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Say Cheese!

  • Mar 08, 2016

Cream cheese is so 2015. This year, let’s make goat cheese all the rage. After all, it’s the new go-to, game-changing ingredient that can add decadence and deliciousness, not to mention a luxurious, velvety texture, to all of your baked goods, desserts and more.

French cheesemakers have long revered the unique properties of goat cheese, officially known as chèvre, and have been crafting it for eons. Here’s a quick primer on this noble yet humble cheese.

The goat (speaking of humble) is one of the first animals that was domesticated, a practice that gave birth to the making of goat cheese. As ancient Mediterraneans migrated to Spain and France, they brought the practice with them. Today, goat cheese is still standard fare in the Mediterranean, but so too has it established a foothold in North America. From boutique dairy farms to nationally renowned cheese producers, it seems everyone is jumping on the goat cheese bandwagon—and with good reason.

Not only does the distinctive tangy flavor differ from cow cheeses, it packs a lower caloric punch and is lower in fat and cholesterol than cow cheese products. Goat cheese also has more calcium than its cousin, cream cheese, and is high in vitamin A and potassium.

As if you needed another reason to love it, goat cheese works as a stand-alone dessert as well as a terrific complement to desserts that feature nuts, fruits or honey. You’re not limited to baking desserts with it, of course. Use our large loaf pans to whip up some yummy dips and appetizers with goat cheese as the main ingredient. Bon appétit!

Photo credit to www.vermontcreamery.com

There’s Just Something About Cereal

  • Feb 29, 2016

While today’s cereal aisles are overwhelming arrays of endless choices (of not just cereal but also cereal bars, hot cereals and toaster pastries), there was once a golden age of cereal, a time when a bowl of cereal equated to a sugar blast of fun.

Consider your favorite childhood breakfast cereal. Perhaps you were only allowed to have those sugary pebbles, pops or flakes on Saturday mornings. If you’re of a certain generation, you’ll also recall eating that big, glorious bowl of sugary cereal while watching Saturday morning cartoons and Schoolhouse Rock. Ahhhh, nostalgia.

Saturday morning cartoons have fallen by the way, as have many favored childhood cereals. But don’t despair. There is a whole world of opportunity available when it comes to cereal today, and it involves the marriage of cereal and desserts.

Many bakers already know that the most ordinary of breakfast cereals can be transformed into the most extraordinary of desserts. Not only that, but March 7 is National Cereal Day, a time when cereal lovers (and bakers!) can unite and, according to the National Cereal Day website, honor the “classic morning meal and midnight snack.”

Cereal offers an easy way to add crunch and extra flavor to muffins and quick breads. Add it to cakes and cookies for an extra dose of fiber, whole grain or bran. Fold it into brownies or bar cookies to boost texture and consistency.

With all these ideas, you don’t have to limit yourself to March 7—you can celebrate cereal every day!

Photo credit to www.spoonuniversity.com

Funky Fruits: Mango

  • Feb 15, 2016

When it comes to fruit, sometimes you need to take the road less traveled. Rather than cherry or apple, peach or fresh berries, try your hand at baking with mango. It may sound unconventional, but mango provides a luscious (and super healthy!) addition to your desserts and baked goods. Mangos should have a golden-green tone when they are at their peak of ripeness, but a better test is the level of firmness. The fruit should yield slightly to pressure from your thumb without being squishy. You may also notice a pleasant fruity fragrance near the stem. Keep the fruit refrigerated for the best results, or freeze chopped and peeled portions for later use.

And since they’re brimming with more than 20 different vitamins and minerals, why wouldn’t you freeze them for later? They also contain flavonoids, a fancy word for powerful antioxidants and anti-inflammatory healthy properties. Plus, mangos protect against certain cancers, contribute to vibrant-looking skin and can aid in digestion and weight loss (they’re only 100 or so calories!)—perhaps explaining why they have been revered around the world since ancient times.

Mangos pair perfectly with coconut, which opens a whole world of possibilities. Or you can opt for mango muffins, mango loaf cake with passion fruit glaze, or tropical cupcakes with a hint of mango. If you’re looking for a standalone fresh fruit treat, peel the skin and extract the pit. Place the hollow side up in one of our ruffled baking cups and drizzle with honey and lemon juice. Bake for five or so minutes and serve warm—heaven!

Photo credit to www.anaturaldifference.com

Perk Up Your Desserts

  • Feb 08, 2016

There’s nothing like a warm slice of cinnamon loaf cake with freshly brewed coffee in the morning—except perhaps a fresh-from-the-oven blueberry muffin with a steaming cup of espresso. Now you can have your cake (or muffin), eat it too, and get your java fix all at once. Here are some ideas for baking with coffee and/or espresso.

You know how you’re continually tossing out that leftover coffee at the bottom of the pot? Instead, incorporate it into your baking recipes. You can sub out coffee for water in any recipe that calls for the latter. If you’re feeling particularly daring, substitute coffee for milk.

Another approach is to use your leftover coffee granules. Put a small bit of those grounds in banana bread, muffins or scones. The rich taste of coffee also pairs nicely with anything and everything chocolate, including brownies, bar cookies and chocolate cupcakes. The silver lining of all this sugary sweetness is that coffee is loaded with antioxidants, and in moderation it provides a plethora of health benefits. It can lower your risk of diabetes, boost metabolism, protect your heart, and much more.

There are also benefits to drinking espresso in moderation, and espresso can give your baked goods the same unexpected kick as coffee does. It too pairs nicely with chocolate, and it can add moisture. You can use espresso grounds or the more traditional espresso powder. Espresso is a bit richer than coffee, so keep this in mind as you begin experimenting. Whether you opt for coffee or espresso, you’ll be adding an irresistible twist!

Photo credit to www.frukmagazine.com

National Dessert Day Inspiration: Carrot Cake

  • Feb 01, 2016

Offer your guests a slice of vegetable cake and they’ll look at you like you’ve lost your mind. Offer them a slice of moist, melt-in-your-mouth carrot cake—the only cake with a vegetable as the base ingredient—and they’ll be coming back for seconds or even thirds.

February 3 is National Carrot Cake Day, but this daring concoction needs no extra reason for celebration. Since it burst on the scene, carrot cake has evolved into a splendorous creation, a layered masterpiece with hints of warm cinnamon and freshly grated carrots in every bite and topped with ooey-gooey buttermilk glaze or cream cheese frosting.

So when did carrot cake burst on the scene exactly? Sources vary but most point to the carrot pudding of medieval times as the original carrot “cake.” Early European bakers had to get inventive with their sweets due to the expense of sugar and other sweeteners, and they began using carrots as a substitute (and then serving carrot pudding and “cake” at banquets). Carrots and their puddings were later imported to America by European settlers. Today, as part of the baking process, the carrots soften and give the cake a lovely, dense consistency.

There are a multitude of variations within the world of carrot cake, of course. Try your hand at whole-grain carrot cake muffins, carrot cake cupcakes with fluffy frosting, or a carrot cake-walnut loaf. You can toss raisins or crushed pineapple in the batter and top with toasted pecans or coconut. Our extensive line of bakeware makes it easier than ever to get creative!

Photo credit to www.bettycrocker.com

Let's Get Innovative

  • Jan 25, 2016

As a baker, you’ve got a lot of tools at your disposal, including a home oven. Maybe you’ve even got the latest model with all of the bells and whistles. But have you ever considered that your toaster oven is in fact a miniature oven? And that it’s good for making much more than just toast?

A toaster oven provides an innovative way to bake your favorite goodies, from muffins and cupcakes to breads and mini loaves. Want convenience and ease of use? Check. Want to prepare smaller portion sizes? Check. Want energy efficiency? Check. Want to have a cooler kitchen while you bake? Check. But perhaps the best reason to bake in a toaster oven is that it provides a fresh take on the age-old process of baking, allowing you to get creative and put ingenuity to work.

If you’re ready to master the art of toaster-oven baking, be sure to follow these guidelines:

Use foil. Depending on which rack position you choose, you may need to place foil over the surface of your baked goods to prevent burning.

Adjust your recipe. Use a pan-volume conversion chart, which is easy to find online, to scale your recipe. Or use a recipe that’s designed for smaller batches.

Alter your cooking time. Depending on wattage and temperature (and whether you have a convection toaster oven), cooking times will vary. What you don’t want to do is increase the temperature to speed cooking, as your item could burn on the outside before it’s done on the inside.

Welcome Home Brands already provides you with a whole new way to bake. Why not take the creativity and functionality of Welcome Home Brands bakeware and use it in the toaster oven?

Funky Fruits: Baking with Pomegranate

  • Jan 18, 2016

Forget cherry, apple, peach and even rhubarb. We’re taking the road less traveled and baking with pomegranate, and you should too.

Pomegranates are all the rage these days, and with good reason. These glorious ruby-red fruits are considered superfoods, bursting with antioxidants and working to combat diseases. But throwing a packet of chocolate-covered pomegranates into your cart at the supermarket and baking with pomegranates in your home kitchen are two different propositions entirely. Here’s the lowdown on how to move from prepackaged pomegranate goods to home-baked pomegranate goodness.

Shop. Bigger is better, because larger pomegranates have more juice and more seeds. Look for a fruit that has firm, shiny skin with no bruises or blemishes.

Store. You can keep them for up to a week at room temperature or up to two weeks in the fridge. If you wrap them in plastic, they will last even longer in the fridge. Looking to store seeds? Keep them in an airtight container for a week in the fridge or for three months in the freezer.

Seed. Begin by cutting around the center of the fruit, but only enough to break through the outer layer until you can pull the two halves apart. Hold each half above a bowl and knock gently against the back of the pomegranate until all of the seeds, or arils, fall into the bowl. Remove any of the flesh that surrounds the seeds, and they’re ready for use.

Bake. As mentioned, pomegranates and chocolate are a perfect pairing. Or try mixing with berries or other fruits, such as pears. We also recommend oatmeal pomegranate muffins or pomegranate red velvet cupcakes—yum!

Photo credit to www.motherearthliving.com

The Culture of Yogurt

  • Jan 11, 2016

We all know that yogurt is a great go-to breakfast. It’s super in smoothies, spectacular as a snack and works well in dinner recipes—but what about as a dessert?

It turns out yogurt is more well-rounded than ever, because it’s dynamite in desserts. Your baked goods won’t know what hit them when you sub out butter, oil or sour cream with the lighter, tangier option of yogurt. Plus you get the bonus of calcium, protein and probiotics. Before you begin, here are some quick tips for baking with yogurt, as it’s not always a one-for-one exchange.

- Substitute half of the amount of butter with yogurt, but halve it. As an example, instead of one cup of butter, use ½ cup butter and ¼ cup yogurt.

- When using shortening or oil, substitute half of the oil with ¾ the amount of yogurt. As an example, instead of one cup of oil, use ½ cup oil and ¾ cup yogurt.

- Replace an egg with ¼ cup yogurt.

- When substituting, fold the yogurt slowly into the batter so it won’t become too thin, and don’t over-stir it.

- Use plain yogurt. If you’re feeling adventurous, you can try vanilla or another flavor, but keep in mind that it will slightly change the flavor of the end result.

- Start with room temperature yogurt if you’re planning to add it to a hot dish.

- Yogurt is acidic, so avoid using aluminum foil or aluminum baking dishes when baking with it.

- Opt for Welcome Home Brands bakeware whenever you bake, whether with yogurt or without.

Photo credit to www.health.com

National Cream Puff Day Inspiration

  • Jan 04, 2016

It’s early January and New Year’s resolutions are in full swing. But hopefully you didn’t make any resolutions about not eating sweets, because January 2nd was National Cream Puff Day, and these decadent desserts are worth every delicious bite.

What: Cream puffs are rich pastries sweetened with whipped cream and custard and baked in a delicate golden crust. Similar to other French confections, cream puffs are baked (whereas beignets are fried) and dusted with powdered sugar (whereas éclairs are swathed in chocolate glaze). The dough used to make them is known as pâte à choux, and they puff up from the steam that escapes while they bake.

When: Cream puffs began appearing in American restaurants in the 1800s, but they originated in Europe centuries before that. Many sources credit the pastry chef of Catherine de Medici, Queen of France during the 16th century, with first creating them for Catherine’s husband, Henry II. But early versions of the cream puffs date back to the Middle Ages.

How: Many bakers are intimidated by cream puffs, but they are surprisingly easy to prepare. At a basic level, you combine egg, flour, butter and sugar and cook them on high heat until the mixture forms a smooth ball of dough with a hollow center. They are baked and must be cut in half or pierced once they’re done to avoid collapse. The hollow is filled with the choux paste via a pastry bag or spoons.

Bonus: Making them in our baking cups simplifies the entire process and will assure perfection.

Photo credit to www.bonappetit.com

Giving Back Through Baking

  • Dec 21, 2015

We’ve all heard the phrase “pay it forward.” Perhaps you’ve even initiated such a kind act, paying for the person behind you in the drive-thru line, raking leaves or shoveling snow for a neighbor without being asked. Or perhaps you’ve been the beneficiary of such a random act of kindness. This holiday season, instead of just paying it forward, why not bake it forward?

As you’re doing the holiday baking for you and your family, whip up some extra sweet treats. You can give them to coworkers, neighbors, friends across town you rarely see, the folks at the local hospital, police and/or fire station, veterans or your favorite charity. Double up on your favorite recipes, preheat the oven and start cracking some eggs. Here are some ideas to get your started.

Eggnog. Let the ever-elegant eggnog, that dairy-rich dessert drink, serve as the main attraction of your holiday desserts. Eggnog coffee cake is a sweet and spirited breakfast choice; golden loaves of eggnog bread are perfect with a streusel topping; or you can frost some cupcakes or shroud some muffins with an eggnog glaze.

Candy cane. The classic peppermint staple of the holidays adds festive flair to many a holiday dessert. Chop them, crush them, grind them, fold them in or sprinkle them on top. Candy cane cupcakes, candy cane cookie bars, candy cane Kiss cookies, candy cane truffles and the list goes on. Minty magnificence!

Gingerbread. Go beyond the gingerbread man—and the house, for that matter. Try gingerbread bars, gingerbread cupcakes or hey, why not just classic gingerbread? Gingerbread is notoriously easy to make and thus perfect for busy bakers.

Baking Through Time

  • Dec 14, 2015

Fellow bakers, join us on a walk through history, specifically baking during the Great Depression. While this period saw many hardships, desserts didn’t suffer – because people got creative with their sweets. Here’s a look at Depression cake and more.

Buttermilk Johnnycake. There weren’t a lot of staples that were cheap and plentiful during the Great Depression, but cornmeal was an exception, and it could be used to whip up Johnnycakes. We covered these cornmeal pancakes in a previous blog, but it’s worth mentioning that they were a frequent main course in the 1930s. If buttermilk was hard to come by, sour milk could be used instead. Today, they’re topped with syrup, butter, fruit and even fresh corn.

Bread pudding. Waste not, want not, right? During the Depression, nothing was wasted, including old bread. Some say stale bread is even preferable for this seemingly simple dessert. Today you can make mini bread puddings in our Muffin Cups. Top with caramel, spiced rum, sugared pecans or brandied butter—and substitute raisins with pineapple or pear chunks.

Depression Cake. Also known as Wacky Cake or Crazy Cake, this surprisingly delicious, budget-friendly concoction does not require eggs, milk or butter, which were too expensive at the time. Instead, there’s a little flour, sugar, cocoa powder and a few other standard baking ingredients. A bowl is optional, and truth be told, a lot of people mixed these cakes in a mug, cup or whatever pan they had and then put in the oven. Today you can make them in our bakeware for less fuss and less mess. Luckily, the end result is the same: surprisingly sweet, moist and mouthwatering!

Image credit to www.bettycrocker.com

What's in a Name?

  • Dec 07, 2015

Let’s take a stroll down memory lane, to a time when you were a child and nursery rhymes were frequent music to your ears.

You’ll recall “pat-a-cake, pat-a-cake, baker’s man,” one of the oldest surviving English nursery rhymes. There were the three men in a tub, including the baker, and of course the Muffin Man, another traditional nursery rhyme of English origin. If your memory is particularly good, or you have young children, you’ll recall that the Muffin Man lives on Drury Lane.

But what of the deeper meanings of these verses? English muffins were popular fare during Victorian times, an era when fresh foods were delivered door-to-door. The muffin man would presumably deliver his breadstuffs to London addresses. Some sources hint at a darker, more sinister meaning behind the verses, perhaps a warning to children to steer clear of Drury Lane. But we prefer to stick with the more lighthearted interpretation.

We also prefer cupcake-variety muffins over English muffins, and a lot has changed with these sweet treats since their arrival on the scene. Today’s muffins are a cornucopia of goodness, and the possibilities are endless You can give them a crumb or streusel topping, stuff them with fresh fruit, slather them with honey or sweet cream, frost them or fill them with frosting, dust them with powdered sugar—the list goes on. Have them for breakfast, brunch, lunch or a snack. Our bakeware is perfect for muffins, cupcakes, pat-a-cakes or whatever your heart desires. Delight your kids by getting them involved in the baking process (Welcome Home Brands products mean less mess!) and share a nursery rhyme or two while you’re at it.

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