Monday, May 23, 2011

Consistency (the other kind)

Baked goods are particularly difficult for some people to get right, and one of the baker's problems is consistency--how to achieve that perfect balance between chewiness and cakeyness. (I know there's no such word, but there ought to be.)

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It turns out that the difference between chewiness and cakeyness is all down to saturated vs. unsaturated fats and their proportion in each recipe. By varying the proportions (and carefully noting them down), it is possible to achieve the perfect consistency in your baked goods. Please remember that some saturated fats are not good for you: avoid Crisco and the like, and choose instead those saturated fats that are naturally saturated: coconut oil or butter.

If you use boxed cookie or brownie mixes, you know that you have to add oil. The reason for this is that the saturated fat component is already in the box (in the form of "milk solids" or something else). And what should you use for an oil? If you are not allergic to tree nuts, I recommend walnut oil, almond oil, hazelnut oil or another tree nut oil. These are not suitable for frying because of their low smoke points, but are perfect for baking or salad dressings. Nut oils add a subtle enhancement of flavour to your baked goods (called "flavour layering" that is all the rage with the popular chefs nowadays), and in addition, provide health benefits not available from the more popular corn, vegetable, or canola oils. I am all for variety in people's diets, and so I would recommend trying, at least in small quantities, some of these other oils for their varied nutritional benefits and flavours.

Monday, May 2, 2011


So many people plant herb gardens, and then never use the fresh herbs they grow. Let's change that, starting today! First off, for those herbs you grow yourself, get rid of all those little bottles of herbs you've been using all these years. Those bottles are a pale imitation of what you will get from the fresh leaves. Instead, before you begin, take your scissors and a container, and go snip off a little of whatever you're growing: basil, mint, thyme, fennel, lovage, parsley, sorrel, winter savory, borage, lemon balm, or whatever you have. Now smell and taste each of those herbs and use your taste imagination: does it smell and taste spicy, sweet, savory? By going back to our techniques already discussed, how could you use these herbs?
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Parsley, Sage, Basil, Dill, Fennel, Tarragon, Rosemary, Chives, Thyme Oregano, Bay, Petunia
Lynne Brotchie
Here are some ideas if you are stuck:
  • Make hot or iced tea with herbs.
  • Make a sorbet from your herbs.
  • Use fresh herb leaves in a salad.
  • Take that hot tea you made from the herb and use it in place of stock or broth.
  • Use herbs in your poaching water.
  • Add fresh herbs to your dry rub or wet rub.
  • Make a layer of herbs on your grill, and put your grilled items on top of them.