Today I want to talk about baking. Baking unlike cooking, is based on formulas that you have to follow almost to the letter in order for things to work out as you want them to. The ratios of ingredients can make all the difference between success and failure, that is not to say that you cannot make any baking recipe yours, by changing this or that, but the essential formulas have to be followed in order for you to be able to bite into something edible.
I bake two or three times a week, from biscuits, to cakes, to cookies, to different kinds of breads, I usually have something that I can serve to guests in a pinch.
This past Sunday, I was feeling ambitious so I made Banana Bread in the morning, Parkerhouse rolls in the afternoon, and Strawberry Chocolate Chip cake for dessert. I should mention that I have to stop doing this kind of thing or the weight I just lost and was feeling triumph over will all coming rushing back.
As you can see from the picture above, we were well fed on Sunday. I wanted the people who are new to cooking, or who just plain don’t like to cook, to understand that there is another avenue where you can showcase your talents, and maybe baking would be your thing. There are hundreds of cookbooks that can give you the formulas you need in order to come up with outstanding desserts, breads, pastries, tarts, and pies. You are only limited by your own imagination.
A couple of Christmas’s ago, I was responsible for the dessert after dinner. I decided to go all out and make something that would be good for chocolate lovers and non chocolate lovers, the result was this awesome looking thing that was kind of a version of an English Trifle:
Everyone raved about the dessert and I didn’t have to bake a thing; on the bottom were those two bite brownies, on top of that was vanilla pudding (from pudding cups), then crushed up Oreo cookies, then raspberries, then chocolate pudding (from pudding cups), topped off with whipping cream. Then decorated with raspberries, chocolate jimmies, and those silver little balls that you can decorate Christmas cookies with. NO BAKING REQUIRED.
I am known for my cooking & baking in my family, but I am known even more for my desserts, and lets face it at Christmas time do you think that I have even one more minute to do impossible things like bake a dessert like this from scratch, not a chance.
Baking and cooking are kind of my things, I love to do them so it doesn’t bother me usually to whip something up that will win everyone over, but just because it is my thing doesn’t mean it is yours, so I wanted to give you an alternative to having to bake something yourself.
For those of you who want to give it a try, I have picked out a simple and easy recipe for you, one that doesn’t take a lot of effort, but the results always seem to come out great.
BAKING POWDER BISCUITS
You will probably remember these from your 8th grade cooking class, except we were required to turn them into cinnamon buns, with a lemon glaze over them.
- 7 Cups All Purpose Flour
- 2 Tbsp Baking Powder
- 1 tsp Salt
- 1 Cup Butter
- 1-1 1/2 C Milk
- Turn oven on to 450
- Line a baking tray with parchment paper or tin foil
- If you have a Kitchenaid stand mixer you can use that or just a large bowl if that’s all you have.
- Sift together the Flour, Baking Powder and Salt
- (now comes the part that I love) we used to have to cut the butter in with two forks or a pastry cutter, which took an awful lot of effort to leave pieces big enough to make the biscuits flaky but small enough they didn’t leave big holes in the dough. Now I just GRATE it all in on a grater, if you are using the stand mixer then you can just gently allow it to turn a couple of times to mix it in, or if you are doing it by hand, just mix it in with a wooden spoon or spatula.
- Add the milk in small batches until the dough comes together but is still kind of sticky
- Dump the dough out onto a floured board or counter and knead it a few times, not too much, we don’t want to melt the butter, pat it into a fat round and then using a rolling-pin, roll it to about a 1/2″ thickness.
- Cut the biscuits out with a two-inch round cutter, or a water-glass if you don’t have a biscuit cutter (make sure you flour the cutter or glass after every second biscuit or the dough will begin to stick.)
- Place the cut out biscuits on the pan, with this much dough you should get 24 biscuits, if you cut them out bigger, then you can get 18 (this is what I usually do, but then my family likes big ones)
- Take a little bit of butter, melt it in the microwave and brush the top of the biscuits with it (ok, those of you who don’t eat sugar, turn away now) sprinkle a little bit of sugar on the top of each biscuit and pop them in the oven on the middle rack for about 14 minutes (a little more or less depending on your stove, you want them nicely browned but not too much)
- Let them cool for about 10 minutes and then dive in with butter and jam if this is for breakfast, or with just butter if you are having them with soup or dinner.
- They freeze really well so if you can’t eat them all within a day or so, pop them in the freezer and when you want one, just pull it out, wrap it in a damp paper towel and microwave it for about 30 seconds, perfect everytime.
Now, if you wanted those cinnamon buns with the lemon glaze, you would not cut out the biscuits, you would roll the dough into a 1/4″ deep square, then slather it with butter, sprinkle on brown sugar and cinnamon, roll it up and then cut the roll in half, in half again, and then into quarters, pressing down slightly on each one, then place them on the tray and bake them for the same amount of time. When they come out, leave them to sit for ten minutes while you put together the glaze. Take one cup of icing sugar in a bowl and squeeze the juice of half a lemon into it, if it is too thick to drizzle over the cinnamon buns then use a little more lemon juice, if it is too thin to actually stick to the buns, then add more icing sugar.
So there you are, a fairly simple recipe for making something that tastes so good. I should admit however that I don’t usually make the biscuits without putting a little bit of sugar in them as well, usually about two tablespoons worth. I know, I know, what can I say, I am addicted to sweet things. However, if you are addicted to savoury things, you could add cheddar and chives, or maybe some rosemary. The possibilities are only limited by your imagination. Sorry no gluten-free solutions for this, but then I don’t usually do gluten free.
If you want to try baking, you have my cheerleader face egging you on (oh, by the way, if you add an egg to this recipe, you have scones). If you want to try the easy trifle, give it a shot at your next get together, I bet you get a lot of compliments.
Let me know if you give it a try, or of you give the biscuits a try, and how it turned out for you. I would love to hear from you and I will always answer any comment that I get, oh, and don’t forget to leave me an email and I will send you the little cookbook with 5 easy recipes and the grocery list for them.
Bye for now, talk to you Thursday.