Recent baking

Sorry – no food p0rn shots.

I’ve been baking quite a bit recently, following the banana dessert series. Motivation – saving money, using up ingredients I have in my pantry, and eating less processed food. I figure if I’m making my own junk food (i.e. cookies, pastries, etc.) it’s ‘healthier’ than the store-bought version because it doesn’t have ‘industrial’ ingredients like corn syrup, hydrogenated palm oil, or what have you.

However, I’m not sure that all that butter I’m consuming in my baked goods is all that healthy either. Cost-wise, I may not be saving money: butter, flour and sugar are expensive. I haven’t done a full-blown cost-analysis. But the fulfillment of doing my own baking can’t be beat, not to mention the learning process. Here’s a run-down

Green-tea (matcha) cupcakes – Someone gave me a Hummingbird bakery cookbook. I said a polite thank-you, hand copied the green tea cupcake recipe, and promptly flipped the book on Half.com. It didn’t turn out too bad, but I didn’t realize that the amount of cocoa in the batter would overwhelm the matcha flavor. It turns out that blast of matcha flavor is from the frosting. I usually don’t make frosting, but I did this time. I might make it again, and skip the cocoa powder, for a true matcha cupcake.

Olive-oil brownies – from a recent recipe in the New York Times. I threw in coconut for one batch, and the other had nuts. Not too bad. Definitely a tinge of savoriness.This one I would make again on a voluntary basis. Like when I want to consume less butter.

Lemon Bars – Better Homes and Garden recipe. Marcella had brought her signature lemon bars to crab feed# 1. Sue Jane had bought Meyer lemons from her garden to crab feed# 2 as a hostess gift. I didn’t have Marcella’s recipe, so I turned to the cookbook at hand. I misread the ingredients, so not enough butter in the crust. I didn’t like the lemon layer, but that might have been because I doubled the amount of lemon juice (didn’t want it to go to waste), which affected the texture. Also the lemon layer batter sat for a while, so it separated a bit. I didn’t beat it again before pouring. The lemon zest floated to the top, in chewy strands, but I didn’t mind. I love lemon zest. Overall, edible, but disappointing, since I consider Marcella’s recipe the golden yardstick by which all other lemon bars are mentioned.

Oatmeal cookies – I just had a craving for oatmeal cookies. I had some sad, dried out raisins left from last year’s camping trip. Better Homes and Garden recipe worked well. These fresh-baked cookies had an unbeatably real/true flavor, compared to store-bought.

Lemon Bars # 2 – I asked Marcella for her recipe and followed it to the T. I even chopped up the zest. However, I baked it in the convection-toaster oven, since Joe was roasting spare-ribs in the main oven. I didn’t adjust the time or temperature down, so I overbaked it. It wasn’t carbonized burnt. But the texture has fused and caramelized, into something quite tasty, but with very little lemon flavor. It was like a rich buttery chewy cake. It was quite unrecognizable from Marcella’s usual lemon bars!

Chocolate-ginger cookies – I had leftover crystallized/candied ginger from the Chinese New Year candy box. I remembered seeing a chocolate ginger cookie recipe on Food Gal. It turns out it was from Martha Stewart, and it also had chocolate. It called for ground ginger and grated fresh ginger, not candied ginger. So I followed the recipe and didn’t put in candied ginger.
It didn’t seem like it would be too sweet, the batter only had molasses, and the balls of dough were rolled in a bit of sugar – for a frosted crystalline appearance. But I forgot – semi-sweet chocolate is actually quite sweet. So it was too sweet – I should use bitter-sweet or dark chocolate chips or chunks next time.
It called for Dutch process cocoa – I only had a tin of Dagoba unsweetened cocoa powder. I don’t know what difference it makes.
Overall, it is very rich – in a ‘jai’ way (Chinese term for ‘filling’). If you eat more than two cookies at once, you will feel slightly queasy! So that made the cookies last a while. It helps if you eat them with milk, coffee or strong tea. It also helps that Joe is not crazy about ginger.
These are also chewy, rather than crunchy. I prefer crunchy, so I might make them again in smaller sizes, for a higher surface to volume ratio.

It turns out the Food Gal-featured cookie recipe I was really thinking of, which used candied ginger is this one. That’s next on my to-try list. Although she mentions they’re chewy – maybe I can overbake them to be crunchy. I don’t know enough about baking principles to know how tinker a chewy cookie recipe to become crunchy.

Also I need to figure out a way to make use of the dried Chinese jujubes I have on hand. I give lots to my uncle, but still have some left. I used to make cucidati, but it’s more work than it’s worth. I’m thinking of date-paste filled crepe/pancakes, Shanghai-style. Need to find a recipe.

Also to try next – the Lamington, from Down Under – a cake with chocolate and coconut. And khanom moh kaeng – to use up palm sugar/jaggery.

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