Will I really get worms?? [can I eat raw cookie dough?]

Memories of tip-toeing through the kitchen to snag a pinch of freshly-made cookie dough before Mom caught you – I’m pretty sure we all have that memory! If your Mom went to the same school as mine, the condemnation was usually: “You can’t eat cookie dough! You’ll get worms!!” I used to wonder how bad the worms would be – wondering this, of course, while munching on the dough. As years went by, I realized that my mother believed I would get worms from the raw eggs within the dough. So, Moms–this one’s for you!

Pasteurized eggs! They look like your average egg, in the shell, but they have been ever-so-briefly brought to salmonella-killing temperatures, then immediately cooled down to appear as all other grocery store eggs–really! You can’t tell them apart. When I first discovered the existence of these, I ran to my nearest store asking if they stocked these. The cashier cocked his eyebrow and suggested that all eggs were pasteurized. With my tail between my legs, I left completely embarrassed thinking I must have gotten my information wrong. Nope. They really do exist, and that stock boy needs some egg lessons! The only ones in the Midwest I have found are made by Crystal Farms, though you may be lucky enough to have some other brand options in your midst.

So, what do you do with these newfound eggs? Eat cookie dough, of course! Ooh–and homemade vanilla ice cream – and mousse – and custard! Go ahead. Make up for those years of fear of worms.

Midnight munchies

Mmm. Nothing like a midnight munchie of chocolate chip cookies—nice and warm, right from the oven! However, hovering around the kitchen at Midnight is just plain nutty–kitchennutty, that is! So, how do we solve this problem of munchie attacks, when you just don’t want to bake? Thank goodness for the modern freezer! Next time you make your favorite stand-by cookie recipe, double the batch and continue to drop them onto the cookie sheet, as normal–but, instead of throwing them in the oven, freeze them! After they’ve frozen to a nice, hard state, remove them from your cookie sheet, drop them in a freezer-safe baggie for that next craving. To bake, preheat the oven to the recipe’s regular temperature, but bake about five minutes longer.

Voila! Cookies to go at a midnight munchie moment!

Risen from the dead!

Flat cookies, unleavened bread, muffins like rocks – all are products from dead baking soda, yeast or baking powder! There are a few culprits for these products dying on you, mainly age or temperature. In the case of yeast, they’re live cells; humidity and high temperatures will kill them! For baking soda and baking powder, old age will do them in.

In order to have these baking stars shine for you, you need to give them a little respect; in the case of yeast, give them a happy home, such as the freezer! They’ll settle down nicely for a long winter’s nap, and wake in time to help that bread rise and puff to your heart’s content! For your baking soda and baking powder, they want to be stored in an air-tight environment, away from all the life-sucking sun. For baking soda, its lifecycle is only three to six months after date of opening. Your best bet is upon the lid of the canister, write the date you opened it. Begin testing it after three months and subsequently each time you go to use it.

Now, this doesn’t mean you need to run to your cabinets and begin throwing out those 59 containers of baking soda and baking powder! Save that money for an upgrade on your ingredients, in the meantime, put this little tip to the test:

Baking soda: Mix 1/4 teaspoon of soda with 2 teaspoons of vinegar; if the mixture bubbles immediately (think back to your sixth grade Volcano Science Project), you’re good to go! If not, chuck it and add “yellow box of white stuff” to your grocery list.

Baking powder: Mix 1 teaspoon with 1/2 cup hot water; is it bubbling? Hooray! Go bake some cookies. Oh, no? Mmm, thow it away and grab some new stuff next time you’re out.

Yeast: So, you don’t bake a lot of bread – what’s a chef to do? Buy it in smaller amounts! Don’t buy that large jar to save a few pennies. Dissolve 1 teaspoon sugar in 1/2 cup warm water (110º to 115º F), then mix in 2-1/4 teaspoon yeast (if you’re using those pre-measured packets, they are 2-1/4 teaspoon already). Wait ten minutes, does it bubble? Yay! Homemade bread!! If not, be greatful you saved yourself the hours of kneading and mixing only to have a loaf as heavy as rocks!

Does size really matter?

You’re making your grandmother’s famous chocolate cake and the recipe calls for 2 – 9″ cake pans. You only have 8″ round cake pans—so, the cake will be a little smaller, does it really matter? Yes! In baking, all things matter! It’s more than just that inch, it’s the volume. A 9″ cake pan has a volume of capacity of 63.585″ and an 8″ cake pan only has a volume capacity of 50.24″. Those extra 13 square inches cause a lot of problems in the oven. So, if you must make grandmother’s famous chocolate cake in your 8″ pans–plan ahead! Make a few cupcakes with that extra batter (after all, you need to taste it before you serve it!) so that the results are just what you’ve been hoping for!

Innovation :: the mother of recipes

I have to laugh during the ice storms of Minnesota because I have found one reason to cherish them: extra refrigerator space! Thanks to my non-heated garage, which remains at 36º during the winter, I am able to plop additional groceries on the shelves until I manage to find more space in my refrigerator. When I need additional freezer space, I simply open the back door, and plop the goods down on the porch. Yet, who would have expected I would find the complete opposite to be true? As I headed to Central America, I found the need to melt some butter for a new-found flour tortilla recipe. However, finding the electricity to be temporarily out, one must go on! So, out to the 104º weather on the back porch with my stick of butter in a rubbermaid. Sure enough, about 15 minutes later, I had a nice stick of melted butter and was on my way to making some amazing flour tortillas! See? Nothing can stop a true kitchen nut!

Re-defining “room temperature”

In many recipes (including my tips below), bringing ingredients to room temperature is imperative to the success of the recipe. However, during my recent vacation to Central America, I have recognized that room temperature to one is another’s heat wave. :) Therefore, it seems that a call for definition is in order! With that, I will specify that “room temperature” is 65-68 degrees–no matter where you find yourself on the globe. So, be sure to get yourself a thermometer and continue baking.

Baked From Scratch