Baking Blog 3: Product Review of Baking Buddies

Recently, I received an email that caught me off guard. It was a proposal. The New York Baking Company asked me to review their silicone baking cups (me? really? OMG!). After a few email exchanges, I received the silicone baking cups and after a few-too-many delays, I used them. Here is my review.

These are Baking Buddies silicone baking cups by the New York Baking Company:

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I will start my review with the package listed facts:

~ Standard Size
~ 100% Food Grade Silicone
~ Non Stick
~ BPA Free
~ Oven safe up to 475° / 250°C
~ Freezer / Microwave / Dishwasher Safe

Here is the link to the product:
http://www.amazon.com/Baking-Buddies-Reusable-Silicone-Guarantee/dp/B00EVQ167A

Here are the website listed features:

~ Never have to use environmentally damaging paper cups ever again! All our silicone baking cups are made from BPA free, FDA approved, eco-friendly, nonporous and stain proof silicone!
~ Flexible and easy release silicone! Perfect for dinner parties, just peel the side to pop out your muffin, cupcake, dessert….!
~ Nonstick silicone means cupcakes; muffins or other scrummy treats you knock up won’t fall apart when you pop them out! But what about all that mess? No need to worry, all our silicone bake ware products are dishwasher safe!

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I have used a few different silicone baking items in the past. I was not satisfied. The other brand of baking cups were thicker and heavier, but turned out to be flimsy. When they were filled with cupcake batter, the sides began to bow outward and the sides buckled when the heat of the oven softened the silicone. To worsen matters, the other brand of baking cups was not non-stick. The cakes had to be pried out, leaving sizable remnants of crumbs that then had to be scrubbed out. No. Benefits. Found.

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I can confidently admit that the New York Baking Company Baking Buddy Silicone Baking Cups are fantastic! They are brighter, lighter, thinner and more supportive than the others. The Baking Buddies held their shape when filled with heavy cornbread batter. They also maintained their perfect shape through baking and cooling.

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And to end, they proved to be 99% non-stick!

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In conclusion, I find Baking Buddies to be an awesome product! If you’re a baker and you make muffins, cupcakes, breads, or other individually proportioned desserts, you will appreciate the quality of this product. In an environment that’s riddled with side effects, toxicity and illness-inducing concerns; finding a reusable BPA free, FDA approved, eco-friendly product is a bonus.

I’m going to be a Baking Buddy for life! I wonder what other awesome products they might have!! 🙂

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baking blog: 1 ~ lemon cake by ina garten

did i mention that i love to bake? i do. specifically desserts, but if it goes in the oven, i’m game. last year, for my aunt’s birthday, she asked me to bake her a cake.

“just a lemon cake. a plain lemon cake. you can just buy the box kind and make it. it doesn’t need to be ‘gourmet’ or fancy. you know how you are. no peel or anything like that in it(she meant zest). just a plain lemon cake.”

puh-shaaaaaaw!

lemons! in varying states. a knife: to halve, an old-fashioned-requires-elbow-grease juicer to juice and a zester to... zest!

if you know me, you know that i have no problem buying and using boxed cake mixes and frostings. they are predictable and almost (yes, almost) foolproof. simply follow the directions adding this and that, bake and Viola! cake! i prefer to use them when i am working with large numbers of servings. dealing with homemade recipes can become difficult when multiplying. the most i will duplicate any recipe is tripled. after that, the percentages and consistency become compromised and the end result is not what you anticipated, expected or wanted. fail. but in this case, for my aunt’s birthday, it was one cake for one person. a box? again, i say: puh-shaaaaww! as if!

i took the next week to locate, research and compare lemon cake recipes. i look for recipes that require ingredients. not mixes of this or that. i enjoy the process so much that i refuse to short myself. as well, cake that is made with a list of ingredients is simply superior in every way. at the close of the week, i had chosen my recipe: lemon cake by Ina Garten. say whaaaaaaaat? that’s the barefoot contessa! yes, imma go with HER recipe. from the notes, a photo of the cake had been published in her cookbook prompting many readers to request the recipe. yes, that’s the recipe for me. peel, ummmm.. i mean, zest and all.

the recipe called for lemon cake, drenched in lemon syrup and then drizzled with lemon glaze. i know, right? sounds delicious. i read the recipe over and over. i don’t like to try new procedures on my first run through a recipe. i’ve made cake, i’ve made syrup and i have made glaze. SCORE!

i made that cake and it was a hit. my aunt had only the first bite in her mouth and i heard:

“mmm. mmmmmm. mmmph! that’s good. that’s goooood.”

SCORE!! i made the cake again and it was so so good that i couldn’t not share it (and a few of my baking tips) with you. before we get into the specifics of this particular recipe, here are a few of baking tips:

bsb’s baking tips (1 – 7):

tip 1: clean up, before you mess up. simple. start with a clean kitchen (and some fresh, warm dishwater).

tip 2: read the recipe! read the whole thing from start to finish. don’t skip anything, don’t omit anything and for pete’s sake, DON’T ADD ANYTHING (until you have mastered the recipe and you OWN it and can make it flawlessly). read it and understand it.

tip 3: never, NEVER try a new procedure, new recipe or new flavor at crunch time. you don’t want to botch the procedure due to inexperience. you don’t want to get lost in the recipe if it’s your first time and you don’t want to make something that you don’t like or doesn’t taste right when it’s your time to shine! bake with pride! if you want to do new things, try new things and mix and match flavors, by all means, do it, but do not do it the night before. or, as i have many times, you will be sitting on the kitchen floor, covered in ingredients and tears trying to figure out how you’re going to pull it all together before you’re due to deliver. trust me on this.

tip 4: there’s nothing more agitating that being knee-deep in a baking project and having to stop and look for a gadget, tool or ingredient. be sure to pull everything that you know you will need.

tip 5: measure out your ingredients. dry ingredients first, so you don’t have to wash and dry your measuring utensils before continuing.

tip 6: if at all possible, test your oven. make sure that 375-degrees is actually 375 and not 325 or you will be excruciatingly surprised.

tip 7: i don’t believe in margarine. i believe in BUTTER. real butter. Grade AA butter. if i don’t have butter, i don’t bake. you do what you feel is best for you, just know that i always always always use butter.

if you follow those tips for this recipe, or any recipe, you will be prepared and delighted when your masterpiece is complete. except, for the butter thing. that is more of a preference. just know that when you vary ingredients you are changing the final outcome.

and noooooow (drumroll, please)… here is the recipe for Lemon Cake by Ina Garten (<—– did i mention that’s the Barefoot Contessa!?)…

Ingredients:

  • 1/2 pound (2 sticks) unsalted butter, at room temperature
  • 2 1/2 cups granulated sugar, divided
  • 4 extra-large eggs, at room temperature
  • 1/3 cup grated lemon zest (6 to 8 large lemons)
  • 3 cups flour
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 3/4 cup freshly squeezed lemon juice, divided
  • 3/4 cup buttermilk, at room temperature
  • 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

For the glaze:

  • 2 cups confectioners’ sugar, sifted
  • 3 1/2 tablespoons freshly squeezed lemon juice

whole lemons (in a bowl i painted) , one beautifully zested lemon, some fresh lemon juice and a mound of ZEST!

Directions

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Grease and flour 2 (8 1/2 by 4 1/4 by 2 1/2-inch) loaf pans. (i got the lemons from my neighbor and wanted to share the ‘labor of their fruit’ with them, so i went with mini bundt pans) You may also line the bottom with parchment paper, if desired.

Cream the butter and 2 cups granulated sugar in the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, until light and fluffy, about 5 minutes. With the mixer on medium speed, add the eggs, 1 at a time, and the lemon zest.

Sift together the flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt in a bowl. In another bowl, combine 1/4 cup lemon juice, the buttermilk, and vanilla. Add the flour and buttermilk mixtures alternately to the batter, beginning and ending with the flour. Divide the batter evenly between the pans, smooth the tops, and bake for 45 minutes to 1 hour, until a cake tester comes out clean.

Combine 1/2 cup granulated sugar with 1/2 cup lemon juice in a small saucepan and cook over low heat until the sugar dissolves. When the cakes are done, allow to cool for 10 minutes. Remove the cakes from the pans and set them on a rack set over a tray or sheet pan; spoon the lemon syrup over them. Allow the cakes to cool completely.

after cooling, spoon or paint the cakes with the syrup. on all sides. don't be shy!

For the glaze, combine the confectioners’ sugar and the lemon juice in a bowl, mixing with a wire whisk until smooth. Pour over the tops of the cakes and allow the glaze to drizzle down the sides.

and now (another drumroll, please) TA-daaaaaaaaaaaa!

i made mini lemon bundt cakes. easy for giving. sharing is caring! always share with the neighbors that gave you their lemons. 😀

(i know that last picture is a little on the fuzzy side… i was working with my cell phone, but wanted to show some detail… ).

note: there is no rhyme or reason to why this is “baking blog: 1” other than:

  1. it’s the most recent baked good that i’ve made.
  2. i really enjoy making and sharing it.
  3. i was really happy and proud with the final product.
  4. i wanted to blog about baking.

i hope you get the chance to try it! you won’t regret it. let me know how it turns out for you and if my tips were any help at all. until next time… Stay Sweet!

the beauty of baking

... a work in progress and the comfortable insurance by the knowledge that "something is in the oven"...

life can be stressful. full of lists. full of tasks and errands. things to do, things to buy, places to go and entertainment for the eye. what’s your form of self-induced personal therapy? i’ve discovered over my blahtey-blah years that myyyyyy therapy, my way to therapize myself is to bake. yes, bake. baking, with like, an oven and stuff inside. june cleaver housewife style with utensils, gadgets and an ever-handy-and-extremely-cute apron. it is not just a therapy but a calling. a hobby. a lucrative interest. it’s fun and the reward is obvious: tasty treats to devour… umm, i mean share.

needless to say, i take my baking very seriously. not so serious that everything is measured down to the pinch and recipes followed in a sterile manner, but serious enough that i do not make or take phone calls while baking. i’m serious about it in a way that makes it so rewarding for me, and through word of mouth, for my  taste testers as well. i wouldn’t say that i can bake “anything”. i certainly have a familiar repertoire. i mostly focus on desserts, but i would be a lie if i didn’t say that i was kinda-known for my homemade handmade chicken pot pie. i think it’s to die for. it is one of those recipes that impresses more each time i make it. i am also pseudo-famous for my gramma’s recipe banana bread. that recipe is going to make me millions one day. hopefully i get the opportunity to go professional and worldwide with it. it’s gonna knock yo socks off!

in the meantime, i have dabbled in this that and the other. i have an extensive collection of recipes, cookbooks and seven years worth of “Cooking Light” magazine. i grew up in a one-woman household. that woman, lucky for me, was my grandmother. she had a group home for developmentally disabled adult men. she was their sole care-provider, and in-home chef. there were four of them, “the boys” as we referred to them, she and i. so everyday she cooked breakfast, lunch and dinner for six people. it is because of her, that i owe my love of food. now, let me be clear, i am NO foodie. not a foodie, not at all. i have a very limited set of “likes” where food is concerned. but that doesn’t stop me. she also taught me how to bake. i taught me how to cook (many years later), with the help of all those cooking light magazines, several choice cookbooks, and a lot of cooking tv. not to mention, the short time that i spent working under chef Jonathan at the convention center.

now, with that said, let me tell you why i love to eat, cook, and more specifically, why i love to bake. i have been loitering in kitchens my entire life. literally. having grown up with my grandmother in the group home setting, she spent a lot of time in the kitchen and i wasn’t far. i didn’t study her and mimic her every move, but i watched and surveyed. i’d ask a few questions from time to time. she would always answer without skipping a beat. i didn’t know it then, but there’s a huuuuuuuge amount of timing involved with the preparation of a three-course meal for dinner everyday. she taught me basic cooking techniques and everyday use of tools and other kitchen equipment.

as well, the bestie and i grew up across the street from one another. when i would spend the night, we would get up in the night after all other house dwellers had nodded off for the evening, and just sit in the kitchen. back then, there was a square wooden butcher block dealy-bob, on wheels, in the middle of the kitchen. it was the perfect ottoman for us, and the kitchen counter became some sort of tile covered recliner. we would pick at the ever-present food items; not excluding: a barrage of fresh fruit, some sort of bread or pastry type item and perhaps some leftovers from the previous meal or something from nanny’s house, all the while talking and laughing.

speaking of nanny, she was and continues to be the other thriving influence in the kitchen. she’s the only lady i’ver ever known to blowout two kitchen aid stand-up mixers. “doin’ what?”, ya ask. everything you can imagine. nanny is my bestie’s gramma. she’s from arkansas and was married to papaw for 60 years before he left her in charge of his dog. if you’re looking for nanny, you haven’t been in the kitchen. shannon (my bestie) and i grew up spending occasional weekends at nanny’s house. she was a certifiable short order chef every morning. she would ask in her adorable southern drawl:

“what youn’s want tah eat?”

and as adolescent brats our answer was most often:

“i don’t know”

her response was the same, without fail:

“well if youn’s don’t tell me, i can’t fix it.”

ahhhhhh, the good ole days. she would make for each of us, whatever we wanted. for certain, there were going to be biscuits and eggs. i think sausage and gravy was also a menu staple. nanny would make us … get this… homemade pop-tarts from leftover homemade pie crust and plum jelly, made from the tree in her front yard. what is not to love about that? i watched nanny make biscuits, dumplings, and all the cookies, cakes and pies you can imagine. she fries a mean chicken breast too. i watched her mix and make the most delicious food with her two little hands. the kitchen remained spotless and the refrigerator was always full.

that’s a lot of time in and around kitchens and all i was doing, at the time, was eating. out of that came a fondness for southern cooking, a need to sit or stand in or about the kitchen and a need for fresh fruit. my mom loves to cook too. visits home are always the best as i am provided the arriving meal of my choice: spaghetti and homemade half-wheat/half-white bread. mmmmm… good stuff. my mom taught me how to put what i liked together into something to love. she also taught me that i needed to make Love, my special ingredient. without love, nothing would turn out right.

so, as you can see, my love of cooking is organic. it comes from deep inside me. i love every aspect of it. from preparation to service. i most enjoy the bringing together of ingredients to create one masterpiece. i think that is why i enjoy baked goods so much. they all seem to start with the greatest of all cooking trifectas: butter, sugar and eggs. the only thing that varies is the ratio, temperature and mix time. isn’t that an amazing little factoid? the difference between a cookie, a cake and bread is just exactly how much you have of each of those items.

i’m going to say that where cooking and baking are concerned, i tend to stick to the script. i don’t usually vary from any given recipe too much. i believe that the learning is in using the recipe to make your ultimate goal. i also believe in conquering each recipe for its ratio, taste and texture secrets and then adapting that recipe for your own fiendish fun. methods and techniques are extremely important and necessary when baking. a recipe is simply a set of instructions. but it’s a detailed list and you can pretty much assure yourself that it is as abridged as it can possibly be. removing steps from a recipe is like skipping steps in math. you might have a reasonable facsimile of the final product, but something is not quite right. i use a recipe until i know it by heart. until i can know, by sight, how well it’s going to work.

baking is a controlled chaos. i clean up before i mess up, so that i may clean as i go in hopes of having a clean kitchen when i’m done. i pull my ingredients from the cabinets, drawers and refrigerator and line them up. i measure them all with my level of accuracy and start my process. as i learned in home economics, i familiarize myself with the recipe before starting. i try to have all the utensils and ingredients ready to go. step by step to the finished product. oh what fun.

and now that i have given you the why, i would like to share the how. i am not a professional by any means, but i am an enthusiast. who knows what will happen?? but in the meantime i would like to share with you my love of cooking, (mostly baking) and the wonderful side affects. enjoy!

(that means i’ll be back later with recipes, pictures and yummy reviews)