Archive for March, 2013

Recipe Origins

Thursday, March 28th, 2013

I often hear people say there are no original recipes anymore, only variations of recipes that have been around for ages.

I believe it’s possible to create a truly new recipe, one that we tweak and refine so it becomes our secret product. But more often than not, its base has origins in a previous recipe. A good example is the Toll House recipe. According to the story, Ruth Wakefield, owner of the Toll House Inn, came up with the unique idea of adding chopped chocolate to a cookie. At the time, that was an original idea. So while most of us have very special chocolate chip cookie recipes that are “ours,” our recipe is a version of the original created by someone else.

I started thinking about this a few days ago when I made my Matzoh Candy Crunch recipe.

I like to use different toppings.

But chopped walnuts is my favorite version.

I’ve been making it every year since 1990, when MrMacho and I moved south to Tennessee. I’d been searching for Red Velvet cake (had never heard of it before!)  and was looking through many old community fundraising cookbooks. I came across variations of a toffee recipe that used crackers as the base.

This candy is known by many names: Chocolate Toffee Bark, Classic Saltine Cracker Toffee Candy, Chocolate Toffee Brittle, Saltine Cracker Candy, Saltine Toffee, Chocolate Toffee Candy Cookies, Christmas Crack, Saltine Toffee Cookies, (do a Google search for more, such as Chocolate Caramel Brittle, Chocolate Buttercrunch, Cracker Candy (or just Crack Candy), etc.

There are many many many named variations of this toffee cracker candy that use the same basic recipe: spread baking soda crackers (often just referred to as Saltines) over a sheet pan, cook two ingredients (1 cup butter and 1 cup brown sugar), spread over crackers, bake, then top with enough chocolate to cover the crackers.  ALL THE RECIPES ARE THE SAME!!!!!

So instead of making this candy with saltine-type crackers, I used Matzoh. I tweaked a recipe and made it my own. But is it really my own?


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Another Price Check on Aisle 3

Sunday, March 24th, 2013

It wasn’t that long ago that I wrote about pricing.

Yesterday I was shopping again for sugar. I took another look at the packaging. And then at the customers in the baking ingredients aisle. Most people are busy folks who don’t have time for close examination. They grab a bag of something they’ve been purchasing for years and continue shopping.

But look at this.

Take a close look.

Usually when a product changes, the change will be prominently displayed (NEW!) for all to see. But those Domino folks are quite slick. In addition to the price going up, the package weight has gone down but the new weight is not visible. To me, this appears to be deceptive marketing.

For many years, the Target brand sugar has been 4 pounds. But as far back as I can remember, the Domino brand has been 5 pounds. Many shoppers are brand loyal, so unless they are alerted to a change, they would naturally expect that the package is the same.

I will repeat for all home-based food processors, PLEASE take another look at your ingredient prices and make adjustments, if necessary, in product costs. Remember, you don’t want to pay folks to be your customers.

Okay, I’ll stop now…

Home-Based Baking at its Best!

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How To Insert Design into Sponge Cake Rolls

Wednesday, March 20th, 2013


Chocolate Strawberry Sponge Cake from Dulce Delight

Sponge cake rolls are classics, but recently we’ve seen updated versions of this product with designs embedded into the top layer.

Photos courtesy of Dulce Delight

This cake by Dulce Delight uses hearts, a universal design that’s perfect for most events and holidays. But the product idea works for most designs from geometric patterns to writing happy birthday into the cake. Visit her website for more info and watch her delightful, entertaining video. You’ll learn to make a chocolate patterned cake roll filled with whipped white chocolate ganache and strawberries. And so much more…

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Sort-of Irish Soda Bread and a Recipe

Friday, March 15th, 2013



Most folks who bake, especially those of us in business, make Irish Soda Bread every year. As I’ve written before, this traditional holiday bread for St. Patrick’s Day celebrations is an American invention. Traditional loaves had no sugar, no fat, and no raisins – just flour, buttermilk, salt, and baking soda. But I don’t often stick with tradition, so I always try something new.

With streusel topping.

This year I made  a very rich dough – lots of fat creates a longer shelf life. The recipe is a dried fruit sweetened creation with dates, raisins, and walnuts, and then topped with an oat streusel. The dough is somewhat wetter than typical and baked in large muffin cups. Not really Irish Soda Bread but I don’t think anyone cares.

Without streusel topping.

The following recipe is fast and easy, sweet and tender. If you need to make this in quantity, consider preparing dry mixes first.

Irish Soda Buns

Yield: six very large buns
¼ cup melted butter
¼ cup oil
1 large egg
1 ½ cups buttermilk
4 cups all-purpose flour
¼ cup sugar
1 tablespoon baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon salt
3 cups total mixed dried fruit and nuts (raisins, dried cranberries, dates, walnuts, etc)
Optional, streusel

1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees F. and grease a large 6-cup muffin pan.
2. Mix butter, oil, egg, and buttermilk in a medium bowl. Set aside.
3. In a large bowl, mix together all remaining ingredients (except streusel, if using). Add wet ingredients to dry and combine.
4. Scoop thick batter into muffin cups, sprinkle with streusel, and bake for 25-30 minutes. Tops are a light golden brown when done.

Find past recipes in my ARCHIVES using the search function in at the top of the right hand column..

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Bunny Bread Week

Thursday, March 14th, 2013

This week on Facebook I’ve been posting Easter ideas – bunny breads and buns.

Cinna Bunnies from Rhodes Bread

Vist us tomorrow when I’ll post Irish Soda Buns.

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Baking with Corn Syrup

Sunday, March 10th, 2013

LABEL: 0g High Fructose Corn Syrup

This label confused me.  There’s no high-fructose corn syrup (HFCS) in corn syrup? Yes, that’s right. Recently, because of the public’s concern about safety and controversial health issues, the Karo company has reformulated its light corn syrup, eliminating HFCS from their formula. (The company states that its dark corn syrup never included high-fructose corn syrup.)

History: In the 1970’s, food manufacturing companies discovered the benefits of HFCS. For economic reasons, since HFCS was cheaper and added bulk to products, businesses began using it instead of the more expensive granulated sugar. An added benefit for food companies was that HFCS added moisture to products and therefore added to the product shelf life. Karo, the largest manufacturer of corn syrup, joined the bandwagon and added HFCS to its light corn syrup.

Using this newer sweetener was a win-win for companies until the public recently became enamored of the health food trend. HFCS was linked to unhealthy habits and not using HFCS became a marketing issue.

Editorial comment: We can’t discuss the evils of HFCS without mentioning that many folks think of granulated sugar as evil. With a revolving first place winner for the most evil of sweeteners. When the flogging began, table sugar (granulated sugar) was the worst offender. Over the years, first place has gone from granulated sugar, to granular fructose, to an array of chemical sugar substitutes, and most recently HFCS.

Bakery Style Sugar Cookies

These cookies are thick and chewy!

Chocolate Pecan Pie

A holiday favorite, made with light corn syrup.

For some of my products, I want to use a liquid sweetener for hygroscopic purposes – this increases the chew factor and the shelf-life. Some of my recipes contain corn syrup. I consider it a pantry staple and there’s always a bottle in my cabinet.

Substitutions: Depending upon the taste and color I want, I use either corn syrup, honey, molasses, or maple syrup. Some people may prefer agave or rice syrup.

What is your opinion on using these liquid sweeteners? Who is your target market? Do recipe development with your target market in mind.

Home-Based Baking at its Best!

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CakeFu and a Recipe

Wednesday, March 6th, 2013


CakeFu is dedicated to teaching people the fine art of decorating. As part of their Masters Series, the lovely Amelia Carbine usually presents master cake decorators. For yesterday’s event she interviewed me to highlight the business side of cake decorating: starting and running a profitable food business.

The presentation included my Chocolate Raspberry Truffle Torte, a recipe from The (Faux) Pastry Chef: How I Found My Baking Fix.

This versatile Chocolate Raspberry Truffle Torte, decorated above with a simple border and small shortbread cookies.

Chocolate Raspberry Truffle Torte
Yield: 9-inch two layer cake

2 large eggs
½ cup oil
1 cup sour cream
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1 ¾ cups all-purpose flour
2 cups granulated sugar
¾ cup cocoa powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon salt
¾ cup water, coffee, or milk

½ cup heavy cream
1 cup (6 ounces) semisweet chocolate bits

½ cup (1 stick) butter
½ cup shortening
4 cups (approx 1 pound) confectioners’ sugar
1 tablespoon milk, or more
1 teaspoon vanilla
¼ cup raspberry jam, or more

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. and grease (2) 9-inch pans or line with parchment.
2. In large bowl, beat eggs, oil, sour cream, and vanilla.
3. In separate bowl, combine flour, sugar, cocoa, baking soda, baking powder, and salt. Add to the wet ingredients and mix well. Stir in remaining liquid.
4. Pour into pans and bake for 30-40 minutes, until done. Cake is ready when it pulls away from the sides of the pan and top feels firm when gently pressed. Cool at least 15 minutes before removing from pan. Chill cakes for several hours.
5. Prepare ganache: heat cream and pour over chocolate. Let sit for several minutes and stir until smooth. Chill until thick but not set.
6. Prepare buttercream: on low speed, beat together softened butter and shortening (or use all butter). Beat in sugar, milk, and extract until thoroughly combined. Beat on high for several minutes. Stir in jam.
7. Assemble cake: use some or all of ganache between cake layers, then ice with raspberry buttercream. (Decorate with fresh raspberries, if in season.)

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New Blog

Sunday, March 3rd, 2013

Blog from March 2009 - Feb 2013

Yes, I know, it looks the same. But behind the scenes we’ve made many changes. For readers, the most important change is finding all prior posts. Use the top ARCHIVE button in the sidebar.

Home Baking for Profit: Home-Based Baking at its Best!

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