Thursday, 9 August 2012

Heart-shaped sweet treats? Yes, please!

Through social media, I am lucky to meet new bloggers, fellow foodies, and discover new baking products. While reading my tweets one day, I stumbled upon a company called Mastrad, which sells unique baking pans and kitchen supplies. After conversing on twitter, they read my "cupcakes and cookware" blog, loved it, and sent me their heart-shaped silicone baking cups to "test" and try out.

They arrived in a plastic container, which is VERY helpful for storage and making sure they stay organized in my pantry. The heart-shaped baking cups are made of silicone, which has its benefits over other bakeware mediums: dishwasher safe, super easy to clean/maintain, and heat safe to 480 degrees F.

Why heart shaped? Why not? I can see myself baking cupcakes and brownies, with my niece and nephew, with these cups! Plus they make it convenient for a "one size serving." No extra time is needed for greasing pans or cutting brownies. PERFECT for a busy parent, beginner baker, or a special holiday treat.

My "test" drive? Baking homemade brownies in the cups. Six of 'em fit perfect in my 9 inch round cake pan. I let them cool 100% before unmolding them. Having heart-shaped homemade brownies is such a treat!
Overall, I am pleased and happy with my Mastrad baking cups. They are easy to use and clean, which is always a bonus. I look forward to using more of their products in the future and recommending their bakeware for fellow bakers and cooks
For more information on Mastrad and their products, check out:
facebook: "Like" Mastrad, Inc
twitter: follow @mastrad

Happy Baking,

Monday, 6 August 2012

What SALT does to your baked good!

When I first started blogging, I wrote a post titled: "SALT- The most important ingredient!" Yes, I am a lover of anything "salty-sweet" or made with a flavored, coarse, unrefined sea salt. But, what EXACTLY does salt do to your chocolate chip cookies, chiffon cake, or lemon-blueberry muffins? Salt has many functions and actions in the baking and culinary field.

First off, salt naturally adds flavor to sweet and savory dishes. It is a necessary and key ingredient in the kitchen! Along, with black pepper, it is staple to have a salt jar right next to your cooking range.

Salt has many purposes in cooking, here are my top three reasons!

1) Enhance flavor!
No matter what you are cooking, it balances and enhances the dish/food you are cooking. Pre-package foods contain LOTS, AND LOTS of sodium due to the lack of natural flavor and to have a longer "shelf life" than non-packaged foods.

2) Strengthen gluten strands!
Salt naturally helps gluten strands become nice 'n' strong to create a solid structure for your baked good. This is key especially in French-type breads. Forgot your salt when you are baking bread? The dough will become very "slack" and "wet."

3) Give color!
Salt aids in browning. (Secret tip: I like to add a pinch of salt when I am making egg wash for my morning pasteries!) It gives crossiants, breads, and muffins a nice, golden color. Forgot your salt? Your sweet treats and bread will come out pale.

Salt's three main forms:

1) Kosher: A coarse salt, perfect for "every day" cooking. I like using kosher salt when I am brining, salting water for rice/potatoes, and roasting proteins.

2) Iodizied : A fine salt that I love using for baking anything sweet. Why? Since it is a fine grain, it tends to blend into the batter or dough perfectly. Since coarse salt, like kosher, have a larger diameter, it can leave tiny, "salty bites." Stick with a fine grain salt when baking...always!

3) Sea salt: Yes, salt from the sea. The "most pure" salt flavor you have! Go for "unrefined" sea salt and use it when "finishing" a dish. Example:  A few pinches on your grilled steak, seared salmon, in your homemade balsamic dressing, or quinoa, it adds flavor without adding a calories or fat. Many gourmet shops are now carrying flavored sea salts to cater to your homemade meals and tastes.

I have all three at home! Just need one? Go for kosher salt and add more to your collection in your future.

What is the most important tip about salt I can give you? NEVER forget it! Salt to cooking and baking, is like breathing: we need it. Avoid pre-packaged foods, which are drowned in sodium, and cooking your own veggies and meals with your favorite salt.

Here are my favorite salts to use when cooking and baking:
(The Alderwood Smoked Sea Salt is one of my faves!)

Happy Baking!