Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Perfectly Boiled Eggs

I appreciate a well cooked hard boiled egg. When cooked correctly the egg has a bright yellow yolk. If they are over cooked they will get a grey or green tinged yolk. Which would you rather eat?

I am going to share an easy technique that will result in perfectly boiled eggs.
Choose older eggs, as opposed to fresh. Fresh eggs are hard to peel. Older eggs peel easily. Begin by putting your eggs in a pot. (Choose a pot that has a tight fitting lid). Cover the eggs with water, then bring to a boil.
This is the difficult part: Once the water has come to a boil, turn off the heat, then place the lid on the pot. Set a timer for 15 minutes.
As soon as the timer goes off, run water over the eggs, to cool.
You will find it easier to peel the eggs under water. 
Just drain the water and toss the shells in the trash can, or compost bin. Never grind egg shells in your sink disposal. According to the plumber, the most common sink stoppages are caused by egg shells and coffee grounds.
Now you can make perfectly boiled eggs!

Sunday, August 26, 2012

Maintaining The Correct Oven Temperature

Is your oven a little off? Are you burning things? Cooking times not adding up? Your oven temperature is off!

The easiest tip I can give, to regulate your oven temperature, is to hang an oven thermometer in your oven. No more guesswork!

*  Of course you can always pay a repairman to come out to your house and adjust your temperature control and charge you $100.00. If you have an oven with a knob the adjustment is easy. You start by getting a correct temperature of your oven, using an oven thermometer. Remove the knob. Looking at the back of the knob are markings. You go to the right or left, depending on what the temperature of your oven read. Then test your knob to ensure it is matching with your oven temperature. I'm sure has a clearer description on how to regulate your oven, but that gives you the general idea.

Wednesday, August 22, 2012


When I think of granola, I'm taken back to a family road trip on the central California coast. We are driving Hwy 1 and I am in the backseat munching on a box of granola, looking at the ocean, thinking this is the life! While I'm still a fan of granola, I am not a fan of store bought granola. I prefer to make my own. This is a simple recipe that I put together and have been making it for years.

The recipe starts with everyday pantry ingredients you probably have on hand: oats, flour, nuts, cinnamon, butter flakes, and brown sugar.

The dry ingredients get stirred around.

Oil and honey are added.

You want to make sure the dry and wet ingredients are combined well. I use my hands to mix. Gloves come in handy!

The granola is pressed into a 10 x 15" sheet pan.

Then baked at 350, until golden brown. Flip sections of granola, using a spatula, to help brown evenly. You will do 3 flips during the baking process.

Cool granola completely before storing.

Store in an airtight container.

Makes 1 1/4 pounds granola.


2 Cups oatmeal
1/2 Cup all-purpose flour
1/4 Cup walnuts, chopped
1/4 Cup slivered almonds
1/4 Cup pecans, chopped
1/4 Cup brown sugar
1 Teaspoon cinnamon
1 Tablespoon butter flakes
1/3 Cup vegetable oil
1/2 Cup honey

In a large mixing bowl combine: oatmeal, flour, walnuts, almonds, pecans, brown sugar and cinnamon. Mix well. Stir in vegetable oil and honey, mixing well to combine. Pour granola into a 10 X 15" baking tray, pressing granola firmly into pan. Bake at 350 for 30 - 35 minutes, or until golden brown. Flip granola, with a spatula, a few times, to ensure even baking. Remove from oven and cool completely. Store in an airtight container. Makes 4 cups, or 1 1/4 pounds. 

Saturday, August 11, 2012

Biscuits & Sausage Gravy

Biscuits and Sausage Gravy has to be my all time favorite breakfast! Mom would usually make a big breakfast on Sunday morning. It would always include biscuits and sausage or bacon gravy. When she fried the bacon, she would brush the tops of the biscuits with the rendered bacon fat.

This is how I've been making sausage gravy for years. Lately my daughter has been requesting biscuits and gravy for dinner. I took the time to show her how to make it herself. She was surprised at how quickly and easily it came together.

I prefer to use Jimmy Dean original sausage. It hardly has any fat, so I add a little olive oil with the meat and fry until browned.

Flour is stirred in and cooked for just a minute or so, to cook out the flour taste.

Then milk is stirred in. You have plenty of options on what type of milk to use: canned evaporated milk, non fat milk, whole milk, half & half or cream are some of the different types I have used and had success with. Today I used whole milk.

To avoid lumpy gravy, make sure you stir the milk into the flour mixture well. Then keep stirring occasionally, to prevent sticking.

When the gravy becomes thick and bubbly is when I stir in the spices. I stick with salt and pepper, but I've tried sage sausage gravy and that is pretty good.

For the biscuits I just make what mom always made, Bisquick Drop Biscuits. They are easy to make and go great with gravy.


8 Ounces Jimmy Dean original sausage
1/4 Cup olive oil
1/2 Cup all-purpose flour
4 Cups whole milk
1 Teaspoon salt
1 Teaspoon pepper

Heat olive oil in a large skillet, over medium heat. Crumble sausage and brown, until cooked through. Add flour to sausage and stir into meat, using the back of a spatula. Cook flour for a minute or so. Pour milk into flour mixture, stirring well. Keep stirring, with the back of the spatula, making sure to keep the gravy from scorching to the pan. (Using a spatula scrapes the bottom of the skillet, better than a whisk, which prevents scorching.) Cook for a few minutes, or until gravy thickens and starts to bubble. Turn off the heat. Serve over biscuits. Makes 5 cups gravy.


2 1/4 Cups Bisquick baking mix
2/3 Cup milk - or - water
Butter, for brushing the tops

Heat oven to 450. Stir ingredients until soft dough forms. Drop by large spoonfuls onto ungreased cookie sheet. Bake 8-10 minutes or until golden brown. Brush tops of biscuits with melted butter. Makes 8 biscuits.

How to Crumb Coat a Layer Cake

In a recent post I explained how to prep a layer cake for freezing. I find that frosting a frozen layer cake is much easier than frosting a freshly baked cake. There is less chance of the cake tearing, or crumbs getting into the frosting.

The first layer of frosting is called a crumb coat. The purpose of the crumb coat is to lock in any crumbs into a thin layer of frosting, before putting on a final coat.

First we will need to secure the cake to the plate, or cake board. A dab of frosting, on the center of the plate, helps to keep everything in place.

Gently press the cake onto the plate.

Spread the frosting, or filling, liberally. Leave about 1/4" around the edge.

Gently press the top layer into the frosting. Remove the waxed paper.

The cake is now ready for the crumb coat. Using an offset spatula, apply a generous amount of frosting to the sides of the cake, working around the entire cake. The top of the cake is frosted also.

Now that the cake has been frosted, roughly. It is time to clean it up. I start with scraping down the offset spatula, so it is clean. Then in one continual motion, pressing firmly against the outside egde of the cake, I smooth out the frosting. The excess frosting is scraped back into the frosting bowl.

Excess frosting from the upper edges are smoothed toward the center of the cake.

Just keep working around the cake until the top is smooth.

After you have applied the crumb coat, it is best to let the frosting firm up, in the refrigerator, before starting on the final layer and piping.

Thursday, August 9, 2012

Prepping Cake For Freezing

The best cake decorating tip I can share with you, is to freeze your cake layers prior to frosting. This tip will have you icing your cake like a professional.

I like to bake the cake a day or two ahead of time. After the cake has cooled, I double wrap in waxed paper. Followed by a double wrapping in tin foil. Just be careful not to smash your cake. 

Place wrapped cake layers on a baking tray, then freeze. You can stack the cake layers later, but for now we want them to freeze level.

Once you are ready to frost, you will start with a light coating, called a crumb coat. The purpose of the crumb coat is to lock in any cake crumbs that may get into your frosting. Since the cake is frozen, frosting is easier. I don't have to worry about the cake cracking. (I will do a full post on crumb coating soon.)   

The crumb coating is followed by a second layer of frosting. Then piping is used to finish the edges. I decorate simply, but clean. I feel with these simple techniques anyone can put out a professional looking cake.

Wednesday, August 8, 2012

Prepping Cake Pans

Ever get so excited to bake a cake, that you hurry along and don't take the time to properly prepare your cake pans? When it comes time to release the cake you find that it has stuck to the pan. Don't let this happen to you. If you are going through all the trouble to bake a cake, bake it well! Take the extra few minutes to prep your pans, to ensure success.

Start by tracing the bottom of the cake pan onto parchment paper. If you are out of parchment paper, feel free to use waxed paper, as I did in this photo demonstration.

Cut the waxed paper, on the inside of the pencil line. You want to cut away the lead, because eating lead is never a good idea! If the thought of using a pencil bothers you, use a pen, or a pointed object to score the line, before cutting.

Grease the pan, liberally, with shortening. Crisco is my brand of choice. This is when rubber gloves come in handy.

Center the parchment or waxed paper cut out in the pan.

Give the paper another coating of shortening.

Then dust the inside of the pans with all purpose flour. If you are making a chocolate cake, you can use sifted cocoa powder.

Prepping cake pans will ensure that your cake won't be a wreck! If you are going through the effort to make something, do it right.

Saturday, August 4, 2012

Cakes, Frostings & Fillings

Hershey's Chocolate Cake 
Hershey's Chocolate Frosting
How to Crumb Coat a Layer Cake
Lana's California Cheesecake
Pineapple Upside Down Cake
Prepping Cake Pans
Prepping Cake for Freezing

Lana's California Cheesecake

There is a local restaurant that has the best cheesecake! Better than any bakery or the Cheesecake Factory. Better than everyone! The cheesecake has a thick toffee-like crust, a rich cream cheese filling and is topped off with a generous scoop of freshly whipped cream. What's not to like?

Now I have made several recipes for cheesecake. I have found some helpful tips along the way, that I am going to share with you. You know for all cooking and baking, it really isn't about the recipe. It is about the technique. Does your cheesecake crack? Well read along and you will know the right cooking temperature to prevent that. Let's begin:

My recipe starts with the crust. Wanting my crust to be like the restaurant, I doubled the amount of graham cracker crumbs you would normally use in a recipe.

The crackers are crumbled, using a food processor. Then brown sugar is pulsed in. The cracker mixture is blended with butter.

Then pressed into a spring form pan, to bake. It is a good idea to place the spring form pan inside a baking tray. This helps with spills, and helps to remove, the pan, from the oven easier. The crust is baked at 350 for 7 minutes. Then cooled completely before filling. 

The crust can be baked ahead of time. However, if you are making this the same day, please note to turn the oven down to 275. Then proceed to making the filling:

Make sure your ingredients are at room temperature: cream cheese, cream and eggs. This will prevent a lumpy mixture. Start by creaming the cheese, until the lumps are smooth.

Blend in the sugar/flour mixture.

Blend in the heavy whipping cream.

Eggs and vanilla. (I really like that mid air shot of the egg falling into the mixer.) 

Making sure to scrape down the sides of the mixer, before giving one final stir.

Run a knife through the filling prior to baking, to release some of the air bubbles. Wouldn't it be funny if you slammed the pan on the counter, to release the bubbles, and cracked that crust? Ha Ha! Put the spring form pan in the center of a sheet pan. Bake at 275 for approximately 1 hour and 40 minutes. The center will be slightly jiggly.

This is the trick to mastering the cheesecake. You bake low and slow, at 275. No water bath, or bain-Marie, needed.

Lets pause for a moment and look at this perfectly baked cheesecake..... Once removed from the oven, transfer to a cooling rack. Place on the counter and let it come to room temperature. This will take a few hours. Be patient! Good things come to those who wait. Once the cake has cooled, transfer to the refrigerator. Wait some more. Let it chill completely. 6 or 8 hours, overnight is preferred.

You'll need to run a knife along the inside edge of the pan, to help release. Unbuckle the spring form pan, then transfer to a cake plate. Since my son requests this for his birthday, I put canned cherries as a decorative topping. If you want the restaurant version you would make home made whipped topping using heavy cream and sugar. Either way this is one fine tasting cheesecake.


2 Sleeves graham crackers, crushed
3/4 Cup brown sugar
1/2 Cup butter, melted
3 (8 ounce) Packages Philadelphia cream cheese
1/4 Cup all-purpose flour
1 Cup sugar
2/3 Cup heavy whipping cream
4 Eggs
1 Teaspoon vanilla

Combine graham crackers and brown sugar in a food processor until crackers are ground into fine crumbs. Add melted butter and mix well. Press graham cracker mixture into a spring form pan; bake at 350 for 7 minutes. Remove from oven and let cool. Lower oven to 275. To make filling: bring all ingredients to room temperature. In a large mixing bowl, mix cream cheese until just smooth. In a small bowl, mix flour and sugar. Add flour mixture to cream cheese and blend well. Stir heavy cream into cream cheese mixture. Add eggs, one at a time, until just combined. Stir in vanilla. Pour mixture into cooled rust. Bake at 275 until cake has firmed, approximately 1 hour and 40 minutes. Center will remain slightly jiggly. Let cool to room temperature. Transfer to refrigerator. Top with cherries and serve with freshly whipped cream.