Tag Archives: sugar

Homemade Organic Brown Sugar!

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Hey everyone!

Organic food can be pricey so when you have a recipe that calls for light or dark brown sugar and you already have organic sugar, there is no need to go out a buy a separate box of it.  It’s very easy to make yourself.  Here’s why.

Regular brown sugar is made of white processed granulated sugar with molasses added in.   Molasses comes from sugar cane and it’s stripped out of white sugar during the processing phase.  So, to make regular brown sugar – manufacturers just add molasses back into it.

Organic sugar is made from the juice of sugar cane and then crystalized.  The molasses is never stripped out and that is why it is an off-white (almost brownish) color.  However, it’s not enough molasses to make it into the brown sugar recipes call for, so we need to add more molasses into it.  How much molasses will depend on how dark you want it.  Keep in mind that because there already is some molasses in organic sugar, you won’t need to add as much as you would with regular white sugar.  Here are some guidelines:

1 cup organic sugar to 1 tablespoon black strap organic molasses for light brown sugar.
1 cup organic sugar to 1/4 cup black strap organic molasses for dark brown sugar.

Mix together well.  You might need to adjust the amount of molasses based on your own preference.

Don’t forget to subscribe to my Youtube channel for plenty of recipes using light and dark brown sugar.  www.youtube.com/cinnamonsweetshoppe

 

Mardi Gras Masks 2015

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My favorite cookies to decorate are Mardi Gras themed.  The masks, the glitz, the glimmer.  And I didn’t have to buy any fancy shaped cutters either.

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For the masks, I made my own stencils by tracing the outline of pictures I found on Google Images onto either a thick card stock or onto acetate using an edible food marker.  For the Fleur de Lis, I used a basic round cookie cutter and a $2 stencil I purchased at Joann craft stores.

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Ebola Protection Cookies

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With all of the Ebola panic going around, I thought I’d lighten the air a little with these cookies.  I’m a self-proclaimed germophobe and emetophobe and not worried about getting this.  To be honest, I’m more concerned about getting norovirus or the flu.  There have been hundreds of people either exposed to the virus or exposed to someone who was and only two healthcare workers got it.  So folks, calm down and take normal hygienic precautions such as washing your hands frequently with soap and water and eating a healthy immune boosting diet so you don’t catch anything this year.

Chocolate Thin Mint Macarons

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Macarons are my new favorite cookie.  They are crispy on the outside, gooey on the inside and light and airy all around.  It wasn’t until a year ago that I ever tasted a macaron.  Reason for that is like many others, I kept thinking it was the same thing as a “macaroon” and I don’t love coconut.  I couldn’t have been more wrong.  French macarons are made with almond flour and egg whites.  If you never had a macaron, I urge you to try this recipe.  It won’t disappoint.

To make these cookies, three recipes are needed.  A thin mint wafer recipe, chocolate filling, and the macarons themselves.

Before you gather the ingredients, gather the equipment first.  Macarons can be made in any shape but I thought with Valentine’s Day coming up, why not make them heart shaped.  Whether you make them round, heart or square be sure you have a cookie cutter a little smaller than the projected size of the macaron for the mint wafer.  You don’t want to see the thin mint protruding from the sides of the macaron.

I used the Wilton nesting heart cutters.  For the thin mint I used the second smallest size which is about 1 inch by 1 1/2 inch.  If you’re going to make them round then use a 1 1/2 inch cutter.

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You will also need a kitchen scale.  Macarons can be tricky and one reason they don’t turn out right is the inaccuracy of the measured ingredients.  See here Measuring Ingredients for more about that.

Chocolate Mint Wafer

1/2 cup sugar
1/4 cup unsalted butter (room temperature)
1 egg
1 tsp peppermint extract
1/4 cup cocoa powder
3/4 cup all purpose flour
1 tsp baking powder
pinch of salt

In a medium bowl whisk the sugar and butter (room temperature) together until pale and fluffy. Add the whole egg and continue whisking until it has completely absorbed into the butter and sugar. Then add the extract.  Sift together the cocoa powder, all purpose flour, baking soda, and fold it into the butter mixture until it becomes one solid mass.

Take the cookie dough out of the bowl and roll it out to about ⅛ of an inch thick. Cut desired shapes out of the dough and place them onto a baking tray lined with parchment paper or a silpat. Bake in a 300°F oven for 15 minutes. Take them out of the oven and allow to cool before use.

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Here is my recipe for Chocolate Macarons

To make them heart shaped,  I traced the hearts with a dark pencil onto parchment paper using a cookie cutter one size larger than the wafers.

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If you don’t have a silicone liner, turn the parchment paper upside down (so the penciled writing is facing down) and pipe the hearts.  I placed my silicone liner on top of the parchment paper and piped hearts.

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While they are cooling make chocolate filling.  I used my Clean Eating Chocolate Fudge

To assemble, pipe a little bit of chocolate fudge on the flat side of the macaron.  Place a mint wafer on top and pipe some more chocolate fudge on top of the wafer.  Then another macaron, flat side, on top.

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Stevia For Baking

With so many alternatives to sugar it’s hard to stay on top of which ones work best for baking and how to use them.  Most but not all of the calorie free sweeteners are artificial.  They are either made or processed in a lab.  Sucralose (better known as Splenda) is derived from sugar but goes through a chemical process to make it calorie free and diabetic friendly.  There have been a lot of mixed controversy over the toxicity of Splenda and that it actually can cause weight gain.  You can read more about it at this link Sucralose (Splenda) Toxicity: Fact or Hype?

Splenda is not my go to sweetener but sometimes I do use it in baking when I must have a cup for cup sugar substitute. When sweetening liquids such as coffee and tea, any sweetener is acceptable.  But when baking, the amount of liquid to dry ingredients must be in balance.  For example, if you use honey to sweeten cookies instead of granulated sugar, your cookie dough will be to thin, loose, and they will not hold their shape.  There are healthier recipes on the internet that use liquid natural sweeteners (honey, maple syrup, brown rice syrup, molasses, agave, etc) in which the balance of liquid to dry ingredients have been adjusted.

Coconut Palm Sugar

Read my article about it here Coconut Palm Sugar – Best New Sugar Alternative

Stevia (Stevia rebaudiana)

Stevia is plant based, calorie free, and unprocessed.  It is a very good substitute for sugar in liquid beverages, fruit, and other foods.  It’s not always a good option for baking.  For one,  some find stevia has an after taste.  Stevia is much sweeter than sugar so the approximate conversion is 1 1/2 teaspoon of pure stevia powder to 1 cup granulated sugar or 12 teaspoons of a Stevia blend to 1 cup of granulated sugar.  When a recipe calls for a cup of granulated sugar you cannot replace it with a cup of stevia or whatever you’re baking will be way too sweet.  And you can’t just use the conversion amount or the dough will be too liquidity.

I was able to find this stevia blend in Walmart.  It measures cup for cup to sugar.

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It’s blended with maltodextrin which is derived from starch and found in many foods.

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While I haven’t tried this myself, I would guess you can make your own cup for cup stevia blend by mixing 1 1/2 teaspoon of pure stevia powder with a starch (corn, potato, tapioca, etc) until you have a cups worth.  I would love to hear of the results of anyone who has tried this.

 

Obsessed With Chocolate – Chocolate Liquor Brownies


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If you read my last blog entry I wrote about the process of roasting and winnowing cocoa beans into nibs.   The nibs can be ground down to a fine powder or even a paste.  Cocoa butter makes up 50% of the bean and has a very low melting point.  When pushed through a heavy duty grinder or juicer the friction of the machine melts down the cocoa butter expelling a paste or a very thick mixture known as chocolate or cocoa liquor.  There is a zero alcohol content in chocolate liquor.

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More than a powder but not quite a paste yet.

If you grind the nibs in a food processor for a few seconds, the nibs become a fine powder.

For this brownie recipe, you want to make chocolate liquor.  I warmed up the nibs in the microwave for a few seconds just until they were slightly warm and ground them in my Ninja food processor until they formed a paste.  If you do not have a good quality food processor, they will not grind into a paste.  I have heard that coffee grinders are not tolerant to grind cocoa beans beyond a powder and can actually ruin the grinder.  Juicers, such as the Champion Juicer, Omega Juicer or the Solo Star are best for making chocolate liquor but if you don’t own one of these, a Ninja, Magic Bullet or Vitamix will work to form a thick paste.

Chocolate liquor is grainy and these brownies will also be grainy but cocoa beans are soft and the brownies are still delicious.

3 oz Cocoa liqueur
1 stick butter (or Earth Balance Vegan Buttery sticks)
250 g raw sugar such as Sugar In The Raw (I used coconut/palm sugar)
3 eggs
1/2 t vanilla
130 g  flour (I used whole wheat pastry flour)
1/4 t salt
Optional:  Walnuts (I don’t like nuts in my brownies and used chocolate chips instead)

Melt the cocoa and butter in a saucepan.

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Mix in all the other ingredients.  Pour into an 8″ square pan coated with baking spray or buttered. Bake at 350 F for 25 minutes.

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Let cool before cutting.  These brownies are great as is but I topped them with ganache and jimmies.  Be creative and top them with anything you like such as:

M & M’s, chocolate chips (white, milk, or semi-sweet), chopped pretzels, Chopped Oreos, etc.

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Disney World


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Last week I was in Disney World for a business conference.  Among the thrill rides, shows, fireworks and excitement I didn’t pass up the opportunity to visit the many sweet shops and bakeries.  The Disney franchise is huge and for some reason, sugar cookies seem to taste better when they are decorated like the ones above.

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The Boardwalk Bakery, located on the Boardwalk near Epcot had these delicious treats including the Oreo Mickey Ears cupcake (which BTW, was really good).

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Les Halles Boulangerie Patisserie located in EPCOT World Showcase – France has authentic French desserts in addition to salads and sandwiches, on fresh baked croissants.  My favorite is their chocolate mousse which was very creamy with tiny round white crunchy balls on top.  I don’t know what they are but they tasted good.

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The sweet shops sell their famous candy dipped Mickey and Minnie Mouse apples with a hefty price tag of $9.99.

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 There is a video on youtube that shows just how to make them.  You can also watch them in the store make them  Below they are making large cake size Mickey Mouse Rice Krispy treats.

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Decorated Cake Roll

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Deco Rolls, also known as Swiss Roll, are fun to make.  The sponge cake can be made in chocolate or vanilla.  To decorate, you will need a pattern or if you have a knack for free form drawing then you can be as creative as you want.   While there aren’t that many ingredients to gather, this cake takes a bit of time.

As always, I recommend measuring out your ingredients and preparing the pan ahead of time.  Before starting, decide what your decoration will be and what filling you will be using.  This cake is very good with just about any filling you have on hand.  I used leftover coconut cream that were in the freezer.  But you can use jam, whipped cream with strawberries, dulce de leche, or just about anything.

This recipe is enough to make a 17 x 11 inch sheet pan.  Once you determine the pan, cut two sheets of parchment paper to fit the size.  On the pan, underneath the parchment paper, place your template.  The template doesn’t have to be the full size of your pan.  For the 17 x 11 size, place the template closer to the top of the pan leaving and inch at the end.  As you roll the cake, the undecorated portions will be rolled under and not visible anyway.

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I placed a few pieces of tape so the parchment paper wouldn’t roll up or move.  If you do that, remember to remove it before baking.  Tape doesn’t hold up well in the oven.

For the pattern you will need:

1 egg white
30g granulated sugar (or sugar substitute of choice.  Remember not all sugar substitutes measure one for one so you will have to adjust the measurements.  I don’t recommend using liquid sweeteners for this recipe since they will change the texture.)
40g whole wheat pastry flour. If making chocolate pattern substitute 20g for cocoa powder.
20g butter- room temperature
Food coloring (gel or paste, not liquid)

Mix the above ingredients together in a small bowl until well incorporated.  Add desired food color and mix in well.  Fill a pastry bag with a small tip.  I used a Wilton tip no. 2.  Trace over the pattern with the batter.

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When finished, place pan in the freezer for 15-20 minutes.  In the mean time, make the cake batter.

4 eggs, separated (you will need both yolks and whites)
1 tsp cream of tartar
1/2 cup + 1 tbsp sugar (or sugar substitute of choice.  Remember not all sugar substitutes measure one for one so you will have to adjust the measurements.  I don’t recommend using liquid sweeteners for this recipe since they will change the texture.)
1/4 tsp vanilla or almond extract
60g butter – melted (approximately 1/2 stick + 1 tbsp)
1/2 cup whole wheat pastry flour
1/4 cup cocoa powder (if making plain rolled cake substitute this for whole wheat pastry flour)

Preheat oven to 400 F.  Combine flour and cocoa powder in a small bowl.  Attach a mixer with the beater attachment.  Beat egg whites and cream of tartar until foamy but not stiff.  Add half of the sugar.  Beat until stiff peaks form making sure not to overbeat. The peaks should be shiny.

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In another bowl with a wire whisk, whisk together egg yolks, vanilla or almond extract, and the remaining sugar.  Fold egg whites into the egg yolks just until blended.  Fold in half of the melted butter.  Add in half of the flour and continue folding.  Then add in the remaining butter, fold in, then the remaining flour and fold just until well blended.

Take pan out of the freezer and remove the template underneath the parchment paper.  If you used tape, don’t forget to remove that as well.  Pour the cake batter over the frozen pattern and spread evenly with a spatula.  Work quickly so the pattern doesn’t defrost.

6Bake for 5-7 minutes, until it’s done.

Sprinkle confectionery sugar on the second piece of parchment paper.  Flip the cake on top of the second parchment paper.  Gently peel back the first piece of parchment paper.  Your pattern should be facing on top.  If the edges are hard or uneven, trim them with a sharp knife.  Flip the cake back over so the pattern is facing the bottom.  With a spatula, spread filling on top leaving an inch around the perimeter filling free.

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Using the parchment paper as a guide, carefully roll your cake.

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S’Mores Whoopie Pies

I spent weeks working on this recipe and it was well worth it as they are the best s’mores whoopies I’ve tasted.  It takes three different recipes to make these whoopies.  The graham cracker cake, chocolate ganache filling , and marshmallow filling.

 

For the Graham Cracker Whoopie:
1½ cups graham flour  (Available in specialty stores and health food stores)
¾ cup all-purpose flour
1½ teaspoons baking powder
½ teaspoon salt
4 tablespoons unsalted butter, at room temperature
4 tablespoons vegetable shortening
1 cup (packed) dark brown sugar
2 large eggs
½ cup buttermilk
2 tablespoons milk
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon white vinegar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract

For the Classic Marshmallow Filling:
1½ cups Marshmallow Fluff (or other prepared marshmallow cream, which will do in a pinch)
1¼ cups vegetable shortening
1 cup confectioners’ sugar
1 tablespoon vanilla extract

For the Chocolate Ganache Filling:
8 ounces bittersweet or semisweet chocolate chips (or solid chocolate, finely chopped)
½ cup heavy cream

Position a rack in the center of the oven and preheat the oven to 375 degrees F. Line two baking sheets with parchment paper.  In a medium bowl, stir together both flours, baking powder, and salt.

In the work bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, beat together the butter, shortening and brown sugar until light and creamy, about 3 minutes. Add the eggs and the buttermilk and beat until combined.

In a measuring cup, combine the milk, baking soda, and vinegar. Add the milk mixture to the batter along with the flour mixture and beat on low speed until just combined. Add the vanilla and beat on medium speed for about 2 minutes, until completely combined.

Using a spoon, drop about 1 tablespoon of batter onto one of the prepared baking sheets and repeat, spacing them at least 2 inches apart. Bake one sheet at a time for about 10 minutes each, or until the cakes begin to brown. Remove from the oven and let the cakes cool on the sheet for at least 5 minutes before transferring them to a rack to cool completely.

To Make the Marshmallow Filling: In the work bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, beat together the Marshmallow Fluff and the vegetable shortening, starting on low and increasing to medium speed until the mixture is smooth and fluffy, about 3 minutes. Reduce mixer speed to low, add the confectioners’ sugar and the vanilla, and beat until incorporated. Increase mixer speed to medium and beat until fluffy, about 3 minutes more.

To Make the Chocolate Ganache Filling: Put the chocolate in a large, heatproof bowl. Heat the cream in a large, heavy saucepan over medium heat just until it bubbles. Pour the hot cream over the chocolate in the bowl and let it sit for about 10 minutes, until the chocolate is melted. Stir with a wooden spoon or spatula until smooth. Refrigerate the mixture for about 30 minutes, until it is firm enough to spread, stirring every 10 minutes.

To Assemble the Whoopie Pies: Pipe or spread a layer of chocolate ganache filling onto the flat side of one of the cakes. I used a parchment cone and snipped a very small tip at the end so the chocolate didn’t run out all over the place.

The one mistake I made with the ganache was filling the cone too high and some chocolate did creep out of the top.

Using the same method, top the chocolate filling with the marshmallow filling. Top it with another cake, flat-side down. Repeat with the rest of the cakes and filling.

I finished off the whoopies by rolling them into mini chocolate chips

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Patriotic Cookies

Memorial Day is widely known as the unofficial start of summer but the true meaning brings out patriotism in many Americans.  To make these cookies, I used an old Wilton flower shaped cookie cutter.

The Uncle Sam hats were made from a stencil.  I used this pictures for inspiration:

After printing out the picture, I traced it onto heavy paper stock and cut out.  Manila file folders work great.  Then place on top of rolled out cookie dough and cut out shape with a paring knife.

I would have liked to use mini star decorations instead of the non-pareils but Michaels nor AC Moore had any in stock and I didn’t have time to order them.