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Category Archive for: ‘Cooking Tools & Techniques’
Sugar

I’ve touched on sugar, mostly brown sugar,  in the past “Pantry 101 – Baking and Spices 6-12”  but we got a question from Debbie in California asking what is the difference between  cane sugar, corn sugar, and beet sugar, so we’ll go into depth to answer that question here.

Sugar

Wikipedia defines sugar as:

Sugar is a term for a class of edible crystalline carbohydrates, mainly sucroselactose, and fructose,[1] characterized by a sweet flavor. In food, sugars refer to all monosaccharides and disaccharides present in food, but excludes polyols,[2] while in its singular form, sugar normally refers to sucrose, which in its fully refined (or free sugar) form primarily comes from sugar cane and sugar beet, though is present in natural form in many carbohydrates. Other free sugars are used in industrial food preparation, but are usually known by more specific names—glucosefructose or fruit sugar, high fructose corn syrup, etc. Currently, Brazil has the highest per capita production of sugar.[3] 

Cane Sugar

C&H’s web site says this about cane sugar:

“How Cane Sugar is Better (or, Why cane sugar can't be beet)

Not all sugars are created equal. Lots of us have been brought up thinking that all sugars are—well—pretty much the same, and that the kind of sugar we use won’t make much difference. Even today, most people don’t know that some grocery stores carry two different kinds of sugar: cane sugar and beet sugar. Pure Cane Sugar, the kind C&H uses exclusively, is refined from sugarcane plants. The first cultivated sugar crop, sugarcane is grown above ground, nurtured in fresh tropical breezes under warm sunshine. Beet sugar, found in some store brands and in other makers that often don’t specify the source, is extracted from beets grown underground as a root crop. Cane sugar contains trace minerals that are different from those in beet sugar, and it’s these minerals that many experts say make cane sugar preferable to use. As professional bakers have long noticed, cane sugar has a low melting-point, absorbs fewer extraneous and undesirable odors, blends easily and is less likely to foam up. And that can be very important when you’re caramelizing a syrup, making a delicate glaze, baking a delicious meringue, or simmering your family’s favorite jam recipe.”

Brands

Domino Sugar, Dixie Crystal and C&H are all cane sugar and say so on the label
Holly Sugar, which acquired Spreckles, is beet sugar

Beet Sugar

Chemically identical to cane sugar 99.05 percent.  But that .05 percent makes a big difference when cooking.  Beets are harvested in the fall and are usually grown much further from the processing plant than sugar cane, requiring a higher transportation cost.  Beets are a root vegetable and more processing is required to clean them and separate the greens.  Also important to note is that beets are a rotational crop while sugar cane is a mono crop.  Rotational crops require 4 times as much land to grow as mono crops.  To learn more about how beets are turned into sugar go here.  For all practical purposes the only difference between beet and cane sugar may be how they react to heat.

Corn Sugar

Corn sugar aka corn syrup.  Yes, just like the corn syrup in your pantry.  Now, the difference is that corn syrup has no fructose as opposed to cane sugar or beet sugar.  Table sugar, composed of 50 percent fructose and 50 percent glucose, is from sugar beets or sugar cane.    For a lot of reasons I won’t get into now, but can be found in the movie “King Corn“, corn syrup is much cheaper to produce than cane or beet sugar, but it doesn’t taste the same. In step the scientists to “fix” that problem.

High Fructose Corn Syrup

Scientists found a way to chemically alter corn syrup to create a cheap liquid sugar by adding fructose, hence the name high fructose corn syrup.  The corn syrup is high in fructose relative to other corn syrup, not to sugar.  HFCS-55 has a similar fructose ratio to honey and is composed of 55 percent fructose and 45 percent glucose and is used in soft drinks.  There is also a HFCS-45, which is less sweet than sugar and HFCS-55 and is used in many baked goods, jams, jellies, and cereals. HFCS-45 contains 45 percent fructose and 55 percent glucose.  It is widely believed that because HFCS has been chemically altered that the body doesn’t react to it in the same way as sugar, but that has yet to be proven.

Conclusion

Many believe that caramel made with beet sugar will crystallize and never form caramel where cane sugar works well. Cane sugar on a creme brulee caramelizes while beet sugar burns.  Some cooks believe that making boiled icing with beet sugar is a mess.  If the package of sugar doesn’t say cane, it’s beet.  Some brands mix the two.

 

Happy baking and keep on Farming you Fat Farmers- Jughandle

How to Carve a Halloween Pumpkin

How to Carve a Pumpkin

Pumpkin carving has developed from a fun thing to do at Halloween to a competitive art.

Ideas

There are as many ideas as there are pumpkins.  “The limit is only your imagination”, as the creative types like to say.  The following are pictures to help inspire.

Southern Living Idea

From Southern Living – https://www.southernliving.com

Seasonal designs

Seasonal designs are unique

How to make a pumpkin cooler

Or try something more traditional

More Picture Ideas

25th Anniversary Party Cake
This is a cake we made for a 25th anniversary party. It is a yellow cake with white butter cream icing, covered in white and silver fondant with a royal icing bow on top and gum paste bows and ribbons on the bottom. Designed to serve 150 people. This actually was a very successful cake with few problems because yellow cake is naturally dense and it could easily hold the weight of the small cake on top. The only caution here is about the royal icing bow on top.
protect-the-bow

Gum paste bow with temporary supports

This type of bow is very fragile and should be supported with tissue when transporting. Make sure you have a bag of royal icing to re-attach any broken loops that occurred along the way. The dragees (small silver dots on the fondant) are great to cover any minor problems with the fondant.

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Finished Product

Finished Cake

Cake Recipes – when to make it yourself, when to buy it made, and when to use a box mix
Types of Cake – yellow, chocolate, white, red velvet, cheese cake, carrot cake
Structure – supports, framework, columns, wire, wood, plastic, steel
Types of frosting– fondant, butter-cream, royal, gum paste, cream cheese, glaze, poured fondant
Decorations– pre-made, gum paste, fondant, royal icing, piped butter-cream
Fondant– white, chocolate, marshmallow, poured
Butter-cream Recipes and Problems – cooked, with eggs, with out eggs, no cook
To Freeze or not to Freeze – fresh or frozen
When to refrigerate
When to deliver the cake
How to deliver the cake
How NOT to transport the cake
What to do on site at the event and what not to do
How to fix disasters – and you will have disasters
Why you can’t prevent disasters 
I know there will be more, but that is a good start.

Cake, fondant, weddings, special events

I am frustrated in my efforts to create the perfect cake.  Yes, I know, perfection is a lofty goal, but the finished product can be a hell of a lot better than most we amateurs – and even professionals, turn out.  I call myself an amateur, because that is exactly what I am.  My wife and I made (I use the past tense because we have retired from the stress of the cake making business) cakes for special events that our friends and family have, and we didn’t make money in the process.  We watched every “cake challenge”, “Ace of Cakes” and any other show that broadcasts cake making events and contests.  REAL secrets of how to bake, decorate and deliver a cake to an event are never full explained. I intend to revel those secrets, eventually, in this blog.
Your Cake – And Eat it Too!

Trials and tales of an amateur cake “Expert”.  Things you can’t learn about making cakes from watching TV or reading books

This will be a series of posts all relating to making CAKE

Scratch or Box?

 This post is bound to be controversial. Some purist will insist that your cake should be completely scratch made. Sure, that’s a nice thought but unless your cake is a small cake and you don’t have to spend a lot of time on the decoration you will have other priorities than impressing people with your ability to read a recipe. First you have to determine what purpose you are making the cake in the first place. Here is how we do it:
Wedding cake: We feel that a wedding cake should make a statement. The brides statement, what ever that may be. So you need to make a cake that will be nicely designed, impressive to look at and it must taste good too.
Show Cake: A show cake can be anything from a cake you make for a contest to a cake that you know no one will eat much of. Here the priority is what the cake looks like, not what it tastes like. DSC_6465  Brandons logThats it. There are no other choices, so let’s break that down. In order for a cake to be large enough to serve over 150 people it needs to have a structure. That structure can be anything from a wooden form to metal bracing. The simplest structure to hold a multi tiered cake is simple wooden or plastic dowels that are pushed through the cake to support the layer above it. Or you can watch one of the TV shows and see the elaborate frames they use to support their “show” cake. Ahh, now we are getting to the point I want to make. While you are watching those TV shows, notice that the cake they use is extremely dense. When I say dense, I mean that they can stand on the cake. Also notice that these very same cakes are made in a shallow sheet pan and then cut out with a cookie cutter type of device, to the shape needed. The reason the cake is thin is to make it firm and strong. You CAN NOT make a cake that tastes good that way. At least I haven’t figured out how.So ask yourself, how can they stack cake 3 feet tall without the sides sagging or even crumbling and have the cake not taste like cardboard? They CAN’T! Period. So you have to make the choice I posed above. If you would like your cake to look impressive and taste good then you must be very creative in your cake design. Plus, all conditions must be perfect, which they NEVER are. Remember that a good tasting cake is moist, soft and never dry.Our method: We design the cake to any shape and specs that the bride and groom want, but we try to find a way to achieve that look and still deliver a cake that will be completely eaten by their guests. We do it by making box cakes. Yes, box cakes. Go to the store and buy what ever flavor box cake your customer wants and then make it in your kitchen. We have tried lots of different scratch recipes, but none of them taste as good or are as moist as a box cake. We still put the wet ingredients in, so really all you are buying is the flour, baking powder, sugar and coloring. You still add the water or milk, oil or butter and the whole eggs or egg whites. You still mix it, you still pour it in the pan of your choice and you still cook the thing until it is done. Which, by the way, never is what the back of the box says.Tricks of the trade: There are tricks you can use to improve the work-ability of your cake with out hurting the taste. In fact, these tricks often improve the taste.1) Cook in 2″ thick cake pans, greased, floured and the bottom lined with parchment paper, filled 3/4 full of batter, allowing the cake to rise above the pan in order to be leveled. Cook the cake until the side of the cake separates from the pan about an 1/8th of an inch, no mater if you are cooking a 16″ square cake or a 4″ round. If you do that, your center will be done and will be firmer.

2) Always let your cake cool in the pan on a rack until you can easily handle it without gloves. The longer the cake sits out the firmer the crumbs will become. But if you wait too long the cake will stick to the pan and you will have to warm the bottom to get it to release.

3) after turning the cake out on to a elevated drying rack you can let it sit for up to 12 hours. In fact you should let it sit for at least 8 hours. The texture of the cake will improve and you will be able to handle the cake more easily. Chocolate cake is the easiest to work with because it has lots of fat and whole eggs to bind it together. White cake and Red Velvet are the hardest cakes to work with, because they are so soft. We call this stage the staling stage. The cake doesn’t really get stale, but it becomes more of a unit. After the staling stage, place the cake on at least a 1/4′ foam board and level the top with either a knife or a cake saw and then wrap it in plastic wrap and put it in the freezer. Freeze each layer over night or for at least 4 hours. Amazingly, freezing vastly improves the texture of the cake. We then remove the cake from the freezer and bring it to almost room temperature before using a cake saw to cut it in half. Ice with what ever you want between the layers and continue to build the cake.

Our cakes, soft and moist, are almost always eaten completely. The cake in the picture below is one of our wedding cakes. It is 4 – 4″ layers of white cake with white buttercream icing covered in white fondant. We used 48 cake mixes, 72 pounds of confectioners sugar, 2 gals of Crisco, a pint of vanilla and 12 dozen egg whites.  Problematic conditions were overcome. The bride was happy that the cake was almost completely eaten by the more than 300 guests.

Brandon-Sherinda-wedding-cake

Food Pairing

Food Pairing is a science into itself, for other than just your taste experience, but here I’m going to touch on a couple of pairings that may seem natural to us.  – jughandle

We’ve heard of pairing wine with food for the best flavor experience, but I bet most of you didn’t know that pairing certain foods together can help you fight cancer, ward off depression and aid in digestion and nutriment absorption.  The following information is from an article at Rodale.com

 

1. Steak and Rosemary

The Health Benefit: The combination helps in neutralizing carcinogens created when meat is cooked above 325 degrees Fahrenheit

Why It Works: Rosemary is rich in rosmarinic and carnosic acids that stop cancer-causing heterocyclic amines from forming on cooked meat. “People have a lot of concerns about eating grilled meat,” says Dr. Ramsey, who keeps potted rosemary in his kitchen. “This combination is one way that I like to use food synergy to increase the health of a dish.”

Try It! Snip a sprig of rosemary, remove the main stem, chop, and add to olive oil, salt, and lemon juice to create a healthy marinade. Choose grass-fed beef for healthier fat ratios and to avoid veterinary drug residues.

 

2. Beet Greens and Chickpeas

The Health Benefit: Natural mood boost from a much-needed mineral

Why It Works: Magnesium is essential for low anxiety and happiness, but 70 percent of Americans don’t get enough. Beet greens are loaded with the calming mineral, and the B6 in chickpeas maximizes magnesium absorption in the body.

Try It! Look for local, organic beet greens this spring at your farmer’s market, and soak and cook dried, organic chickpeas to avoid hormone-disrupting chemicals that can be found in canned foods.

 

3. Fish and Broccoli

The Health Benefit: A delicious way to stifle cancer growth

Why It Works: Many fish, salmon, and mackerel are rich in the thyroid-protecting, cancer-fighting mineral selenium. When paired with broccoli, a veggie rich in sulforaphane, the compounds are 13 times more effective in slowing cancer cell growth than when eaten solo.

Try It! Remember to avoid farmed salmon and choose wild-caught Alaskan salmon to avoid parasites and contamination that can kill off the wild salmon.

4. Red Wine and Almonds

The Health Benefit: A natural combo that keeps your heart happy

Why It Works: The antioxidant resveratrol in red wine and almond’s naturally high levels of vitamin E work together in the blood and improve blood vessel health.

Try It! Look for organic wine, since conventional versions have been found to harbor pesticide residues. (The same holds true for the almonds.)

5. Green Tea and Lemon

The Health Benefit: A delicious way to sip your way to natural cancer prevention while jump-starting weight loss

Why It Works: Vitamin C-rich lemons help to maximize your body’s ability to absorb catechins, the heroic disease-fighting antioxidant found in green tea.

Try It! If you drink a lot of tea, consider investing in organic loose-leaf tea and a stainless steel, reusable tea infuser to reduce packaging waste.

6. Turmeric & Black Pepper

The Health Benefit: Superstar spice combo erases inflammation and could ward off Alzheimer’s disease and cancer while combating high cholesterol and improving liver function

Why It Works: Turmeric is one spice that everyone needs to use. Just be sure to combine it with black pepper, which helps your body absorb a thousand times more curcumin, the active ingredient in turmeric.

 

7. Pastured Pork and Sauerkraut

The Health Benefit: Non-starchy and fermented veggies/animal protein combo will keep your gastrointestinal tract on track

Why It Works: Steering clear of starches when eating meat will help your digestive system focus on breaking down the animal protein, boosting absorption and reducing uncomfortable bloating, heartburn, gas, and stomach pain. Fermented vegetables, such as sauerkraut, bolster digestion-friendly probiotics in your body, building up your immune system in the process.

Try It! Opt for grass-fed pork. It’s free of health-harming antibiotics and chemical preservatives and rich in thiamine, a B vitamin vital for proper nervous system functioning. As a general rule of thumb, Gates notes that animal protein meals go best with non-starchy vegetables like green beans, broccoli, kale, collards, and spinach.

 

8. Eggs and Cheese

The Health Benefit: Clearer thinking, reduced PMS symptoms, weight loss

Why It Works: Naturally occurring vitamin D in egg yolks optimizes your body’s absorption of the cheese’s bone- and heart-protecting calcium. Sufficient calcium levels also promote neurotransmitter health and stabilize hormones, which reduces PMS symptoms and weight gain.

Try It! Look for eggs and cheese from grass-fed farm animals. Find local, sustainable sources atLocalHarvest.org.

 

9. Tortilla and Veggies

The Health Benefit: A flatter belly, thanks to reduce bloating and gassiness

Why It Works: Pairing vegetables with grains or grain-like seeds like millet or quinoa—and leaving out the meat—will reduce unpleasant bloating and gassiness, according to gut guru Gates. Starchy vegetables like artichokes, peas, potatoes, yams, and corn and non-starchy veggies like broccoli, kale, and green beans will keep your gastrointestinal tract on track. “A corn tortilla filled with stirred fried vegetables like onions, red pepper, zucchini, and broccoli and seasoned with Tex Mex seasoning is actually delicious and so much more easy to digest than a tortilla made with beef or chicken,” Gates says.

Try It! Top your tortilla off with a spoonful of cultured veggies to optimize digestion and reduce cravings for sugar later in the day.

 

10. Fermented Food + Anything

The Health Benefit: Sugar cravings float away with kimchi and other sour superfoods.

Why It Works: “I can’t say enough how wise it is to add a fermented food to any meal—no matter what you are eating,” says Gates. Superstars in the natural food world, fermented foods like kimchi are loaded with feel-good probiotics that not only improve digestion, but also help stave off sugar cravings. “They must be in a program if you are trying to lose weight,” Gates adds. “They taste sour and take away the desire for sweets.”

Try It! Look for jarred kimchi in your supermarket or save money by doing it yourself: The Easiest Way to Ferment Vegetables.

Tempeh?????

Just when I thought there was nothing left in the world that could surprise me, along comes Tempeh.

What the heck?

Tempeh is another soy product in patty form.  Yes, it is fermented.  Temp’h is made with whole soybeans that undergo very little processing.  It is high in protein, as most soy products and is therefore a great vegan protein source.

Why do we care?

We care because of the texture.  Ahhhh, the texture is that of meat.  I’m not going to pretend that I don’t love everything about meat, with the exception of what it does to my body.  I miss the texture, the mouth feel, the chew of a steak, bbq, a simple hamburger.  Is tempeh the answer?  I sure hope so.

Where to get it

The author of at least one of the articles I read about tempeh feels that because of the complicated nature of the fermentation process necessary to make tempeh, they do not recommend making your own.  This is one of those pre-packaged foods you’ll want to buy.

“You can find tempeh pre-packaged in the refrigerated section of most natural foods stores. Unlike tofu, it hasn’t made it to most mainstream groceries just yet, but try requesting it and see what happens. You might be pleasantly surprised to discover they’ll stock it, or order it for you. If you have to order in bulk, that’s okay because it can be frozen until ready to use.

Because soy bean crops are almost always grown with GMOs  (Genetically Modified Organisms ), your soy products (and corn products, for that matter) should always, always, always be made with organic soy. And this is no exception. So be sure to check your labels to be sure it’s organic. Sometimes it says it on the cover of the package, and sometimes it says it in the actual ingredient list, so check both.”

How To Clean and Prep Tempeh

There are basically two types of tempeh which you can find, one is fresh (or fresh frozen) and one is vacuum-sealed and found in the refrigerated section of your store.

The vacuum-sealed tempehs are almost always pasteurized. This is not in all actuality “pre-cooking” but a way to kill bacteria and molds and other harmful organisims. The pasteurization ensures that all the bacteria is killed off (including, unfortunately, beneficial bacteria) so it can be packaged and sold in stores. These are ready-to-eat and usually do not have to be pre-cooked.

The fresh tempeh is more rare, but seems to be healthier because all the fantastic nutritional qualities are still intact. It’s definitely a food filled with live cultures and such. Fresh tempeh must be pre-cooked for at least 20 minutes before eating. Fresh tempeh can also be frozen in this fresh state.

(When I called my local Whole Foods store to ask if they have any fresh frozen non-pasteurized tempeh, they said it’s illegal for them to sell non-pasteurized tempeh.)

So in the end, the consumer really has to be vigilant. It the package says ready to eat, that means it’s likely been pasteurized and is good to go. If the package says to cook first, then it’s very important to do so.

No matter which tempeh you choose the soybeans are fermented so it’s much easier for our bodies to digest. And of course the tempeh is a nice source of protein. I might recommend that, as with all pre-packaged foods, one not rely on them on a daily basis but try to focus on eating whole foods as nature intended.

Now, having said all that I recommend you cook your tempeh before using it in your recipe. First of all, it helps to remove some of tempeh’s bitter flavor. Secondly, it helps to make the tempeh soft and moist which makes for scrumptious tempeh recipes. And if you would like to marinate your tempeh, cooking it first helps the tempeh to accept more of the marinade.

If you would like to steam it first, you can learn how to do that here: How To Steam Your Tempeh. I recommend steaming it for 20 minutes.

 

Recommendations

I haven’t yet tried tempeh, but I’m going to today.  If this is the next coming of the faux meat, I’ll let you know, believe me – jughandle

You Can Be 90% healthy too!

Can any one be 90 percent health?  I believe you can, but my point here is to make living a strict life style, such as vegan eating, easily attainable.

The art of the cheat

I never really liked the word “cheat”.  It implies that you’ve done something wrong.  In this case, lets do something right.  Let’s call it the “10 percent solution”.  For me, and I think, one of my failings in life, I have a strong need to keep my options open. I believe there are way too many rules in life already, why self-impose more. When I’m restricted I have a strong desire toward that restriction.  Weird?  What you resist you get?

So, I came up with a personal solution that might serve you as well.  I use a “10 percent solution”.  It’s easy doing something for a short period of time, am I right?  I make available to me the possibility to eat anything and everything I want at any time.  I can dream about the food, I can plan menus with it, I can even cook it.  I know that if I really want to, I can partake of the forbidden.  But I don’t 90 % of the time.  I leave the door open to eating meat and/or dairy and eggs, one day per week.  Funny thing is that by making it possible, I don’t want it as often.  Only about 10 percent of the time, not even once per week.

Removing the NO-NO

If you remove the forbidden, amazingly the deep lingering desire also is gone.  At least for me.  Since starting this plan around mid December (yes I know that it’s only been a month) I have planned to eat meat every weekend only to find I didn’t really want it.  In fact, I’ve exercised the 10% rule only twice this month.

Conclusions and recommendations

I concluded long ago that if I eat a 90% vegan diet, I will clean the plaque from my arteries and in turn lose the 100 pounds I’ve gained from having no testosterone in my body. I’m a two time testicular cancer survivor.  The goal is to accomplish this in the year 2012.

I recommend that if you have dietary health issues that are causing you to be uncomfortable or to worry about your longevity, join the fun.  We’ll work through it together, it really isn’t that hard.  It can even be fun watching people squirm when you tell them you are a vegan. Tell them you are a member of  Jughandle’s Fat Farm and start a conversation.  What can it hurt? – Jughandle