Baking Powder Facts and History

Baking Powder is a leavening agent that contains a combination of baking soda, cream of tartar, and a moisture absorber (like cornstarch).  It is used like yeast, but it acts much more quickly.
Baking Powder is used in batters where there is no acid present, such as in: cookies, cakes, pastries, pies, quick bread, etc. It makes the baked goods voluminous by allowing gas formation when an acid comes into contact with it and/or when it is heated.
Because it acts immediately upon the addition of water, a filler (usually cornstarch) is added to absorb the moisture and prevent premature activity.

Types of Baking Powder:
Double-acting:  Most baking powders are double-acting, which means it reacts twice;  one acid that dissolves when it comes in contact with water and a second acid that does not dissolve until it reaches a higher temperature.  This type of double action ensures that the finished product is light and fluffy.
Single-acting:  Mainly used by manufacturers and are usually not available for retail sale.
How To Purchase Baking Powder:
When buying and stocking up, try to find the most current date available by looking for a manufacturing or expiration date on the product.  Keep in mind when it was manufactured and how long it has been sitting on the store’s shelf, because time weakens its potency.
Just because you bought it last week, it does not mean it was made last week and is as fresh as possible.
Once a can is opened, it should be good for 3 to 6 months.
How To Store Baking Powder:
Store at room temperature in a dry place.
A cabinet or pantry away from the sink or heat source (such as the stove, direct sunlight), is a perfect place.
Do not store in the refrigerator as it may shorten the shelf life due to condensation that occurs on the can.

King Arthur GF Brownies

  Most baked goods that are Gluten Free are tasteless, dry and crumbly. I have been trying some recipes to see if I can  find one that is not too expensive to make and worth the time and money it costs. Since I seem to have a craving for Chocolate right now, I tried this recipe for brownies from King Arthur flour. 
 I have found that recipes from companies that make the product are usually good. After all they want to sell that product. I have used their Measure for Measure with some success, but it is not cheap and I can’t find locally. 
 Their All purpose Gluten Free flour is less expensive and both of the grocery stores here carry it. That is what is used in this recipe and while I might not know how long they would keep as when my daughter and grandkids stopped most of them walked out the door and I will eat what I have left in a few days. They recommend wrapping them in plastic wrap to keep better.
 They are rich and chocolatey and really don’t need frosting. Would be good as a desert with ice cream or whipped cream or just plain with a cup of coffee for coffee time. I baked mine in my counter top convection oven and baked about 10 minutes longer at 325° instead of 350°.

Gluten Free Brownies
YIELD 16 brownies
1 1/2 cups sugar 
1/2 cup unsalted butter
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
3/4 cup (2 1/2 ounces) baking cocoa 
3 large eggs
3/4 cup King Arthur Gluten-Free Flour 
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 cup chocolate chips, optional
1 cup chopped nuts, optional
 Preheat the oven to 350°F. Grease an 8" square pan or 9" round pan; either should be at least 2" deep.
 Place the sugar, butter, and salt in a microwave-safe bowl or saucepan. Heat over medium heat, stirring with a heatproof spatula until the butter melts and the mixture lightens in color. This step helps melt the sugar, which will give the brownies a shiny crust.
 If you've heated the sugar and butter in a saucepan, transfer the mixture to a bowl; otherwise, just leave the hot ingredients right in their microwave-safe bowl. Blend in the vanilla and cocoa, then add the eggs and mix until shiny.
 Blend in the flour blend and the baking powder. Stir in the chips and/or nuts, if you're using them.
 Pour the batter into the prepared pan, spreading it to the edges.
 Bake the brownies for 33 to 38 minutes, until the top is set; and a cake tester or toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean or nearly so, with perhaps a few wet crumbs, or a tiny touch of chocolate at the tip of the tester.
 Remove from the oven and cool for about 15 minutes before cutting. Once the brownies are cool, cover tightly with plastic.
 Yield: 16 brownies.

For easiest slicing, wait at least 15 minutes before serving. And for prettiest (crumb-free) servings, wait till brownies are completely cool before cutting.

Sunday in Iowa...

The Keokuk County Fairgrounds  
  In What Cheer, Iowa    
About the only time of year they are quiet;  
although they usually have bingo in the winter, and harness racing, figure 8 car races, motocross, tractor pulls in season and a huge, well-known flea market that is usually on in May, August and October, as well as the county fair.

Saturday Thoughts...Longing for a Hoosier cabinet...

Myrna and I were talking about Hoosier cabinets…I’ve always admired them; they were built and sold to ladies who actually baked from scratch!  The ads for them mention that they were scientifically designed…for step-saving and ergonomics.  Everything you really needed to bake was right in front of you.

I loved the flour bins, a sugar jar, and the other accessories you could buy.  What I really love is the pull-out large sanitary enameled work surface…you could roll out your cookies, knead your bread, make pie crust right on that surface!  And all the accessories that were available!

Our Mom and Grandmother didn’t have Hoosier cabinets because they were married to men in the construction and home building business and they had built-in cabinets…but with things like flour and sugar bins, pull-out bread boards and counters that were custom height. 
If you look around kitchens today, they are not really convenient.  Whenever I move to a new kitchen…and because my husband was in the military for some time and we have moved around since he got out, I have done that more than I like, I try to set it up as conveniently as possible, with a baking center, dishes between the sink and table, pots and utensils by the stove, etc. I keep those Hoosier cabinets in mind when I set up my baking area, and I use the inside upper doors for my most used recipes, and other useful information.

Baking with Baking Powder...Cookbook Reviews

If you like to bake from scratch I found these excellent, well-written old cook booklets you can download from Michigan State University’s "little" cookbook collection.  They include most of the recipes that Mom and Grandma made, and that you see in other cookbooks.  They give clear directions, black and white how-to photos, and lots of variations of basic recipes.
These recipes are all for baking using baking powder, and were put out the Calumet…the baking powder Myrna and I still use.  They also have recipes to use your cake flour.
It’s interesting that all the cake recipes indicate right under the title how many eggs are needed…they’re from an era when many housewives had chickens in the back yard, like our Mom and Grandma.  Many of the cooks of these eras made their reputation on wonderful cakes.

You can either view these booklets online or download it free to keep.

The Calumet Treasury Of Home Baking: A Collection Of Plain And Fancy Recipes You'll Want To Bake Again And Again [1979]    
This is a 23 page booklet that includes everything you can bake with baking powder…biscuits in 10 variations, muffins, pancakes and waffles including crepes and chocolate waffles, shortcakes and coffeecakes, cornbread recipes including cornbread shortcake, and cakes and frostings including Blitz Torte.  If you want to bake from scratch, this is your book!

The Perfect Baking Combination-Calumet Baking Powder And Swans Down Cake Flour  1936 
This 12 page booklet has recipes for 1, 2 and 3 egg cakes, including appropriate frostings.  At the end of the booklet they recommend the next booklet.

The Calumet Book Of Oven Triumphs!  (1934)  
If you want to make those favorite recipes Grandma and Mom made they are in this booklet from Calumet.
This 32 page book has some good ideas…I especially liked the idea that you can make your cake or muffin batter and keep it in the refrigerator until ready to bake…they explain how to do it.  The idea is used in their “Miracle Cake” (on page 11) which make 3 different cakes from the same batch of batter…a cupcake recipe, jam squares and an orange layer cake.  The idea is to make the batter, divide it into pans for storing and baking in all 3 ways.  You can bake a new dessert for 3 days in a row!  Great when you have company for the weekend.
The booklet has favorite recipes for butter cakes, sponge cakes and roll cakes, cookies, frostings and fillings, biscuits of all kinds, coffee cakes, cornbreads, muffins, waffles and pancakes.  There are at least several versions in each category…it’s a keeper!

King Arthur Gluten Free Web Site and Recipes

If, like me, you need to bake Gluten Free, you need to check out the King Arthur web site.
 They have a great collection of GF recipes not all of them for sweet things. I recently tried their yeast bread recipe and it was a major hit. 
 Directions in all of their recipes are clear and concise and when followed give you great tasting baked goods. I highly recommend them and also their regular recipes if you don’t need or want to bake GF.  
 I don’t do a lot of baking for Gluten Free items as it becomes costly, but if you want a great site for recipes this is the site to go to. When the recipe works it then becomes worth the cost. The Brownies are also excellent. Buying the flour instead of the GF  mixes helps with the cost and is more versatile.
 While you are there take a look at the store items they have for sale. I can sometimes find the all purpose and the baking mix in my local store but if you have enough of an order the postage is often free and they run quite a few sales if you sign up for their email.

 Great web sites that are clear, easy to follow and arranged in a logical manner are not as easy for find and this site manages to do all of the above. Worth looking at no manner how you bake. Keep in mind that web sites that are selling an item that is used in a recipe are going to post their best recipes so you will bake from them which I have no problem doing.

Sunday in Iowa...

Snow or not...
still have to hang the wash 
near Cantril, Iowa  
We got 2 rounds of snow this week, about 6 inches on the ground with freezing rain on top...not our first snow but it's lasting a few days

Saturday Thoughts...Small Recipes...Grandma's Peas and Carrots


If you remember Grandma making creamed peas and carrots, here’s the best recipe, from the "Farm Journal Country Cookbook 1959".  
The sauce is thickened with the cream and egg yolk which makes it gluten-free too, and it also freezes if you want to save half of the sauce for another time and prepare half the vegetables each time for 1 or 2 servings.  If you have a mandoline, it makes slicing the carrots easy.
Creamed Peas and Carrots
  1             cup  carrot slices, sliced thinly
¼              cup   onion, diced (optional)
  1             cup  frozen peas
  1             large  egg yolk
  1             cup  heavy cream
  2             tablespoons  butter
     1/2      teaspoon  sugar
                 salt and pepper -- to taste
                 fresh dill, if you have it
Slice carrots and cook with onion in 1 inch of water for 15 minutes.  Add frozen peas and cook another 2 or 3 minutes.  Drain.
Combine the egg yolk with the cream, butter and sugar.  Heat until mixture thickens in same pan.
Add the cooked vegetables, heat through.  Season with salt and pepper and fresh dill if desired.  
4 servings