Chocolate Chip Blondies

chocolate chip blondiesWhen I first started my baking blog I decided to go easy on myself. This recipe was given to me at a high altitude baking class I attended when I first moved to Santa Fe. It was already adapted for high altitude, it just needed to be veganized.

First, I substituted vegan margarine for butter. Then I swapped bananas for eggs. While I was changing the recipe, I made it healthier by using whole wheat flour in place of some of the white flour. I also added extra chocolate chips because, well, you can never have too much chocolate.

These bar cookies turned out perfect on the first try! They were moist and dense, but still slightly crumbly. Years later, while adjusting the recipe to the lower altitude of 5000 feet, I decided to try some other tricks I learned. Let me just say that many attempts were made and many sub-par blondies were eaten until I decided to go back to the one I had made before. Here is that recipe that had worked out so well.

Chocolate Chip Blondies
1/2 cup vegan margarine
1 cup organic sugar
1/3 cup light brown sugar
2 TBS vanilla soy yogurt
1 tsp vanilla extract
1 cup mashed ripe bananas
1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 cup whole wheat flour
1 1/2 tsp baking powder
½ tsp salt
6 oz chocolate chips
Heat oven to 350F. Grease a 9 x 13″ metal pan. Cream margarine and sugars. Add yogurt, vanilla and bananas. Mix well. Sift together flours, baking powder and salt. Mix half of the dry ingredients into the wet ingredients. Mix in other half of dry ingredients. Stir in chocolate chips. Spread mixture into the prepared pan. Bake 32-35 minutes. Cool and cut into bars.

Until next time, happy baking!

How to Measure Ingredients for Baking

How to Measuring Ingredients

Image Courtesy of Didriks at flickr.com

In baking, accurate measuring is crucial. I often add a tablespoon or two of flour for high-altitude baking, but if you get a few extra spoonfuls of flour it can result in a tough baked good. So, how do you ensure that your measurements are accurate?

It helps to know how the recipe writer measures. For dry measuring, I spoon the ingredient into the cup and then swipe across it with the flat edge of a knife. I have seen recipes that call for dipping into the container and then swiping. Both methods can be used, but they lead to differences in measurement. It’s best to measure how the writer did.

An interview with baking guru Dorie Greenspan included the following dialogue:
“(Interviewer) You can get into a 1-cup measuring cup anything from 3 ounces to 6 ounces of flour, depending on how you actually measure. What are different ways that you measure with those dry measuring cups?
DG: There are two schools of dry measuring. School one is the spoon-and-sweep method. …You lightly spoon it into the measuring cup until it’s overflowing, and then you sweep it.
Then there’s the scoop-and-sweep school. That’s the school that I belong to. I have a big bin of flour and I aerate it — I stir it around with a knife or a whisk before I start measuring. Then I scoop my measuring cup into the flour bin, get it until it’s overflowing and then sweep it. There is a difference. … It can be about a quarter of an ounce difference between spoon-and-sweep and scoop-and-sweep.”

Another thing to take into account is when to pack the ingredient into the cup. Packing down flour is never good – it bakes best when light and fluffy. However, cocoa powder can come out of the package in clumps and needs to be packed down to get an accurate fill in the cup. A general rule is if it starts light then don’t pack it down (flour, baking powder, salt, sugar). If it is dense and forms clumps, then pack it in to make sure there are no air holes (cocoa powder, brown sugar, ground flax seeds, sliced dates).

With liquids I always use glass measuring cups. More sage advice from Dorie: “Measuring liquid is an exercise in deep-knee bending. You need to have a see-through measuring cup — I like to use glass. You pour in the liquid, then don’t lift the measuring cup up to eye level. … Bend down so that you’re at eye level with the measurement and see that you’re on the line.”

That takes me back to science class in high school. Remember the meniscus? It curves up at the edges and down in the center so be sure that the curved bottom of the meniscus is in line with the desired measurement on your liquid measuring cup.

Enough science. I need a cookie.

Audrey’s Naked Chocolate Cake

Audrey's Naked Chocolate CakeThis baking experience began as a friend’s Facebook post. She showed a photo of a Naked Chocolate Cake and I took that as a challenge to make it high altitude and vegan. I enjoy a challenge, and it looked yummy. Also, I had some new cake pans that I needed to test.

To make the cake at altitude, I added flour and milk and reduced the baking powder. To take into account the short, layer-cake pans, I sliced the strawberries so they wouldn’t topple the cake. I baked at a lower temperature for a shorter time. And, with the small layers, I tried one to see if the cake came out. This will make four layers, or three layers and a snack.

The original recipe called for homemade whipped cream. I couldn’t achieve a thick enough cream to hold up the cake without using coconut cream, which I don’t like, so I used the vegan stuff in a can. I made up for it by making my own chocolate syrup. Feel free to use store-bought syrup, or you can make your own, too.

Audrey’s Naked Chocolate Cake adapted from The Food Network
1/2 cup coconut oil, melted
1/2 cup dark brown sugar
1/4 cup unsweetened applesauce
3/4 cup vanilla soy yogurt
2 tsp vanilla extract
1 cup + 1 TBS whole wheat flour
1 cup + 1 TBS all-purpose flour
1 3/4 tsp baking powder
1 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp sea salt
1/2 cup cocoa powder
3/4 cup + 1 TBS soy milk
1 cup chopped semisweet chocolate
1/2 pint fresh strawberries, sliced
1/2 pint fresh blueberries
1/2 pint raspberries
whipped cream
chocolate syrup (recipe to follow)
Preheat oven to 325 F and spray four round, mini layer-cake cake pans. Pour coconut oil into a stand mixer with a paddle attachment. Add in brown sugar, applesauce, yogurt and vanilla extract, and mix until combined. In a separate bowl sift together flours, baking powder, baking soda, salt and cocoa powder.
With mixer on low, slowly add a third of the dry ingredients into the applesauce mixture, alternating with milk. Keep alternating until dry ingredients and milk are gone. Remove bowl from stand mixer and fold in chopped chocolate by hand. Divide batter between cake pans. Bake for 17 to 19 minutes or until an inserted toothpick is removed clean. Cool cakes in pans for 5 minutes then transfer to a wire rack.
To assemble, place a cooled layer of cake on a cake plate and cover in whipped cream and some chocolate syrup. Take fruit and spread it on cake out to the edges. Pay attention to how you place fruit on the edge so it looks nice and doesn’t fall out. Once cake is covered in fruit, place next layer of cake on top. Fill in with whipped cream, chocolate syrup, and fruit. Place final layer of cake on top. Place a mound of whipped cream and fruit on top. Drizzle chocolate sauce over the cake and chill.
Chocolate Syrup
1 cup dates, sliced
water
2 TBS cocoa powder
Place dates in a bowl with water to cover. Soak for 5 minutes. Put dates and their soaking water in a high speed blender. Add cocoa powder and blend until a syrup forms. Add extra water as needed. You will probably have some leftover, but that’s not a bad thing.

Until next time, happy baking!

How to Read and Write a Recipe

how to read and write a recipe

Image courtesy of Heather aka Molly at flickr.com

During a food writing workshop I attended, I mentioned that recipes drive me crazy when the ingredients aren’t listed in order of use. Despite my explanation the looks I got implied that others thought I was insane. But it makes sense, just hear me out.

First of all, I retrieve the ingredients from throughout my kitchen and place them on the counter in the order listed in the recipe I am following. That way I can ensure I have all the ingredients ready before I start to cook.

Second, I move an ingredient to the side after I’ve used it. If I get interrupted while I am cooking then I don’t have to remember which ingredient I was on. This was the idea that sent withering looks my way, but I have heard another method that’s really odd. The author said she put each ingredient in the bowl in different sections so that she could see each one separately and know if anything was forgotten. Personally I can’t tell baking soda from baking powder when they are placed on top of flour.

Lastly, I have seen recipes that forget to mention an ingredient in the steps leaving the cook to wonder how to combine it with the rest. It’s easier for me to proofread my own recipes when I have listed the ingredients in order of use, and I find it easier for someone to follow a recipe that has been written that way.

I hope you enjoy my methods and that you use the tip mentioned in the second remark. It has saved me on many occasions when the phone rang or my husband really needed me while I was in the middle of creating a masterpiece in the kitchen. It can save your masterpieces, too.