Never Go Searching for the Bottom of Your Springform Pan Again!

I can’t believe Fall is upon us already, and that means the holidays are soon to follow. I have a great tip for those of you that bring a cheesecake or other torte to a friend’s or relatives house and forget to take back the metal bottom of the springform pan. Go to enough parties and you may even forget where you left it.

Create your own substitute bottom with a cardboard cake circle. Just cut a cake circle to the exact measurements of the metal one that comes with the springform pan. Place the cardboard one on top of the metal one and trace it with a pen. Cut with a scissor and fit it into the ring of the springform pan. Put the pan together and It should be a VERY snug fit. You don’t want any leakage from cheesecake or other cake batter. Then set the springform pan onto a larger piece of aluminum foil and wrap the foil up the outside of the pan. If there is any leakage it won’t go through.

Once your cake or cheesecake is baked and cooled, cut around the sides, and release the pan separating the sides away from the cake. Now you can wash your intact pan and not worry if you will remember the false bottom that got left somewhere. Your pan is also free to bake more cheesecakes.

Next for a professional look, I get a larger cake circle, cover it with a doily of the same size and gently lay my cheesecake in the center. It looks beautiful and no worries!!

Happy Baking!

Chef Gail

Increasing the Lifespan of your Whipped Cream

Desserts topped with whipped cream can be a beautiful thing. However, they can be frustrating as well! Once you whip the cream and beat the air into it there is a finite life to the heavenly cloud-like mass.

Over several hours whipped cream will begin to go back to its original state (a liquid) and lose the air bubbles that kept it thick and lovely. I have 2 tips for you to prevent this from happening.

First, you can use a bit of unflavored gelatin to stabilize the whipped cream. It is quite simple to do actually. After you beat the cream to stiff peaks you can fold in about 1 teaspoon of unflavored gelatin that has been dissolved in a little cold water to soften it, and then heated gently to bring it back to a liquid state. Make sure the melted gelatin is not hot, but only slightly warm. If it is too hot when you add it to your whipped cream the cream will fizzle and go right back to a liquid. Trust me on this. I have had it happen to me.

I have even heard of chefs melting a few marshmallows and folding THEM into the whipped cream. The reason this works is that marshmallows have– you guessed it, GELATIN in them! Who knew that marshmallows were not just for S’mores?

The second tip is to fold some thick Greek-style yogurt, which has had the liquid strained out of it, into the whipped cream. Put the yogurt into a sieve in which you have placed a coffee filter or several layers of paper towels and set it over a bowl. Leave it in the fridge for a few hours to drain. The yogurt will be very thick.

Folding the yogurt into the whipped cream keeps it thick for several days, and the tanginess from the yogurt mixed in with the ceam is very complementary to any dessert.

Happy Baking!

Chef Gail


Top off Your Cookies

I have a tip for you. If you are baking cookies and you have any leftover nuts, cookies or candy, save them to top off your cookie dough before the little guys go into the oven!

What do all of these things have in common? A quarter of a bag of mini marshmallows, some graham crackers, some potato chips, some chopped dates or apricots, nuts, peanut butter cups… the list goes on and on.

If you haven’t guessed yet, they all make great toppings for cookie dough before  baking.  Just portion out the dough onto your parchment- lined sheet pans and then just poke the various toppings into the dough. Any combos will work.

I made outstanding S’more cookies by poking coarsely crushed graham crackers and some leftover stale mini marshmallows into chocolate chunk cookie dough. And let’s face it, we all know stale marshmallows are better than when they are fresh. When they are stale they hold up so much better in the oven.

So make your own creations and share your ideas! You may just become famous like that Toll House cookie gal who came up with the idea to put chopped chocolate into HER cookie dough!

Happy Baking!

Chef Gail

Grilling tips for Desserts

Strawberry shortcakes and s’mores are great this time of year, but have you ever entertained the idea of grilling your desserts? Here are a few tips.

Try grilling pound cake, sponge cake or angel food cake and then piling on the toppings of whipped cream, fruit, nuts and/or chocolate. I must say browning that cake, whatever type it is, on the grill provides a crunchy and toasty sweetness that makes that dessert something special. Grilling the cake actually caramelizes the sugars that are on the surface of that cake elevating the taste and mouth feel. Make sure the cake is pretty sturdy and won’t break apart on the grill.

I also recommend grilling fruit halves like peaches, plums, apples and pears. After lightly marking them on the grill for a few minutes, brush them with a bit of a glaze. This can take many forms like a simple syrup or thinned down preserves or jelly. Do this on a low flame, and when they become softer and glazed, serve over vanilla ice cream and top with whipped cream and nuts or shaved chocolate. Yum!

Happy Baking!

Chef Gail


Leftover Bread– It’s Not Just For the Birds

Bread crumbs or French toast are the go to things to do with leftover bread. I get that, but whenever I have some leftover bread I love to make croutons out of it. Croutons are so easy to make and taste one hundred percent better than the store bought ones. There really is no comparison! Homemade croutons can really spice up any soup or salad or even a dessert.

Just cut up whatever bread you happen to have into small cubes about 1/2-3/4ths of an inch square. You can even rip the bread with your hands into small pieces if you don’t feel like cutting it up. Now the type of bread that you use is up to you. Nothing is off limits. Think of white, whole grain or rye breads. Even focaccia, ciabatta or challah bread work well. And my thrifty grandma is certainly smiling down on me from heaven for using up that unused, extra hotdog or hamburger roll that no one will ever eat. At times, I have even used a corn muffin and a few slices of date nut or pumpkin bread as well.

Toss any of the above bread cubes with a little olive oil and as many spices or herbs as you like. They can be with or without salt. My favorite combo is garlic powder, onion powder and smoked paprika with some coarsely ground black pepper. Spread the cubes on a large sheet pan and bake them at 375 degrees for about 20 minutes or until the cubes are nice and brown.  Be sure to mix them halfway through baking. They will crisp up even further as they cool.

You can also make crisps. I partially freeze a leftover bread and slice it very thin on a mandolin. Place the slices on a large sheet pan and brush with olive oil. Top with any of the above suggestions of herbs or spices. For a sweeter crisp, brush the bread slices with melted butter and then try apple pie spice or just plain old cinnamon sugar as a topping. Bake as you would for the croutons above.

So next time you have leftover bread make croutons or crisps and forget about making French toast or bread crumbs. That’s for the birds!

Happy Baking!

Chef Gail

Looking at the Dark Side of Baking Pans

Did you ever wonder why dark clothing makes you feel warmer than lighter clothing? Dark colors do not radiate energy back. They absorb it instead.

Did you ever wonder why I am writing about clothing on a baking website??

Dark things, whether they are clothes or baking pans, behave the same. Baked goods that are baked in a dark aluminum pan, for example, will bake to a darker color than a baked good placed in a glass Pyrex pan.

You may not realize these pearls of wisdom now, but wait until you bake something. The advice comes in handy and can really make the difference between a dark almost burnt cake and a lightly browned cake that looks much more appealing.

If you bake in a dark pan don’t worry. Some of my favorite pans are dark metal. Just watch and make sure the baked good is not getting too overdone. There are times when a darker color is desirable. A pie crust will always become more golden brown in a darker pie pan. That can be desirable when making a pumpkin pie, for example, which can create a soggy bottom crust if it is not baked well enough.