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Old 12-06-2009, 09:50 PM
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Angry Stupid Baking

I'm a pretty solid cook nowadays, but I can't seem to bake a decent batch of cookies to save my life. Once I made a horrible substitution (canola instead of butter), but even when I follow recipes exactly they still come out crappy in some way.

I suspect my sugar might be part of the problem. I use hippie free trade sucanat instead of refined sugar, and although the bag says it can be used just like brown sugar, I'm thinking that might be a lie. It certainly doesn't cream with butter like my mom's standard Domino stuff.

I don't bake enough to really care, tbh, but I would like to be able to make a halfway decent peanut butter cookie or cupcake once in a blue moon when the fancy strikes me. So bakers, what advice would you have for the baking challenged? How can I make a batch of cookies worthy of the name, preferably without having to buy refined sugar?
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Old 12-06-2009, 10:18 PM
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Default Re: Stupid Baking

I feel you. I love to cook, but baking ain't my bag. My BFF is a fantastic baker, and she usually is generous with throwing goodies my way but isn't much of a teacher. I would love to get some pointers from others out there.

I think my major malfunction is measuring. I typically read cook books for their ingredients and basic proportions. The amount in most of my recipes is the same across the board, "enough." Baking is a persnickety science though. For the chemical reactions to happen as they should you have to have the right amounts.

For those baking Gods and Goddesses I would like to know, do you measure by volume or by weight? What benefits do you get with your preferred method?
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  #3  
Old 12-06-2009, 11:09 PM
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Default Re: Stupid Baking

Emeril said that baking is all about formulas, and he's right. Precision measuring really makes a difference.

I've always used refined sugar, so I can't help you out on the sugar front.
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Old 12-06-2009, 11:21 PM
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Default Re: Stupid Baking

Yeah, refined sugar is crystalline while sucanat is grainy. That's bound to have chemical repercussions. I'm sure there's some way to compensate, but damned if I know how.
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Old 12-06-2009, 11:28 PM
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Default Re: Stupid Baking

Quote:
Originally Posted by livius drusus View Post
I suspect my sugar might be part of the problem. I use hippie free trade sucanat instead of refined sugar, and although the bag says it can be used just like brown sugar, I'm thinking that might be a lie. It certainly doesn't cream with butter like my mom's standard Domino stuff.

I don't bake enough to really care, tbh, but I would like to be able to make a halfway decent peanut butter cookie or cupcake once in a blue moon when the fancy strikes me. So bakers, what advice would you have for the baking challenged? How can I make a batch of cookies worthy of the name, preferably without having to buy refined sugar?
What comes out wrong with your cookies? If it's just that the sugar doesn't disperse right or something, you could make it into a simple syrup first, then do something like in here:

Quote:
The recommended formula for using syrups in place of granulated sugar is:

* Divide weight of sugar by 0.80 to determine weight of syrup.
* Reduce the amount of water or other liquids in cookie recipes by the weight difference
. For example: to substitute for 8 ounces of granulated sugar, use 10 ounces of syrup, and reduce the amount of liquid by 2 ounces
Or you could get a little refined sugar, try it once, and see if it's the sugar that's the issue, or if it's something else. That'd at least narrow it down some.

Alternately, I make some oatmeal type cookies that I don't use granulated sugar in. I could try to write that down and you could try it to see if it works for you.

Generally, though, cookies really aren't that fussy. With bread or something, it depends more on getting the proportions accurate because you're relying more on chemistry, but cookies are more a matter of watching your consistency. For crispier cookies, make a slightly more liquid dough by adding some butter. For softer ones, use more flour and possibly a little more leavening.
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Old 12-07-2009, 12:08 AM
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Default Re: Stupid Baking

Yes please to scare up oatmeal type recipe. What usually goes wrong is that once I add the dry ingredients to the creamed butter-sugar-egg mixture, the batter is too dry.

Yesterday I made these chocolate cookies which called for adding 1/3 cup of buttermilk alternating with the flour-baking soda-cocoa-salt to the creamed butter mixture. I ended up having to add another 1/4 cup of buttermilk just to get it loose enough so it wouldn't stick to the beaters in one huge ball. It was still thick as hell. I could easily have doubled the buttermilk.

The cookies came out puffy. They're not disgusting like the awful canola fail, but they're dry, tall and generally uncompelling. I would never serve them to guests. I wanted them all chewy and crackled and crisp around the edges like in the picture.
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Old 12-07-2009, 12:12 AM
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Default Re: Stupid Baking

Hmm....baking is what food prep I tend to do best at, once I get over the lazies.

I measure by volume, not weight. The thing is, I'm attempting to reduce sugar in my recipes. My last apple pie was an experiment in that I used a sugar replacement, blue agave. It is not carbohydrate free, like Splenda, or anything, but it is lower carbs by volume and weight and it requires less. As a sweetner in a pie filling it was just jim-dandy, but I'm not sure how it would affect the recipe in something like cookies, where sugar makes up a much greater, and more important, proportion of the recipe.

Do you make sure that your oven is pre-heated?

Oh...I just remembered....I was going to dig up that 'chocolate drops' cookie recipe from my mom's Victory Cookbook for liv. Do cooking types still use homemade double-boilers to melt brick baker's chocolate? I remember watching the chocolate melt and how nasty it tasted with no sweetner whatsoever.
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Old 12-07-2009, 12:14 AM
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Default Re: Stupid Baking

O. My. Dog.

Chocolate drop cookie cowinky-dink crosspost!
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Old 12-07-2009, 12:17 AM
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Default Re: Stupid Baking

I usually microwave instead of double boil. I'm lazy.
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Old 12-07-2009, 12:18 AM
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Default Re: Stupid Baking

I definitely still use homemade double-boilers. I don't have any baker's chocolate in the house (I had the cocoa on my shelf for something like 5 years barely touched) but I'd gladly get some to try your mom's Victory cookies.
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Old 12-07-2009, 12:19 AM
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Default Re: Stupid Baking

Yeah...But if it was space-cadet godfry, I'd shove the metal double-boiler in the micro.

ZAAAAAAP!

Yeah...years of indoctrination means I don't even think of things like microwaves.
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Old 12-07-2009, 12:24 AM
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Default Re: Stupid Baking

Quote:
Originally Posted by livius drusus View Post
I definitely still use homemade double-boilers. I don't have any baker's chocolate in the house (I had the cocoa on my shelf for something like 5 years barely touched) but I'd gladly get some to try your mom's Victory cookies.
My mom could work with either. It's one of the things she was really good at....cookies. (And potato soup.)

Those chocolate drop cookies were my brother's and my favorites. They're best not just out of the oven, but while still warm. Very few lasted for treats in the following week. Of course, licking the batter pan was a big winnar, too.
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Old 12-07-2009, 12:33 AM
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Default Re: Stupid Baking

For recipes that do not require refined sugar, you might try looking here at this blog: 101 Cookbooks. The author generally doesn't use refined ingredients, so you may find something there that works for you--or the answer to your question.
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Old 12-07-2009, 12:51 AM
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Default Re: Stupid Baking

I don't actually use a recipe, so I hope it makes sense.

So I cut and pasted a recipe for Quaker Oatmeal Cookies, then I changed it around about to the way I make mine, except I modified it for hippy sugar. I usually use brown sugar, and just a tiny bit of molasses, but I figured maybe you should use more than I do. There should be just enough dough to thoroughly hold together the grains, berries, and nuts.

2 sticks of butter, softened
1 cup ridiculous hippy sugar
maybe 1/4 cup molasses--maybe not quite that much
2 eggs
1 tsp. vanilla
1 cup flour
1 tsp. baking soda
spices: any combination of cinnamon, allspice, ground clove, ginger. About a total of a teaspoon of spices, with over 50% of it cinnamon.
1/2 tsp. salt (optional)
3 1/2 cups of any combination old fashioned oatmeal, wheat germ, and/or oat bran.
2/3 cup dried cranberries*
1/2 cup chopped nuts, probably walnuts

Heat oven to 350F.

Beat together butter, sugar, and molasses until creamy. Add eggs and vanilla; beat well.

Whisk together flour, baking soda, spices, and salt; stir together until no streaks remain.

Stir this into the butter mixture. Stir in oatmeal, oat bran, and/or wheat germ mixture, plus cranberries and nuts; mix well.

Drop by rounded tablespoonfuls onto an ungreased cookie sheet.

Bake for 10 to 12 minutes or until golden brown.

Cool 1 minute on cookie sheet; remove to wire rack.

* Don't use raisins, because raisins are bad for dogs. I know you don't have a dog, but what if one got into your house somehow and ate your cookies?
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  #15  
Old 12-07-2009, 12:59 AM
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Default Re: Stupid Baking

Quote:
Originally Posted by lisarea View Post

* Don't use raisins, because raisins are bad for dogs. I know you don't have a dog, but what if one got into your house somehow and ate your cookies?
lisapea...

I'm going to ignore this. Dogs are not going to get my cookies. Following your advice would mean I would exile chocolate from my home, as it is also poisonous to dogs, and that ain't happenin'. I'll just keep denying dogs access to my house.

:glare:

Keep your dogs outta my chocolate.

(Good advice about the grapes, though...I'll remember that.)

P.S.: My chooks lurve them some grapes. And some grape leaves, too.
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Old 12-07-2009, 03:23 PM
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Default Re: Stupid Baking

Yes, I bake. What are you going to do about it? :brooding:

Quote:
Originally Posted by livius drusus View Post
So bakers, what advice would you have for the baking challenged? How can I make a batch of cookies worthy of the name, preferably without having to buy refined sugar?
I recommend you buy the refined sugar. For the best tasting stuff, use real butter (not marg), real sugar, real salt, etc. Follow the recipe exactly (assuming it's a good one), except I always use 1.5 times the amount of vanilla any cookie recipe calls for.

You can do all the subs for healthier cooking (stevia for sugar, applesauce for oil) but the result won't be as good. Sure a black bean brownie is delicious and nutritious, but it's nothing like an authentic brownie.
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Old 12-07-2009, 03:28 PM
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Default Re: Stupid Baking

I don't use fake things. Mah sugar is real! It's just not refined.
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Old 12-07-2009, 03:32 PM
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Default Re: Stupid Baking

Canola oil instead of butter, you say? :chin:
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Old 12-07-2009, 03:39 PM
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Default Re: Stupid Baking

That was a substitution of necessity because I was almost out of butter. I put all the butter I had in the cookies, though. I thought the canola would be okay because brownies out of a box call for canola. It was definitely not okay.
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Old 12-07-2009, 09:33 PM
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Default Re: Stupid Baking

dammit

the thing is an indeterminant color and of an indeterminant rattiness....

it blends in...

i thought it was with the cook books, but oh no, not that...

that would be too easy...


I'm not finding it, liv.

I know it's here somewhere. I had it in my hands during the past year. I looked at the spattered chocolate drop cookie page.

Damn. Sorry. I'll keep looking.
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Old 02-15-2010, 05:15 AM
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Default Re: Stupid Baking

I made brownies!1 Good ones! Really, really good ones! All fudgie and rich in the middle and crackly on top!1 :woohoo:
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Old 02-15-2010, 05:23 AM
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Default Re: Stupid Baking

Details!
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Old 02-15-2010, 05:44 AM
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Default Re: Stupid Baking

Okay here's the basic recipe I used. The only alteration I made was to double the vanilla 'cause I loves me some vanilla. I also omitted the nuts because they are ABOMINATIONS UNTO THE LORD.

I put butter, salt, cocoa powder and sugar in a bowl then put it in a skillet of simmering water. I used a 10" skillet with about an inch of water and a large pyrex bowl. Don't bother stirring until it's well on the way towards being melted. When it's still dry it's hard to manipulate and there's no point anyway.

While it was doing its thing, I lined my brownie pan with parchment paper and preheated the oven to 325:degrees:.

I started stirring the cocoa mixture once I could see it turn dark brown and wet looking around the sides and bottom, but really you can pretty much ignore it. When it's all melted into one thing, keep it on the heat until it's hot enough to make your fingertip uncomfortable when you dip it in the test.

It won't be a smooth batter at that point. It'll look sort of grainy because the sugar doesn't really have enough liquid and heat to melt all the way.

So you take it out of the skillet and set it aside for a few minutes until it's warm, no longer hot. Add the vanilla, stir it in vigorously, then add the eggs one at a time, stirring each one in until it's totally mixed. Now you'll see a smooth, glossy batter.

Add the flour and stir it in until you can't see it anymore, then beat that fucker 40 times. Yes, I counted. It's a bit of a strain, tbh, which is why I threw in another 10 beatings at the end to compensate for any wussiness.

After that you just pour the batter into the parchment-lined pan, put it in the bottom third of the oven and cook for 25-30 min. If you don't have an 8 x 8 brownie pan, use a pie tin. If all you've got is a 9 x 13, you'll have to double the recipe or else you get thin little crispy brownies instead of the thick gooey kind.

A toothpick inserted in the middle will come out lightly coated when it's done. I set it in the pan on the range for 30 minutes, then lifted the whole thing out by the parchment and put it on a rack to cool another 20 minutes. It's so fudgie in the middle that you really can't cut it cleanly when it's warm, so try to resist the urge to dive into it as soon as it comes out of the oven. The cooling process also solidified that dreamy crackly top layer.

Additonal protip: once it's cooled all the way, flip it topside down on a cutting board and just peel the parchment off. Cut it that way too and you'll keep the crackly top from splitting all over the place. Then you turn them rightside up before packing them away in Tupperware.

Last edited by livius drusus; 02-15-2010 at 06:27 AM. Reason: to add protip and because Q was mean to me
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  #24  
Old 02-15-2010, 06:22 AM
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Default Re: Stupid Baking

Nuts are a main part of my diet, heretic.
And flower, definitely a poor substitution for flour.

Yes, :deeznuts:
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  #25  
Old 02-15-2010, 06:28 AM
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There's no need to pick on me just because I know nuts ruin brownies. :offended:
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