When you’re reminded that you’re still a baking amateur…

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So today I’m going to talk about a few things, and this is the novice baker in me talking.  But lately, I’ve noticed a lot of the recipes I’ve been making are extremely dry.  I’m noticing this now because I’ve been focusing on cupcake and cake decorating, and I haven’t really had to make a lot of things from scratch.  I noticed this with the baking I was doing around Christmas time (I associated it to over mixing because I had never baked anything in my life and had no idea what I was doing), but last weeks recipes as well, while great, could have used a little extra wet ingredients.  But what the heck is causing this?  So I googled, and as usual, google came through to me.  So google, why I ask, are my muffins and cookies and other recipes coming out drier than I would like? Do tell. Google: Well Kelsey, according to this lovely user on yahoo answers, “A lot of times people don’t know how to properly measure flour. You should first loosen your flour with a spoon or butter knife by stirring it around. Then take a spoon and just start spooning it into your measuring device. Do not Pack it down or it will add too much flour causing your product to become dry or hard.” So now you tell me!  So I do this. All the time. With every recipe I make.  So people, do not pack down your flour. Apparently it makes a huge difference.  And, I would assume this is the same for Icing sugar as well, which would explain why I have to add so much cream to my buttercream frosting while icing my cupcakes.  So lesson learned, I Kelsey the Baker, promise I will never pack my sugar ever again.

Today I went with apple and brown sugar muffins.  I did not discover the “flour packing epiphany” until after I tossed them in the oven, so forgive me.  But as I was shopping this morning for my baking ingredients, I stopped in the produce aisle, completely confused.  I stood before rows and rows of different types of apples.  So…my question…what type of apples are best for baking?  Are some better than others?  Should some be avoided?  I attempted a quick google in the store but it was busy and the old woman behind me didn’t appreciate my stopping in the middle of the aisle while having an apple related panic attack.  So I settled on Spartans, just because I know they’re on the sweeter side, and I went on my merry way, making a mental note to do further research once I was home.  So apparently I wasn’t wrong, the only real warning I got from the articles I read was to not bake with red delicious apples.  The most important thing to consider when using apples in a recipe is the texture of the apple, and whether or not the apple will be able to retain it’s shape while sitting in the over for an extended period of time.  I read a lot of articles that mentioned granny smith as a great apple for pie, and it apparently tastes great when mixed with MacIntosh apples.  Something too sweet can cause your recipe to taste too sugary, since most recipes already contain a great deal of sugar.  So I think next time I may hit up granny smith, but the one thing that was consistent in every blog, article and website I visited was to experiment.  Try different apples and different combinations of apples to find your favourites.  And, since my apple muffins were more like an apple crumble, I think I will reattempt this recipe at a later date to see how they turn out.

Here’s the original recipe, from the girl who ate everything, but I’m changing the name to “mini apple crumble cakes” and we can all assume I did this on purpose.  Okay? Okay.

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Mini Apple Crumble Cakes

yield: 24 cakes (but possibly up to 30…I had some extra batter left over after I filled my cupcake pans)

Ingredients

  • 2 cups sugar
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 cup oil
  • 1 Tablespoon vanilla
  • 3 cups flour (packed)
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 3 cups peeled, cored, diced apples (around 3 apples)
  • Brown sugar for topping (around 1/2 cup)

Directions

  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees and line muffin pan with paper liners.
  2. Cream together sugar, eggs, oil, and vanilla. Sift flour, baking soda and salt.  Add dry ingredients to creamed mixture and mix until combined. The batter will be very thick. Add the diced apples.
  3. Fill paper liners almost to the top, about 3/4 of the way full. Sprinkle with brown sugar.
  4. Bake at 350 degrees for 20-24 minutes.

So mini apple crumble cakes…Not bad right?  Who doesn’t want to have apple crumble with their coffee in the afternoon?  It actually tastes pretty great, and I’m sure in muffin form they would have been even more fabulous.  I will attempt them again in the future! Happy Baking!

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Chocolate Chip Banana Muffins

This week I decided to move away from cupcakes and cake decorating and focus on some good old fashion comfort food.  I love banana bread.  Its so wonderful.  It reminds me of grandma’s house, and school bake sales, and small corner delis that sell pastries and desserts.  But what I love even more is banana muffins…because it almost tastes like banana bread…but….in the shape of a cupcake.  How fun is that? I had a bit of a tough week.  I’ve been puppy sitting for my boyfriend’s parents while they’re away, so I’ve been getting less sleep than usual, and my car has officially passed away.  I’m hoping I can find someone to revive her but I’m not willing to fork out the cash so she’s comatose for now.  Which brings me to my next reason for making something other than cupcakes – no car means no grocery store, which means I had to make do with the ingredients I had at home.  I stared at the tasty looking bananas on my counter and thought…hmmmmm I could totally make banana muffins.  So I did.  However, half way through my baking adventure I realized that, while banana muffins would be really comforting on this fine snowy Sunday afternoon, it’s just not enough…I could go for some chocolate too.  And there in lies how I came to the conclusion that chocolate chip banana muffins would be the perfect “It’s Sunday afternoon, you’re exhausted and a puppy just pooped on your duvet, and you don’t have a car so you have to buy a buss pass, and tomorrow is Monday and Mondays really suck, and could that be a cold coming on?” kinda day.  I got this recipe from browneyedbaker, but added in the chocolate chips as this is just a banana muffin recipe, and I desperately needed the chocolate.  God.  I’m gaining weight thinking about this… anyways.

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Chocolate Chip Banana Muffins

Ingredients:

3 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
2 cups sugar
1 cup vegetable oil (I used canola oil…since that’s literally all I had at home)
3 large eggs
1 tablespoon vanilla extract
4 ripe bananas, peeled and coarsely mashed (I used a potato masher to break down the bananas)
3/4 cup chocolate chips

Directions

Line 18 muffin cups with paper liners. Preheat the oven to 325 degrees F.  Whisk the flour, baking soda, salt, and baking powder in a medium bowl to blend.

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Beat the sugar, oil, eggs, and vanilla in a large bowl to blend.  Stir in the banana.  Add the dry ingredients and stir just until blended.  Fold in the chocolate chips.

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Divide the batter among the prepared muffin cups. Bake the muffins on the middle rack until the tops are golden brown and a tester inserted into the center comes out with no crumbs attached, about 25 minutes. Transfer the muffins to a rack and cool slightly. The muffins may be eaten warm or cooled completely and frosted…or any way really. They are fabulous.

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I also was feeling really productive yesterday, despite my irritation towards my car, monday, my poopy duvet, my looming cold, and just in general my overall needyness, so I decided to make…wait for it…some chocolate chip cookies! I will post it later this week.  They turned out quite well, however I may make some changes to them if I make them again.  For those of you who know me, you know that I am somewhat of a geek, I love video games and often disappear for weeks when I find one I like.  So…my boyfriend and I designed a Mario themed gaming room…I’ll also post those pictures later this week! It turned out amazing I’m so excited to show it off.