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Why Baking is More of a Science Than an Art

The art of baking requires lots of attention to details and accuracy, from the products being used to the quantities, from the size of the pan to the baking time, and in every other step of the way. Other than that, you need to have a deep understanding of how different ingredients are affect each other, the way they come together and what happens to them while in the oven. In fact, all those things and more are exactly why some say that baking is not an art – it is a science.

In almost every introduction class to baking the professor will say, with all seriousness, that baking is an exact science. There are a lot of common lines between baking and a scientific experiment. Every time we make a dough, a cream or a glazing we put exact quantities of ingredients; we need to put them in a specific order; and we need to use processes that require mixing, heating and cooling in order to get a new product with different qualities from the ones of the original ingredients.

Both in a scientific experiment as in baking, if we aren’t precise with the quantities or maintain the right order of adding them to the recipe, the result might be a failing experiment or dessert. Sometimes just mixing the bowl too fast or too slow, or heat it up to the wrong temperature, can completely ruin a dish.

Science

Unlike cooking, in baking you can’t really wing it. Every good baker knows that the first thing you do is to work with a recipe, and before you start working you have to read it all the way through, making sure you understand completely and that you are ready to go to work. You also have to follow these instructions to the letter, otherwise you might find yourself with a broken mixture or a flat Soufflé.

After reading the instructions, comes the ingredients. It starts with accurate measuring of the different ingredients: if when you cook a dish you can simply sprinkle a dash of a certain spice, add more or less water, toss more eggs or play it fast and loose with the variety of vegetables, when it comes to baking you have to be precise when you measure. That is the reason in baking we use a digital scale instead of just counting cups and spoons (cups and spoons can differ in size, and also different people fill it in different ways – dense or loose, full, almost full or overflowing?). Too much water, and the dough will get sticky and not bake into perfect crispiness. Not enough sugar, and the egg whites will never become the perfect meringue.

Timing is also a most important factor to pay attention to. The timing in a baking recipe is not a recommendation. Timing can be the difference between the perfect whipped cream and churned butter. It can be the difference between a moist cake and a dry pastry. It can be the difference between a perfect and a burnt caramel sauce. Not just timing is important, but also temperatures. Now, of course you know that you need to heat up the oven to the right temperature when baking, but what about the temperature of the butter, or the eggs? Cold eggs are easier to separate, but room temperature eggs make better and fluffier meringue. Room temperature butter will never give you the same texture for a pie crust as cold butter.

And above all those things, there is the reaction of different ingredients that you need to be aware of. So many people don’t understand what the heck happened to their chocolate ganache once a single drop of water found its way inside. And why is it so important to make sure that the egg yolk will not accidentally break a little bit into the egg whites when making a meringue, or why is it important to mix it in a glass or stainless steel bowl and not, say, plastic? Why don’t you keep chocolate in the fridge and why is it so important to knead the dough for about 10 minutes before shaping it into a bread loaf? The understanding of ingredients and the things that happen to them during the different processes and baking is crucial in order to prevent fatal mistakes in baking. That is the reason the first thing you learn in chef school about baking is tons of theory about the science of materials.

Baking is a fun and creative thing, but it is as accurate and demanding as any other science. Once you are aware of that you can turn this science into an art and create your masterpieces.

Why To Shop Local Business

There is no denying that the internet makes buying things easier. Who wants to stand in line on a cold, rainy or overly hot day just to spend money for something, when you can just grab your tablet or computer and click add to cart and wait for shipping?

Before you stay in your pajamas and click add to cart, here are five reason why you should grab your jacket and buy from your local shops:

 

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  1. Boost Local Economy

Research has been done that shows thriving independent businesses can actually boost the price of nearby homes. Beyond home value rising, it also provides jobs to local members of the community that will help your economy flourish. After all, more money earned means more money that can be spent, right?

  1. Ethics

Who wants to buy out-of-season produce that have flown halfway across the country, or world depending on the product? When you shop locally, it is more likely than not that you are actually getting produce that was grown locally as well. The food then has more nutrients and less packaging which is a healthier advantage.

  1. Fun Times

Local shops draw in business in fun ways. Sometimes the township has fairs or deals for the holidays that all the local vendors partake in. Other times, there may be a local artist holding a show in a bakery. Either way, by supporting local business, you can go out and have fun talking with other townsfolk while enjoying locally made from scratch treats.

Carol Thompson, co-founder of Chorlton Traders, a group of independent businesses based in south Manchester. “Local shops also support local artists and designers, food producers and growers, so you’re buying products absolutely unique to your area.”

Local shops have one more advantage, they can also be public spots for social interactions as well as retail outlets.

 

  1. Get What You Need

Everyone knows that feeling going into a store and not entirely sure what they should buy. The best part about local bakeries, café’s and stores is that the owners know their customers. You end up becoming friends and trust their suggestions. Locally owned businesses go that extra mile that the internet and big business can never approach to.

Shopping locally, you might just end up even buying from a relative that works in the shop, or meet your close friends working behind the counter. The food has healthier and fresher ingredients and can be catered to your needs. Your body can’t take Gluten or sugars? No problem, the shop caters to that.

  1. Try Before You Buy

When you shop online, or go to big business you can’t smell, or even taste the product that you want. So how do you know you actually want it? Sometimes, no always, small businesses in order to show their appreciation will have samples ready and available for you. This means you can taste it, let your mouth water, and then buy what you really want.

These are just five of the reasons it is better to shop locally. There are plenty of other reasons. So before you opt to stay on the couch and shop, maybe it might be better to throw some clothes on, grab the keys and go to your local bakery. That way, you get some fresh air and freshly made from scratch delights! You can even call ahead and have them waiting for you. J

Frosting Time – Tips To Help In The Kitchen

Frosting a cake can be a challenge for new bakers. There are lots of mistakes that if careful can be avoided. Follow these tips and you will be able to frost that cake like a pro!

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Be Cool:

You need your cake to cool down before you start frosting. It is a HUGE mistake to use cold frosting on a hot cake. The icing will melt and start to run and soak into the top layer which will cause the cake to be soggy. The trick here is to wait until both the frosting AND the cake are room temperature. You need to be patient here, it can take some time.

 

Flat:

Did the center of your cake rise like a dome? Don’t worry, it’s normal. You can use a serrated edge knife and slice a thin layer horizontally off the top of the cake, making sure that the top and bottom of the cake are parallel to each other. A trick to use here is to make sure that you cut the top layer off while the cake is in the pan. It will help make it level.

Set Up:

Everything cooled and cut to size? Fantastic! Now is the time to prepare it to be frosted. Place the cake on a cake bottom. Next you need to place wax paper along the bottom of the cake in strips. When finished frosting, remove the wax paper and it will have a nice smooth bottom.

Application of Frosting:

It is important here to note that people use different tools to frost. You can use an offset spatula, bench scraper or even a piping bag with appropriate attachments. Find what works best for you and use it. Make sure not to use a knife or rubber spatula though, these may be easy but will not give you a smooth frosting.

Finishing Touch:

Now that the cake is frosted it is time to put on that finishing touch. This can be creative designs, crumbs or whatever you imagine on your cake. Make sure to plan it out first though, as you don’t want to have to make a cake and frost it all over again, unless you want to give a cake and have one too!

 

For any questions, comments or get some delicious delights stop on by or give us a call! 38594 N. Sheridan Rd in Beach Park, Illinois. 847-603-4966.

Baking, You Should Involve Your Kids!

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We all know baking is fun. It is even better why we have someone else doing the dishes for us afterwards! But is it something that we should be doing solo in the kitchen, or is it beneficial for us (not just because of the mess afterwards) to involve some help. There is no betterhelp than your little ones, eager to help mommy or daddy in the kitchen. Beyond cleaning up, there are many reasons why parents should include their kids in that delicious delicacy they are concocting.

1: Children Will Most Likely Try New Things

When your kids are involved in the baking process cooking, i.e. gathering the ingredients that go into the finished product, they are more likely to actually try the finished masterpiece. By trying it, they make actually discover a new favorite. Or not. By cultivating an open-minded approach to food, it can allow them to grow into adults who approach life similarly.

2: Children Develop An ‘I Can’ Attitude

The first times in a kitchen can be frustrating and even intimidating. However, after some practice and the rewards that transpire after some hard work it boosts their spirits and confidence. A child who can do this can look at any restaurant dish and say, “I could make that” or even, “I want to try to make that.” This is an attitude that can carry a child beyond the kitchen and into wide spread success.

3: Health Talk

Experts express that the single most important thing you can do for your health is cook at home. Bringing the children into the kitchen and involving them at a very young age fosters a habit that will provide lifelong benefits. You can discuss the difference between sweeteners and sugars, gluten-free lifestyles and what fresh ingredients can do for you.

4: Healthy Ingredients

Children who have made ice cream and caramel know what needs to be in it. They didn’t add any guar gum because it was not necessary. If they’ve made no knead bread, they’ll know that sugar wasn’t part of the recipe because it was not necessary. When you flip over packages in the grocery store, they’ll understand that you are looking at the ingredients and at words that most people cannot pronounce, and they’ll join in the fun and be eager to learn more about those unpronounceable ingredients.

5: Cooking Brings You Together

You will get to know your children, and they you, more deeply when you cook with them. You will share recipes, techniques and anecdotes that you learned at the elbows of mothers, fathers, grandparents and ancestors long gone. This is the time to try old recipes and invent some new ones that you can laugh and indulge over. This is the time to make a huge mess and then clean it up together and talk about how it went and what you expect from those delicious scents coming from the oven. This is quality bonding time without the television.

All in all, baking is not a ‘ME’ experience, it’s a WE experience. Think back to those times you had growing up in the kitchen with your mom, dad or grandparent. It was fun, wasn’t it? Time to bring those kids into the kitchen and give them the same fun you had. We at Cracken Cakes and More want to hear about your first, or next concoction!

Why Dessert Is Necessary

‘Dessert is probably the most important stage of the meal, since it will be the last thing your guests remember before they pass out all over the table.’ – William Powell

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Dessert truly is the best part of the meal. It has all the ingredients to be the best, sugar, spice, cream, breading (for some) and of course for one of my favorite recipes, CHOCOLATE! What could be better? Here are the 5 reasons why no one should ever skip out on dessert:

 

  • Goes with after meal coffee

When you finish your big meal and are sitting with friends around the table carrying on your conversation, coffee or tea is bound to make its way to the table. Who wants to drink their after dinner beverage without a slice of cake? The bitter fluid needs to contrast in order to feel right, and that is why sweets are needed.

  • Prevent Strokes and Lower Blood Pressure

A few bites of that ever so lovable chocolate every day could decrease your risk of a stroke. According to Men’s Fitness, a study was conducted and those that ate 62.9 grams of chocolate per week were 17% less likely to suffer from a stroke than those that stopped eating it! True, this study was conducted with dark chocolate, so order your healthy cake today!

We have all heard the apple a day keeps the doctor away saying many times. But what about a chocolate a day will keep your doctor away? Cochrane Collaboration had a review and found that in 20 different studies, participants that are between 3-100 grams of dark chocolatey goodness every day lowered their blood pressure (a little). So who is ready to eat some goodness and be healthy?

  • Be Happy

Admit it, you have stress in your life. Who has eaten a good dessert and sat back and argued? No one, right? When you eat some good food it always makes you lean back and say, ‘wow’. And that wow makes you happy. Lots of people when upset gorge a box of chocolate, imbibe a cake whole or meet their buddies Ben and Jerry. By taking in the simple pleasures we calm down and feel better.

  • Lose Weight For Breakfast

What?!? The researchers at Tel Aviv University’s Wolfson Medical Centre made this claim for non-diabetic obese people to help lower their weight. Basically, they had 2 groups, one that ate a big breakfast and a slice of cake and the others ate healthy. At the end of four months, both groups lost on average about 30 pounds per person. Interestingly enough the group that ate healthy after another four months gained weight back while the happy sweet eating group continued to shed pounds!! Bring on the cake!!

  • Better in Bed

Did you know that Pumpkin Pie besides being seasonally in right now with Thanksgiving is not only delicious, but also can raise your testosterone levels? It does so because the seeds are packed with zinc. Not only does it raise the testosterone, but the scent is supposed to have an aphrodisiacal effect on people. Beyond these two great reasons, Pumpkin Pies are low in calories and are jam packed with Vitamin A, Iron, Calcium and Fiber.

 

It is abundantly clear why you should not skimp on dessert now, isn’t it? There are more reasons out there why you should be eating some sweets than just these six. The real question now is, what can we make you?