Hot Cocoa Mix

Introduction

As soon as the signs of winter begin to encroach on those hot summer days, I begin to crave hot winter drinks like tea or hot apple cider or my personal favorite, hot chocolate. Thick and velvety and as luxurious as you are willing to dress it. Add some marshmallows or whipped cream or spike it with a little brandy or amaretto. It’s hard to go wrong with this drinkable dessert.

My criteria here is a powdered mixture that melts well in hot liquid and creates a smooth and well balanced cup of hot cocoa.

Experimental Findings

Why did the first recipe not make it into “Recipes Worth Repeating” page?

My first try at hot cocoa was not bad and it’s not that I am discouraging anyone from trying it out. It makes a very decent cup of cocoa. Unfortunately, here comes the “but” – but the cocoa that this powder produces is not better than the new Swiss Miss Simply Cocoa. The addition of the chocolate makes my mixture not dissolve as well and leave a slightly gritty texture. It’s not that this mix is bad so much as it’s not better than store bought in which case I have to ask “what is the point of making your own when there is an easier, cheaper, store bought option.

Tests

Hot Cocoa Mix: Test 1 – Good enough if that’s good enough for you


Marshmallows

Introduction

Marshmallows should be like biting into a sweet cloud. Like condensed cotton candy with a spring to it – gentle and delicate. This is what these recipes strive to achieve regardless of flavor.

Experimental Findings

What is the difference between the gelatin only marshmallows and those with egg whites?

I wanted to do a comparison between the marshmallows I always make which rely on the sugar and gelatin being whipped versus those that also have egg whites making up the base. I prefer the texture of the gelatin/sugar ones over those with egg whites. The egg whites lend a spongy texture where you can actually feel the small bubbles bursting under pressure. The one without the egg whites has a more bouncy texture which I feel is more familiar to most people and is what I normally would look for in a marshmallow. This is not to say that the addition of the egg white is bad, I just don’t think it’s good for a simple marshmallow.

On the other hand the egg white marshmallows are easier to handle and you don’t have to time it as precisely. It also produces more end product.

Tests

Vanilla Marshmallows: Test 1 – The classic
Sugar-Free Tangerine Marshmallows: Test 1 – They don’t suck!
Meringue Based Mocha Marshmallows: Test 1 – The classic alternative


Pita Bread

Introduction

Pitas are a bread I grew up eating and have missed greatly. The pitas in the United States are these sad, dry things that only resemble what I ate as a child in that they have a pocket. My goal with this recipe is to achieve a pita that is light, fluffy, soft, and having a pocket would be nice too.

Experimental Findings

I heard people do this in the oven, why a are you doing it on the stovetop?

I’ve also seen it done in the oven though I’ve never tried it myself. I like the control I get when I do it on the stovetop and if I get multiple pans going, it’s as fast, if not faster, than the oven method.

Tests

Pita Bread: Test 1 – Plump voluptuous pitas


Fruit Muffins

Introduction

Muffins are often associated with breakfast and so the requirements are a little different than for a cake. To me, a good muffin needs to be crisp on top and almost crusty while on the inside should be a moist and light crumb. Lastly, it needs to not be a dessert. No frostings, not excessively sweet, and relatively shelf stable.

Side Note:
I agonized over whether or not to group all fruit muffins together. On the one hand, they tend to be similar and you often look for similar properties in this baked good regardless of the fruit being used. On the other hand, the different fruit will have different baking properties. (Pineapple would add acidity, dried fruit will act different from fresh fruit, etc.) In the end I decided that having a space to compare and contrast these properties and their effects on the muffin would be more interesting than just tweaking baking powder.

Experimental Findings

Why is this section so empty?

Look, I’ve only made one test in this category. It was a very successful delicious test but that doesn’t give me much to compare with. I will try to fill this in more as I go but give me a little break for now. Go look at the one test. Try it out. It’s well worth it I promise.

Tests

Cranberry Sauce Muffins: Test 1 – The tastiest no waste solution to cranberry sauce

Cranberry Condiments

Introduction

For this post I’ve chosen to consolidate my cranberry sauces and relishes because their purpose is the same – slathering onto turkey to make it edible. We can disagree on the worthiness of turkey if you’d like but we can all agree that cranberry condiments are necessary and delicious. There is something very festive about that tart and sweet, bright pink flavor.

Experimental Findings

So which one is better?

That depends on what you’re going for. The jelly has the least tartness and some deep notes from the anise and cinnamon. The cranberry jam style is more chunky but also packs a bigger punch as the cranberry skins are very flavorful. Both the jelly and the jam and cooked and thick and deep but if you want something fresher and lighter the relish is fantastic. Each of these is great in its own right

Boy that jelly is nostalgic and tasty but what do I do with all the remaining pulp?

I’m so glad you asked because I was asking myself that too. That pulp is the bomdiggity and it would be a shame to throw it out. I highly recommend making these festive Cranberry Sauce Muffins.

How can my cranberries become a molded jelly without any added gelatin?

The short answer is that cranberries are really high in pectin. For a longer answer, here is an excerpt form Scientific American on the subject.

Pectin is a natural polymer—a series of molecules that attach to one another to form long chains. It is found between plant cells and within their cell walls. Pectin helps “glue” the plant cells together, keeping their tissues firm. And in cooked cranberries as well as in other fruit jams and jellies this pectin can help stick the cooked fruit together to form a solid jelly. When cranberries are cooked, their pectin polymers tangle and interact, forming a net that traps dissolved sugar molecules so they can’t flow. This creates a firm shape. Cranberries naturally contain a lot of pectin, which helps keep the berries nice and firm. This extra pectin gets released when they are cooked. But what determines if the resulting cranberry sauce is liquid or jelly?

You can see how cooking affects the sauce in the picture progression below. As the sauce cooks, you can see how it thickens. The longer you cook it, the thicker it will be and the more solid it will become when cooled. And yes, that means you could mold the cranberry jam and not just the cranberry jelly.

Tests

Cranberry Jam: Test 1 – Because the fruit bits are great
Cranberry Relish: Test 1 – Fresh like a salad but actually yummy

Cranberry Jelly: Test 1 – Nostalgic can sauce

Caramel Pecan Pumpkin Monkey Bread

Introduction

You know this recipe is good just by how many words are in the title. Monkey bread is generally just chunks of bread stacked together in a pan and baked to create a pull-apart cake. To me, monkey bread is also gooey, delicate, and luxurious. You know it’s luxurious by how much butter coats this thing.

Experimental Findings

What do you mean by “how much butter coats this thing”?

I’m going to come clean, this monkey bread is very tasty but what makes it so good is that it has a full 2 sticks of butter and nearly 2 1/2 cups of sugar. Worth it!

How was the bread itself?

It was good but not great. Test 1 wasn’t as tender as I would have liked. This could be due to insufficient butter in the dough or maybe because I reheated it 24 hours after baking before I ever got to taste it. I will just have to try this one out again.

Tests

Caramel Pecan Pumpkin Monkey Bread: Test 1 – A luxurious addition to my waistline

Butternut Squash Ravioli

Introduction

Butternut Squash ravioli is the epitome of fall foods. It combines the sweetness of fall gourds and spices with savory herbs, all encased in delicate dough and smothered in butter. For my butternut squash ravioli, I aim for a filling that brings out the sweetness of the butternut and balances it with a bit of tang from goat cheese, and brought back to earth with some sage.

Experimental Findings

You didn’t use much butternut, do you regret it?

Definitely! Butternut is always preferred because of its stronger flavor and sweetness. I feel it beats pumpkin any day but alas, I couldn’t let that pumpkin go to waste.

How was the texture?

The pasta used in this recipe is 50/50 all-purpose flour and semolina flour. This combination provides the more solid texture that many of us have become accustomed to with dried pasta. I love this texture myself as it feels more sturdy but isn’t tough.

Can the pasta be frozen for later use?

Yes! Coat these babies in some semolina and layer them on a board before freezing. Then you can store them in an air-tight container for a few weeks. Remember to brush off the flour before cooking. Speaking of which, no need to defrost before cooking, just toss them into your boiling cauldron of water and cook them till they float.

Tests

Butternut Squash Ravioli: Test 1 – Tasty fall pillow

Fresh Pasta

Introduction

Pasta is a very versatile dish as the dough itself is rather bland and lends well to sauces and toppings. To me a pasta should be delicate enough to be worth making fresh but tough enough to survive rough handling with a fork as it is spun around the fork into saucy spools.

Experimental Findings

What’s the verdict on the first test recipe?

The first test yielded a very delicate pasta. I rolled it out very thin as well so it almost felt like it might break too easily. Instead it held up beautifully and was gentle and tender. It was a good pasta. I wish it had more chew to it though.

How can more chew be obtained?

One option I’m seeing around is to make the pasta with half all-purpose flour and half semolina flour. I plan on trying this next.

Can the pasta be frozen for later use?

Yes and no. If I was to freeze this pasta I would coat it first in semolina and then place it into an air tight container in small nests. The problem is that few containers are truly air tight and inevitably your flour coating will get hydrated and your pasta will stick together. Int he short term you can definitely freeze it but I wouldn’t leave it there long. Next time I would like to try to freeze the pasta sheets instead of the cut pasta. I think this would work better as full sheets are easier to un-stick.

Tests

Fresh Pasta: Test 1 – Delicate Fettuccine

Rum Baba

Introduction

The rum baba is a delicate yeast based cake soaked in a rum syrup. I’ve also heard them called Sabrina cakes or sometimes called a Savarin cake depending on the shape. Savarin is shaped like a bundt cake while a baba is shaped like individual little buckets though I’ve seen them as small rings as well. For mine, I like to make them into individual little bunts as they’re beautiful especially when served with fresh whipped cream and some fruit.

Experimental Findings

How am I supposed to knead this very sticky, very hard to handle dough?

You’re supposed to either do it in a standing mixer or get very sticky my your hands. Yes, seriously.

What’s the verdict?

The best description I got of my first test was that it tasted like a wet ginger cake. This is not what a rum cake should ever taste like. So skip the spices, keep it simple.

Any other tips?

Yes! Firstly, it would be easier if you make double the syrup in test 2. You need to really really soak these babies. Second, don’t wait too long to soak them and don’t have them sitting around the fridge too long before serving. They’re best when freshly soaked.

Tests

Rum Baba: Test 1 – Wet ginger cake
Rum Baba: Test 2 – Delicious rum cake

Kiev Tort

Introduction

This cake is referenced as being a more traditional version. It is comprised of two meringue layers only, without any sponge cake in between. The meringue, when dried properly, is crisp but not teeth shattering. Light and airy, this cake makes a great end of meal dessert. The buttercream here is also heavy in egg yolks which makes it rich, flavorful, and more delicate.

Experimental Findings

Do I really need to age the eggs overnight?

Not really. I have done this recipe both ways and had no issue with getting the egg whites to whip into very stiff glossy peaks. Will it help if you’re running into meringue issue? Maybe.

Golly gee, that’s a lot of sugar!

Don’t over think it. This is the perfect amount for this cake. Meringue baby!

Tests

Kiev Tort: Test 1 – Already pretty perfect