. Usually, this takes the form of frosting, icing, or melted chocolate.
Frosting vs. Icing
There is a big difference between frosting and icing. Frosting is thick and holds shapes like rosettes and shells like those you see piped around the edges of a birthday cake. It remains soft to the touch and has a creamy texture, and most people think it tastes better because of the creamy buttery flavor.
Icing, on the other hand, is a thinner, more liquid substance, and as it dries it thins out, becomes very smooth across the surface of your cookie, and hardens. This is the icing to use for the most beautiful, professional results.
Working with Frosting
You can use frosting in two ways. One way is to simply use a knife or rubber spatula to spread the frosting across the whole surface of your cookie. The other way is to place the frosting in a pastry or decorating bag fitted with a small tip and piping out thin lines or rosettes of icing onto the cookie.
Either way, once the frosting has been applied to the cookie you can then further embellish it by using colored sugars, non-pareils, or any of the decorating items mentioned in the Decorating Before Baking section above. Christmas-Cookies.com has a delicious recipe for Buttercream Frosting at http://www.christmas-cookies.com/recipes/recipe.php?recid=306. See detailed instructions on piping frosting from Better Homes and Gardens.
Working with Icing
Icing is a little more difficult to work with but its smooth surface produces the most beautiful results! Icing should always be piped onto a cookie because it will run off the edges if spread with a knife. Once iced you can apply silver drag饳, or other sprinkles just as mentioned with the frosting above, before it hardens. Christmas-Cookies.com has an excellent recipe for Royal Icing at http://www.christmas-cookies.com/recipes/recipe.php?recid=42. Better Homes and Gardens also a recipe for Powdered Sugar Icing ( http://www.christmas-cookies.com/recipes/recipe.php?recid=288 ) that dries less hard than Royal Icing and has a shiny surface. Martha Stewart’s website features an excellent article on how to pipe icing onto cookies for professional-looking results.
Just about any cookie can be embellished simply by dipping it in chocolate or drizzling chocolate over it. You can even dress up the everyday chocolate chip cookie for gift-giving or serving at parties. Melting chocolate is a simple process, but a few rules must be followed in order to make it a success. For Easter, try using white chocolate tinted in pastel shades with food coloring. Use the gel, paste or powdered kind of food color, because the liquid drops may make the chocolate seize up.
What You Need
You can either use chocolate chips or baking chocolate (the kind that comes in 1-ounce squares) and the same process applies whether you use dark chocolate or white chocolate. A small amount of shortening should be added at the ratio of 2 tablespoons shortening for 1 cup of chocolate chips or chopped up baking chocolate.
Place chocolate and shortening in the top half of a double boiler or in a metal bowl that has been placed on top of a saucepan filled with hot water. The water must be very hot, but not boiling, because the steam generated by boiling water could get moisture into the melting chocolate which makes it curdle.
Allow the chocolate to melt over the hot water and stir it occasionally until it has achieved a liquid consistency.
Place your chocolate and shortening in a microwave safe bowl and microwave it on medium power for 1 minute. Stir. Continue microwaving 20 seconds, stir again. Keep doing this until the chocolate is almost melted. Remove it from the microwave and stir it until completely melted.
Dip one end of your cookie, or half the cookie, or even the whole cookie into the melted chocolate. Set the cookie on a wire rack to let the chocolate harden. If you wish, you can sprinkle chopped nuts, coconut, or non-pareils over the melted chocolate before it hardens.
Scrape melted chocolate into a ziplock baggie. With a sharp scissors, snip off a very small corner of the baggie. Drizzle top of cookies with zig-zags of melted chocolate. Cool until chocolate is set.
Using these simple techniques will help you produce a variety of beautiful-looking cookies at Christmastime and throughout the year.
Copyright 2004 Mimi Cummins. All Rights Reserved.
About The Author
Mimi Cummins is co-author of the book “Christmas Cookies Are for Giving: Recipes, Stories, and Tips for Making Heartwarming Gifts.” This book, “enthusiastically recommended” by Midwest Book Review, is full of baking tips and hints, including nearly 50 recipes each with a full-color photo. For more information visit http://www.christmascookiesareforgiving.com/ or order here.
Never Burn The Bottoms of Your Cookies Again!
by Monica Brooks
If you are like me, you love to bake cookies, but hate the all-too-familiar problem of burning the bottoms. During the past couple of years, I have discovered some techniques that have ended my burnt cookie bottoms frustrations. I know these techniques will work for you as well. Happy baking!
The first step on how not to burn cookies is to make sure your oven temperature is accurate by checking it with an oven thermometer. I bought one recently at a discount store for under $4.00. If your oven thermometer does not match your oven temperature setting, you will want to have your oven calibrated.
Oven’s Center Rack
Bake cookies on the oven’s center rack only. By using the oven’s center rack, your cookies will receive the same amount of heat on both sides of the cookies.
Baking or Pizza Stones
Bake cookies on flat baking or pizza stones. Baking stones are available at most specialty kitchen stores or online. They are much better for baking cookies than any metal pan because they are porous and allow air to circulate evenly through your cookies while they are baking.
I recommend using scoops instead of spoons or your hands for placing cookie dough onto the baking stones. These are also available at most specialty kitchen stores or online. The scoops ensure your cookies will be the same size and will be beautifully round when they are baked. They also make releasing the cookie dough onto the baking stones easier than using spoons or your hands.
Always use parchment paper when baking cookies. Using parchment paper keeps your baking stones clean for easier clean-up. More importantly, it allows you to easily remove the cookies from the stone to the wire cooling racks without messing up the beautiful round shape of the cookies. Once the cookies are completely cooled, they easily peel from the parchment paper. No more scraping cookies!
About the Author
Monica Brooks is a full-time Mom and cookie connoisseur. She is the author of The Guaranteed No Burnt Bottoms Cookies Cookbook available at www.NoBurntBottoms.com. She lives in the Louisville, Kentucky area with her husband and two children.
Cookie Baking Tips
by: Michael Paetzold
Making better cookies is a lot easier if you understand the difference between the average commercial bakery and the home kitchen. These tips will allow you to make better cookies at home whether it be for a special party or your annual Christmas cookie baking session.
There are 4 major things that are done commercially that are overlooked by the average home baker.
Number 1 is that the average home baker does not have a stone oven. Most commercial bakeries have stone shelves and that disperses the heat to the pan in a much more even manner. Obviously, buying a commercial oven for this alone is not feasible for most of us. (I have considered putting a commercial pizza oven in my laundry room but my better half vetoed that idea 🙁 . Thus I settled for going out and buying an oven stone for our regular electric oven. This serves the same purpose with no loss of space in our laundry room and at a huge savings versus the price of a commercial pizza oven (even the used one I wanted).
The second thing is the thickness and quality of the cookie sheet. The average commercial facility uses a sheet pan or half sheet pan which is probably 2 to 3 times as heavy as the ones used by the average home baker. This like the oven stone disperses the heat much better and makes it much easier for the cookies to bake evenly. I definitely recommend checking out your local restaurant supply house to get some half sheet pans which will definitely be better than the cookie sheet available at your local supermarket or Walmart.
The third item I use when baking cookies is parchment paper. It is much easier to remove the cookies from the paper, your tray doesn’t get all cruddy and need to be cleaned between batches and you will have much less burning on the edges.
The fourth thing the average home baker misses is portion control. I have a variety of ice cream type scoops that I use for portion control. This allows each cookie to be the same size and allows them to all bake consistently. When I used a spoon, I always ended up with a variety of sizes and the cooking was never quite even.
Hope these tips allow you to make better cookies in your house. I know using these tips has improved mine.
About The Author
Michael Paetzold is the owner of I Love Desserts (http://i-love-desserts.com) your source for all things about desserts.
Muffins and quick breads are really the same bread baked in different pans. The secret to making a good muffin or quick bread is in the mixing. The batter should be stirred (never beaten) only until the dry ingredients are thoroughly incorporated. The mixture will be rough and lumpy, but this is ok. The remaining lumps will dissipate during baking. If the batter is over-stirred or beaten, the muffins will be small with peaked tops. They may have tunnels running through them with a tough, rubbery texture. The texture and flavor both will suffer from improper mixing.
The batter should be placed in the greased pan and baked immediately after mixing. Allowing the batter to stand will result in a loss of leavening and an inferior muffin. If it is necessary to hold the muffins before baking, place them in the refrigerator for up to 20 minutes.
There are two different methods used to make muffins and quick breads: the muffin method and the cake method. The muffin method is easier and produces a coarser, open texture. The cake method produces a finer, more cake like texture. The cake method is normally used for richer muffins containing a larger proportion of sugar and shortening. The two methods follow.
The Muffin Method: Sift the flour, baking powder, salt and sugar together. Combine the egg, milk, and melted shortening. Pour the flour mixture into the wet ingredients and stir just enough to moisten the dry ingredients.
The Cake Method: For a more cake-like texture cream the un-melted shortening with the sugar, beating until light and fluffy. Add the egg, beat well, then stir in the milk and other wet ingredients. Sift the dry ingredients together and add to the wet ingredients, stirring only until all are incorporated.
Orange Tea Muffins
A sweet muffin that uses the cake method to produce a fine textured cake like texture.
2 cups flour
3 teaspoons baking powder
¾ teaspoons salt
¼ cup shortening
¼ cup sugar
½ cup milk
2 Tablespoons grated orange zest
½ cup orange juice
Pre-heat the oven to 400 degrees. Grease muffin pans. (Makes 12 – 15 muffins.)
Sift together the flour, baking powder and salt.
Cream shortening, add sugar gradually, beating until light and fluffy.
Add egg and beat well. Stir in milk, orange juice, and zest.
Add the flour mixture, stirring just enough to moisten the dry ingredients. Do not beat.
Fill muffin Tins 2/3 full. Bake at 400 degrees for 20 to 25 minutes.
Cheese Surprise Muffins
This muffin is a savory muffin that uses the muffin method, combining wet and dry ingredients in one easy step. Do not beat.
¾ cup flour
2 ½ teaspoons baking powder
½ teaspoon salt
1 Tablespoon sugar
½ cup yellow cornmeal
1 cup grated American cheese
½ tablespoon finely chopped green pepper
¾ cup milk
2 tablespoons melted shortening
½ teaspoon grated onion
Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Grease the muffin pans. (Makes 8 medium sized muffins.)
Sift flour, baking powder, salt and sugar. Add the corn meal, cheese and green pepper and mix well.
Combine egg, milk, melted shortening and onion.
Pour the wet mixture into the flour mixture and stir just enough to moisten the dry ingredients. Do not beat.
Fill greased muffin pans 2/3 full. Bake at 400 degrees for 20 to 25 minutes.
Molten Chocolate Cake (serves 6)
Powder sugar for dusting
4 large egg yolks
4 large whole eggs
1/2 cup sugar
1/2 lb. high-quality, bittersweet chocolate, chopped
1 tbsp plus 1 tsp cake flour (plus more for dusting)
2 sticks unsalted butter
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Using vegetable spray, grease (6) 6-ounce ramekins and dust with cake flour.
In the top of a double boiler, melt the butter and chocolate. Remove from heat and whisk in sugar, whole eggs, and egg yolks. Whisk in the cake flour.
Evenly distribute the batter among the 6 ramekins, and bake for 10 minutes or until the sides of the cakes are set but the center still jiggles.
Let the cakes cool for 2-3 minutes, then run a thin knife around the sides and invert onto plates. Garnish with powder sugar and serve with either vanilla ice cream or a dollop of whipped cream.
This chocolate truffle cake is perfect for the holidays or a special occasion. It is a little more complicated to make, requiring a filling and a ganache coating, but the results are well worth the effort.
Chocolate Truffle Cake
* 1/4 cup unsalted butter
* 2 tablespoons unsweetened cocoa powder
* 1/4 cup packed light brown sugar
* 2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
* 3/4 cup finely chopped walnuts
* 1 large egg
* 2 teaspoons vanilla
* 1 1/2 cup walnuts
* 1/4 cup unsalted butter
* 1 cup packed light brown sugar
* 1/4 cup honey
* 1/4 cup heavy cream
* 1 teaspoon vanilla
* 1 teaspoon fresh lemon juice
* 1 1/4 cup heavy cream
* 1 pound fine-quality bittersweet (not unsweetened) or semisweet chocolate
Preheat oven to 350°F and butter a 9-inch springform pan.
Make base: In a small saucepan melt butter and stir in cocoa powder. Remove pan from heat and add brown sugar, stirring until dissolved. Stir in flour, walnuts, egg, and vanilla and spread batter evenly in spring form pan. Bake base in middle of oven 10 minutes, or just until firm, and transfer to a rack to cool, still in the spring form pan.
Make filling: Arrange walnuts in one layer on top of base. In a small heavy saucepan combine butter, brown sugar, and honey and cook over moderate heat, stirring occasionally, 8 to 10 minutes, or until a candy thermometer registers 280°F. Remove pan from heat and add cream, vanilla, and lemon juice, stirring until smooth. Cool mixture to room temperature and pour over walnuts, spreading evenly.
Make ganache: In a saucepan bring cream just to a boil. Finely chop chocolate. Put chocolate in a metal bowl and pour hot cream over it, stirring until smooth. Cool ganache to room temperature and beat with an electric mixer until it just holds soft peaks (do not over beat or it will become grainy).
Spread ganache evenly over filling. Chill cake, covered, at least 4 hours and up to 1 day.
Run a thin knife around edge of cake and remove side of pan. With a large spatula transfer cake to a plate and let stand at room temperature 30 minutes before serving.