Cakes

Cooking With Cornstarch

February 16, 2021

More and more people are swapping starches for flour in their recipes. If this is something that you have thought about doing then read on to find out more about cornstarch and its uses.

Cornstarch is one of the most versatile starches that there is. Extracted from the starchy endosperm of corn, its white powdery substance is virtually flavorless. It’s a nice ingredient for thickening puddings, soups, pie fillings, and many baked goods recipes. When added to cake, cookie, and shortbread recipes, cornstarch helps create a crumbly and tender texture.

Commercially, cornstarch is often used as an anti-caking agent. When added to packaged goods like shredded cheese, cornstarch coats the cheese and helps to absorb moisture that would otherwise cause spoiling. The absorption process also helps prevent food from clumping over time. Additionally, it is used when making sugars, such as corn syrup.

When cooking with cornstarch, it is best to mix this ingredient into a recipe that is at room temperature. When cornstarch is added to too hot of a mixture, the heat can cause unwanted clumping. Before adding any starch to a recipe, it’s recommended first to make a slurry. To make a slurry, simply mix cornstarch with a cold liquid such as water. This mixture will create a paste-like substance, that you can then add to the desired recipe. Using this slurry method will ensure that the cornstarch is evenly distributed throughout the recipe and not broken down by the heat. It is not recommended to freeze sauce and soups that include cornstarch. Freeing cornstarch can cause the molecules in the starch to break down, and once thawed, the liquid will not hold the same texture as before.

For Thickening:
Cornstarch is often used as a thickening agent when added to soups, stews, and gravies. Denser than flour, less cornstarch is needed to thicken a liquid to the desired consistency.

When cornstarch is added to a recipe, the starch molecules work to absorb water and thicken the mixture. When heated, those molecules swell and consume even more of the liquid in the recipe. Upon thoroughly cooking, the starch in the mix will have expanded size to ten times its size. Once the mixture cools, these same molecules will set. The setting of these molecules can help further solidify the dough, which makes cornstarch a great thickening agent for gooey fillings like pies and pudding. However, this molecule expansion is limited. While a cornstarch enriched recipe can be brought close to boil, it should never be fully boiled. When cornstarch is exposed to too high of temperatures, the starch molecules will begin to deflate, and the mixture will return to its runny state.

For Baked Goods:
Cornstarch not only acts as a thickening agent, but it can also be used in baked goods like cookies, brownies, and cakes. If you’re looking for more structure in your favorite dessert recipe, then you may want to try using cornstarch. Combining cornstarch with other flours can help soften the rigid proteins of the flour, resulting in a light and chewy dessert. Similar to when adding cornstarch to a soup or pudding, if adding cornstarch to a dessert batter, it should first be turned into a slurry. This will ensure that all of the molecules remain intact and that the starch is evenly distributed. Upon adding cornstarch to your baked goods, evaluate it as you would a soup. Has your batter reached the desired consistency? If not, then a bit more cornstarch may be needed. Once your dough looks perfect, bake your dessert like usual. The result should be light, fluffy, and delicious desserts.

Anti-Caking Agent:
Have you ever wondered why your powder sugar ingredients include cornstarch? Cornstarch acts as an anti-caking agent. By keeping moisture and condensation from reaching whatever it is mixed with. It helps to prevent lumps in finely ground foods like sugar. Cornstarch isn’t just used to ward off moisture from sugar. The next time you’re in the grocery store take a look at how many products list cornstarch as an ingredient. From gravy granules to shredded cheese, you might be surprised by the wide variety of foods that cornstarch is added to.

Frying With Cornstarch:
Cornstarch can also be used as a coating for fried foods. While cornstarch shouldn’t be used as a substitute for flour in baked goods, you can very easily substitute it in for flours when coating fried chicken, fish, or other items you’re frying. Not only will cornstarch work in the same way that flours do, but it will hold up better against sauces and absorb less of the frying oil. Less oil means less fat in your meal.

When frying food with cornstarch, I recommend that you coat the items lightly. Applying a light even coat to your food will ensure that it results in a crispy texture. When too much cornstarch is added, the coating often turns out gummy rather than crunchy. For the perfect, gluten-free fried food, consider blending cornstarch with a gluten-free flour like almond flour. This will help create a more breaded result, similar to wheat flour.

©Tiny New York Kitchen © 2021 All Rights Reserved

Cooking With Buttermilk

January 27, 2021

Buttermilk is a fermented dairy drink that was traditionally the liquid left behind after churning butter out of cultured cream. Today, most modern buttermilk is cultured. Cultured buttermilk was first commercially introduced in the US in the 1920s. Commercially produced buttermilk is milk that has been pasteurized, homogenized, and then inoculated with a culture of Lactococcus lactis to simulate the naturally occurring bacteria in the old-fashioned buttermilk. The tartness of cultured buttermilk is primarily due to lactic acid produced by lactic acid bacteria while fermenting lactose, the primary sugar in milk.

Condensed buttermilk and dried buttermilk are very important in the food industry. Liquid buttermilk is used primarily in the commercial preparation of baked goods and cheese. Buttermilk solids are used in ice cream manufacturing as well as being added to pancake mixes to make buttermilk pancakes.

Buttermilk reacts with the baking soda and powder to give quick breads their rise and tender crumb. The reaction is best at the beginning, you’ll want to get the loaf in the oven right after mixing the wet and dry ingredients. Buttermilk can also be used in marinating meats, especially chicken and pork, because the lactic acid helps to tenderize, retain moisture, and allows added flavors to permeate the meats.

©Tiny New York Kitchen © 2021 All Rights Reserved

Lucky Foods For New Year’s Day

December 28, 2020

Lucky Foods For New Year’s Day

This New Year’s make a resolution to bring yourself a heaping helping of good luck. It’s as easy as just making dinner.

In cultures around the world, the new year is celebrated with particular foods and recipes thought to bring good fortune. Symbolizing wealth, long life, and prosperity, lucky foods are an auspicious and delicious way to celebrate the holiday and welcome good things in the coming year.

Pork & Sauerkraut
Tender braised pork, along with other forms of pork (like sausages and roasts) is a symbol of abundance in Celtic and Chinese cultures, and is popular amongst the Pennsylvania Dutch on New Year’s Day. Paired with the cabbage in sauerkraut, a Chinese symbol of wealth and prosperity, this easy braise with apples and onions is one tasty pot of good luck.

Black Eyed Peas, Greens & Cornbread
Traditionally eaten in the South on New Year’s Day, this trifecta of ingredients represents three different types of money. Leafy greens represent dollar bills, the round peas symbolize coins and cornbread is the color of gold.

Grapes
According to Spanish lore, eating 12 grapes as the clock chimes midnight on New Year’s Eve will bring you 12 months of good luck. Incorporate this tasty tradition by adding grapes to your holiday cheese board or dessert platter. Or try a delicious side dish with savory sautéed Brussels sprouts, grapes, and crunchy walnuts.

Pomegranates
In Greece, smashing a pomegranate on the floor to release the seeds is a surefire way to bring good luck. The seeds represent abundance and fertility. The more seeds you see, the luckier you’ll be. Instead of smashing, sprinkle that good fortune over peak season oranges, mixed greens, and prosciutto for a colorful celebration of a salad.

Fish
Fish are thought to represent progress and abundance because they constantly swim forward and group together in schools. In Czech culture, the scales of the fish are considered lucky because they resemble silver coins and if you carry a silver coin in your wallet it is said that your money will never run out. Celebrate the new year abundantly with a fish dish that everyone will enjoy.

Noodles
No Chinese New Year, Lunar New Year, celebration is complete without a bowl of noodles. Symbolizing longevity and health, noodles are always left whole. Breaking or cutting a long strand of noodles is considered bad luck. Nourish a long life with a longevity noodles dish.

Cake
Ring shaped cakes, like Bundt cakes, are a sweet way to celebrate coming full circle from the previous year. In cultures around the Mediterranean, a coin is baked into the cake and thought to bring wealth and good fortune to the lucky recipient who finds it. Bake a delicious ring-shaped cake and be sure to warn your guests if you decide to bake it with a coin hidden inside.

©Tiny New York Kitchen © 2020 All Rights Reserved

Summer Baking

July 29, 2020

I know that summer baking seems counter intuitive, but for some reason I feel compelled to keep baking in the warmer months of the year. Keeping your home cool can be though enough without the oven adding to the heat. Plus, adding in heat-sensitive ingredients and humidity and you can have less than perfect baking results. Summer does bring wonderful seasonal ingredients like berries and stone fruits that should be missed.

Use your oven in the morning or evening. We all know that your oven can heat up your kitchen quickly. This is why I like to bake early in the morning or in the evening when the outside temperature is lower.

Choose recipes with shorter baking times. In keeping with minimizing the heat from your oven, look for baking recipes that don’t require lots of oven time. A simple cake or a pan of mini cupcakes will bake more quickly than a Bundt cake or even a pan of brownies. If you’re a cookie baker try baking a pan at a time to avoid having the oven on for all the time it takes to bake dozens of cookies. You can refrigerate the dough between batches or even freeze the dough to bake when your cookie cravings strike.

Refrigerate cookie dough and pie crusts. Speaking of cookie dough, keep in mind that a warmer kitchen will also make your cookie doughs warmer. If the butter in the dough begins to melt, you could end up with flat, tough cookies. You can try scooping and baking your cookies quickly, but if you refrigerate the dough before baking and between batches you will avoid these issues. This applies to pie crusts as well. It’s not unusual on a warm day to end up with a too warm, too soft pie crust once it’s rolled out, placed in the pan and the edges fluted. When this happens, just put the pie pan in your refrigerator for a bit to let it cool and rest.

Keep an eye on softening butter. With a warmer kitchen butter will soften faster. The warmer it is the faster butter will soften. If you’re using a recipe that contains softened butter, remember to check for softness sooner than normal to ensure that the butter doesn’t get too soft and affect the texture of your baked goods.

Humid days can definitely affect your baking. If you are baking something with a lot of liquid in it, then it may take longer to bake than usual. Keep an eye on whatever you’re baking and follow the recipe’s directions and your best judgement to check for doneness.
Fresh berries and stone fruits are one of summer’s gifts and it is nice to bake with them. There are so many easy ways to bake with summer fruit. A simple fruit crisp or cobbler is always a welcome treat on a summer day. They are also wonderful garnishes for many desserts like cheesecake and pound cake.

Frosting and heat generally don’t mix well. If you’ve made a cake or cupcakes that are frosted you may want to keep them in the refrigerator until it’s time to serve them. Bring them to room temperature before serving. Refrigerating these types of desserts isn’t a bad idea year-round, especially if the dessert won’t be eaten within a day or two.

No bake desserts may be the way to go. Skipping the oven time can still yield amazing desserts that are perfect for the season with their cool, creamy flavors, and textures. From ice cream to cheesecakes to pies and a whole lot more, you can find plenty of ways to satisfy your sweet cravings.

Support your local bakery. If you are lucky enough to have a great local bakery, take advantage of it. A simple pound cake can be turned into something special with just some fresh fruit and sweetened whipped cream. Brownies can be dressed up in a big way with a scoop of ice cream, a drizzle of caramel sauce, and a sprinkling of nuts. Your grocery store can help, too, with shortcut ingredients like puff pastry.

“Work With What You Got!”

©Tiny New York Kitchen © 2020 All Rights Reserved

Versatile Rhubarb

May 20, 2020

Rhubarb is a fabulous spring crop. The sour sweetness of rhubarb is absolutely nice in cakes, breads, pies, cobblers and jams, as well as sweet and savory compotes, chutneys, and sauces. Savory rhubarb chutney, cooked with onions and hot pepper is an exciting accompaniment to grilled pork, chicken, or shrimp. Sweeter versions employing brown sugar and lemon peel are superb served with pancakes, French toast, waffles or pound cake. Ladled atop frozen yogurt or ice cream, sweet rhubarb sauce is perfect for a spring sundae when the sun burns bright. This same sauce can be strained to yield a perfectly pink syrup. Combine with cold sparkling water or seltzer for a refreshing mocktail, or add to prosecco for a beautiful brunch beverage.

Rich in fiber, protein, vitamin C, potassium and calcium, rhubarb provides many valuable nutrients. A natural laxative, rhubarb may help east constipation. In fact, it is written that rhubarb was utilized in ancient Chinese medicine for treating stomach ailments. The vitamin K found in rhubarb may help strengthen bones, as well as possibly inhibiting inflammation in the brain. Rhubarb also supplies the body with vitamin A, which may help diminish signs of aging, particularly skin damage.

When choosing rhubarb at the supermarket or farm markets, look for glossy, firm stalks. Trim the leaves off when you bring your rhubarb home, as they are toxic. Store the stalks wrapped in a paper towel in your vegetable drawer. Wash before using. Rhubarb freezes beautifully, place chopped stalks on a parchment paper lined baking sheet and place in the freezer. When the chunks are frozen, store them in freezer bags and use within one year.

“Work With What You Got!”

©Tiny New York Kitchen © 2020 All Rights Reserved

Sugared Cranberries

November 18, 2019

Serve sugared cranberries in place of nuts or use as a garnish for cakes, pies, or cocktails. If you don’t have superfine sugar then make your own by pulsing granulated sugar in a food processor for about a minute.

“Work With What You Got!”

©Tiny New York Kitchen © 2019 All Rights Reserved

Blueberry Muffin Mug Cake

June 25, 2019

You may substitute any berries for this delicious mug cake.

“Work With What You Got!”

©Tiny New York Kitchen © 2019 All Rights Reserved

Cocoa Powder

February 26, 2019

Cocoa powder is mostly used for pudding and cakes. 100% cocao powder also adds rich earthiness to rubs for roasted or grilled meat.

“Work With What You Got!”

©Tiny New York Kitchen © 2019 All Rights Reserve

Gluten-Free Baking

November 24, 2018

Tips & Tricks
While many foods are naturally gluten-free, gluten can be especially difficult to avoid in baked goods. Gluten is a complex protein found in wheat (and other grains) that functions like glue in baked goods and pastas. Gluten’s elastic structure helps baked goods rise and become light and fluffy by trapping gas produced by yeast. It’s the key ingredient that makes breads, pizza crusts, and quick breads tender and chewy. But gluten-free enthusiasts and savvy bakers are reaching new heights by getting creative in the kitchen.

Measure By Weight
In most recipes, a blend of gluten-free ingredients is necessary to create baked goods with a conventional shape and texture. For this reason, most health food stores and many grocers sell blended, all-purpose gluten-free flour mixes that simplify gluten-free baking. There are some notable differences when baking with gluten-free substitutes, including a few that break the conventional rules of baking. Gluten-free flours are, in general, milled finer than wheat-based flours. The fine grind helps gluten-free flours blend better with other ingredients and prevents your baked goods from becoming gritty. On the other hand, the fine flour is more difficult to evenly pack into measuring cups and dense gluten-free flours have different weight to volume ratios than conventional wheat flours. In short, you can’t always substitute a cup of gluten-free flour for a cup of wheat flour, and you’re better off using a kitchen scale to measure gluten-free flour for accurate measurements. The labels on most gluten-free flours feature a cup-to-grams conversion to ensure accuracy.

Consistency & Shape
Even with the right flour mix and measurements, a gluten-free batter or dough won’t usually handle exactly like a conventional dough. For example, gluten-free pie crust tends to be more crumbly and is more apt to split when you try to fold it. To keep the dough in one piece, roll it between two sheets of wax or parchment paper, which also makes it easier to transfer the dough to a pie plate. Be sure to use and egg wash on pie dough, instead of a milk wash, as a milk wash will more easily soak into the dough instead of resting on its surface. With gluten free breads, be sure to use a pan with sides, because the dough typically won’t stand easily on its own.

Moisture Matters
The strong and sticky bonds formed by gluten play many roles in baking, including moisture retention. While gluten-free flours typically include gums and starches to hold moisture, the resulting dough still tends to dry out faster. To avoid a tough texture or crummy edge on cakes and cookies, consider adding things like egg yolks, yogurt, and fruits (where appropriate) to increase moisture and add flavor. After baking, you can freeze gluten-free baked goods (tightly wrapped in freezer-safe bags) to prevent them from drying out.

Times & Temps
Traditional doneness indicators, such as a clean, dry toothpick in a cake or the hollow sounds when thumping a loaf of bread, are not always accurate for gluten-free baked goods. In fact, some gluten-free baked goods might feel soft to the touch and look wet inside even though they’re completely cooked – requiring a cool-down time to firm up. Follow the time and temperature recommendations in gluten-free recipes closely, because the traditional visual cues aren’t the same as wheat-based goods. Oftentimes, gluten-free recipes feature lower oven temperatures and extended baking times to drive out excess moisture.

Try It
If you’re new to gluten-free baking, don’t be intimidated, but do follow reliable recipes closely – as gluten-free recipes don’t always take well to adjustments, swaps, and add-ins. There are some good gluten-free cookbooks out to help with finding good recipes. I suggest, Gluten-Free Baking Classics, by Annalise Roberts for beginners, who know they need (or just want) to switch over to gluten-free or alternative flours when baking, but aren’t totally sure how to make the conversion. Gluten-Free Baking With the Culinary Institute of America: 150 Flavorful Recipes From The World’s Premier Culinary Collage, by Richard J Coppedge Jr.is geared toward professional bakers or those with an interest in the food-science side of things.

“Work With What You Got!”

©Tiny New York Kitchen © 2018 All Rights Reserved

Strawberry Peaches & Cream Cake

October 10, 2018

We love autumn, but we’re giving it one last-ditch effort to savor the remaining glimmers of summer. You may frost this cake or leave it plain.

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