Friday, May 31, 2013

Classic Snack Made From Scratch: Salty Snacks

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Now, we always crave that favorite salty snack of ours and it maybe chips,pretzels,corn nuts or even wheat thin.However now, what if I were to tell you that you can make these salty snacks in your very own home, by using simple ingredients and basic ideas.Well now your in for an adventure because I took this challenge and choose to two recipe to test out from the "Salty Snack" Chapter.

So to begin, the first recipe that really shot out for me to make, was the all popular potato chip.This salty,crunchy and full of flavor snack is at every party that you can think of and everyone has their favorites.So within this potato chip recipe,the author has a big challenge up her sleeves to authenticate the original flavor combo of the all popular Sour Cream and Onion potato chip.I can see her going through many seasoning trials to best fit the original in her eyes.However, is her final seasoning choice able to impress a reader like me? Well we will soon find out?

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So to start, I have to let everyone know before even trying out this recipe that they must follow the equipment listed in the recipe.Along with being very cautious when using any electric deep fryer, homemade fryer or mandolin slicer.I don't want anyone burning or cutting themselves when testing out this recipe for themselves.So since we got all that important safety covered, lets get down to the recipe.

Well to begin, this recipe is quite informative along with giving choices and simple directions for the reader's.Now this recipe may be simple to follow;however it can involve steps that can be a learning curve for some.Especially for people like me that are brand new to making deep fried potato chip.So since you have been warned about this don't let it scare you away from taking the challenge because its actually a really fun process and I learned so much about deep frying and seasonings.

Now when I mention learning curve, it mostly has to do with the cooking aspect of the recipe.The first lesson learned is that blanching is very important towards the texture of the potato chip and the author even explains in the recipe why we should do this.It's quite a simple process of  boiling potato slices for a very short time without overcooking them.Trust me,you don't overcook them because you will just end up with slices for mashed potatoes.Its best to test out a few slices to figure out the best time for boiling, since the recipe only gives you an approximate time.Its always good to have extra potatoes laying around for anything that might get away from you.Trust me, it can happen.Blanching is quite simple, but it can go very wrong if you do not follow the steps correctly.

Now for the second lesson that I learned was about deep frying potato chips.This took some time to figure out the best time to fry this potato slices without overcooking or have them undercooked.I ended up with a majority of potato chips with a great golden color and crunchy texture along with more then a few that were just undercooked becoming very soft.I was super lucky that most of them came out really good for the texture part and only a few were wasted.It definitely takes time to find the best timing for frying potato chips.

Then lastly, a really good lesson learned for making homemade potato chips is that its definitely fun and worth wild to make them;however it can be quite time consuming and you definitely need the patience to finish the recipe.So you have been warned! Be sure to have lots of time on your hands for anything that might arise for you in this recipe.

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  Now for the moment of truth, did the author Casey impress me by her seasoning choices and texture of the finish product.Well I was excitingly surprised how great the flavor combo of this chip was and how spot on it was to the original.I loved how Casey used simple ingredients to create this seasoning blend to create a flavor that just popped with every crunchy bite.The chips were slightly thicker and super crunchy like a kettle chip and were super addicting.Definitely a recipe I'll be redoing to get even better results in my frying technique.

I definitely recommend the recipe for anyone that wants to make their own potato chips by scratch;however you might want to double up on the recipe because these chips will not last long.Trust me! So take on the challenge,don't be afraid and just have some fun! Hey! Even put your own adaption on it! Well stay tune for my next recipe review for Salty Snacks! Can you guess what snack I tried out!

Sour Cream and Onion Potato Chips

Yields: 4 cups

Total: 1 hour ( My Tip: Give yourself an hour and half more)

Difficulty: 2 ( My Tip: Depends if your new to deep frying)

Special Equipment: Electric deep fryer,(or a large pot with candy/oil thermometer) Mandoline,cut resistant gloves (optional)
heatproof tongs,or mental skimmer or mesh strainer.Spice grinder,mini food processor,(my tip: or blender)

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2 pounds (about 4 medium) Yukon Gold or russet potatoes
2 tbsp buttermilk powder ( My Tip: Found in bulk section) 
1 tsp salt
1/2 tsp dried chives
1/4 tsp onion powder
1/4 tsp powdered sugar
1/8 tsp mustard powder 
Vegetable or Canola oil for frying (Large Jug)

Prepare The Potatoes

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I filled a 4 quart stockpot with water and brought it to a boil over high heat.Then lined a large rimmed baking sheet with a kitchen towel.Then I rinsed and peeled the potatoes,then sliced 1/8 inches thick on a Mandoline.( Recipe Recommendation: use a metal mesh cut resistant glove) Then I transferred half the slices to the boiling water and cook them for exactly three minutes.Be sure not to overcook the potato slices,the picture below is what overcooked potato slices look like.The recipe gives us an approximate boiling time of 3-5 minutes.I learned exactly three minutes is the best time before potatoes slices fall apart.You can test out what the best time might be for you by testing a few slices before half a batch.

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Overcooked potato slices,not what you want for potato chips.This is what happened  to me at 5 minutes of boiling.I had to repeel and slice two more medium potatoes to replace.
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Then I gently and quickly removed the slices with heatproof tongs at 3 minutes (or can use a metal skimmer or mesh strainer,then I drain the slices well in a colander, and transferred them to the towel lined baking sheet in a single layer.Pat dry with additional towel.Repeat with remaining potatoes.

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Then I placed the buttermilk powder,salt,chives,onion powder,sugar and mustard powder in a bowl and whisked thoroughly.Then I placed the seasoning blend in the blender and blend thoroughly.Recipe says to use spice grinder or processor.I found a blender works quite well.

Recipe Note: Potato slices and spice mixture can be prepared a day in advance.Slice the potatoes,but don't boil them,and refrigerate them overnight in cold water to cover,and keep the spice mixture in an airtight container.

Fry And Season the Chips

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I heated at least 2 inches of vegetable or canola oil to 350 F to a 4 quart stockpot.Then I lined a baking sheet with paper towels and an upside-down wire cooling rack.

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Then I added the potato slices in batches to the hot oil and fried them until golden brown and fully cooked.Frying time will vary depending on the equipment,so you have to watch carefully. (My tip: be sure to watch if the center of the potato slices are no longer soft and are golden brown).I then removed the chips with heatproof tongs,or metal skimmer or mesh strainer.Then I drained them well on the lined baking sheet for about 1 minute.

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I then poured the spice blend into a gallon size zip top bag.Then I placed the chips in small batches into the zip lock bag,sealed and shook the bag to gently distribute the spices.Then I removed the chips and repeat with the remaining potatoes.(My tip: Do not leave the fried potato slice in the spice blend bag to long)

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Serve the potato chip warm or room temp.these chips are best eaten the day they're fried.

Why We Are Boiling Our Chips?

"Every potato is a waterlogged vessel of starchy liquid just waiting to escape.The more of this liquid we can get out of the potato before frying,the crisper the final chip will be.For thicker chips, like waffle fries a low temperature fry kick-starts the process,but whisper-thin potato chips like these would burn before ideal the ideal amount of starchy water was expelled.A dip in boiling water is safer and leaves us with golden chips"

Filtering The Oil For Reuse.

Books Version:

First,let the oil cool to room temperature in the vessel that you used for deep frying.Simply move the pot off the hot burner and leave it uncovered until cools.

 Place a funnel in the mouth of a clean,seal-able container (the plastic jug your oil came in is a perfect choice,if its empty, if not,mason jar,wine bottle, or seltzer bottle will work as well.Just make sure the container large enough to hold all the oil that you used in deep frying. Then place a fine mesh strainer or paper towel in the mouth of the funnel to catch any fried bits or bobs that might cloud up the oil.Those bits will cause the oil to become rancid.

(Adaption of filtering oil without a funnel)

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Use a very large glass measuring cup, set a large strainer on top and place a paper towel inside the strainer to catch any of the fried bits.Gently pour the cooled oil through the strainer/paper towel.This will help it strain.Then once the large measuring cup fills half way,remove the strainer,set aside and pour small amounts into a small measuring cup.Then slowly pour the clear oil into the empty container.(This is less of a strain on your wrist then to lift the large measuring cup) Then repeat all these steps until all oil is strained and put back into the container and then seal up for next time

You can reuse the oil,filtering each time,until you notice darkening.You have about 8-10 uses out of this oil until its kaput.However be warned that each time you fry food it will give off a distinct odor such as seafood or salami.However if your using this oil over again and only used it for plain doughnuts, chips etc.You will be left with a very mild sweet smell.

When the oil is no longer useable,do not pour it down the drain.You must recycle it! 

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Sunday, May 19, 2013

World Baking Day! Lets Celebrate And Challenge Ourselves!

So for World Baking Day, I chose to make the Bake well Tart Biscuits by Beckie Smith,which is a level 15 in the challenge list.This is a really simple sandwich cookie with a jam filling drizzled with an icing glaze.This recipe is super simple to follow and everyone will be able to make these delicious cookies.The ingredients are also very inexpensive and the directions are very informative.They are a really soft buttery cookie that will just melt in your mouth along with a sweet jam filling.They are very impressive looking cookies;without being very difficult;however it does have its challenges since this is called a baking challenge.So if anyone choose's to make this recipe for the challenge be sure to have the time and patience's to make the cookies since it can be quite fragile and tedicious work.So be careful and have fun! Everyone get in on this challenge and let me know how you all did by commenting on my facebook page

World Baking Day! Up For The Challenge

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 Its World Baking Day Today! Are you up to challenging your baking skills and join in on the fun today.Well if you are be sure to visit World Baking Day and find your baking level to become a Brave Baker! I am testing out Bakewell Tart Biscuits at Level 15. They look really delicious and I'm excited to make them.Have Fun everybody!

Wednesday, May 15, 2013

Classic Snacks Made From Scratch:Goldfish Crackers

This is yet another cheesy snack that is such a well known favorite in our childhood; that this recipe has to either be spot on or go beyond the original flavor.So did this recipe even contend with the original? Well lets find out by breaking down the recipe and see if its worth our time to make our very own homemade goldfish crackers.Also, remember if you have friends,family,and even the children around be sure to get them involved in the baking process and test out the final results.

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So to begin, I found the directions to this recipe to be easy to understand along with an ingredient list that was simple to find.I was also very pleased that this recipe gave simple suggestions to the reader's on using different shapes and where to find the perfect goldfish cutter.Now with these suggestions,I did find out that if you choose to use different shapes you will end up with no baking time and that means watching these crackers constantly.So if you are comfortable enough without a baking time then try some really creative shapes and if not go with the traditional goldfish cracker. I love that we have a choices in this recipe and even given the ability to adapt while still following the basic idea of the recipe.

This recipe to be honest maybe easy to follow;however time and patience is a key in creating these crackers.So what do I mean by this? Well it takes time to roll,cut and bake all these itty bitty crackers.So after a while it may come off as a little frustrating and tedious work.So you have to keep a positive attitude and just think you want to find out if these come close to the original pepperridge farm goldfish cracker.I knew I had to find out? So after the process was complete it was finally time for the taste test.

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So the moment of truth, the flavor and texture test! Did it meet myself and others expectation? Well I was actually really surprised that these homemade crackers went beyond the original goldfish cracker.They had a stronger and sharper cheddar flavor while still keeping the crunchy and flaky texture of the original.They are a highly addicting crunchy snack and I find that there is never enough when a cheesy snack is this good.These homemade goldfish crackers deliver in flavor,texture and signature look.They hit the spot for everyone's cheesy snack and I know for sure they will be paired well some delicious dips and spreads to serve the guests.

They definitely get a two thumbs up from me! I sure had a lot of fun reviewing the cheesy snack chapter and now were on to review the next chapter! Enjoy the recipe and try it with your kids!

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The Recipe

Goldfish Crackers

1 cup (4 ounces) Sharp Cheddar Cheese,Finely shredded
1/2 cup (2 1/8 ounces) unbleached all purpose flour
1/2 cup (2 1/8 ounces) cake flour
1 tbsp cheddar cheese powder ( Can be found in bulk or by Kraft)
1 tsp salt
1/2 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp onion powder
1/4 cup whole or reduced-fat milk
1 tbsp vegetable oil

Making the Dough

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Grated old age cheddar cheese finely.

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Then I stirred the shredded cheese,flours,cheddar powder,salt,baking powder and onion powder in a large bowl until the cheese was evenly distributed and coated. (Old age or Sharp Cheddar is the best)

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Then I added the 2% milk and vegetable oil to the dry mixture and then folded the mixture with a spatula,then I kneaded the dough until a cohesive dough formed.It was crumbly at first;however once I continued to press and knead the dough all the dry bits were incorporated. ( My Tip:Kneading is very important for this dough)

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 Then I transferred the dough on my work surface,covered it with an upside-down bowl and let it rest for 10 minutes.(My Tip: The resting helps the dough become easier to roll and more pliable)

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Making The Crackers

I placed my silpat mat on my half sheet and preheated the own to 375F (Recipe also suggests parchment paper lined on 2 baking sheet)

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I divided the dough into 2 pieces.Then I refrigerated one piece while I rolled out the second piece as thin as possible, but no more then 1/8 inch thick. ( Recipe suggestion: The thinner the dough the crisper the cracker and thicker means puffier and more bread like cracker)

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Then I stamped cracker shapes using cookie cutters. The fish is the traditional shape;however the recipe suggest you can use different shapes.So I cut out hearts,stars,triangles,circles,diamonds and cut out my own fishy shapes. Then I transfers the shapes on my prepared baking sheet.Then continue cutting shapes until all the dough was done.

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Then I baked the crackers loosely based on the recipe time suggestion.The recipes states it will be approximately 15 minutes for fish shaped crackers and will be crispy and just turning golden brown.However the timing will vary for different sizes and shapes.So I had to really watch my crackers and after the first batch I realized I needed to bake the larger crackers together and the smaller ones together in the next batch.

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Then I placed the crackers on a wire rack and let them cool completely.These crackers were best within a day or two and were kept in an airtight container. These are great served alone or with an condiment such as peanut butter,salsa,cream cheese etc

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Wednesday, May 01, 2013

Classic Snacks Made From Scratch:Cheesy Snacks

Now with any Snack Cookbook you definitely need a Chapter dedicated to Cheesy Snacks and I am so glad that the author Casey is on the same track with her cookbook,"Classic Snacks Made From Scratch". She has made sure to experiment with making some very popular cheesy snacks such as Frito's,Nacho Doritos,Cheetos and even the childhood favorite, Goldfish Crackers.I believe that many will have fun making all these creative recipes in the chapter,especially with their children.The only hard part of it all will be trying to choose which snack to make first.So that being said, it was definitely a challenge for me to choose what I wanted to taste test and review first.

So to begin, I let my intrigue and love for foodie photograph's lure me into choosing, the homemade recipe version of "Cheetos". I would of never thought it was possible to make these and I knew I had to test these out for myself.This original snack food has such a specific flavor and texture,which is very important towards comparing the original to the homemade.Now did this recipe actually reach my expectation? Well let's start by breaking down the recipe for all our creative cook's,baker's and cheese snack lovers out there.

Well to start with, the recipe directions were pretty simply broken down for anyone to understand and during the time I was following the recipe I even thought up some of my own tips and trick for myself.Now there is very little ingredients to this recipe;however their are a couple item's that may be hard for some to find.The cheese powder and buttermilk powder were two ingredients I really had to spend my time to look for and find a good price.The cheese powder I was able to find in bulk for a very small price while the buttermilk powder took me a little longer to find since I had no idea how it was sold.However I ended up finding it in one of the grocery store's bulk sections and not for the cheapest price.So if you choose to make this recipe be sure your able to use these ingredients again in many other recipes because we don't want anything going to waste.

Now, this recipe may be simple to follow;however it does have it's challenges along the way. I found that you definitely need time and patience for this recipe.So if you don't have those attributes then I recommend to stir clear of this recipe because you need to be calm to create a unique snack like homemade Cheetos.Where the time and patience comes into play in this recipe is the importance of chilling your dough,shaping and baking time.

The chilling process is very important to this recipe because it helps the dough become pliable and easy to work with so that you can shape your cheese curls.The shaping process definitely has a patience factor to it since you have to continuously shape each piece at a certain measurement;however along the way you end up making many different length's and sizes, so if you want perfection using a kitchen measurement is a good tool.Then lastly, we have the baking time where the recipe suggest 12-15 minutes to bake a large batch.Now this can definitely vary with each oven and how you like your texture.If you like a slightly crunchy Cheetos then 12 minutes is a key time;however if you want a crunchier Cheetos then bake for a little longer.I also learned that these itty bitty cheese curls need constant attention when baking.

The directions are very simple in this recipe that it makes the time and patience factor seem not that big of a deal,especially when you know that the taste test will be the final review.The funnest part of the recipe was  actually making, that all important cheese coating and figuring out how to blend all those spices without any of the suggested equipment.It was actually easier then I thought and you can see how I did it in the recipe below.This recipe definitely gets two thumbs up from me in creating a simple understanding for the viewer's.

So did this homemade version hold up its end of the bargain to the original.Well I was actually surprisingly shocked how spot on these were for flavor.It had a really sharp cheddar flavor with just a touch of a garlic within the baked cheese curls.It had that same powdery texture just like any Cheetos and the texture was just slightly crunchy;however with just a little longer baking time it would of been a perfect homemade version.I only wished this recipe made so much more because 9 dozen just isn't enough when you have so many people wanted to taste test themselves.Making another batch will definitely be in the cards very soon because we don't want any delicious cheese powder going to waste.Definitely,two thumbs up for this homemade version.

Make it yourself and you will see what I mean! Addicting and will tame any cheddar cheese lover out there!

The Recipe

Yields:9 dozen cheese curls
Total Time:1 1/2 hours,including dough chilling
Equipment:Stand mixer,spice grinder or mini food processor (My Tip:All optional)

Cheese Curls

4 tbsp (2 oz) Chilled unsalted butter,cut in cubes
1/2 tsp salt
1/8 tsp garlic powder
1 cup unbleached all purpose flour
1 1/2 tsp yellow cornmeal
4 ounces Monterey Jack Cheese,finely shredded (about 1 cup)

Cheese Coating

2 tbsp Cheddar Cheese Powder (Found in Bulk)
1/2 tsp buttermilk powder ( Found in bulk or package)
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp cornstarch

In a stand a mixer with paddle attachment.I creamed the butter,salt, and garlic powder, at medium-low speed for about 1-2 minutes.Then I turned it off and scaped the sides down.After, I began adding the flour, cornmeal and the finely shredded Monterrey jack cheese.Then I beat the dry mixture on low till it formed a firm soft dough or large breadcrumbs.I then packed the dough together to form a soft ball and then wrapped in plastic wrap and refrigerated for 1 hour,until firm.

Once the dough was chilled and firm.I preheated the oven to 350F and used a large baking sheet with parchment paper.

To form the dough I pinched off a small piece of dough from the chilled dough.I gently rolled the dough into a lumpy log resembling a Cheetos at about 2-2 1/2 inches length and 1/4 -1/2 inch across.Some were smaller and bigger,the more I did the more they changed in shape and length,so using a Kitchen measuring tape was a good reference to use.Then I placed the dough on the prepared baking sheet and I was able to fit a lot of them on one sheet since they don't spread or puff.

The recipe suggests 12- 15 minutes to bake the cheese curls. I baked them at 12 minutes and when cooled they had a slightly crunchy texture.A little longer it would create a crunchier texture. They are to be no longer shiny and and just beginning to brown around the edges Then I transferred them to a large baking sheet.Then I continued the assembling and baking until all the dough was gone.

Cheese Coating 

While the baked dough was cooling I prepared the cheese powder mixture.This mixture I found can be made in a few different ways.The recipe told me to use a spice grinder or mini food processor.If your one to not have these pieces of equipment like me.Then whisk the cheese powder,buttermilk powder,salt and cornstarch in a bowl until blended and then add the dry mixture into a blender for a better blend to break down the cornstarch.Then  transfer the powder mixture into a bag/resealable bag.

Then I place the cheese curls into the bag of cheese powder mixture and shook gently to coat all of them and let them sit for a second before eating.These coated cheese curls stay good at room temp in an airtight container for up to a week.