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baked goods

Forget the Cookies! Bake a Cake!

So, in our last class, we investigated the relationship between fats which are solid at room temperature and their behaviors when combined with sugar and flour and baked. Everyone got that? Good. We will move on.

That was all in the service of science, of course (which is why the ‘o cookies’ disappeared like snow off a dike by Tuesday…). Today’s discussion is much more up my alley because frankly, Aunt Toby doesn’t like having to fuss with all of that. Any baked good that requires that level of diddling around with doesn’t get made at Chez Siberia very often (read that: the only time. If anyone lusts after homemade ‘o cookies’, they will have to make them). But, I digress.

At this point in the year, people have been fiddling around with cookie cutters, jimmies and egg wash for the past several weeks, tinning things up to give as gifts and so on. People have been eating decorated cookies since Thanksgiving and will continue to do so until they run out, which will probably be after New Years. If you have missed out on this ‘cookie steamroller’, good for you. If you want to give a gift that someone will thank you for in March, read on.

Forget the damn Santa cookies; make a pound cake (more…)

Where Chemistry Meets the Kitchen: Cookies

This is not a discussion about the frontiers of candy versus cookies versus bars versus cakes. Aunt Toby is saving that for another time. Today’s discussion has to do with one type of cookie, and what makes that cookie ‘work’ versus other sorts of cookies.

It all comes down to fat. (more…)

Beer Makes Bread? Sort of.

This past week, my younger daughter put up a note on her Facebook page about smelling ale and it making her want to bake bread. And I thought, “hunh…is there enough yeast still left in beer or ale to do that?” Now, scientifically, what happens with beer or wine for that matter is that the yeast that gets put in eats up all the sugar, produces CO2 and alcohol as a byproduct and once the alcohol level gets high enough (for the particular strain of yeast – all of them are different and some wine yeasts can produce as much as 15% alcohol by volume before they conk out), the yeast get killed off. (more…)

Getcher Pears NOW!

A yellow pear is a pear that when you open it up…is going to be starting to turn brown at the center – it’s rotting from the inside out. Sorry to tell you that – I’m sure the American Pear Council (or whoever their promotional group is) will rise up and protest but it’s true. (more…)

8 Eggs, 2 Desserts


For a lot of folks out there (not the least are the chicken farmers), right now, there’s a whole lotta egg action going on. And it’s the same at Chez Siberia as well. With three dozen eggs staring me in the face in the fridge and guests coming for dinner, Aunt Toby needed to come up with something that was going to use up a lot of eggs. Although I was aiming for a dozen, I managed to get through eight and created two desserts, one of which you can eat right away and one which you can eat over a period of time or you can put the two together or what have you: (more…)

The Name’s Bean — Black Bean

black beansWe’re talkin’ beans here, dried beans – navy, pea, kidney, garbanzo, etcetera, etcetera. But the queen of them all, the ones that tastes best and actually is the healthiest for us, is the little shiny black bean (aka black turtle beans). Beans are high in fiber and protein, phytochemicals and if nothing else, are filling. For more on health benefits of black beans, go here. black bean nutrition (more…)

Ya Gotta Ricotta

white pizza3First, let’s get the housekeeping out of the way.
1) Ricotta is not technically a cheese. It originated as a way (whey?) for Romano cheese makes in Italy to harvest more protein out of the whey.
2) Ricotta is made by making the whey more acidic (either by adding something such as vinegar to it or allowing it to naturally ferment for a day) and then heating it up. This causes more protein to precipitate out of the whey. The liquid is passed through some sort of filter such as a fine cloth and the resulting curds (ricotta) are left behind.
3) Ricotta is NOT cottage cheese which is made from milk itself and is not cooked. One of the advantages of ricotta vs. cottage cheese in terms of cooking is that if you try to make things with cottage cheese which are heated, the curds will start to separate, releasing whey. This is why baked products such as cheese cakes, etc. are best made with ricotta rather than cottage cheese. This is one place where Aunt Toby (who is big on substituting) will have to draw the line. Don’t try it. (more…)

Thanksgiving in a small way

ricotta cookies I have to tell you that Thanksgiving is NOT my favorite ‘family get-together’. My memories of Thanksgivings past are colored (stained?) by visits to a relative whose culinary skills focused on putting butter into everything and sending my gall bladder to an early grave. Other people watched tv on Thanksgiving – a much younger Aunt Toby was in the bathroom. I have never attended a Thanksgiving where a fairly large proportion of people were not suffering within 30 minutes of the meal’s end.

The first Thanksgiving was NOT like that. (more…)

Plum-ing the Depths

We were gifted recently with some plums from the local farmers market that was left over at the end of the day. The DH got first pick to make some plum wine (which is still percolating away in its jugs in the corner of the kitchen, under a box to protect it from the light) and I was faced with a whole lotta plum love. Invariably, a great deal of fruit or veggies arrive when I have the least amount of time to deal with them. In the old days, before Aunt Toby ‘got religion’, I’d putter along trying to do a little every night to get them done.

And a got a little done…and a lot ended up, shamefully, on the compost heap.

So, for today’s plums, because I’ve got a million things (like everyone else), I did this: (more…)

Cheap and Good: Stale bread 4 ways plus a trifling dessert

I know, I know..I promised something on stale bread all the way back probably before Christmas, and as usual, got distracted (it’s Michelle Obama’s arms, doncha know?). What Aunt Toby wants you to do is to think about stuff that we usually just throw away; or give to the birds; or throw on the compost heap, as food that we can recycle into something else. So, you say you don’t like the stems of broccoli – cook ‘em up in chicken broth, run it all through a blender and you’ve got yummy broccoli soup (jazz it up with some cheddar and you are good to go). We’ve covered left-over mashed potatoes already. Today’s topic (as you can see above) is left over bread. (more…)

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