Faye asks: I have used the same recipe for Chocolate Zucchini Bread for many years with no problems. The last couple of years when I’ve tried it, it has fallen. I got the recipe from a church cookbook in IN. I now live in the Denver area at about 5400′. I have never taken the seeds out, do not peel, and today, squeezed the zucchini in a very thin dish towel. All loaves fell before I took them out of the oven.
I made 5 mini loaves, 6 cupcakes (loaves & cupcakes in aluminum) and 1 9×5 loaf pan. I have a new double oven (2 mo old). I baked in upper oven on the lower of the 2 shelves. I only cooked them 30 min because of the smallness of the pans. Any suggestions? Thanks!
Baking S.O.S. says: It sounds like there are a number of factors that could be contributing to this problem, including a new oven that you are not yet completely familiar with. But the most likely cause is baking at a much higher altitude than the recipe was written for. (most recipes are written for baking at or near sea level)
When baking at high altitudes, you will need to make adjustments to the original recipe in order to achieve the same results. Here are a couple of helpful resources to guide you in making adjustments:
I hope some of those suggestions will help alleviate this problem of high altitude baking. Good luck!
Wendy asks: When using a turbo convection oven to heat a frozen pie, how do you stop the pie crust from getting so hard?
Baking S.O.S. says: I don’t have experience with turbo convection ovens for home use, although we use industrial convection ovens in professional kitchens, so I am going to assume that the ovens work in a similar fashion.
Convection ovens bake hotter and faster than conventional ovens. When baking in a convection oven, the typical adjustment is to bake at a temperature that is 25 degrees less than the directions specify, and the baking time should also be shorter, though that varies depending on what you are baking.
So if the pie crust is getting too hard, it sounds like you should decrease the temperature of the oven, and also shorten the baking time from what the instructions say on the frozen pie.
A couple of other options: 1) Before putting the pie in the oven, brush the top with a little bit of milk. This will give the pie a glossy finish while keeping the crust a little softer, perhaps, 2) Try putting a loose aluminum foil “tent” over the top of the pie half-way through the baking process to protect it from over-baking.
I hope one of those options will help. Happy baking!
Last year, I was invited to a very special Thanksgiving celebration with Jewish friends in our neighborhood: it was called Thanksgivukkuh because the first day of Hannukkah coincided with Thanksgiving for the first time in centuries (and it won’t happen again for another 70,000 years, so this was a once-in-a-lifetime celebration!).
Thanksgivukkah was observed by blending traditional Thanksgiving dishes with traditional Hannukkah dishes, such as: cranberry applesauce. sweet potato noodle kugel, Manizchewitz-brined turkey, and my favorite: challah apple stuffing.
After I tasted the challah apple stuffing, I swore that I would never make any other stuffing recipe again. It was so incredibly delicious that I could have eaten nothing but stuffing for Thanksgiving!
So this year, even though we are celebrating a traditional Thanksgiving holiday instead of Thanksgivukkah, I will once again be making challah apple stuffing, courtesy of buzzfeed.com.
Wherever you are and whatever you are preparing for your holiday feast, I wish you and your loved ones a very happy Thanksgiving!
Pat asks: I thought I would try something different and make a chocolate Christmas Cake I found in a novel I was reading… Cakes taste good, but after a few weeks of aging in the fridge and some soaking with Kalua it still crumbles when cut. What did I do wrong? Did it cook too long? Or did I use too much flour? would like to be able to make again if I can fix this problem. Thank you for your time, and Merry Christmas.
Baking S.O.S. says: Well, this is an interesting question…I’m curious what kind of recipe one finds in a novel vs. a cookbook? Is it an old-fashioned recipe, by any chance? (depending on the setting and time period of the novel)
I ask because it is not customary (in this current day and age) to leave cakes in the refrigerator for a “few weeks of aging,” as you said in your message. I suspect the reason your cake is crumbly is not because you baked it too long or used too much flour. Rather, I think it crumbled because it was simply too old and dried out. The maximum amount of time you should keep cake in the frige is probably around 4 days. If you want to store it longer than that, you should store it in the freezer to keep it fresh. Interestingly enough, we might assume that storing cake in the refrigerator would keep it fresher longer, but in fact, the opposite is true: storing cake in the refrigerator actually draws the moisture out of it and makes it dry out faster.
So it sounds like the real problem is that you simply left the cake in the refrigerator too long. Next time, store only the amount of cake that you can eat in 3-4 days in the frige, and put the rest in the freezer to enjoy later.
Hope that helps!
As a Chef Instructor who teaches cooking classes to many different audiences, I try to stay abreast of current dietary trends and food preferences so I can accommodate the needs of my clients.
Over the past few years, I have noticed an ever-increasing trend towards gluten-free diets. In order to understand why this is happening, I read lots of articles about the issue. In my research, I have come across a number of different theories as to what could be causing an increased sensitivity to gluten, from GMO (genetically modified) wheat that contains more protein (gluten is one of the proteins found in wheat) so that we can attempt to meet the food needs of an ever-increasing global population, to modernized processing of wheat that makes it harder for our bodies to digest the grain. [I had the pleasure of hearing farmer Joel Salatin speak at a university lecture series, and his explanation made a lot of sense to me.]
It would seem that the research is still unclear as to why there is such an increased prevalence of gluten sensitivity lately, but regardless of the reason, as a Chef, it is my job to cater to my customers’ requests, so I do my best to accommodate those needs.
And herein lies my challenge: Throughout history, baked goods have been made with a few basic ingredients: flour, sugar, butter, eggs. Baking is a science…..all of the ingredients perform a very specific function in recipes. When you start substituting ingredients in recipes, it will have a noticeable difference in the finished product because the ingredients will react differently in the science of baking.
In my experience, I have found that you can make baked goods vegan–meaning they do not use any animal products (such as butter, milk, and eggs). You can also make baked goods gluten-free–without any wheat-based flour.
But to try to make baked goods both vegan and gluten-free is virtually impossible, in my opinion. Once you take away the flour, butter, and eggs and try to add in alternate substitutes, such as gluten-free flours, vegan margarine, flax seed in place of eggs, etc., the science of baking has changed so much that the finished product resembles nothing of the original recipe.
As an example, I attempted to make vegan and gluten-free brownies for a friend recently…..when I took the pan out of the oven, the mixture was actually boiling and bubbling like some kind of black volcanic sludge. It looked completely unappetizing, and it tasted as bad, too. If vegan, gluten-free baked goods don’t taste good, then why bother making them?
The only real solution I have is to simply make a recipe that is already by nature both vegan and gluten-free, such as sorbet, rather than trying to substitute alternative ingredients for the original ingredients in the recipe.
That’s my 2 cents on vegan and gluten-free baking. But if anyone out there has had any success with vegan, gluten-free baking, I would sure love to hear about it. I’m still trying to find something that actually works scientifically AND tastes good, too.
In the meantime, I’m going to stick with using good old-fashioned flour, sugar, butter and eggs in my baked goods. The first thing I learned in culinary school is that “fat tastes good.” And for me, nothing can replace the flavor and texture of butter in baked goods. Mmmmmmm!
Lisa asks: I just don’t seem able to make a chocolate cake that rises and stays risen. I’ve tried buying new baking powder, using my non fan oven and buying an electric device for beating.
I made one yesterday and it seemed to have worked and risen. I put a spike in to test and it came out clean so I took it out of the oven. It then immediately sank and was very dense in the middle.
Any ideas/tips? Many thanks for any advice you can offer.
Baking S.O.S. says: It sounds like you are doing everything right, so the only suggestion I can make is to go back to square one: if the recipe(s) you are making doesn’t turn out the way you want, try a different one.
I always fall back to the real experts, bakers and pastry chefs who have spent their entire careers testing and developing recipes to get the formula just right. When you start with a recipe that you know has been tested to work correctly, then the cake should turn out well when all those other variables have been tested, as well.
My favorite sources are “The Cake Bible” by Rose Levy Beranbaum and Cook’s Illustrated Magazine, which tests every recipe through countless variables and variations to find the perfect results and then publishes only the final winning recipe in the magazine.
You can search Rose’s cake recipes on her blog at the link above, or find one of her chocolate cake recipes here at the Community Food Co-op blog.
Or try Cook’s Illustrated’s Chocolate Layer Cake, posted on the Dallas Morning News website. I will note that in my experience, all my favorite cake recipes contain buttermilk, as this one does, so it should produce a delicious flavor.
I hope one of those recipes will produce better results for you. Good luck!
Shanne asks: I made this recipe (the banana blueberry version) but I substituted buttermilk for the milk. They ended up tasting like they had a horrible baking soda overload. I believe that I did not double the baking soda…of course, it is possible but I am generally careful about those things. Could the buttermilk have caused the baking soda to “over-react”? I made some other substitutions to the recipe but nothing “chemical” in nature. (Coconut oil instead of canola, brown rice flour instead of wheat, and ground flax/oat flour instead of oat bran.) I’ve made this recipe before and they were fine. Also, they “sunk” in the middle this time. It is so weird as I have never had this happen before in my baking. I’m very curious to know what caused this. If it was a momentary “brain cramp” then I know I have to be more careful in the future!
Thank you for your input!
Baking S.O.S. says: Substituting buttermilk for milk will definitely affect the chemical makeup of the muffin batter. Buttermilk is much more acidic than milk, so it reacts differently with the chemical leaveners in the recipe–the baking soda and baking powder. And when the chemical reaction is altered, it can create a metallic or bitter taste in your finished product. Also, altering the chemical reaction that causes the product to rise can also cause the product to sink in the middle once it comes out of the oven (as you said your muffins did).
Because buttermilk is acidic, it needs an alkaline leavener–specifically baking soda–to create the chemical reaction that makes a baked good rise.
Baking powder contains both acidic and alkaline ingredients to create chemical leavening all on its own–without any acidic ingredients needed in the recipe.
Since you introduced more acidity into the recipe with buttermilk, you should not need as much baking powder to make the muffins rise. (too much baking powder caused the metallic, bitter taste in this case)
The general rule of thumb for chemical leavening is: use about 1 tsp. of baking powder OR 1/4 tsp. of baking soda per 1 C. of flour in a recipe.
Given that the original recipe calls for oat and wheat brans in place of what would otherwise be flour (for dry ingredients), and since you altered the dry ingredients even further by using different flours and brans, it would be extremely difficult to advise you exactly how much baking soda you would need with all the different substitutions being made. All I can suggest is that you keep trying different variations until you achieve the desired results you are looking for–but expect to encounter several “mishaps” before you find the right combination of ingredients that work.
You could start by eliminating the baking powder all together and see what happens. If that doesn’t make the muffins rise enough, trying adding baking powder back in in smaller amounts–maybe 1/4 tsp. or 1/2 tsp. rather than the full 1 tsp. the recipe calls for.
Good luck with the experimentation!
Menakshi asks: I have a problem and am desperately looking for an answer. I am an amateur baker who is trying to bake without eggs. My problem is that my cakes come out of the oven perfect, but after cooling down, they are dense and heavy. I am also selling some cakes, but the general reviews are that they are tasty but hard (not hard as in difficult to cut the cake, but I am guessing what they are trying to say is that they are not as light, fluffy or soft as cakes with eggs). Are eggless cakes suppose to be dense? Is there a solution?
Can you suggest some recipes without eggs?
Baking S.O.S. says: I do not have much experience baking without eggs–I am not a vegan. But luckily, my boss’s sister IS a vegan, and she is also a nationally-famous vegan cookbook author, too.
So I am going to refer you to the Post Punk Kitchen blog where Isa Chandra Moskowitz gives plenty of advice on how to replace eggs in baked goods. She has some good recommendations here, so I would trust the expert vegan baker much more than myself!
Lastly, Isa has an entire cookbook dedicated to vegan cupcake recipes called Vegan Cupcakes Take Over the World. I have perused the book, and the recipes look beautiful and delicious, though I have never made any myself. Still, I have it on good authority from my boss that Isa’s recipes are fantastic! So you could certainly use any of the recipes in the cupcake cookbook to make regular-size cakes. It is still cake batter–the only difference is the size of the pan you put it in.
coated in bittersweet chocolate cocoa or finely chopped, toasted almonds
Last night, I taught a Handmade Chocolates class at the Franklin Park Conservatory as part of their Food Education classes. We made traditional Bittersweet Chocolate Truffles and Chocolate-Dipped Strawberries.
The Handmade Chocolates class is always popular at Valentine’s Day, so in the spirit of the season, I share my recipe for you here. Enjoy!
Traditional Chocolate Truffles
Yield: approx. 3-4 dozen truffles
1/3 C. heavy whipping cream
6 Tbls. unsalted butter, cut into small pieces
2 C. (one 12-ounce bag) semi-sweet or dark chocolate chips (I prefer dark or bittersweet chocolate for this recipe)
1/3 C. Dutch-processed cocoa powder
1/3 C. almond meal, lightly toasted in a 350-degree oven for 5 minutes
1. Place the chocolate chips in a medium stainless steel bowl.
2. Place the cream and butter in a small saucepan. Bring to a simmer over medium-high heat, just until bubbles form around the edges and steam arises from the pan. [This is called “scalding” the cream.] *Be careful not to let the cream boil—it will spill over the edge of the pan!
3. Pour cream mixture over the chocolate chips. Cover with plastic wrap and allow to sit for 5 minutes so the chips can melt.
4. Stir with a wire whisk until completely smooth. NOTE: If chocolate does not melt completely, set the bowl over a pan of barely simmering water to create a double boiler. Continue stirring with whisk until mixture is complete smooth.
5. Remove bowl from double boiler. Cover with plastic wrap (works best when the wrap touches the surface of the chocolate directly) and refrigerate until firm, 1-2 hours.
6. Scoop and roll the mixture into 1-inch balls.
7. To coat the truffles, place the cocoa powder (or almond meal) in a small bowl. Roll each ball in the coating and transfer the truffles to a tray or container lined with waxed paper. Separate layers with additional waxed paper.
8. Cover tightly and refrigerate up to 2 weeks or freeze up to 3 months.
Note: Chocolate truffles taste best when served at room temperature. Allow them to warm to room temp. before serving.