biscuits next to cup of coffee
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Baking the Perfect Biscuit

Do you feel frustrated when your home-baked cookies/biscuits don’t turn out as you expect? Why are Cookies (called biscuits in Australia) sometimes too hard, too soft, way-too-spread-out, or hard enough to use as a cricket bat?

cooking anzac biscuits

My investigations into this blight on the Home Baker led me to conclude that baking is a science, and pastry cooks and chefs who are required to replicate the exact same foods with the exact same textures and tastes every single time, have my endless admiration. For the path to creating the perfect biscuit is laden with pitfalls, and endless variables that are bound to confuse, frustrate and annoy the most patient and placid of us.

Not only do you have to achieve consistency at technique, control the uncontrollable variations in oven temperature and heat distribution, you also have to conquer such variables as appropriate shelf height and heat setting in multi-functional ovens, incorrect weighing/measuring of ingredients, the endless debate on whether to fold or beat, cover or uncover the cooked item, and the list goes on.

Something as simple as using low-fat butter or milk can drastically alter results. Nevertheless, it is useful to consider why things may have gone wrong. http://www.sunset.com had some answers for me:

  • Low-fat butter or margarine spread, which has about 20% more water, used in place of regular butter or margarine is often the culprit. Low-fat products can’t be used interchangeably with regular fats for baking without recipe adjustments.
  • Cookies also spread when you drop high-fat dough onto a hot baking sheet; the heat melts the dough, and cookies spread before they’re baked enough to hold their shape.


The way they measure ingredients and the real temperature of their ovens are the usual reasons cooks get different results from the same recipe.

Flour should be stirred to loosen and fluff it, then spooned gently into a dry-measure cup (the kind you fill to the rim), and the top scraped level. If you tap the cup or scoop flour from the bag, the flour gets packed down, and you can easily add 2 to 4 extra tablespoons flour per cup.
You can scoop up white sugar; it doesn’t pack. But you should firmly pack brown sugar into a dry-measure cup and scrape the top level.

Dry ingredients should not be measured in heaped-up cups or spoons; scrape dry ingredients level with the surface of the measuring tool.

Measure liquid ingredients with liquid-measuring (usually glass or plastic) cups.

Sunset.com

Controlling Spread in Cookies with Baking Soda:

Cookies spread across a cookie sheet when they have too little structure and cannot hold their shape. Whether this is desirable or not depends on what kind of cookie you wish to bake.
There are many ways to increase cookie spread: One way is to add a small amount of baking soda, as little as .25 to .5 ounces (5 to 15 grams) for 10 pounds (4.5 kilograms) of cookie dough. This increases the pH of the dough, weakening gluten, and also weakening egg protein structure. With less structure, cookies spread more and have a coarser, more porous crumb.
Since moisture evaporates from a porous crumb more easily, baking soda often provides for a crisper crumb, as well.
Measure baking soda carefully. Baking soda increases browning significantly, and if used at too high a level, it leaves a distance salty-chemical off flavour. When working at high altitudes, omit baking soda from the cookie dough. The lower air pressure at high altitudes already encourages spread.

How to Ensure Baking Success in Using Ingredients

  • Check the expiry date on egg carton and other ingredients too.
  • Eggs should be at room temperature. The emulsion can be ruined if eggs or other liquids are too cold or too hot when they are added.
  • Measuring Flour: Too much flour can make some cookies rock-hard. When in doubt, err on the side of less flour. Use a scale if the recipe offers a weight equivalent. Spoon the flour into your measuring cup and sweep a spatula across the top to level it off. Don’t use the measuring cup as a scoop, or it’ll pack the flour, and you’ll end up with more flour in the cup than intended.
  • Nuts:  Smell and taste nuts before using. Oils in nuts can turn rancid quickly. Store any leftover nuts in the freezer for longest shelf life. 
  • Butter:  Make sure your butter is at room temperature, otherwise it won’t cream properly with the sugar. The terms “room temperature,” “softened” and “soft” mean different things. The temperature of the butter can make a difference in the recipe. Most cookie dough recipes depend on the emulsion that occurs when you cream butter and sugar together. This emulsion will not happen if the butter is too hot or too cold.
  • Room Temperature Butter: It should be pliable enough that your finger can leave a mark in it, without being soft and greasy. Set the butter out at least one (1) hour in advance.
  • Softened Butter: Will feel a little warmer to the touch, and it will be much easier to leave a deep indentation, but it should still be firm enough to pick up without falling apart.
  • Soft Butter: Will be too soft to pick up.
  • Microwave Butter: Do not try to microwave your butter as it will just end up too soft. If you don’t have an hour’s lead time, increase the surface area by cutting the butter into small pieces or shredding it on the large holes of a grater. It will then come up to temperature in approximately 10 minutes.
  • Unsalted Butter: Unsalted butter is generally recommended because some salted butters have more sodium than others.  Do not use low fat butter/margarine. Low fat margarine has 20 % more water.
  • Salt:  Use the full amount of salt called for in a recipe, especially is using unsalted butter. If you use salted butter, only use 1/2 the amount called for in the recipe. Don’t skip the salt, as salt brings out flavours and balances the sweetness in a recipe.
  • Sugar: The type of sugar used in your cookies can promote spread in baked cookies. To understand this, you need to know that sugar is a tenderiser which interferes with the formation structure. Sugars with a finger granulation promote more spread, (probably because they dissolve sooner, and only dissolved sugars will tenderise). Powdered sugar (confectioner’s sugar), when it contains cornstarch, prevents spread in cookies despite it finer grind.

Source: whatscookingamerica.net/Cookie/CookieTips.htm

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Edamame and Avocado Smash on Beetroot Hommus

Ingredients:

  • 1 Slice Sourdough or Rye bread toasted
  • 1/2 small can of cooked Edamame beans
  • 1/2 ripe Avocado
  • 2 tablespoons of Beetroot hommus
  • Spinach leaves and Cracked Pepper to garnish
https://www.toonsarah-travels.blog/exploring-the-street-food-of-phnom-penh/https://www.toonsarah-travels.blog/exploring-the-street-food-of-phnom-penh/
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Travel Photo Challenge

Day 3

Norwegian folk museum

I am nominating my fantastic co-host of the Friendly Friday Photography Challenge, Sandy from thesandychronicles to join in with the fun travel photo challenge of posting one travel photo without explanation, or with explanation as I think she prefers that, for ten days.

If Sandy would like to nominate another blogger, that would be fun. I like to discover new blogs, but there is no obligation to do this.

N.B. Sandy – I modify these challenges to suit me. Ten days and nominating ten bloggers is I feel too much. Especially over Christmas. But I do like to participate here and there.

Thanks again Ju-Lyn from All Things Bright and Beautiful

A Home by the Sea

denmark skagen yellow houses seaside havn
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Lemon Broccoli Soup

There are some many benefits to eating magnesium-rich foods, and broccoli and spinach are good dietary sources.

If you have members of the family that aren’t keen on munching down on a large chunk of “little trees,” or broccoli, then this soup might tempt them to eat more than they would as a humble steamed vegetable.

Broccoli Soup Recipe

  • 500 g broccoli (diced stalks and sprigs)
  • 1 small potato, finely diced
  • Several large spinach leaves, chopped roughly (or silverbeet or rainbow chard)
  • 1 onion, diced
  • Several celery stalks, sliced
  • 4 cups chicken stock
  • 1/2 cup cream, (for cream of broccoli soup)
  • 1 tablespoon lemon juice
  • 1/3 cup frozen or fresh peas
  • pepper and salt to taste
  • Lemon slices  as garnish
  • Variation: 1 small chicken breast, cooked and finely sliced
  1. Saute the onion and celery in a pan until the onion turns transparent.
  2. Add potato and stir
  3. Wash broccoli and cut into sprigs and add broccoli, chopped spinach, chicken stock and onion/ celery mix to a large saucepan.
  4. Bring to the boil and simmer for 10-15 minutes.
  5. Add fresh or frozen peas and simmer til broccoli and peas are cooked.

If wanting to make cream of broccoli soup, mash or process using a hand blender or victimizer-blender till smooth. Add cream and return to saucepan heating through whilst adding seasoning and lemon juice.

Or/ gently blend or stir til broccoli breaks up into small sprigs then add seasonings and lemon juice.

Garnish and serve.

Variation:

Adding cooked slivers of chicken breast cooked bolster the protein content of this dish and turn it into a meal.

A nice accompaniment to Broccoli and Spinach soup would be  almond or walnut bread.

A Home by the Sea

memorial
building, food, health, home

Day 4-6 Sourdough Starter

The weather is getting cooler at the Home by the Sea. Could this affect the number of bubbles I see in the starter?

Sourdough Problems or Not?

Since I attended one of those slightly cringeworthy Tupperware parties of the 80’s, I always store my white flour in the fridge. I never get weevils or pantry moths in my flour due to this storage method. However, I got to thinking that this might make the sourdough more sterile, due to a lesser number of bugs. So I ask the bread-making veterans: Would this make a difference?

Day 6

The Starter seems to have run out of steam, a little and I am looking for explanations. I do have a confession to make:

I added the morning feed quantity at the evening feeding and the following morning it was very liquidy on the top.

I may have overfed it!

I may have killed it?

I continued feeding the batch I was intending to keep and use, and left aside this ‘to be discarded if it doesn’t do anything’ batch, for a day but it didn’t seem to improve.

Not many bubbles, compared to day 2, which is seen below.

I have no idea as to whether it is still alive, or if I am flogging a dead sourdough mother.

Eat sign
building, food, home

Ju-Lyn’s Orange and Blueberry Cake

Firstly, this is not a post about Corona, so if you want something a little juicier, you might check out some recent posts on StPA.

Ju-Lyn’s wonderful Orange and Blueberry Cake


Truthfully though, I have to admit that I was tempted to call this Corona cake, not just because I cooked it for the first time, in these panic-ridden days, when the Corona virus is causing havoc around the world, but primarily because of the stunning way my blogger friend, Ju-Lyn presented it. There are several layers to this cake and it is decorated with blueberries like a crown – (hence the reference to ‘Corona’, which means ‘Crown’). But then, I was worried that Ju-Lyn might take offence at my referencing something like that, so I will call it- Ju-Lyn’s Mini Cakes.

Ju Lyn blogs at All Things Bright and Beautiful and very kindly shared her recipe for this delicious sounding cake with me, before it was posted on her own blog. That is a measure of her kindess. Thanks, Ju-Lyn!

Cake Recipe

I have to admit that I changed the original aesthetic slightly, as I was a little pushed for time, and I am not a big fan of butter cream icing, even though the Moth, (the “Man of the house”), just loves it. [He does better to watch his calories, you see.]

Ju-Lyn’s Orange Blueberry Mini Cakes

Ingredients

  • 130 g Self Raising Flour
  • 110 g Caster Sugar
  • 1 egg
  • 1/4 teaspoon baking powder
  • Zest of one orange and a little juice
  • Pinch of Salt
  • 150 g Sour Cream
  • 40 g melted butter
  • 50 g fresh blueberries
  • Few extra blueberries for cake toppers

Method

  1. Mix flour sugar and baking powder together in a bowl
  2. Mix together eggs, the zest of orange and a little juice – I used a teaspoonful
  3. Add wet ingredients to dry and mix throughly
  4. Mix in melted butter and sour cream.
  5. Gently fold in the blueberries
  6. Place in muffin trays, lined with paper cases, if you wish.
  7. Scatter a couple of extra blueberries on top of each cake.
  8. Bake at 160 degrees Celsius for 25 minutes
  9. Testing with a skewer to see if the cake is cooked.
  10. Allow to cool and serve with a dusting of icing sugar if desired.

Insider Tips:

  • You can make one large cake with this mix but bake for 40 – 50 minutes.
  • Double the ingredients for a layer cake and ice all over with buttercream.

More Cake Recipes

I have previously posted another of Ju-lyn’s wonderful recipes for Honey Spice Cake, which is now a staple on Sunday mornings, at the Home by the Sea.

spice cake with lemon butter
building, food, home

Size Does Matter – Eggs in recipes

Recently, I wanted to make one of Ju-Lyn’s fabulous cake recipes and only had jumbo sized eggs that I had purchased at a farmer’s market.

Would it matter if I used them? I was making a cake, after all and I didn’t want it to flop as our new neighbours were coming over, for morning tea.

After a little research, it seems that size does matter, when it comes to using eggs in cooking.

Substituting Eggs in Baking Recipes

If you are using Jumbo eggs and the recipe calls for large or extra large:

Break the eggs into a bowl and lightly beat until both yolk and white is combined. Measure off the amount of the egg mix that would equate to the volume of egg the recipe requires.

  • 1 large egg, beaten = 3-1/4 Tbs.
  • 2 large eggs, beaten = 6-1/2 Tbs.(1/4 cup plus 2-1/2 Tbs.)
  • 3 large eggs, beaten = 9-2/3 Tbs.(1/2 cup plus 1-1/2-Tbs.)
  • 4 large eggs, beaten = 12-3/4 Tbs.(3/4 cup plus 1 tsp.)
  • 5 large eggs, beaten = 1 cup

Eggs in Non Baking Recipes

In non-baking recipes, if you’re substituting only one, two, or three extra- large or medium eggs for large eggs, simply make a one-to-one direct substitution. Beyond that, use these equivalents:

• in place of 4 large eggs, use 4 extra-large or 5 medium
• in place of 5 large eggs, use 4 extra-large or 6 medium
• in place of 6 large eggs, use 5 extra-large or 7 medium

https://www.dvo.com/newsletter/weekly/2015/5-15-224/cooknart9.html

Altering Ingredients in Baking and Cooking

Eggs + yolks: Extra YOLKS means more fat which gives the cake ultra moistness! Add the amount of eggs called for in the recipe but add two extra egg yolks. The extra yolks add the density and moisture you’d find in a bakery cake!

Egg WHITES: Not adding the yolks to the cake makes the cake fluffy and whiter!

To clarify: Eggs + yolks: Extra YOLKS means more fat which gives the cake ultra moistness! Add the amount of eggs called for in the recipe but add two extra egg yolks. The extra yolks add the density and moisture you’d find in a bakery cake!

https://www.rachaelrayshow.com/food/18513_cake_over_how_to_make_boxed_cake_mix_better

Milk: Add MILK, not water, when your mix calls for liquid. The milk adds density, fat and, most importantly, extra flavor to your mix. So add extra tablespoon or so of butter if you are short on milk.

Egg WHITES: Not adding the yolks to the cake makes the cake fluffy and whiter! But taking out the egg yolks removes fat so add an extra two tablespoons of butter above (or, one tablespoon of melted butter per each removed egg yolk).

Vanilla: Freshen up the cake mix with a dash of VANILLA EXTRACT! Add 1/2 teaspoon of vanilla extract for enhanced flavor. I feel the cake keeps better with vanilla in it, but that could be false.

Melted Butter: Use BUTTER instead of oil. They’re both fat but butter has better flavor! Muffin recipes call for vegetable oil. Melting butter in the microwave, as this adds a richness and depth of flavor.

Sprinkle with Sugar: Sprinkling the top with SUGAR not only gives it a sweet crunchy texture to yoru cake, but the weight of the sugar prevents the cake from rising too much while it bakes.

You can even make a layer cake or one for now and one for later. Pour the cake batter into two cake pans and sprinkle the top with sugar. It’s important for your cake to rise but you don’t want it to rise too much or you will have to cut off a lot of it if you layer it.

Results

It worked out beautifully at the Home by the Sea.

Recipe to follow shortly. As it is Ju-Lyn’s recipe, I wish to wait for her to publish it first.

plastic waste
building, environment

Romancing with Plastics

I imagine it started off so well.

lakes
Saturday evening by the lake

There you were, sitting by the side of the lake, on a saturday night, admiring the moon reflecting on the water, the tide gently lapping a romantic lullaby in your ears.

The night was young and you got carried away in the moment, perhaps with your loved one by your side?

But did you remember to take your rubbish with you, when you left?

plastic contamination

This sight greeted me on my walk this morning at 6am.

plastics

An almost empty can of whisky, a plastic bottle half filled with juice, and some leftover food in a single-use plastic bag.

Dear Litterbug:

If I knew where you lived,

I would gladly return your left belongings to your door.

Did you not realize perhaps that this lake opens out to the sea? A sea where marine animals and fish live? Someone’s else’s home?

When you finished eating your take out meal, (or take away, if you are an Australian), did you not walk directly past the bin? It takes but a second, to look and check for a nearby rubbish bin/trash can and dispose of your waste in a bin that waits there just for that sole purpose. A bin, which has been put there for your convenience. A bin which you might even pay for, with your taxes, or as part of your council rates.

Did you not see the location of the bin was a mere 10 – 20 steps behind you, depending on your height, of course?

Your thoughtless act of carelessness contributes to contamination of our waterways with plastic wastes.

Thanks to you, it will take 20 years for that one plastic bag to break down in the environment and even after that, will still pose a threat to fish and other aquatic life, entering their bodies in the form of micro-plastics.

Fish or aquatic animals, that you, yourself, might eat one day. This means you will also ingest micro plastics in to your gut. Just like this whale. Plastic didn’t do him any good.

If you are a turtle, whale, dugong, or larger marine animal, you might ingest the whole plastic bag, and who could blame you, as bags do look like jelly fish. For these creatures, the consequences are fatal.

All because you forgot or couldn’t care, to dispose of your leftover waste in a responsible manner.

Plastic Waste:

According to an estimate, every year Americans use approximately 1.6 million barrels of oil just for producing plastic bottled water. Plastic waste is one of many types of wastes that take up to 1000 years to decompose in landfills.

Plastic bags take 10-20 years to decompose, while plastic bottles take 450 years.

Aluminum Cans:

Every minute, every day, more than 120,000 aluminum cans are recycled only in America. But, at the same time, every three-months, enough aluminum cans are thrown away in America that can rebuild the entire American commercial air fleet.

Aluminum cans take 80-200 years in landfills to get completely decomposed.

environment.about.com

Be a responsible citizen, your planet needs you to be one.

My 2020 plastic audit for the lake near my home continues.

Do you want to conduct your own plastic audit?

Join me in documenting the amount of waste you find in your local environment.

Make people take notice.

Take a Helping Hand Grabber Tool, (so that you don’t have to touch the rubbish), and dispose of it responsibly, for the folks who haven’t yet developed that level of thoughtfulness.

More Ideas to Reduce Plastic Use

canal waterside sunrise
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Last Photo

Bushboy is a fellow Aussie blogger whose photo enthusiasm extends to wanting to see other blogger’s final photos on their phone, for the month of February.

Alright, Brian. I’ll play along.

Meet Billie, our resident frog. Usually green, but brown tonight, only green around the gills, so to speak.

Isn’t he the cutest?

Just so you know he is a green frog, here he is with his green suit on.

Last Photo for February 2020