An American Tradition: Boston Brown Bread

Though not as well known today, Boston Brown Bread has a pretty interesting history story. Better known in the New England areas, brown bread started making in appearance in the early 1800s. Early settlers where trying to grow wheat, which was their preferred grain for baking. They soon realized that wheat did not grow well in the New England soil and this drove up the prices. Corn on the other hand was a crop that flourished on the east coast, making the price of cornmeal much cheaper and readily available. Another cheap alternative to flour was rye flour.

Mixing Rex Coffee, Buttermilk and Blackstrap Molasses
These two grains made up the main dry ingredients for the bread, occasionally whole wheat flour was added and eventually became a mainstay on the ingredient list. Molasses is added and gives the bread its signature rich color and sweet flavor. Because we are using baking powder and soda as our leavening agents as opposed to yeast, we are able to complete cut out having to factor in a rise time and can go straight from mix to dish to cook.

Making Boston Brown Bread in a Rex Coffee Tin
Another key element that sets it apart from most traditional breads, is the cooking method. Brown bread is typically steamed in a can of some sort until finished cooking. At the time, this was in large part due to the fact that this was a bread for the common people. Using the cheaper grains made this an affordable bread to make at a time when wheat was at an expensive price and not easily affordable to all. Steaming the bread in a can over a fire or stove top made it assessable to most, especially those that didn’t have a wood-burning oven.

Seal Boston Brown Bread Tightly
Somewhere along the way brown bread started being steamed in coffee cans. I’m not sure if this was because at the time canned foods where not as readily available as it is today, and this was just a common things to have on hand. But after doing loads of research on brown bread and reading multiple variations of recipes, almost everything listed a coffee can as the vestal to steam your bread in. So this took my brown bread adventure on an interesting twist.

Secure Boston Brown Bread with Twine
I am fortunate enough working here at Clabber Girl, to work someplace that has its very own coffee roasting company. In fact, all our Rex Coffee is roasted in house just 10 steps away from the kitchen I work in on a regular basis. So I started thinking about ways I could tie in our coffee with a bread that is known for being cooked in coffee cans throughout history.

Cook Boston Brown Bread in Large Dutch Oven
I gathered up old cans we had on hand and started wondering about different ways I could try and incorporate coffee into this historic bread besides just using our old tins. The obvious answer to me was to just try and add coffee to the batter…but would it work? After multiple tests working on the recipe, the ratios, and finally the final taste test…I can honestly say that it did!

Boston Brown Bread Final

Boston Brown Bread

Ingredients:
5 oz. whole wheat flour
5 oz. rye flour
5 oz. cornmeal
1 tsp. Clabber Girl Baking Powder
1 tsp. Clabber Girl Baking Soda
2 tsp. kosher salt
8 oz. Blackstrap molasses
8 oz. butter milk
8 oz. Rex French Roast Coffee, room temperature

8-10 cups water
Cooking spray

Directions:

Preheat oven to 325 degrees F.

Bring 8-10 cups of water to a boil over medium high heat. While the water is coming to a boil, add all of the dry ingredients together in a large mixing bowl and whisk to combine. Set aside. In a small mixing bowl, add the molasses and Rex Coffee and whisk together.

Create a small well in the middle of your dry ingredients. Add the buttermilk and molasses-coffee mixture and whisk to completely combine the batter.

Spray the insides of two quart-sized cans with cooking spray. Divide the batter evenly between the two cans. Using aluminum foil, cover the tops of the cans, folding the excess over the outsides of the cans. Use butchers twine to tie around the edges of the can to secure the aluminum foil to the sides. Place cans in Dutch oven or an oven safe pot.

Carefully pour in the boiling water, taking care not to pour the water over the tops of the covered cans, until the water reaches halfway up the side of the can. Bake in a 325 degrees F. oven for 1 hour and 45 minutes or until a knife inserted into the bread comes out clean.

Remove pot from oven, and using oven mitts carefully removed cans from pot and set on a cookie rack. Let cool 15-20 minutes and then gently slide bread out of can to cool completely. Once cool, slice bread and toast and serve with butter or cream cheese.

Boston Brown Bread

Decorating Cake Pops for Adults: Strawberry Champagne for Valentine’s Day

Decorated Cake Pops for Valentine's DayDecorating a cake can be difficult. It takes time and patience to go through all the necessary steps needed to make your cake beautiful. It’s also a lot of small detail work, which I personally love. So, when Chef Mandy was in the kitchen trying to decorate her tasty little cake pops, it was difficult to not immediately offer up assistance. As her frustration mounted, it was time to suggest a cake pop collaboration. She already had the Valentine’s Day flavors down pat, because what’s not to love about strawberries and champagne? Now it was up to me to do her cake pops some justice and make them shine on the outside, too!

I’ll be honest. Up until that point, I had never actually decorated a cake pop. All of my decorating experience has been with buttercream frosting and fondant. I’ve made Oreo truffles before, so I was hoping that the process would be much the same. What I found through a lot of trial and error were some handy tips and tricks that helped me successfully create a cake pop.

First step is making the actual cake pop. As Chef Mandy suggests, when rolling the crumbled cake and icing, be sure to roll the balls tightly so that when pressed slightly they don’t crack. A firmly rolled cake ball will help prevent the cake pop from falling apart when dipped in the chocolate (I should know…one of my first cake balls came apart in the chocolate because it wasn’t rolled firmly).

Next is to put the cake balls in the fridge to help set them. If you have room in the fridge, you can put your sticks in the cake pops before refrigerating. But if your fridge situation is anything like mine, then it’s okay to put your rolled cake balls in the fridge to set up first and add the sticks later.

While the cake pops are in the fridge, melt your chocolate using a double boiler. Don’t have one? Neither do I! Though double boilers are available for purchase, if you don’t have one, don’t panic. You just need a medium-sized pot and a glass or metal bowl that is large enough to set into the pot with at least 2 inches of clearance between the bottom of the bowl and the inside bottom of the pot. (Check out the picture below for reference!)

DSC06597

DSC06614

Something to keep in mind if you are using white chocolate like I did for the Valentine’s Day Cake Pop is that it is very temperamental. This is why I use a double boiler instead of the microwave for melting chocolate. You have better control while your chocolate is melting and are less likely to burn it.

DSC06611

When you are ready to dip your cake balls in chocolate, only pull a few from the fridge at a time to keep them firm until ready for dipping. If you haven’t already put the stick in, now is the time. Gently push the stick into the cake ball about half way through. Gently dip the cake ball on the stick into the melted chocolate, only covering the cake ball about ¾ of the way. Put the cake ball in a stand (a piece of Styrofoam works as a stand if you don’t have one) and the chocolate will drip down slightly to cover the remaining part of the cake pop.

Once the cake pop is in the stand, you can immediately sprinkle with your choice of sprinkles or nonpareil. You can also let the chocolate set for a few minutes and then drizzle with a different colored chocolate; the choice is up to you and the options are limitless!! Here’s a tip if you want to use different colors: be sure that you buy the colored candy melts. Adding food coloring/dye to white chocolate causes the chocolate to “seize” and you won’t be able to drizzle it. Colored candy melts are available at major mass retailers and many online retailers.

I hope that these tips are helpful the next time you are ready to decorate cake pops. Be sure to watch for updates on this post, as the Valentine’s Day Cake Pops were the first of many cake pops I will create this year! They are great options for almost any holiday and I’m sure to come up with new, fun and easier ways to make your cake pop decorating a success!!

Creating Cake Pops for Adults: Strawberry Champagne for Valentine’s Day

Strawberry Champagne Cake Pops

I was recently asked if I would make cake pops. I am not a professional or even a hobbyist cake decorator but, I can bake! So I thought, why not?! Sounds like fun!

People love cake pops! They’re cute, they’re easy to make, they’re fun to decorate, and most of all they’re delicious and fun to eat. We’ve all seen numerous recipes, blogs, ideas, etc.; just take a look at Pinterest and you’ll see hundreds of ideas and recipes for making them at home. Now they’re even sold at Starbucks and other retailers.

As a chef, I quickly set about pursuing ways to modernize cake pops…give them a cool twist…up the ante, so to speak.

So, how do you make your cake pops stand out from the bunch? Two things: unique flavors and alcohol, of course!

My “assignment” was to create cake pops for holidays throughout the year. The next holiday is Valentine’s Day, and what is more iconic for Valentine’s Day than strawberries and champagne? Thus began my thought process for creating alcohol-filled cake pops for each holiday.

  • Strawberry Champagne cake for Valentine’s Day
  • Raspberry Lemon-cello cake for Easter
  • Bourbon Apple Pie cake for July 4th
  • Dark Chocolate Rum cake for Halloween
  • Pumpkin Brandy cake for Thanksgiving
  • Peppermint Schnapps cake for Christmas

And, so it goes.

Side note: I understand that cake pop makers are all the rage these days but, I felt that I didn’t need a gadget. Usually single-use gadgets are great for one purpose and may work well, but that’s it. You spent money on a piece of equipment that you don’t need, which uses space in your kitchen for a recipe that you may make only one or two times per year. Typically you can adapt a recipe to work without purchasing another piece of equipment.

That being said, I designed my recipes so that you can make them without any special equipment. I think that is something we can all appreciate!

Back to the business at hand:

I began my cake pop experiment with the Strawberry Champagne cake pops. Once I had the method and recipe down for one flavor, it would just be a matter of changing the ingredients to create the flavors I chose for the rest of the holidays…with different decorations of course.

Strawberry Champagne Cake Pops:

Champagne and Strawberry Cake Pops

I love strawberry cake. It’s been one of my favorite cake flavors since I was a child. Maybe that had something to do with Strawberry Shortcake and her friends that were all the rage during my childhood in the 1980s…I can’t say for sure! Perhaps that’s why I chose strawberry as the flavor for my wedding cake. I developed and tested a strawberry champagne cake recipe; I wanted a strong strawberry flavor and to actually taste the champagne. Once that was accomplished, I baked the cake and set out to make it into cake pops.

The method I used was to simply bake the cake in a 9×9-inch pan. Once the cake was cooled, I crumbled it into a medium-sized mixing bowl and added a strawberry champagne buttercream frosting, stirring with my hands until it was thick and would hold shape. I rolled the cake mix into balls, just as you would when making meatballs . . . paying attention that they were rolled tightly without cracks and crevices. I laid the balls on a sheet tray, skewered them with cake pop sticks, and put them in the freezer while I melted the dipping chocolate. Freezing them allows them to be firm enough so they don’t “melt” when dipping them in the warm chocolate.

As I said earlier, I am not an experienced cake decorator. But, I wasn’t being asked to make an elaborate wedding cake…I was asked to make cake pops. How hard could that be? After all, I have a fairly extensive food background! I could probably do this no problem!

And, the cake tasted great! I just needed to decorate them. Here are pictures of me decorating my cake pops:

Mandy Decorating Cake Pops 1

Cake Pop Decorating Fail
As you can see, I was not too successful. I just don’t have the patience to decorate! Luckily, we have someone on staff who is an experienced decorator and enjoys decorating and has lots of patience. So, if you are anything like me…have fun with creating flavors and baking but, enlist a friend who likes to decorate to help you complete the project!

Chef Brittney Molinder teamed with me to complete the decorating, and here are her insights.

 

Thanksgiving with Clabber Girl

Baking Powder and Cornstarch… your holiday helpers

thanksgiving

As you make your Thanksgiving grocery list this year, make sure you have two very important ingredients at the top: baking powder and cornstarch. These ingredients have their obvious uses in side dishes such as cornbread and biscuits. But there are also other, nontraditional uses for baking powder and cornstarch that will make your life in the kitchen a little easier and your Thanksgiving dishes a little more delicious. In fact, you may find these two ingredients working so hard on Turkey Day, that you might just give them a seat at the table! Here are a few ways to use these ingredients for your big feast:

The turkey: For a juicy turkey with crispy skin, stir a little baking powder into your turkey rub. Add one tablespoon of baking powder per four pounds of bird and let it sit out overnight. Note: do NOT use baking soda for this.

The stuffing: Whisk baking powder into your eggs before mixing into your stuffing for a little extra lift. Dense, chewy stuffing is now a thing of the past!

The cornbread: Everyone loves cornbread! Whether you’re serving it as a side or making cornbread stuffing, baking powder is the perfect leavening to make your cornbread extra nice and airy.

The gravy: Going into the science would get boring, but ultimately cornstarch is a better thickener than flour for your gravy because it better absorbs the fat from your turkey drippings. The result: a super savory gravy. No complaints there!

The mashed potatoes: As crazy as it sounds, adding a little bit of baking powder to your mashed potatoes makes them extra fluffy. Who doesn’t want that?

The cranberry sauce: Use cornstarch to thicken your cranberry sauce. Another tip? Add orange to give a little zing to your cranberry sauce, making it a new family favorite.

The pie crust: No worries! Adding a little bit of baking powder to your pie crust won’t make it rise, but it will help it not have any doughy places in the middle. A little goes a long way so just add ¼ teaspoon to your pie crust recipe. Perfect pie slices for everyone!

The pumpkin pie: Calling all vegans… this one is for you! Thicken your pumpkin pie filling with cornstarch. Your Thanksgiving dessert can be just as delicious and decadent as pies with egg and cream!

And last but not least…

The biscuits!: A favorite side dish to many, baking powder is a must in your biscuits. Whether you choose traditional buttermilk biscuits or go a little crazy with cheeses, spices or herbs, if they’ve got baking powder in them, they’re bound to be a crowd winner!

Thanksgiving is only the start of many holiday celebrations this season. Keep those cans of baking powder and cornstarch handy for all of your holiday baking!

Thanksgiving Meal Planner

 

give-thanks-menuEvery year I scour the internet looking for new recipes to add to my traditional Thanksgiving spread. Last year we tried creamed spinach with a touch of nutmeg and a new type of stuffing with sage. Both went over really well! This year, I researched the Clabber Girl recipe vault and found that I could make our complete meal with these recipes. I get so excited for Thanksgiving, it is the one meal I make from scratch every year and spend days preparing for. My dad always offers to buy our meal already prepared from the grocery store, and I always respond, “Don’t you dare!”. To me, Thanksgiving is a personal journey at the peak of harvest season. To celebrate its bounty, I want to carefully curate a menu featuring local ingredients as much as possible. You can use this post as a plan for your own Thanksgiving meal,  download a blank menu template, this full menu template and a shopping list sorted by grocery store aisle too!

Thanksgiving Appetizers

There are three appetizers on our menu this year: sweet and sour meatballssweet popcorn snax and rosemary Parmesan crackers. I love making meatballs for Thanksgiving as I can make them in advance and freeze them, then just reheat in a slow cooker the day of. The sweet popcorn snax will be perfect for putting in candy bowls around the house for people to enjoy. I am especially happy to find this rosemary Parmesan cracker recipe. There are so many toppings and ways to cut up the crackers, I will be able to get really creative. One topping I know I want to try is soaking some figs in a high quality balsamic vinegar overnight, then putting it on top of crackers with goat cheese.

Thanksgiving Main Dishes: Turkey or Ham?

There are some strong feelings in my family when it comes to what to serve as the main dish. Thanksgiving traditionalists demand turkey, and this apple roasted turkey with gravy is sure to please them. The other camp feels that having a spicy baked ham on Christmas and Easter is not enough, and that it should also be served as the main dish at Thanksgiving. In order to appease everyone, both are made. For our turkey, I usually pre-order a fresh turkey from our local grocery store. These are farm raised and super fresh. For both the turkey and ham, I don’t have to crowd the oven on Thanksgiving. I make the turkey the day before Thanksgiving. After the turkey is cooled off, I slice it up and add the slices and reserved juices to a slow cooker the day of Thanksgiving. The ham can be made completely in a slow cooker as you are just warming up the ham anyway.

Thanksgiving Bread Basket

When it comes to bread, our family likes a lot of options. Thankfully, the Clabber Girl recipe database base has a wide variety. This year I am making two savory favorites: biscuits and cornbread, along with a family favorite: old fashioned pumpkin bread. When choosing what kinds of breads to make, I consider what type of dressing and desserts I’ll be making. The cornbread will be used in our dressing this year and the pumpkin bread will be used in a bread pudding dessert that sounds delicious.

Thanksgiving Side Dishes

This is the toughest category for me. It is difficult to choose just a few to feature on the menu, and depending on what the produce is like at our Farmer’s Market this year, my choices may have to change. So far I planned on the cranberry cornbread dressing, since it would play well with the fruity notes in our roasted turkey and glazed ham. If I left off mashed potatoes from the menu, I would probably lose my host privileges, we take them that seriously.  For our vegetable sides, I plan on making a green bean casserole, my sister-in-law’s favorite and a creamed spinach that we tried for the first time last year. The green bean casserole is extra special this year as the cream of mushroom reduction and French fried onions will be made from scratch. Last, but not least, is the most simple cranberry sauce you can make. This is another do ahead menu item and believe me, it is so much better than any canned sauce.

Thanksgiving Desserts

I decided to go very traditional this year sticking to pies with one exception: pumpkin bread pudding. Bread pudding is my mom’s favorite and I can’t wait for her to try this out. As for the pies, I thought this apple crostata with a lattice top would be beautiful. Living in the Midwest, apples are prominent this time of year and we buy them by the half bushel. For this cherry pie, I will be using the cherries we picked in June and froze. Thanksgiving wouldn’t be the same without a classic pumpkin pie. I usually make at least two of these so everyone can enjoy. Our pecan trees weren’t very bountiful this year, but I should have enough for a classic Southern pecan pie too. We crack the pecans while watching television and often recruit kids in our family to help.

Thanksgiving Beverages

In addition to red and white wine, I also like to have some kid-friendly options. This year I am going to try out our hot chocolate mix and spiced apple cider. Both of these can be warmed up in slow cookers and will help to fill our house with wonderful smells.

As you can tell from all these recipes, I think the slow cooker is your best friend when preparing for a meal like this. I make almost the entire meal in advance, and really just have the side dishes to focus on the day of Thanksgiving. Hope this helps out with your own Thanksgiving plans. Don’t forget to download a free blank menu template or menu that’s already filled out and get your shopping list!

Quick Fix Flour Infographics

Bake every day, all day with these tips and tricks!

It happens to all of us- a strong craving for cookies hits but we’re out of all-purpose flour! Or a recipe calls for cake flour and a special trip to the store is out of the question. What’s one to do in such situations? Check out these handy flour infographics for help on how to make the best of any kitchen conundrum!

 

Flour Substitutions

When you run out of good ol’ all-purpose, have no fear! You can substitute any flour using these instructions.

All-purpose flour substitution infographic

Different Types of Flour

If you’re not quite sure which flour to use for a certain recipe, check out this guide!

Flour protein content by type and best use infographic

 

DIY Flour Mixes

If you don’t have bread flour, make your own! We can show you how!

diy flour mix infographic

 

For even more tips and tricks to better your baking, check out our Pinterest board.

10 Things to do with Your Baking Powder Can

It’s for more than just baking powder

When you’ve used the last of your Clabber Girl baking powder, think twice before throwing away your empty can. Here are just a few ways that you can re-purpose your baking powder can:

EmptyCanInfograph

  1. Art Supplies: Now your crayons, pencils and pens don’t have to roll all over your desk.
  2. Yogurt Stick Holder: Leaving these laying around in the fridge may lead to a yogurt-y mess. Keep your yogurt sticks upright (and save fridge space!) to ensure that yogurt doesn’t bust or leak.
  3. Snack Container: Just fill and go! Perfect for lunch boxes, on-the-go snacks, and road trips.
  4. Craft Supplies: Keep the kids’ craft supplies all nice, neat and tidy. (Mom hack: one can for each type of craft supply can teach the kiddos organization too!)
  5. Ribbon Holder: Cut small slits in the top of the lid. Place the ribbon in the bottom of the canister and thread through the slits. Your ribbon will never be tangled again!
  6. Piggy Bank: Cut a small hole in the top of the lid and start saving!
  7. Flower Vase: Add a little bit of potting soil to the bottom of the container, cut the stems to size and plant. Perfect for centerpieces! (Don’t forget to water the flowers!)
  8. Sewing Kit: Create a small pin cushion by wrapping fabric around a group of cotton balls. Glue the pincushion on the lid of the baking powder can. Fill the inside of the can with needles, pins, thread, buttons and anything else you might need in a mending bind!
  9. Makeup Brush Holder: Stop losing your brushes in the back of the bathroom drawer!
  10. Bird Feeder: Smear peanut butter over the entire can. Roll the canister in bird seed. Set outside and watch the happy, little hungry birds!

Have other ideas for your Clabber Girl baking powder can? Share with us by commenting below!

How to Save Time in the Kitchen

Run all of your errands and still get dinner on the table

SlicedTomatoes 3216650_l

 

Getting dinner ready and on the table isn’t always easy. After work, soccer practice and taking the dog out for a walk, it’s hard to imagine having the time to make a healthy, home cooked meal. However, believe it or not, cooking doesn’t have to take up half of your day. Here are several useful tips to save time in the kitchen, helping you spend more time with your family and make healthier choices when it comes to food.

Freeze Casseroles

During the week the world is a blur; you’re rushing all over the place with barely any time for yourself. The weekends, however, you might find a bit more time. This is when you can bake up a few casseroles to freeze for the week. Freezing casseroles is especially helpful when you have long days that really prevent you from making it to the store, let alone the stove. The best part? If you write down instructions, just about anyone can reheat a casserole, so the responsibility is not all on you. This delicious Turkey Tetra-Ziti is simple to make and one of our favorites to freeze:

Ingredients

1 medium onion, chopped
5 tablespoons butter
1/2 pound mushrooms, wiped clean and sliced
2 tablespoons Clabber Girl Cornstarch
2 cups chicken broth
1 1/2 cups milk
4 cups coarsely chopped cooked turkey
10 ounces frozen or fresh leaf spinach
1 cup frozen peas
2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
1/2 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
3/4 pound dry ziti or penne pasta
2 cups shredded cheddar or Monterey Jack cheese
1-1/2 cups fresh bread crumbs

Instructions

Ingredient Prep

It’s much less daunting to put together dinner when all the ingredients are cut, measured and ready to go. When you have a free moment, take the time to plan your meals and prep the ingredients. Cut your veggies, measure out your seasonings and go ahead and combine what you can. This way, when 6 p.m. rolls around you aren’t rushing to finish up dinner, but are relaxing while a stew simmers on the stove.

Freeze Breakfast Foods

We all love warm waffles covered in syrup on a sunny Saturday morning, but who has the time for that during the week? You do, if you plan ahead. When you make your traditional weekend waffles, be sure to make about a dozen extra and freeze them. Layer them in a plastic bag with parchment paper between them. Then, come Wednesday morning, you can pull out a handful, put them in the toaster and in a matter of minutes breakfast is served. Make it extra healthy with these 100% Whole Wheat Waffles from the Clabber Girl kitchen.

Homemade meals are important not just for nutrition, but also for bringing your family together. Cutting corners in order to get a healthy meal on the table in less time involves a little culinary cunning. These timesaving tips can help you create a delicious, mouth-watering meal without exhausting yourself at the end of the day.