Are you the fan of a certain brand?

My answer: yes and no. Yes when it comes down to the  ingredients I bake with (though sometimes left with no other choice) and no to the other things I buy at the supermarket. Some brands have somehow cornered the market on baking ingredients. Take canned pumpkin, for example. What name comes to mind? Libby‘s. Does anyone know of any other brand or of a store brand of canned pumpkin? Or how about a different brand of sweetened condensed milk than Eagle Brand? It is amazing that these brands seem to have a monopoly on the products they make. Can no one else can a pumpkin? or did they try to sell a different brand way back when and got bought out? Are they available elsewhere? Nuts also seem to have a bit of an edge in the supermarket. That seems like the silliest of all to me. They are just nuts. Why is it that Diamond stands out above the rest? I mean, I know that in California, it makes sense, especially in San Francisco, where we insist on everything local, but I know these are shipped everywhere. They must be able to harvest and package nuts more locally elsewhere.

Enough ranting. Besides those brands that have little to no competition, I tend to buy Nestle chocolate chips. I think it’s the nostalgic bit of it or maybe it’s just that it’s usually the cheapest anyway, but something always draws me to the bright yellow bag. I do miss the peanut butter chips, though. They only exist on the East Coast, I think. Anyway, the only ones I found out here were of the Hershey’s (Reese’s) variety and those were quite chalky compared to the smoother version I remember. I have learned that it does not matter if you buy King Arthur’s flour or whatever store brand I’m in flour. It also doesn’t matter which sugar I buy, as long as it is the right color (white or brown) or texture (granulated or powdered) as long as it’s the cheapest.

If I have to buy that brand, of course it goes in my basket. If it’s the cheapest, it goes in. If it tastes better because it’s what I ate growing up, it goes in. Oh, wait, that last part is surely brand loyal. Hmm…okay so I only buy tuna if it’s Bumble Bee, in water, not oil, and I only buy Skippy peanut butter, smooth, not chunky. That’s it. That’s where the line is crossed. No more do I buy Scot toilet paper because that is the brand my mother bought. I am a single gal living in an expensive city that will not allow me to be that loyal to such brands. So there is my yes and no answer to brand loyalty. Hope you are satisfied with such a wishy-washy answer. :)

 

NaBloPoMo: Post 2

Ever since I moved to San Francisco, and I have told people that I graduated from the CIA with a degree in Baking and Pastry Arts, I have been asked what my specialty is/what my favorite thing to bake is. I have almost a different answer every time because I like to bake just about anything and don’t really have a “specialty”. I do, however, have a few favorite recipes that I like to turn to, and since this post is a part of the NaBloPoMo, and the theme this month is fan, I bring you a list of my favorite things to bake, and their recipes:

  1. Better Than Brownie Cookies. They are a great chocolaty cookie recipe that I found on another blog a couple of years ago and I like baking them every so often. I have come up with different variations of the recipe such as using butterscotch or peanut butter chips instead of the second cup of chocolate chips. I think, like brownies, these cookies allow you to have a very creative license. Last night I dreamed about making them with a sprinkle of sea salt on them. (Yes, I dream about dessert!)
  2. Pie Pops. Also found on a blog a couple of years ago. Every time I make them or bring them up in conversation, people get pretty excited about them. I mean, what’s not to like? It’s a mini pie on a stick.
  3. Chocolate chip cookies. I have always liked using the recipe from the back of the Nestle chocolate chip bag for as long as I have been making chocolate chip cookies (which is a long time). I also like adding different things to them. This recipe has oatmeal and bananas in it.
  4. Ice Cream. I have yet to buy an ice cream machine/attachment for my KitchenAid (though my birthday is coming up in November; hint, hint, nudge, nudge) but I love making ice cream. I love that this is also one of those things you can get really creative with. By the way, while it’s not on my favorite list, it is National Rocky Road Ice Cream Day!
  5. Brownies/Blondies. So easy and so chewy and good. Love to make brownies in a smaller pan than what is called for. Usually, brownies are baked in a 9×13 pan and I bake them in a 9×9 or an 8×8. This makes them more fudgy and gooey and that’s what you want in a brownie, right? I know it’s kinda weird, but I also only like the middle-no edges for me!

So there it is. The top five things I like to bake. My turn to ask: what’s your favorite thing to bake/what’s your specialty? (you can answer in the comments)

March 2011 Daring Bakers’ Challenge: Yeasted Merigue Coffee Cake

The March 2011 Daring Baker’s Challenge was hosted by Ria of Ria’s Collection and Jamie of Life’s a Feast. Ria and Jamie challenged The Daring Bakers to bake a yeasted Meringue Coffee Cake.

This was my first time baking a cake like this. I have made cinnamon buns, which are similar in that they are yeasted, and have the same cinnamon-sugar-chocolate chip (and nut) filling, but what makes this different is the meringue and the shape.

I think it came out well and since I am typing this while they bake, I can only tell that they smell delicious already! The Daring Bakers also offered a different filling, one that used saffron and other spices. I stuck to the typical filling since this was my first time to make it, and those ingredients are just a bit cheaper.

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C is for cookie, and that’s good enough for me!

Purim was celebrated on Saturday and what a day it was!

In the morning, I ran with the Jews For Run group in their Pacing For Purim “race”. It was the first time I went running (other than going to the gym) and I had a great time (even getting drenched in the rain)! It was motivational to run in a group and to get inspiration from runners of all kinds of experience.

The main highlight of the day was Purim Palooza (see pictures here -I’m in some!) I went to the show at Temple Emanu-el as Cookie Monster, but took the hat off that made the costume, and became just someone in a onesie at the after party at the Rockit Room. Anyway, as Cookie Monster, I thought it was a good idea to show up with a bunch of cookies, and since it was Purim, I decided on Hamentashen. I used the same recipe as before, and used chocolate chips as the filling and put some poppy seeds in the dough. I found that the ones that were more closed tasted better, since you got chocolate in each bite.

This post was brought to you by the letter H, for Hamentashen!

The Cookie Experiment

I did a baking experiment about the difference between baking powder and baking soda. For this experiment, I baked chocolate chip cookies.

I made four varieties:

  1. with no leaveners
  2. with only baking powder
  3. with only baking soda
  4. with both baking soda and baking powder

The recipe called for baking soda only, so I guess you could call that the “control” of the experiment. The 3rd and 4th varieties were chewier and tastier than the 1st and 2nd varieties. Below are the pictures representing each variety. You can tell that the baking powder creates a cookie that doesn’t spread as much and kept more of a dome shape, while the baking soda created a flatter, more spread out cookie.

no leaveners used

only baking powder used

only baking soda used

both baking powder and baking soda used