Posts Tagged With: vanilla

Practicing

Now that November 11 (Happy Birthday, Gloria!) is past, it’s time to start thinking about Christmas. The operative word there is “thinking”. I’m not big on decorating for the holidays, really. When we were growing up, the tree didn’t go up until just days before Christmas. When we had our children, the tree didn’t go up until school let out for the holidays and came down when they went back to school in January. It’s a day, not a season.

However, all that said, when it comes to Christmas baking, a little bit of time and preparation is required. This year, with the discovery that Kristen is gluten intolerant, it also means practice runs of promising recipes. That’s what this weekend has been about.

This is going to seem like a digression, but it really isn’t. When it comes to cookie baking, I’ve always wanted a cookie press. Each year, I check out Amazon.ca for their prices. I wander over to Michael’s to see what they have; and each year, I don’t buy one. My mother had an aluminum one years and years ago but it was never really used and I have no idea where it ended up. This year, I decided it was time to just get one. I went to my favourite kitchen store (Chef’s Edge in Kelowna, if you must know) and bought one. The price was reasonable, very much in line with buying it online, and taking into account the delivery costs. Plus, I didn’t have to wait for it to arrive.

With new toy, er… tool, in hand, I set about to finding some recipes to play with. I came across one that looked really good – Vanilla Cardamon Spritz. The recipe I used is from Serious Eats, one of my favourite food websites. The only thing I did differently was to use a 1:1 gluten free flour.

vanilla-cardamon-spritz_plain

The cookies are crisp, buttery, perfectly flavoured. The cardamon doesn’t overpower the vanilla but gives the cookies a depth of flavour that’s really nice. With a cup of tea or coffee, these are perfect.

I didn’t do much in the way of decoration, as you can see. I wanted to try out the recipe gluten free. However, I did play a little bit later.

vanilla-cardamon-spritz

A little melted dark chocolate, some sprinkles… it doesn’t take a lot to make these little cookies look festive and cheery.

Then, because I’m not super big on sweets, I decided to try my hand at some savoury biscuits. During my hunt for the spritz recipes, I came across a cheesy spritz recipe. It seems this recipe is all over the internet – how have I never come across it?

This time, I inadvertently used wheat flour, even though the gluten free flour was already on the counter beside the mixer. Doh!

cheesy

These call for a pound of aged, sharp cheddar so they’re not an inexpensive treat but, my oh my…. they are addictive! They go very well with a glass or two of white wine. VERY well. Don’t ask how many I ate, ok?

I did have a bit of an issue in getting these on to the cookie sheets – they wouldn’t stick very well, even after I washed, dried, and cooled the cookie sheets in the freezer. In the end, I rolled out the last bit of dough and cut cookies out with a small square cookie cutter, kind of like Cheez-Its.

I followed the recipe on the TGIF (This Grandma Is Fun) blog but I’ve noticed that the same recipe appears on numerous other blogs. Some bakers add a little dry mustard to their mix but I found that the addition of a little hot sauce (I used Franks’s) works well. Seriously, these are good!

If you do bake them, whether with wheat flour or gluten free (that will happen at some point), I’ll offer one tip: beat the heck out of the butter and cheese mixture. Seriously, you can’t underbeat it. The longer you beat that mix, the easier it will be to put it through your cookie press.

Categories: Baking, Christmas, Just stuff, Kitchen | Tags: , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Weekend of Experiments

I know this is my second post today but I’m rather pleased with myself and wanted to share. That’s okay, right?

One of the things I’ve noticed about a lot of soap recipes is that they give the ingredients by percentage. For instance, my latest soap has this formula:

  • 50% tallow
  • 25% coconut oil
  • 25% olive oil

at 6% superfat

And that’s it. At first, that put me off. However, having done a bit of research and reading, I’ve come to really like the percentage way of doing things. Why? Good question.

At the moment, I have two log molds; each holds a batch of soap that has 30 ounces of oils. How do I know? Well, there’s a formula for that… width of the mold, times length of the mold, times height of the mold, times .40. (i.e. 9.25″ long by 3.5″ wide equals 32.375… times 2.5″ tall equals 80.9375. Now take that number and multiply it by .40. That equals 32.375; that number would be the total number of ounces of oil you would need to fill your mold. Are you confused yet?

Length times width times height times .40   Easy, peasy.

So, I have a mold from years ago especially geared to children. It has lions, elephants, and geese in a grid (cut marks). I’d show you but it’s full of soap at the moment and I really can’t turn it upside down to take a picture. I measured it, easy to do as it’s a square mold; I figured that it would take 19.75 total ounces of oils to make a single batch that would fill this mold.

Not very exciting from this angle, is it?

Edited to add:

001

Using the percentages above, as well as an online lye calculator (I’ll post links at the end of this post), I came up with the following recipe:

  • 9.75 oz. beef tallow
  • 5 oz. olive oil pomace (the cheapest olive oil you can find)
  • 5 oz. coconut oil

With a superfat of 6% (the percentage of oil that will not be saponified by the lye, to put it simply), I would need:

  • 7 oz. water
  • .5 oz aloe vera extract
  • 2.8 oz. lye

And that is exactly what I used. I added about 1/2 teaspoon of vanilla oil that I still had from way back and, after all was mixed, poured it into my mold, where it is now waiting to firm up.

I’m not going to go into the entire process; there are more than enough good tutorials out there if you’re interested in making cold process soap. I’m just so pleased that I now know how to size a recipe for any mold I might have. Using the percentage method, it doesn’t matter the size of the mold or the size of the batch; it’s easy to size it to fit.

As for the soap, as I wrote, I’ve scented it with vanilla but, other than that, it’s plain… no colour added. It should be a fairly hard, white soap with good cleansing and good lather. Hopefully, it’s something that the grandchildren will like.


Where to find lye calculators:

These are by no means the only ones; a Google search will bring up others. From my own research, these are the most popular lye calculators.

Next step? Design my own soap recipe…. one day.

Categories: Just stuff, Making Soap | Tags: , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

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