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Monday, 30 January 2012

6 Baking Secrets Revealed

For all those who bake at home, we all get recipes from various sources; websites, cook books and even family & friends. Sometimes the terminology used in the recipes while mixing can be a bit confusing. I've put together 5 mixing terms used in cake recipes so that if you encounter them next time, or for the first time ^_^ you can understand what they mean exactly.

Baking = Love


1.) Creaming Method

This is when butter or margarine is beaten with an electric mixer or a whisk, with sugar until the mixture is light and fluffy. This method can take 3-5 minutes with an electric mixer or if by hand, can take 5 - 8 minutes. The creamed mixture should be white or almost white in color; it should also have a creamy consistency. This method incorporates air into the ingredients; hence the almost white color and creamy texture. This method is used mostly for Butter Cakes.
Creamed batter
2.) Folding Method

This is simply the process of pouring flour or any other dry ingredient, into a creamed or melted mixture, a little at a time, while stirring slowly and gently - moving towards one direction. Generally a wooden spoon or a spatula is used to stir in the dry ingredients.

3.) Melting Method

This is ideal for honey, molasses or syrup cakes or cake recipes that may also contain chocolate in their ingredients. Place the butter or margarine in a saucepan over low heat. When the fat has melted, remove the sauce pan from the heat and add the honey, molasses, etc. Mix well until blended. Let it cool and then mix in other liquid and sugar. Carefully fold in other dry ingredients. This method is also used when melting butter and chocolate to make cakes such as Chocolate Fudge or Chocolate Brownies.
Melted batter

This method is also used if you're melting cooking/block chocolate for baking. However, the chocolate is melted using a double boiler or, if you don't have one, two cooking pans.
Boil water in a large pan, then lower the heat and place another pan above the first - make sure the top pan/bowl doesn't touch the hot water in the bottom pan. Put the cooking chocolate into the second pan and slowly stir the chocolate with a spatula or wooden spoon until melted, remove from heat and use accordingly.

4.) Whisking Method

 This is when you whisk egg whites (or whole eggs) until they are fluffy and form soft peaks. You then incorporate sugar, any other ingredients and then fold in dry ingredients to make a foam batter. This is mainly used in Sponge cake-making.

5.) One Step/ All-in-One Method

Sift dry ingredients into a mixing bowl. Add sugar and all other ingredients. Mix well with a wooden spoon until thoroughly blended. The mixture will have a thick consistency and be light and glossy. It can be poured or spooned into tin. This method is used for Quick breads such as Banana breads or muffins.
If you would like to learn how to bake using these methods; learn with us. You can learn online; sign up to our Online baking class or take a practical baking class.

Wherever you get your recipes from, always enjoy your baking ^_^

Friday, 27 January 2012

Best Oatmeal Cookies in Kenya

We all love cookies and once in a while, it is alright to indulge your sweet tooth. ^_^ A great classic cookie to indulge in, one that is a personal favorite, is the Oatmeal Cookie. I like it mostly because it is also quite a healthy cookie, especially if you make some substitutes on the ingredients.

Oatmeal Cookies

Ingredients:
- 2 cups Self-Rising Wheat Flour
- 1 teaspoon Ground Cinnamon
- 3/4 cup Un-salted Butter or Margarine (*if using butter; add a 1/8 tspn salt)
- 1 cup Sugar
- 1 teaspoon Vanilla Essence
- 2 Eggs
- 1 cup Quick Oats
- 1/2 teaspoon fresh Rosemary 
Directions: 
  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit or 177 degrees Celsius. Grease and flour a cookie sheet and set aside.
  2. In a medium bowl, sift together flour and cinnamon. Set aside.
  3. In a large bowl, Cream margarine and sugar with a mixer. Mix in vanilla.
  4. Add eggs one at a time, until fully incorporated. Mix in oats and rosemary.
  5. Fold dry ingredients into margarine mixture until a good cookie dough is formed.
  6. Form the dough into balls, approximately 2 Tablespoons. Place 2 inches apart on cookie sheet and with a lightly floured spoon, spread the cookie dough balls to flatten a little. To make a pattern, use a lightly floured fork to mark the cookies with tines, vertically and horizontally.
  7. Bake until cookies turn golden, 13 - 15 minutes. Remove from oven to cooling rack. Let sit for at least 3 minutes on the cookie sheet before transferring to a tray to cool completely.
Cookies on a baking sheet

For a healthier Oatmeal Cookie Recipe 

- Instead of Self-rising flour, use whole wheat flour. A good Kenyan brand is EXE Atta Wheat Flour or   EXE Brown bread flour. Make sure you add 1 teaspoon of baking powder to the flour and cinnamon mixture during preparation.
- Honey can be substituted in place of sugar as well - use 3/4 cup honey in the butter/margarine mixture.
Honey as a substitute for sugar



Oatmeal - Cookies!!
Enjoy your Oatmeal Cookies ^_^!!

Want to learn how to bake cookies with us? Join our Basic Cookie making & Decoration class and you won't regret it.
Check our Baking Classes page to find out when the next Cookie making class is scheduled. Click here.
You can also email: amaribreads@gmail.com for more information.
Call/Text: 0701796688

Wednesday, 25 January 2012

Best Practices for Storing Quick breads

On more that one occasion I have baked for my family two or more banana breads and found that as popular and delicious as they might be, some of them are left over. Since fruit breads can be perishable if not stored well, I have come up with important tips on storing some of the popular quick breads, they will help you with any left overs from your home baking or bakery purchases to be consumed the next day or a few days later.

FRUIT BREADS/ MUFFINS AND CORN BREADS

If the quick bread is home-made let it cool completely before storage. Wrap tightly in alluminium foil or cling wrap and store in a cool dry place for at least two days. If available, you can also use a plastic air-tight resealable container. If you have a refrigerator, store the wrapped quick bread for at least five days. For longer storage, place the wrapped bread in a heavy-duty resealable plastic bag or container and freeze up to three months. For consumption, remove and if the quick bread is hard, don't worry; warm in a microwave for a few minutes, it will be moist. You can also defrost at room temperature within 2 hours.

Quick bread in a resealable plastic container


COOKIES AND BISCUITS

After baking, let them cool completely. Place the cookies in an air-tight plastic container or glass jar and store in a cool dry place for up to five days. Make sure you store soft cookies and crisp cookies in separate containers. If stored together, moisture from the soft cookies will soften the crisp cookies and they will lose their crunch. For longer storage, freeze the cookies in the container or resealable plastic bag for up to three months. For consumption, thaw wrapped cookies at room temperature before frosting and serve. If crisp cookies get soft during storage, crisp them up by heating in 300 degrees Farenheit or 149 degrees Celsius oven for five minutes.



Cookies stored in an air tight container


CAKES

Frosted Cakes:
For a one-layer frosted cake, store in a lightly covered plastic container. For a multi-layer cake, store under a large inverted bowl. Insert a spoon handle under the edge of the cover to prevent an air tight seal for the frosted cakes to avoid retaining moisture because of the frosting getting soggy.

Unfrosted Cakes:

Tightly wrap the cake in cling wrap and store in a cool dry area for at least two days. If available, you can use a cake plastic container for storage as well. If you store the wrapped cake in a refrigerator, it can last up to 7 days. For longer storage, you can put the wrapped cake in  an air-tight container or plastic resealable bag and store in the freezer (un-interrupted), it can last up to three months.




PANCAKES

If you and your family love pancakes in the morning for breakfast, but you are a busy person and don't have enough time in the morning to make them. You can make a large batch in the weekend and freeze them to use all week.
When you finish cooking the pancakes, let them cool completely. Freeze individually on a long plate or a rectangular baking sheet in the freezer. When they're frozen, place them together in an air tight resealable plastic bag or container. Freezing them individually stops them from sticking together. For consumption, reheat with a microwave oven or a toaster oven if you have one, it helps restore the crunchiness at the edges.

Enjoy your pancakes any time!

Whatever they may be, enjoy your breads at your own convenience. Do you often store your quick breads or any other baked goods for future use? How do you store them? please share your other ideas ^_^


Monday, 23 January 2012

5 things you Must know about baking

Baking is a good hobby or business to start, and to some it is quite simple, for others it may be a bit more challenging. I've decided to come up with a short list of five important tips that will be helpful to anyone who is baking or has recently decided to venture into home baking.

1. STICK TO THE RECIPE

Baking is an exact science, unlike cooking, reducing or increasing measurements randomly can spell disaster in your end product.

2. QUALITY MATTERS

The quality of ingredients matter. Buy the best you can afford. If it is unsalted butter, buy it from a reputable company like K.C.C. or Brookside Ltd.. If it is wheat flour, my favorite is EXE All Purpose flour by Unga limited, they make quality baking flours. Your quick breads will always taste exceptional when made with quality ingredients.

3. ACCURACY IS IMPORTANT

When measuring dry goods like flour, spoon ingredients into the measuring cup, then with a straight-edged object like a knife, sweep away the excess. This method will save you from a ruined recipe due to less or more ingredients.

4. GET A THERMOMETER

Oven temperature dials are unpredictable and can often be wrong. If you are a passionate baker who is concerned about accuracy, like myself, invest in a thermometer that accurately measures oven temperature.

5. NO PEEKING!

Avoid opening the oven door while baking. Peeking allows heat to escape and a cake that is baking may not have formed yet, disturbing it may leading to sinking in the middle.

peeking not allowed ^_^




Are you curious about which ingredients are used in a particular quick bread or baked pastry that you love eating? Tell me what it is and I'll shed some light on what ingredients are used ^_^

Friday, 20 January 2012

Home Baking in Kenya

I was living abroad and came back to Kenya about four years ago. The one thing I noticed in most homes is that not very many people do a lot of home baking, I personally think that it's because most Kenyans think that they have to buy a very expensive oven to be able to bake at home. Fortunately for everyone, there are various options out there for anyone who has the interest, or for some of us, the passion to bake at home.

When I came back and wanted to bake at home, my mum heard of a gentleman who makes charcoal ovens in Ketengela, she purchased a commercial one (36 loaf capacity) and it costed her Kshs. 30,000 (fairly decent for a commercial size oven), but they also make smaller sizes and I once saw a smaller version being sold at Nakumatt for about Kshs. 25,000. Another blog that can be very helpful if anyone wants to buy a charcoal oven or discover their benefits, you can check out Cookswell Energy Savings Jikos. So one option people could use can be charcoal ovens.
Example of a charcoal oven-very cost efficient

Another option, which I personally took when I moved to Nyeri to work and I couldn't move with my charcoal jiko, was to go searching for an even smaller alternative, I was happy to find an Electric Mini Oven, mine is a Westpool model I purchased from Tuskys Supermarket it cost me around Kshs. 5,600, very reasonable for anyone on a budget. It has served me faithfully for the last two years.
Small & Compact-good for small scale baking

Another alternative for homes which already have electric or gas cookers is to use the oven area for home baking once in a while.
Gas oven with oven area-these are found in some Kenyan homes, but are not so utilized.

As for baking tools, such as whisks, measuring cups, mixing spatulas, mixing bowls, queen cake pans, loaf pans and electric mixers, they are readily available in most supermarkets, and are of very good quality - if you're willing to spend a fair amount of money. If you are on a slightly lower budget, loaf pans can be purchased at Jua Kali at far more reasonable prices. If you want to specialize more and are willing to spend the money on quality bake ware, you can purchase icing bags with nozzles, special shaped cake pans and other specialty baking items at a store on Biashara Street in Nairobi called Walibai Karim, they are also a distributor for Wilton, which is an American store that sells specialized high quality bake ware.
Simple electric mixer for home use
Set of measuring cups
Stainless steel mixing bowls
simple mixing whisk
Loaf pans

When it comes to ingredients such as all-purpose and self-rising flour, baking powder, sugar, margarine, butter - to name but a few, are all readily available at any supermarket, neighborhood store or wholesale shop.

My feature recipe today is Butter cream frosting, I once saw a wonderful recipe picture for the frosting and wanted to see if I could create something as delicious, here's my version:

Mo's Butter Cream Frosting

Ingredients:
- 3 cups Icing Sugar
- 1/2 cup Unsalted butter
- 1 teaspoon Vanilla Essence
- 2 Tablespoons Milk

Directions:
1) In a large bowl, mix the sugar and butter on low speed until well blended, then increase mixing speed and beat another 3 minutes.
2) Add Vanilla and milk and continue to beat on medium speed for 1 minute, add more milk if needed for spreading consistency.
Ice your cake, bread or cup cake and enjoy ^_^

Picture perfect isn't it?


Does anyone bake at home? If so what do you use for baking? Share some of your ideas! ^_^

Wednesday, 18 January 2012

What is quickbread?

What is Quick bread'?
Wikipedia describes quick bread as an American term used to describe a type of bread which is leavened with leavening agents other than.yeast.

Examples of quick breads:
Many cakes, brownies, cookies, fruit breads like banana bread, corn bread, muffins, scones, pancakes and many more.

History:
 Quick breads probably originated from the United States of America at the end of the eighteenth century. Before that, baked goods were leavened with either yeast or by mixing dough with eggs. During the American Civil War, demand for food rose and bread was therefore rapidly made and leavened with baking soda instead of yeast. That was how the name came to be - "quick breads"

My story:
I fell in love with the art of baking in my freshman year of high school. I took a "Creative Cooking" class with a wonderful and quirky teacher called Ms. Minadeo, I have been baking ever since. It is such a passion that it has driven me to work hard towards owning a bakery of my own in the near future. For now, I will be sharing some of my personal favorite recipes and pictures (of course), as well as wonderful bakeries or pastry shops that I encounter - in Kenya - with delicious pastries, as I continue in this great journey of baking ^_^!!!

My feature recipe for today is my absolute favorite - Banana Bread, there are many variations of the banana bread, I will share my own tweaked version (I usually have to tweak the original recipes to suit Kenyan ingredients sometimes).

Mo's Banana Bread
Ingredients:
1/2 cup Sugar
1/2 cup Margarine
2 Ripe Bananas
1 Tablespoon Ground Cinnamon
1 cup All-purpose Wheat Flour
1 teaspoon Baking powder
2 Tablespoons Milk
(Optional) 1/8 cup peanuts - chopped
Directions:
-Preheat the oven to 325 degrees Fahrenheit (as for me, I use a mini-oven so I set to 190 degrees Celsius)
-Grease and flour a small loaf pan.
-In a small bowl, mash bananas with a fork. Mix in the milk and cinnamon. In another bowl, mix together flour and baking powder.
-Cream the sugar and margarine in a large mixing bowl until fluffy.
-Add the banana mixture to the creamed mixture and stir until combined. Add dry ingredients, mixing just until flour disappears. If adding nuts, fold them into the batter with a wooden spoon.
-Pour batter into the prepared loaf pan and bake for atleast 45 minutes or until toothpick inserted in the centre comes out clean. Remove pan and set aside to cool on a rack for at least 15 minutes. Remove bread from pan, invert onto rack and cool completely before slicing.
I can't make just one, three will do :)


Enjoy your bread ^_^